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Events, decisions, and reports at City Council this week

May 14 2020 –

Vancouver City Council met electronically this week to hear and discuss a variety of topics during Council, Public Hearing, and Standing Committee on City Finance and Services meetings.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 

Council began by approving the memo 2020 Lower Mainland Local Government Association Resolution Submission Adjustment  (39 KB).

Staff presented (1.2 MB) to Council on the Report Back on Review of Fairness and Effectiveness of the Empty Homes Tax (224 KB). After asking questions of staff and debate, this was approved with amendments.

Council approved several reports, by-laws, and administrative motions:

Council also approved the following council members’ motions:

Rescinding Motion to Include C-2 Zones in Rental Housing Stock Official Development Plan (13 KB) was withdrawn.

The following Council members’ motions were referred to the City Finance and Services Standing Committee meeting on May 13, in order to hear from speakers:

On Tuesday evening, a Public Hearing was held.

Council called for speakers and none were present for HERITAGE: 6103 West Boulevard - S.E.P. (Stanley Ernest Peters) Block (692 KB). This was then approved.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Standing Committee on City Finance and Services meeting began with Presentation: COVID-19 – Mobility and Public Space Responses (5 MB) from staff to Council.

Motions referred from Tuesday’s Council meeting were then considered.

Four speakers were heard on Flexible, Innovative and Expedited Patio Permitting (43 KB), and one speaker was heard on Working for More Housing Affordability in the Cambie Corridor (13 KB). Both motions were passed during Standing Committee meeting, with formal approval scheduled during Council meeting on May 26, 2020.

Seven speakers were also heard on Reallocation of Road Space to Support Shared Use During Pandemic (15 KB), with debate and decision to continue at the next Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities meeting on May 27, 2020.

The motion Recalibrating the Housing Vancouver Strategy post COVID-19 (23 KB) will also be added to the Standing Committee meeting agenda on May 27, 2020.

The next Special Council meeting is scheduled for May 14, 2020, at 4pm.

Quotes

Councillor Christine Boyle

Regarding the work of Council

“As we are thinking about our recovery from COVID, it is so important that we not think about returning to normal, but about becoming a more equitable, just and resilient city. This global health crisis has exacerbated existing inequalities, and our recovery needs to do the opposite by lifting more people up and welcome more people in.”

Regarding Reallocation of Road Space to Support Shared Use During Pandemic

“This is the time to be bold in rethinking how we allocate precious street space, in ways that maximize the number of people that can use it to get outside and to get around. Private cars take up a lot of space in our city, and lots of that space could serve more people by prioritizing active and public transportation and through the creation of public patios and plazas.”

Councillor Adriane Carr

Regarding Report Back on Review of Fairness and Effectiveness of the Empty Homes Tax

“I’m thrilled that Vancouver’s Empty Homes tax, the first of its kind in North America, is achieving its main goal – to shift empty homes to rented homes to mitigate our city’s housing crisis. We just learned that, according to CMHC, almost 6,000 condo units added to the long term rental market last year.”

Regarding 2020 Property Taxation: Rating By-laws and Averaging Resolutions

“I felt it was my fiduciary duty to vote in favour of the 2020 property tax rating by-laws and averaging resolutions, which simply implement the tax increase Council decided on in December of 2019. I was not prepared to consider a reduction in the tax rate. We’ve already temporarily laid off staff, taken salary cuts across the board, and still have to make up over $100 million due to loss in revenues resulting from COVID-19. It’s commonly agreed that the public sector is counted on in times of economic uncertainty and downturn, to continue to provide needed services and economic stimulus. I believe that holds true for local government, especially large cities like Vancouver.  Holding to the property tax increase is, to me, a measure of good governance in the best public interest.”

Councillor Lisa Dominato

Regarding Report Back on Review of Fairness and Effectiveness of the Empty Homes Tax

“Last fall I called for a review of late declarations made in good faith. The Empty Homes Tax was intended to return housing to the market, not to penalize people living in homes or renting them to long term tenants. I’m pleased Council endorsed changes to ensure fairness.”

Regarding Reallocation of Road Space to Support Shared Use During Pandemic

“I’m extremely disappointed that my motion to expedite the reallocation of street use for the health and safety of Vancouver residents during this pandemic and ongoing state of emergency was delayed. The Provincial Health Officer has stated clearly that municipalities should put in place measures for people to safely distance themselves outdoors.”

Councillor Pete Fry

Regarding Report Back on Review of Fairness and Effectiveness of the Empty Homes Tax

“The Empty Homes Tax has been an effective response to address speculation and housing inequities in our city. But we’ve also heard from Vancouverites where it may have been applied unfairly; in cases where property owners had health issues or mailings were sent to the wrong address, that may have delayed their declaration and there was no mechanism for appeal under the existing bylaw. Allowing a last chance for these property owners to make a late property status declaration helps to ensure this is a fair tax.”

Regarding Flexible, Innovative and Expedited Patio Permitting

“Great support for accelerating action to get local restaurants up and running faster, just in time for summer and phased re-openings – happy hour on the patio!”

Regarding Reallocation of Road Space to Support Shared Use During Pandemic

“Staff presented some compelling options for enhanced public realm for active use and transportation through closed and slower streets as part of pandemic response, and I hope we might push for some even bolder action in coming weeks. It is clear however, that neighbouring cities like Seattle and Portland were able to quickly and inexpensively scale up these sorts of widespread interventions because they already had reduced residential street speed limits. Hopefully the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure might note this barrier to public health and safety and finally grant local governments in British Columbia our request to set our own default speed limits.”

Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung

Regarding Flexible, Innovative and Expedited Patio Permitting

“Council passing the motion I brought forward to move forward with flexible patio permitting and enabling restaurants to move dining outdoors, is critical to helping our restaurants survive. With the need to physical distance, the economics of having less people but the same high lease, rent and operating costs of a space just don’t work. Moving forward immediately on simpler, quicker, options and less red tape can be the difference for a lot of restaurants being able to reopen or stay open. Outdoor dining is also safer and fun for customers. City Hall needs to be doing more of this to cut red tape, and make it easier for our small business across the city who are fighting for their livelihood. We don’t want to lose the heart and soul of our neighbourhoods. Plus, we could see some positive legacies as we get creative about people-friendly use of our public space.”

Councillor Jean Swanson

Regarding Rescinding Motion to Include C-2 Zones in Rental Housing Stock Official Development Plan

“This is complicated. But I’m glad the Mayor withdrew his motion that attempted to rescind an amendment I made to protect renters who live on arterial streets (in C-2 zones). I’m hoping that in a few months apartments in these areas will have to be replaced one for one with more apartments if they are demolished.  By withdrawing his motion, the Mayor pushed this process along a little bit.”

Regarding Working for More Housing Affordability in the Cambie Corridor

“I’m also happy that my motion asking for staff to report back on how to get more low income housing in the Cambie Corridor was passed. I have been worried that most of the housing Council has been approving for that area will exclude people who make under about $60K a year who are the folks who need affordable housing the most.”

Amended motions

Please see amended motions below. These are provided for your understanding and the published minutes will be the official record of the meeting. 

Report Back on Review of Fairness and Effectiveness of the Empty Homes Tax

  1. THAT Council approve the extension of the date by which a notice of complaint for late property status declarations may be filed, from December 31 of the year in which the vacancy tax is due to the following year on the first business day in July (hereto referred as the ‘late filing due date’). 
  2. THAT Council approve the acceptance of notices of complaint for late property status declarations for the 2017 and 2018 vacancy tax reference periods until December 31, 2020.
  3. THAT Council receive for information a report from EY on the evaluation of the Empty Homes Tax program and the options assessment with respect to late declarations in the Appendix.
  4. THAT Council instruct the Director of Legal Services to draft and present to Council any by-law amendments required to implement A and B above. 
  5. THAT Council instruct the Director of Legal Services to recommend to Council any additional by-laws necessary for cost recovery and/or penalties of otherwise frivolous, dilatory, fraudulent or dishonest appeal of late filing of property status declaration resulting for Extraordinary Circumstances or otherwise, and that conditions of this by-laws be presented for public information on the Empty Homes Tax webpage.

Improving the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Development Application Processes

WHEREAS

  1. The B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing undertook a one-year Development Approval Process Review over 2018 and 2019 with UBCM officials, local government officials and staff, developers and homebuilders, non-profit housing representatives, community neighbourhood representatives and academics to make the municipal government development process more effective and efficient;
  2. The Development Approvals Process Review final report released in September 2019 made resolving lengthy and complicated internal staff development approvals processes a high priority;
  3. The City of Vancouver requires applicants, as part of current operational procedure, to make a rezoning enquiry before they may submit a development application; and
  4. This rezoning enquiry is not mandated by either the Vancouver Charter or the Zoning and Development By-law.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT all rezoning enquiries are voluntary, not mandatory, for rezoning applications.

Flexible, Innovative and Expedited Patio Permitting

WHEREAS

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted significant negative economic impacts with many Vancouver businesses including restaurants, tourism businesses, hotels, and personal-care services such as hair stylists, nail salons and dentists, forced to close or severely limit operations due to health and physical distancing restrictions;
  2. Restaurants have been one of the most immediate and hardest hit sectors, and small business operators are struggling to survive with many limited to takeout offerings and attempting to make it through the pandemic;
  3. Small businesses like restaurants are vital to the fabric and character of Vancouver neighbourhoods and support complete communities;
  4. Small businesses like restaurants are key contributors to Vancouver’s economic health generating jobs and tax revenue;
  5. The City has a key role to play in supporting economic recovery. Speed flexibility and nimbleness in permitting and business support services will be instrumental to helping businesses get back up and running and survive;
  6. Patio season is a critical revenue generator for restaurants and is upon us now. Expedited patio permitting must be turnkey when restaurants are able to reopen to table type service;
  7. Some work has begun with staff offering online renewals for patio permits during the COVID-19 crisis;
  8. An outcome of COVID will likely be the need for some continued physical distancing processes in businesses. Customers will also be cautious about being in close quarters to others;
  9. Patios provide the health benefit of fresh air and sunlight;
  10. There is opportunity to be innovative and redefine patios such as pop-up standing patios for quick service type offerings, expanded size to enable physical distancing, or utilization of curb lane, street, sidewalk and laneway space for extensions where it doesn’t impede accessibility, transit, emergency vehicles or traffic;
  11. Currently, patio permitting can require a combination of licensing, development permits and permits to enable operations;
  12. Currently, craft breweries are not permitted to have patio operations in Vancouver;
  13. The City of Vancouver has initiated a street reallocation response that focuses on Room to Queue, Room to Load, and Room to Move during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is opportunity to add Room to Eat to this work, and to re-examine public space use as part of a new post-pandemic world; and
  14. Many cities are re-examining the use of public space now to achieve healthier communities. A COVID legacy can be a more vibrant and people focused public realm.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED 

  1. THAT Council direct staff work directly with business operators to identify immediate patio seating options that would move indoor seating capacity outdoors to improve physical distancing (including consideration for temporary outdoor seating guidelines, pre-detailed designs and formats that are designed with the needs of those who use wheelchairs, mobility scooters and other mobility devices in mind and that ensure safe and accessible paths of travel are maintained), utilization of curb lane, street, sidewalk and laneway space for extensions, expedited permitting including applications and renewals, as well as the number of patios allowed, in order to support the economic recovery and safe operations of Vancouver’s restaurant sector in the context of COVID-19.
  2. THAT such options noted in A above be considered for the duration of the COVID-19 response and recovery, recognizing that innovation will provide for valuable learning towards operations and adaptation in a new, post-COVID world;
    1. FURTHER THAT staff report back on possible opportunities to create common-style eating spaces with additional chairs, benches or tables on public plazas or public spaces, that can enable outdoor eating areas to support different takeout or quick service restaurants and cafes in various neighbourhoods and commercial districts, ensuring they are accessible to those who use wheelchairs, mobility scooters and other mobility devices, and with consultation with impacted Business Improvement Associations as may be appropriate (recognizing previous Council motions such as Celebrating Italian Culture: Welcome Signage in Little Italy and a Pilot Program for an Italian Piazza in Vancouver as it relates to Commercial Drive).
  3.  THAT this motion entitle “Flexible, Innovative and Expedited Patio Permitting”, be shared with the Council Pandemic Response and Recovery Working Group for the purpose of enabling them to seek or share further information from the restaurant sector as may be beneficial to and aid this work.
  4. THAT Council approve in principle the prioritization of additional staff and budget resources to support the allocation of flexible, innovated and expedited patio space, and direct staff to seek out cost recovery opportunities where possible and where reallocation of public space may be for private use.
  5. THAT Council direct staff to consult with Vancouver Coast Health, City Engineering, and Emergency Operations Centre to determine best practices to safely allow patio spaces while considering best practices around safe physical distancing as well as access to ancillary and public spaces for all ages and abilities.
  6. THAT staff look at ways to expand public access to public spaces for people who don’t have the money to spend in restaurants, and ensure that there are safe spaces outdoors for members of the public to sit even if they don’t spend any money.
  7. THAT the Mayor write to the Premier and Attorney General David Eby on behalf of Vancouver City Council, applauding the Province’s announced move to allow BC restaurants to purchase liquor at wholesale prices, and to expedite provincial approvals for expanded outdoor liquor service;
  8. FURTHER THAT the Mayor’s letter cite Council’s support for flexibility in the adjustment of regulations, in order to enable expedited outdoor dining in support of public health and economic recovery for BC’s Restart Plan.

Approved in Standing Committee but pending adoption by Council.

Working for More Housing Affordability in the Cambie Corridor

WHEREAS

  1. The public benefits summary for the rezoning application at 4989 Ash Street points out that a total of 10,740 housing units are complete, under construction, approved or in review in the Cambie Corridor;
  2. The summary shows that 71% are condos serving households with incomes mostly over $100K per year; 
  3. The summary shows that 20% are purpose built rental serving households with incomes mostly over $60K per year;
  4. The summary shows that 9% or 947 units are social housing; 
  5. Of the 947 units that are social housing, only 30% or 284 units have to be at HILS (about $50-80K/year); 
  6. That means only 3% of the total number of units have to be at HILS even though 50% of renters and 26% of owners in Vancouver have incomes below HILS; 
  7. The Cambie Corridor Plan says (p. 21) that one purpose of the plan is to “ensure that objectives for affordable housing meet the needs of households with low incomes, seniors, and those with mental illnesses and addictions.”; and
  8. The housing mix that is playing out in the Corridor is skewed toward people who have more than average income and is excluding low wage workers, seniors, people with low incomes, people with disabilities and people who are homeless. 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council ask staff to report back as part of their ongoing work  on the affordability of Cambie Corridor Plan housing and public benefit targets, taking into account that the new units that are built, under construction, approved or under review, will not meet the Plan’s goals for affordability, as only 3% of them are required to be at HILS rates (approximately $50-80K), while half of renter households in the city as well as 26% of owner households have incomes below $50K, and make recommendations for aligning the affordability targets to the real incomes of people in Vancouver who need housing including low wage workers, people who have low incomes, seniors, people with disabilities and people who are homeless.

Approved in Standing Committee but pending adoption by Council.