A progressive Vancouver political party is calling for more densification of side streets to address the high cost of housing.
"For too long, we have banned apartment buildings on side streets—allowing them on main streets only," OneCity Vancouver states in its platform, which was released today (September 19). "This means that quiet neighbourhoods have been set aside exclusively for the wealthy."
While it's true that apartment buildings are banned on many side streets of Vancouver, they do exist in pockets of the city, such as the West End, Kitsilano, and Fairview, to cite three examples.
"By allowing new rental buildings of up to six storeys, including small-scale retail at street level, OneCity will ensure that rental apartments will be built in formerly exclusive areas of the city," the party pledges.
The Vancouver election will be held on October 15. OneCity has nominated four candidates for the 10-member council: incumbent Christine Boyle, Urban Native Youth Association president Matthew Norris, health economist Ian Cromwell, and transportation planner Iona Bonamis.
OneCity also proposes that new condo developments of up to four storeys should be permitted on side streets, with final approval being delegated to staff.
If council were to approve this policy, the elected politicians would no longer hold public hearings on projects of this nature.
In addition, OneCity favours giving social-housing projects "an advantage over market developments" by allowing them to be built at greater heights and more quickly than private-sector counterparts.
"Is this stacking the deck in favour of social housing? Absolutely. We make no apologies for it," OneCity states.
The party says that it will change the rules to encourage more two- and three-bedroom apartments, as well as provide incentives for redeveloping single-family homes into multiplexes.
"Vancouver has revenue tools that let us capture much of the increase in land value that comes with new development and new potential," OneCity states in its platform. "We propose to use those tools to their fullest extent and roll the proceeds into affordable housing and neighbourhood amenities."
Party wants to "de-task" police by reallocating funds
The party has offered voters similarly detailed platform proposals for community safety, harm reduction, parks, schools, climate, arts and culture, economic development, transportation, and local democracy.
For example, under the heading of "Investing in strong communities" in the 12-point community safety section, there's a call for a peer-assisted care team program "to dispatch a mental health professional and peer crisis responder to people experiencing a mental health crisis".
"PACT has been a success in other cities in B.C. and across North America, saving money and freeing up police and hospital resources," OneCity says.
There's also a call for Indigenous-led justice and community-safety initiatives. That includes the "Bear Clan Patrol", which was recommended in the Red Women Rising report.
That's not all. OneCity is demanding greater municipal control and democratic oversight over the Vancouver Police Department budget, as well as training related to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
There's also a call for an evaluation of community policing centres "to see what aspects of their work can be replicated by or transferred to civilian groups".
"Vancouver spends a million dollars a day on policing, more than a fifth of the city’s annual budget," OneCity states in its platform. "Police are our default response to health and social problems like mental illness, addiction, poverty and a lack of social services. OneCity will 'de-task' the police by reallocating funds towards community organizations and agencies that are better suited to address these issues."
OneCity uses the term "de-task police", rather than "defund police", replicating the same terminology used by Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender in a major report to a legislative committee last year. Govender's report included six recommendations in this area.
Expanding harm reduction
OneCity has an eight-point plan to address the opioid crisis, including supporting an expansion of access to overdose-prevention sites, safer supply of medical-grade drugs, and naloxone kits.
There's also a call for installing phone-charging stations in parks, which the party suggests could save lives in a medical emergency. Plus, OneCity endorses including people who use drugs on city advisory committees. The party wants the city to support peer-led organizations that build social connections and a sense of belonging among drug users.
"While many decisions rest with higher levels of government, there is plenty Vancouver can do to keep people safe," the party emphasizes. "OneCity will listen to and work with people who use drugs who know what must be done to keep them alive. We will work to give them access to drugs that won’t kill them, and supports to feel a part of their community."
An 11-point climate plan
OneCity has been a climate hawk ever since it elected its first councillor, Boyle, in 2018. The platform for the 2022 election includes several proposals to wean the city off natural gas.
* banning the installation of new gas appliances in existing homes;
* banning gas hook-ups entirely from new homes and buildings;
* requirinh gas furnaces and boilers to be replaced with electric heat pumps when they read the end of their natural life or by 2035 while ensuring that replacement costs are not passed along to tenants;
* providing incentives for building owners to permanently disconnect from natural gas service;
* and requiring district-energy facilities in Vancouver to fully decarbonize operations.
There's also a call to mandate cooling in all homes and buildings and to prepare for future heat waves. This includes requiring air conditioning with electric heat pumps by 2030.
Platform for the arts
Municipal political parties often pay little attention to arts and culture in the lead-up to elections. OneCity, on the other hand, has included nine proposals in its platform.
That includes a call to urge the province to exempt arts and culture organizations from property taxes, including where they are tenants.
There's also a proposal for an "empty commercial property tax", with exemptions for landlords who provide free or subsidized space to artists.
In addition, OneCity favours linking funding to major arts and culture organizations to their "ability to demonstrate meaningful partnerships with arts and organizations working to advance Indigenous justice and confront the climate emergency". Similarly, the party believes that the city's cultural services department should be funded to pursue these objectives.
The arts section of the platform also endorses more flexible programming under cabaret licences, reforming noise bylaws to ensure that outdoor events are "not unnecessarily restricted or prohibited", and activating busker-friendly locations all over the city. There's also a call for the appointment of a music officer "to connect musicians with supports, help navigate city processes, and encourage more musical events in public spaces".
In a nod to the 2SLGBTQ+ community, OneCity supports exempting those venues from the moratorium on liquor-primary licences on Granville Street. The party also endorses "indefinite extensions to liquor primary licences when 2SLGBTQ+ bars and clubs close, provided they are sold to another 2SLGBTQ+ space".
More mixed-use developments
In the preamble to OneCity's economic-development platform, there's this statement: "Most of Vancouver’s problems boil down to space. Not only do we need more homes for workers to live, we also need more space for employers to thrive. Retail space, offices and industrial lands are hard to come by for anybody who wants to start or grow a business in this city. OneCity will encourage more mixed-use development and provide Vancouverites room to work."
That's followed by 11 proposals to address this, including by allowing for grocery stores, cafes, restaurants, and small-scale retail shops in all neighbourhoods. There's also a call to explore the creation of a commercial tenant board "to provide oversight and protect small business" and to develop policies that favour local businesses over giant chain retailers.
"Protect culturally significant businesses and business districts such as the Punjabi Market, Joyce-Collingwood and Chinatown using heritage designations," OneCity recommends. "Relieve pressure on these areas by expanding commercial space across the city."
There are nine transportation proposals in the platform, including asking TransLink to provide more shelters, washrooms, benches, and real-time status updates. The party hopes that the free transit program can be expanded to include youths up to 18 years of age and youth transitioning out of government care until they're 25 years old.
Its democracy platform includes calls for the province to allow municipalities to change their electoral system with a range of options; a citizens' assembly to recommend either a proportional, ward, or hybrid system to replace the at-large system in which councillors are elected on a citywide basis; and to strike to implement these recommendations in time for the next civic election in 2026.
The party has not promised that it will introduce a motion before council calling for a change to a ward system or forms of proportional representation that could be allowed under the Vancouver Charter—and then forcing the provincial government to respond to that demand.