Monday, April 28, 2014

Perhaps real estate prices should be legally capped off too

The following article highlights how corporations pressure governments to make decisions that negatively impact ordinary citizens.  I've mentioned how density bonuses or community amenity contributions (CACs) work in Burnaby where developers pay a fee in exchange for being allowed greater heights and more density for their projects.  The fees go into City funds that allow for amenities in the local area where the greater density has been allowed.

The provincial government has created guidelines for fee structures that cities can charge developers in exchange for the tremendous benefit that developers achieve in the form of greater profits.  The guidelines are merely that; guidelines.  Cities have been able to charge developers more than the guidelines for allowing greater density and developers have been paying the higher CACs because it is profitable to do so.

But the "poor" developers want protections with detailed limits on how much they have to pay for the benefit of increased profits...because they want to make even more profits than the hundred of millions that they already do.

It's amazing that corporations want the benefits of a free market economy where they can tremendously profit from a "free market economy" that has been Vancouver's real estate market over the past 20 years, but don't want the free market conditions to apply to them in the form the costs of participating in that real estate market.  Ordinary citizens are required to deal with the same type of free market conditions which has led to inflated real estate prices that have benefited who else but corporations.  If developers want "protections" from the free market, perhaps citizens should have the same protections to keep real estate affordable as well.  Let's cap real estate costs.  Not in the free market spirit?  Then forget about limiting CACs for developers.  Let's let market conditions apply to developers as well.  After all, what's fair is fair.

The question should be asked; if the BC Government places a cap on what municipalities can demand for CACs, how many people and who in the current BC Government will end up with jobs with the very real estate development companies that they will have helped as legislators?

Business inVancouver article below

Court could be the only recourse for property developers in fight with municipalities over CACs

Province lays ground rules for community amenity contributions, lacks enforcement measures

Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:01am PST
Developers might have no option but to sue municipalities that don’t respect provincial guidelines governing community amenity contributions (CACs).
The province’s Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development recently released new guidelines following a two-year study of municipal practice with respect to CACs, which are charged at rezoning.
But consultant Alan Osborne – who drafted the guidelines – told the Urban Development Institute (UDI) last week that there’s no resolution process in place if municipalities ignore the rules.
“Someone has to take them to court,” Osborne said, in response to questions from Anne McMullin, president and CEO of the Urban Development Institute. “There isn’t an appeal board you can go to, the minister can slap them on the wrist, the minister can send letters, but ultimately, in British Columbia, the system is that somebody goes to court.”
While the province might consider entrenching the guidelines in legislation, Osborne said that would be a decision for the politicians if it’s clear that the guidelines haven’t achieved the change in municipal behaviour the province aims to effect with the new ground rules.
“The decision was to produce guidelines; obviously the next step is to monitor the use of guidelines by local governments. Then it’s a political decision about the next steps,” he said. “It’s now very clear what the province thinks about CACs; that foreshadows the next steps if they want to go that far.”
CACs have become a contentious issue for developers over the past decade as municipalities have seen the charges as a lucrative source of revenue for funding public amenities such as child-care facilities, affordable housing and space for community groups.
The charges are typically based on the projected change in a property’s improved value following rezoning.
Between 2000 and 2010, CACs charged to B.C. developers jumped to $720 million from $100 million.
The increase is a function not just of the upswing in rezonings and property values during the period, but funding cutbacks by senior levels of government that forced municipalities to seek alternative revenue sources.
“Somebody’s going to have to pick up that tab,” said Burnaby Coun. Nick Volkow, speaking in lieu of Mayor Derek Corrigan. “That’s why the development community has now got a bull’s eye on their foreheads.”
Vancouver staff have sought to establish fixed rates for CACs to give developers certainty, but it was one of several municipalities, including Richmond and West Vancouver, singled out for harsh criticism during the UDI discussion.
Whether developers act on their ongoing discontent with CACs – which can add millions of dollars to the cost of developments – is another question.
McMullin told Business in Vancouver that litigation is hardly a positive or profitable way to do business.
The industry would most likely ask the province’s attorney general to intervene if municipalities don’t bring CACs in line with the guidelines, and potentially create new legislation to avoid unleashing costly court battles.
“I think if we can bring in legislation based on these guidelines, then we will avoid court cases,” McMullin said. “I don’t think anybody finds any value in going to court.” •

Friday, April 18, 2014

First tower ready to rise

Burnaby City Council has approved the first tower in the Brentwood Mall Redevelopment.  Construction should begin sometime this summer.

Burnaby NewsLeader article below

First Brentwood mall tower approved

The first tower in the redevelopment of Brentwood mall is a go.
Burnaby council gave approval in principle Monday to the rezoning that will allow the first highrise in Phase 1 of the 28-acre site to go ahead.
Mall owner Shape Properties Corp. plans to build a 53-storey tower on top of a three-storey commercial podium at the southwest corner of the mall property at Willingdon Avenue and Lougheed Highway. The tower itself will be located at the corner of Willingdon and Halifax Street.
It will include 591 apartment units, of which 300—on the first 25 floors—are intended to be rental units owned and operated by Shape and its funding partners.
The decision comes despite concerns raised by Burnaby residents at the public hearing in February around public consultation, density, traffic, and other potential impacts on the area.
A city staff report responded to the concerns, noting the site was identified for high-density residential back in 1996 as part of the Brentwood Town Centre Development Plan.
The master plan approved earlier for the site calls for 11 residential towers and two office towers in total. The tallest buildings would be closest to the corner of Willingdon and Lougheed and sloping downwards as they approach the single-family neighbourhood to the north.
It also allows for two proposed towers within Phase 1 to be up to 70 storeys. The proposed first tower is lower than that, the report said.
Numerous traffic studies have been done on the site and "it is not anticipated that there will be a significant impact to traffic and street parking on adjacent residential streets to the north and northwest." The developer is required to analyze traffic of  surrounding roads both before and after people move in to the highrise and respond to any unforeseen impacts, it said.
The "development proposal remains supportable."
Mayor Derek Corrigan noted that while media reports often point out opposition to a project, the record shows many at the public hearing were in support of the development.
Indeed, there were 53 written and verbal submissions in support and 28 expressing concerns, according to the report.
There is a "spectrum of opinion on issues like this," Corrigan said.
Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said he supported the project but will continue to keep an eye on reducing the impact on transit users. Construction has required the bus loop on mall property be removed, and bus stops moved to adjacent streets.
Coun. Pietro Calendino said construction naturally causes inconvenience but noted there will be benefits to transit users. The distance to the SkyTrain station from new bus stops will be shorter than those for the bus loop. And the developer is giving money to TransLink to build a new elevator to the station to improve access for people with disabilities.
"That's a positive we cannot really forget," Calendino said. "It's something that does not exist now that will exist in the near future."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Opinions on Brentwood Mall Redevelopment

As the east wing of Brentwood Mall is being boarded up down the middle between the recently-closed IHOP and the former SportMart in preparation for Phase 1 of the Brentwood Mall Redevelopment, a variety of opinions are being expressed in the local media by local residents, politicians and news people themselves.

The following are some of the varying opinions on the upcoming BMR.

From BCIT Broadcast News

Brentwood Construction

Brentwood Mall expansion a growing pain for nearby residents.

Matthew Senf is a resident of the area and also a home renovator, so he sees the appeal of improving the area, but is already seeing changes.

“we brought a delegation to the traffic and safety committee about the volume and aggressiveness of the traffic on our street.

“We have noticed it increasing in the last few years so i imagine when this is complete it’s going to be ridiculous.”

Senf also wonders about the parking plans at Brentwood. He says he is worried about all of the new vehicles coming into the area without adequate space.

“our concern is they’re putting a couple thousand new homes in, and to think that everyone is going to take the sky train is ridiculous.”

“Where are they going to put all these cars? They say it’s not going to affect one of the old estestablished residential neighbourhoods in Burnaby right here, and that is ludicrous and irresponsible.”

Casual Brenwtood Mall shopper Tim only parks once a month and notices the difference every time he comes back and says “its definitely a lot busier.” He also mentioned how he has to park on the outskirts of the lot just to find parking and that it takes him about five minutes longer to do so.

Forty year Burnaby resident Rosa Davis says her problem is not with the parking. 

“I never have a problem with the parking, and the amount of people in the stores is about the same.”

Her disappointment comes from the expansion of homes and apartment towers in the area. 

“I’m not optimistic about development, we are high rising ourselves to death, wheres our green.”

While brentwood’s plans are exciting and potentially prosperous to the area, Senf believes they are focusing on brentwood and ignoring the surrounding areas.

“If you look at the development schematics they’ve come out with theres a brightly coloured area which is right here (brentwood) and everything on the outlying area is like whatever, good luck.”

From a commercial standpoint however, he is quite supportive of the process.

“We’re quite pro of the development in terms of there is a responsible sense of planning in terms of making a hub around a transportation area, thats good planning on their part.”

“The commercial development is going to (be) great, it’s beautiful..but if they could make it so they protect these established neighbourhoods that would show a real sort of leadership and responsibility in terms of civic planning.”

(from Burnaby Now letters)

Brace for the 'uglyfication' of Burnaby

Bill Gruenthal / Burnaby Now
March 4, 2014 10:36 AM

Dear Editor:

Re: Skyscraper stirs debate, Burnbay NOW, Feb. 28.
I totally agree with Barry and Gloria MacDonald, whose concern is the increased traffic and population in and around Brentwood with its planned massive expansion. We moved into the area for its almost rural-type and serene living - no longer.
Since this ridiculous expansion is a fait accompli, seems to me that no prior arrangements have been made for schools, hospitals, police and roads to handle the accumulation of new people not only in Brentwood but also the surrounding areas, including the now-being-built Solo structures; bear in mind also that same type of development is planned for the Lougheed Town Centre area. The mayor is talking about bike paths and "maybe" a park and community centre.
Call it "the uglyfication" of Burnaby.
Bill Gruenthal, Burnaby
© Burnaby Now

Hold on with plans

Burnaby Now
March 25, 2014 04:36 PM

Dear Editor:

As demonstrated during my time as a Burnaby city councillor, I am generally supportive of high-density development near SkyTrain stations.
However I am becoming increasingly concerned about the effect that the proposed eleven highrise redevelopment for Brentwood will have on the transportation infrastructure.
Both the SkyTrain line and the road infrastructure at Lougheed Highway and Willingdon Avenue are stretched to capacity, or beyond, during peak periods. 
I assume that perhaps 5,000 new residents will be added as a result of the proposed development and most of them will own automobiles. The existing road network and SkyTrain line simply can’t handle such an increase. 
I don’t think it is possible to increase SkyTrain capacity very much during rush hours and the city’s current expansion work on Willingdon is woefully inadequate.
In my opinion, the Brentwood redevelopment plan should be put on hold until such time as the city is able to demonstrate that it has, in place, a realistic plan for dealing with the increase in vehicular traffic that will result from the development.
Garth Evans, Burnaby
© Burnaby Now

(from Letters to the editor Burnaby NewsLeader)

Burnaby city council can do more for affordable housing

posted Apr 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM

As a renter in Burnaby I’m concerned about the continued emergence of gigantic housing developments like the one at Brentwood that do not serve the average person.

If I were to speak with Burnaby city council, I’d ask if they had any commitment to social or low-income housing, or are they moving headlong to gentrification?
Regarding this, a reported $427 million in building permits was handed out by council in just the first six months of last year. So it follows that city council should have some resources to address the need for more housing in this city.
It is high time Burnaby council showed some initiative on this issue.
Next door, Vancouver council is willing to face up to its housing needs. On Feb. 28, Vancouver council announced the $1 billion Downtown Eastside Enhancement plan that will result in 3,400 social housing units. Meanwhile, Burnaby council regularly grants extremely lucrative profit-making opportunities to developers.
The care extended to Cressey Developments in Edmonds and others must result in some positive benefit to our city.
Toronto has succeeded in linking the granting of development permits with community benefits for its citizens. Shouldn’t Burnaby citizens receive some community benefits as well?
What council needs to do is finally stand up and show some leadership by making a start on dealing with the need for low income and social housing here. Obviously, we don’t have a very progressive provincial government at the moment, but it’s the only one we’ve got.
Council needs to get out in front of the province, make a start, then phone Housing Minister Rich Coleman and give him a chance to get the province involved.
The housing needs of renters in this city are both serious and great.
There must be an affordable option for low income renters, or this housing crisis will get worse, especially if council continues sitting on its hands, pretending there is no problem.
Rick Erb

(from Letters to the Editor Burnaby NewsLeader)

Changes to allow Burnaby's towers should (be) clearly spelled out

In one breath, a rezoning for a 53-storey tower in Brentwood is tabled “in response to issues raised at a public hearing.”
In the next, the city is taking out full-page advertisements saying, “citizens endorsed the concept” more than 20 years ago. Citizens have never had the opportunity to “endorse” the “s-zoning” bylaw that was quietly passed in December 2010. In fact, the minutes of the council meeting clearly show there was no discussion whatsoever.
Perhaps this is because nobody, except a few councillors and developers, understood what “text amendment to a bylaw respecting bonus density” actually meant.
A more honest title would be, “an amendment to a bylaw that will allow an additional 10 to 40 storeys to any new towers in the city.”
To borrow a word from Mayor Derek Corrigan’s extensive lexicon, what the city has done is “disingenuous.”
Fortunately, what the the mayor and council have done can be undone.
Repeal the bylaw, or place a moratorium on its use until it can be put to a referendum with a clear choice.
Rick McGowan

COLUMN: Smart, dense cities like ours are changing the world

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about density.
As towers soar to new heights in Metrotown,Brentwood and Downtown New Westminster, there’s been much talk about how our cities are changing.
In Burnaby, suburban malls are evolving into urban town centres. Upcoming changes at Brentwood, in particular, will shift that neighbourhood’s evolution into high gear.
And Lougheed is poised to follow.
The shift to high density results in losses, of course.
Lost views. The character of neighbourhoods change.
And there’s much to debate along the way. How high is too high? How dense too dense? And are developers doling out enough cash to fund the parks and daycares these new residents will require?
Good questions.
But as a concept, density in its best form—smart growth—is changing the world for the better. And we’re lucky to have a front-row seat.
Next door, Vancouver is becoming the City of the Future. Its dense, livable downtown — captured in the term “Vancouverism” — is the envy of city planners the world over.
A dense, well-designed city leads with great social spaces makes it easier to lead a happy, healthy, earth-friendly life.
And Vancouver is the poster child for the campaign.
Thankfully, its closest neighbours Burnaby and New Westminster aren’t far behind.
It’s astounding how many positive impacts come from building smart, compact cities.
From an economic perspective, dense cities are magnets.
Lively, active streets are where people want to be. We’re drawn to energetic cities that are walkable, well-served by transit with a mix of people.
TEDx talk: This short talk from Gil Penalosa of 8-80 Cities sums up the idea of sustainable urbanism wonderfully.

Employers want to set up offices in these vibrant cities. Tourists love to visit. Go to Dallas-Fort Worth or New York? Depends—do you want sprawl or to have it all?
Then there’s health—physical and mental.

The larger population base supports grocery stores, retail and restaurants nearby. Complemented by sidewalks, paths and well-established bike routes, people have healthy options to get to work and around town. Fewer car trips means more exercise, fewer hours in traffic means we’re fitter and mellower.
In a nutshell, we’re building cities for people again, not cars.
In his book, The Happy City, Charles Montgomery says it well:
“Why would travelling more slowly and using more effort offer more satisfaction than driving? Part of the answer exists in basic human physiology. We were born to move. Immobility is to the human body what rust is to the classic car. Stop moving long enough, and your muscles will atrophy. Bones will weaken. Blood will clot. You will find it harder to concentrate and solve problems. Immobility is not merely a state closer to death: it hastens it.”
Oh—and let’s not forget the impact on the pocketbook. In downtown Vancouver these days, it’s common to find residents who don’t own a car. My friend at the edge of Gastown almost never drives. New developments downtown need to provide fewer parking spaces.
Since 2006, vehicle trips into Vancouver’s core have actually dropped more than 20 per cent even as population has grown.
For every person who opts not to have a car, they save about $10,000 annually on vehicle costs.
And in the larger sense, of course, it’s good for the earth.
Tighter cities, fewer cars, and more transit is very green.
With luck, Vancouver’s approach will get exported around the world.
Meantime, locally, Burnaby and New Westminster are next in line.
Some say things are getting too dense, too fast.
Me, I think we can move faster. As long as we’re smart about how we densify, it’s all good.
• Chris Bryan is editor of the NewsLeader.