Planning process for Vancouver’s Marpole district sparks community backlash

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      The planning process for Vancouver’s Marpole district has sparked a community backlash.

      It has left Wendy Cosby feeling that residents like her were taken for a ride by city hall.

      “I think we were totally blind-sided,” Cosby told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      For about a year and a half, Cosby attended public events organized by city staff in line with the preparation of a community plan.

      Like other areas of the city, the South Vancouver neighbourhood is growing. Demand for new development is on the rise.

      The city has two estimates of how large Marpole will grow in the next three decades. From a 2011 dwelling count of 10,660 homes, one calculation projects a 50-percent increase, to 15,480 units by 2041. A second one almost doubles the current number, to 20,860.

      Knowing that change is around the corner, Cosby wanted a say in the 30-year plan. She went to a bunch of workshops and on walking tours, where residents told city staff what they wanted for the community.

      Because more people are coming to the neighbourhood, they talked about things like improving traffic safety on major thoroughfares. They requested improvements to schools and parks. For her part, Cosby was interested in community gardens.

      When city staff held a series of open houses last June, she expected that these would somehow reflect what people wished.

      “But surprise, surprise, not at all,” Cosby said. “A lot of things we discussed were not even on the boards.”

      What city hall came back with, according to her, was basically a plan to rezone the community.

      It’s not that residents don’t want more neighbours, Cosby noted. Marpole is already seeing a lot of growth, even without this community plan, she pointed out. For example, as many as five high-rise developments around the Canada Line’s Marine Drive station at the southern end of the Cambie Street corridor are either under construction or in various stages of planning.

      Cosby said that Marpole residents also support more density along major transportation routes like Oak and Granville streets.

      What city staff presented was beyond what Marpole residents expected.

      According to Cosby, more than 50 percent of single-family properties will be rezoned so more homes can be packed into new developments. These include duplexes, townhomes, and other multi-unit residences as big as 12-storey apartment towers.

      “Nobody mentioned that they were going to touch the majority of single-family homes, like in the heart of Marpole,” Cosby said. “It was shocking.”

      On August 18, Cosby and hundreds of Marpole residents turned out to protest the planned mass rezoning. A member of the ruling Vision Vancouver caucus at city hall dismissed the outcry.

      “The objections that we’re seeing, they’re actually based on quite incorrect information,” Coun. Kerry Jang told the Straight by phone.

      According to Jang, only 17 percent of single-family properties are up for rezoning. He added that all of these are located along transit routes, making for smart growth.

      The two-term councillor also said that no high-rises are contemplated in the plan. “The whole notion that it’s all going to turn overnight into a new West End or Yaletown is just patently false,” Jang stated.

      According to staff presentations at the June open houses, the proposed community plan aims to provide more opportunities for “affordable home ownership”. This will be done by encouraging additional ground-oriented housing like stacked townhomes and row houses, as well as new apartment complexes.

      Marpole resident Fiona Chen owns a single-family home. She’s worried about an increase in her property taxes.

      Chen told the Straight in a phone interview that she knows of residents in other parts of the city who are now paying more in taxes because their neighbourhoods were reclassified for denser development in the future.

      Staff will report to council in the fall about progress in drafting community plans for Marpole, as well as for the West End, Grandview-Woodland, and the Downtown Eastside.



      Alan Layton

      Aug 21, 2013 at 12:38pm

      I'm having a hard time feeling sorry for the people of Marpole. I'm sure when it was turned in to high density the first time around there was also a lot of hand wringing and hysterical pronouncements, based on bullshit data.

      The fact is that for many, many years now councils have been saying that the city IS going to grow upward and not outward. I'm not sure where everybody was thinking it was going to happen, but obviously they didn't reckon on it being in their neighbourhood. Live with it, or move.

      Bill McCreery

      Aug 21, 2013 at 12:49pm

      Cllr. Jang's right speak claim that:

      "17 percent of single-family properties are up for rezoning. He added that all of these are located along transit routes, making for smart growth."

      is patently incorrect when compared to his own staff's projections of:

      "The City has two estimates of how large Marpole will grow in the next three decades. From a 2011 dwelling count of 10,660 homes, one calculation projects a 50-percent increase, to 15,480 units by 2041. A second one almost doubles the current number, to 20,860."

      Wouldn't you say a +50% to +100% increase is just a tad more than +17%? And, perhaps he should peruse the City's own mass rezoning plan that clearly shows density increases across Marpole, not just along transit corridors.

      But then, Cllr. Jang's intellectual insights are well known. Here's another gem:

      "Affordable housing is something that somebody can afford... Generally it's rental housing, it's places where people can go and live."


      Aug 21, 2013 at 12:53pm

      The current planning process is flawed. This is the real cause of the problems in Marpole.

      Councillor Kerry Jang approved a terms of reference that took the community out of the community plan. It's a huge departure from previous processes where residents and other stakeholders formed part of committees to write the plans. CityPlan was used successfully in the past. Why did Jang abandon it? Furthermore, CityPlan and previous planning processes had mail-out surveys to each household in the area. Why was this scrapped?

      The Marpole plan has become an exercise in top-down decision making, where the planners from City Hall tell the residents what they've already decided. This is not consultation. Marpole deserves better.


      Aug 21, 2013 at 1:55pm

      The fact of the matter is that metro vancouver is growing. Fast.

      We have no control over whether or not more people come to the city. Immigration policy is federal domain.

      Where are these people going to live? In Vancouver propor along transit corridors, near ammenities? In Lengley and the ALR in single family homes with 2 cars in every garage? Or, do we not build anything (because development is unsightly!) and let newcomers compete with current residents for limited housing, driving up housing prices even higher?

      If we allow this type of nimbyism in neighborhoods 5 minutes from downtown, we make an implicit choice.

      Arthur Vandelay

      Aug 21, 2013 at 3:16pm

      I defy someone to produce a neighborhood group that isn’t screaming bloody murder over the change to zonings proposed by the city. Every single community plan basically says the same thing -- ‘don’t change anything’. NIMBY is a natural reaction to any change. I filled out the neighborhood vision questionnaire in my neighborhood and also voted the NIMBY slate. Hence the City as to do some level of imposing from the top down or else nothing practical would get accomplished. Even the most obvious changes, like adding density at the confluence of two sky train routes at Commercial and Broadway is somehow shocking to area residents.

      The GS should do a story on a neighborhood that DIDN’T blow a gasket over re-zoning issues. That would be more surprising but it would also be impossible to produce such a neighborhood.

      Lee Leeman

      Aug 21, 2013 at 11:41pm

      "17 percent of single-family properties are up for rezoning"

      Wrong. In case you hadn't noticed, Vision Vancouver has eliminated all single family zoning.

      Lane houses are allowed on previously single family zoned properties and that makes them multi family.

      More stealth work.


      Aug 22, 2013 at 9:21am

      Before anyone starts the old, tired "NIMBY" accusations, don't lose sight of the real issue here.

      The City of Vancouver continuously holds sham public consultations. They present ideas and plans to pacify residents during the "process", and then come out with reports and recommendations that bare little resemblance to what was presented to the public.

      If the City wants density, they have to sell it to the voters first. Anything less is pure fraud.


      Aug 22, 2013 at 12:25pm

      Same story across the city Vision Vancouver are technocratic scamsters, holding fake consultations to pre-approved plans, pretending to want to hear form others. I attended Pt. Grey Rd forums, totally bogus result form City; live in Mt. Pleasant and know they are pushing that high rise no one wants at Main/Broadway; now this...It should be clear to all they are full of it, total liars and instead of taking RESPONSIBILITY for their plans, they lie and pretend it's about consulting the citizens or 'city staff' who come up with these ideas.

      Gregor has ramped up the class war, attacked the middle class while pretending not to, that Point Grey Road $6 million dollars is meant to prevent the construction of a boardwalk/pier form Kits beack to Jericho because it will impede the private views and beaches of the wealthy who live along that road.

      No matter what is said by Gregor and Gang that is who0 they serve, period.

      Everything else is smoke and mirrors, tying to guilt you out for not going along with their expensively wrongheaded plans. Check it out peeps...Bad Design Blog, next entry will show how they are simply nuts and do not care about bike riders even, let alone others.

      Andrew C

      Aug 22, 2013 at 1:03pm

      Some that oppose the ideas are either misinform or just shock and follow the crowd. I agree the planning should be more open in the beginning instead of throwing at everyone's face all of a sudden.

      Those who really oppose are the ones that never want or like to change. The city is growing and if Vancouver wants to become a real major city then these people should accept the facts.

      Rezoning needs to be done. Don't be selfish. Too many middle wage class and I are living in Surrey and Delta areas. Marpole and other city areas need to be rezone so young adults can afford living in these areas. So we don't need to spend hours on the road and stuck on traffic everyday.


      Aug 22, 2013 at 1:32pm

      @Bill McCreery,

      you are comparing incomparable numbers. "17% of singled family housing will be upzoned" does not predict the population increase. Of course you can double the areas population in 17% of the single family area! Just build denser buildings! These don't even have to be tall!

      You make Mr Jang sound illogical...but in fact you are the illogical one