Sunday, 24 April 2011

Revisited / Making ourselves aware

Background to this post
This posting below has been revised following objections from one community leader that my original blog post focused on personality and in doing so diverted dialogue from the key-issues. My original post was written in response to an email distributed community-wide March 29th.
The author of the e-mail has requested that their name be withheld and that their e-mail be posted alongside this posting, such that readers are provided full disclosure and context.

The broadly distributed email of March 29 (purple text below), encouraging residents to attend a Lower Capilano OCP Presentation, contained a number of misleading terms or inaccurate statements, which deflects and averts balanced discussion of the community-developed plans.   As it is essential to clarify and develop context for residents to formulate realistic approaches to the community’s future, the points below touch upon comments or terms from the March 29 e-mail that require examination or clarification:

 “...our single family area”
 This is not functionally accurate. We do not live in a single family neighbourhood.  We live in a mixed form, multi-family neighbourhood that contains high-rise apartments, duplexes, secondary suites and single-family homes.

At least 30% of homes on McLallen Court are functionally "up & down" duplexes.  40% of the homes on Sandown Place are some form of duplex, either Vancouver Specials, or "side-by-side".   Numerous secondary suites exist within the area, with the possible exception of the North Glenaire cul-de-sac, due to the number of slab foundation homes there and 90% of the community presently lives in highrise multi-family buildings.

 “…an additional 1,000 residential units”
With complete redevelopment of the Lower Capilano commercial properties (not just the former Capwest site), the conceptual plan anticipates approximately 40% of new units as replacement for the existing 387 hotel/motel units.   This is for a long range plan that anticipates a 20 year span.  Nor would all replacement units be residential units.  A number of units would consist of single-occupancy seniors rentals and market rental units that would not be sold, but would be used to replenish the dwindling supply of scarce rental accommodation on the North Shore.

“A quick calculation tells us…well over 2000 parking spaces”
No development guidelines anywhere stipulate this level of parking ratios. The “quick calculation” of parking ratios is a little too quick.

Normally the parking ratio near  transit is 1.25 stalls per residential unit, whereas Larco’s 2009 application provided for 1.4 stalls per dwelling unit.  For comparison purposes, the City of Vancouver requirement is 0.9 stalls per unit and West Vancouver is 1.0 stalls per unit. For the community centre, the ratio is 1 stall per 35 sqm. GFA (gross floor area) which equates to 41 stalls and Larco’s application detailed 44 stalls.  Seniors housing, of which Larco planned 45 units, is 0.33 per unit or 15 stalls (seniors tending to not be drivers).

Presently there are over 700 surface parking spaces to service the Lower Capilano commercial properties.  With redevelopment the greatest amount of parking would be underground, not on the surface.  As was pointed out in Tom Lancaster’s March 23rd presentation, this opens up vast amounts of NEW available surface area for parks and public space for the use and benefit of the community.

From these facts it is difficult to imagine how it is possible to reach a figure of 2,000 parking spaces being required, much less to imagine that these would be situated as surface parking stalls.  This is not a reality.

“…score…big tax dollars for their coffers”
As DNV Council tries to prudently struggle with rising resident needs, they attempt to balance demands with the ability/willingness of residents to pay commensurately higher tax property rates.

Financial forecasts from DNV Finance indicate that the single-family homes do not pay their full and actual cost of services.  This burden is largely and disproportionately borne by business – which drives many businesses to look for other jurisdictions that offer lower tax rates.  This drives away much needed jobs for the North Shore.

How would one begin to rebalance the tax base in the future, seeing as the growing segment of the DNV population will consist mainly of seniors, many of them on limited or fixed incomes?  How would one develop a vibrant, demographically-diverse and working age population that supports and services businesses and the local economy?

Why are the tax rates for the City of North Vancouver so much lower than for the DNV?   In large part because it has a more compact footprint, with higher density, fewer kilometers/person of sewer, roads and water to maintain, not to mention the creeks, woodlands and parks.  Why will NV City never want to merge with DNV? Simple. They don’t want the costs and headaches of this widely-dispersed, low population municipality!

If anyone feel that they pay too much in tax now, have a look at the prospects of an aging population of suburban single-family dwellers who can no longer drive or have sufficient density to create viable transit service.  The DNV Finance Dept. will be glad to supply some scenarios based on indepth data on exactly these conditions.

“...those who are hoping for huge benefits ($$) are making themselves heard…”
Being one of those who often speak to these issues,  I assume I am included somewhere in the estimation of those engaged in an imagined “dollars for density” scheme.  For the majority of residents this comment is as insulting as it is erroneous.

What suggestions are there for those who want to create a fully functioning community that allows for local services, or life without the possibility of an automobile?  Or for those whose slab foundation is cracked and are limited to redevelopment of a home that must conform to building form created 60 years ago?

The claim of prospects for “huge benefits” seems to come from people who have very little experience with the economics of small building development.  At the Sept. 1, 2010 meeting of the Lions Gate Neighbourhood Association, an opponent from one end of the room heckled me as I spoke, charging that I was only trying to get "filthy rich", while from the opposite end, someone loudly objectioned that our plans for modest low density development options made no financial sense at all.

Those opposing any change in the neighbourhood are yet to articulate their vision for the future of this community.  The circulated e-mail (below) is yet another illustration of a document that lacks a realistic vision of how to navigate into the future of a changing world. The message seems to be “We don't know what we want, but we know we don't want what we don’t know."

Just saying “No!” to everything will not help us transform our neighbourhood towards a more livable and sustainable community for present and future generations.
Doug Curran

 Original email received March 29:
REMINDER - Important Meeting this Wednesday

Attached is the District notice for the meeting last week, and the one coming up this Wednesday evening, March 30th, at the Grouse Inn.
People should make themselves aware of what's being proposed by the District for our neighbourhood!   At this point, we're looking at an additional 1000 residential units,
100,000 square feet of new retail and commercial space, etc. etc.  A quick calculation tells us that all this new development will require well over 2000 parking spaces - that should tell you how massive this
plan really is.  This is what the District Planning Department has the audacity to call their "village" concept!
In addition to this - there is a push by some residents to upzone their properties - we could have several triplex and townhouse complexes within what is now our single family area. 
For those of us who value this quiet enclave in this corner of North Vancouver - massive changes could be on our doorstep - and soon.  Larco is ready to go with their plans - the District Planning department
is ready to take what little they can get, in exchange for a way to score big tax dollars for their coffers.  The District sees our neighbourhood as one that can give them the money to keep doing what they have done
for years in the District - spend, spend, spend, for the benefit of residents, but not usually those living in Lower Capilano!  When you look at all the facilities, parks, and other infrastructure other areas have, it's easy to wonder why the District is looking hard at our area as a cash cow, and expecting us to take all this density, with all the headaches that come along with it.
The District will do what they have always done - spend the newfound tax revenue everywhere else but in our area!
There were many new boards and displays at last Wednesday's meeting.  After reminding them on Monday that I had been told everything would be up on the District website, some of the material has now been posted.  Take a look, read through some of it, and come with your questions and concerns on Wednesday night.  You can be sure those who are hoping for huge benefits ($$) for themselves are making themselves heard at these meetings.   The District Planners have focused on these residents' support of major redevelopment, to advance their notion of what our neighbourhood should become.  Those of us who hope to stay have a lot to consider.  This is your time to get your point of view known to the District!

Go to the DNV website for the latest available information.

As always - give me a call if you wish.


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