Thursday, 24 October 2013


The rezoning of Stong's market in Dunbar can be best understood by reading the Legend of Beowolf. The Danish King Hrothgar had constructed a mead hall which I have always imagined as being something like Stongs market in Dunbar. The Community was justifiably pleased with it There was, however, a demon named Grendel who lived in a cave. He did not see the Mead Hall as as his ultimate amenity. Regularly attacking it, he pruned the heads off the bravest Danish Soldiers. Not until Beowolf came along from Sweden and ripped Grendel's arm off and killed his mother, did things return to normal.

So yesterday, when the news broke that the City was slinking off in defeat, one of our many bloggers, crowed, "City Hall staff hear the community & quash Harwood's proposed rezoning of the Stongs site on Dunbar"

Not since the first of 30 platoons of defending Danes were dismembered by Grendel, has anyone so underestimated an opponent's prowess.

The CBC reported that Planner, Brian Jackson, explained, "The planning department found the proposal did not meet city regulations."

Of course they didn't. The statement is a truism. Rezoning by its nature is a change of regulations.

He continued, "If this would have been rental housing on top of Stong's, there would have been rental policy that would have allowed us to consider a building of six stories. But the applicant was proposing condominiums on top of Stong's".

What did  the planner, mean by the word "regulations?" Some of the residents of the Dunbar shire assumed he was referring to the "Dunbar Vision Document." That document was the result of a process initiated many years ago by the Planning Department that took a long time to complete but which was never enacted as an Official Development Plan ("ODP"). An ODP does not effect a change in zoning but it does require that if a zoning bylaw is changed, the change must be consistent with the plan.

So what! The Sermon on the Mount was never enacted either.

To truly understand Dunbar you must read more than just Beowolf. You should also watch the film Galaxy Quest. An ancient civilization of octopus people on the other side of the universe started receiving broadcasts of Star Trek. The shows became known to the Octopusians as the Historical Documents and shaped every detail of that civilization including their motto, "Never Give up, Never Surrender."

Gilligan's Island was another important historical document.

The Dunbar Vision is like the "Historical Documents." It is kept alive by devoted residents who never give up and never surrender.

Now, Vancouver's Planner knows perfectly well that the DUNBAR VISION is not an Official Development Plan. If it were, then a zoning amendment would have to be consistent with it. It is, however a historical document. It lives in the hearts of all Dunbarians. The fact that it is old, has no legal status and has not yet been set to music, is of no import.

If we carefully parse the words of the Planner, "If there was rental housing on top of Stongs *** six stories...but the Developer was proposing Condominiums."

The Developer is being invited to modify his plans to supply rental housing.

What about the money that the City gets when it rezones the land to CD-1 in the form of amenity charges? Will it have to give that up?

Of course not.  It will ditch the hated CD zone. It will replace it with a new zone called C2-Stongs - a variation on C-2 adjusted for Dunbar because we are special. Each neighborhood in Vancouver will get the same kind of variations in their C-2 zones. The amenity charges will be even higher because construction costs for rentals are likely to be cheaper than for condo's.

Who will live in the rental units? That depends on how affordable they are. Councilor Jang has already defined affordability as whatever people can afford. He will work it out. Whatever!

They are on to a good thing. The next phase will likely be to ban cars on streets in front of your home if you agree to take in boarders. 

Sunday, 6 October 2013


The Bike Lane Department of City Hall sent a letter to business owners on 4th Avenue near MacDonald Street. It had called a meeting for October 4th to consider a current proposal. Explaining that this was a consequence of his splendid“Seaside Greenway and York Avenue Bikeway, Active Transportation Project.” Engineer Dobrovolny wanted feedback on how the loss of all parking could be minimized. 

He had a Power Point Presentation that would prove that the merchants had to lose their parking. There could be no other way. To ensure that they had no illusions as to the hopelessness of their cause, he said the decision had already been made and approved. 

Pharaoh had hardened his heart.

I asked why ( expletives deleted) he needed to bring a squad of engineers to explain an irrevocable decision to remove parking spaces. After all, how many engineers does it take to screw the public? Could it possibly have had anything to do with the fact that they would be paid time and one half for overtime?

The Bike Rider in Chief started with an aerial photo of the street. He stated that the parking in front of two of the stores would lose only four spaces. The owner said he had just measured it and the engineers could not have counted correctly. There were seven. The store owner grabbed their aerial photo and counted them. There were six cars with additional room for a seventh. (Happily, this engineer does not design bridges.)

Their faith shaken by the parking space count, the merchants asked for the City’s evidence to support the need to cause them this catastrophe. Dobrovolny explained that they had done traffic counts on the intersection.

No one believed him. Never had anyone in 20 years seen a count taken at this intersection.

In reply, the staffers explained that you don't always see the counts because they may be done at various times of the day and in the alternative, maybe once every two or so years. Yes, and sometimes there are stealth counts. They hire little people who sit in chairs, count cars and then run away.

Then they got down to business. They explained that they could vastly improve things by installing parking metres further down the street. The existing unpaid parking was inefficient according to Dobrovolny It would be a lot better if 15% of the spaces could be kept vacant.

So this was why there was a meeting. If the merchants would only ask for it, then the engineers could install meters, collect the money and claim that consultation and democracy had been gloriously triumphant.

But if they know that paid parking is the solution, why are they asking the merchants? Having already decided to remove all of the spaces it is also their job to mitigate damages.

One person suggested that they could inexpensively put in an advance signal at the intersection instead of turning bays. The engineer said that the ephemeral traffic counts that they forgot to bring, proved that there was too much traffic for advanced signals.

The shopkeepers said that they would be forced to close. Dobrovolny could have explained that they should be honoured. Their sacrifice was for the greater enjoyment of our creme de la creme, West Point Grey, Golden Mile waterfront residents. That is a noble cause. The Engineers deserve a few cases of Pouilly-Fuisse and  Lulu Lemon jogging pants.