Please speak up for our bus stops!

The first two weeks of January will be crucial in persuading TransLink to change its mind about removing many of the bus stops along Dunbar Street on January 17, 2022.  Our future transit service depends on large numbers of us speaking up for it. Please write or phone TransLink and ask them to:

1) RETAIN all bus stops within the business area at:

  • W 39th – H Mart Grocery
  • W 27th – Stongs
  • W 29th – VPL Dunbar
  • W 30th – London Drugs
  • W 26th – Chiropractor
  • W 19th – Dunbar Smiles, and
  • W 16th – Preventum Medical Clinic

2) REINSTATE bus stops at:

  • W 23rd, and
  • King Edward & Collingwood Street – Lord Kitchener Elementary

Contact Drew Ferrari at TransLink: Phone: 604-362-1824 or email: busstopbalancing@translink.ca.
More information and a survey are at: https://engagetranslink.ca/bus-stop-balancing?tool=survey_tool .

Will a Dunbar walkabout change TransLink’s plans to cut our bus stops?

The bus stop at 27th & Dunbar, the closest to Stong’s grocery store and the apartments above it, will be gone by January 17, 2022, along with many other bus stops on Dunbar. Residents concerned about the future of transit in our area should be contacting TransLink now. More information and a survey are at https://engagetranslink.ca/bus-stop-balancing?tool=survey_tool

Photo by John Denniston

By Carol Volkart, DRA Newsletter Editor

TransLink’s plans to cut 40 percent of the bus stops along Dunbar Street are unfair, poorly thought-out, harmful to business, and will make transit less accessible to seniors, people with disabilities, and parents with small children, community representatives warned transit officials during a recent tour of the street’s bus stops.

Dunbar Residents’ Association board members Andrea Sara and Angus McIntyre, who joined DRA president Bruce Gilmour in organizing the Dec. 16 meeting and walkabout on Dunbar Street, said later they were confident the get-together produced some “a-ha!” moments for the visitors.

Among them: Why remove two stops, one serving the library and the other the main grocery store, and replace them with a less-convenient one serving only a bank? Why retain a stop on a narrow residential street with no room for ramp deployment and remove a spacious one a block away that serves a walk-in clinic, an apartment building, and several businesses? And why is hilly Dunbar being left with only two southbound stops between 16th and 25th, a long uphill climb for a senior with a walker or a parent with a stroller?

Local anger about the proposal was apparent from the moment TransLink and City officials arrived at the meet-up spot outside St. Philip’s Anglican Church on West 27th off Dunbar St.

Just as the two sides began introducing themselves, St. Philip’s verger Pat Brandon stepped up to bluntly condemn the plans. Cutting stops near grocery stores and other amenities is “heinous,” she said, and will only add to the difficulty of elderly parishioners already struggling to get to church. She said stop removals may improve one metric, but will harm others, and asked whether speed is the only metric that matters. “How is taking away service improving service?”

The bus-stop removals are part of TransLink’s Bus Balancing Program, which it says will improve service and reliability as well as save money. Too many bus stops are too close together, it says, and removing or relocating them will cut minutes off round-trip travel times.

 The program, which is expected to be rolled out throughout the region, began with cuts to the No. 2 route in 2020, followed by the No. 17 and 25 routes in the spring of 2021. In the fall of 2021, signs went up along the No. 7 (Dunbar/Nanaimo) and No. 4 routes announcing many stops would be cut or moved as of Jan. 17, 2022.

For Dunbar residents, who had already been hard hit by the earlier cuts to the No. 25 route, it was too much. Three No. 7 stops on Dunbar St. that had been shared with removed No. 25 stops vanished in that earlier round, along with several No. 25 stops near the Dunbar intersection. These included a key No. 25 school bus stop on King Edward adjacent to Lord Kitchener Elementary.

The latest round of cuts, if completed as planned, means Dunbar St. will be left with 15 of its original 25 stops between 16th and 41st, a loss of 40 percent.

Led by the DRA’s Gilmour, who is blind and uses transit to get around with his guide dog Marley, board members have been fighting the plans with letters, e-mails, media interviews and phone calls, leading finally to the gathering outside St. Philip’s.

The meeting drew four high-level TransLink public affairs and bus-priority-program officials, as well as City of Vancouver transit planning engineer Jessica Lam. TransLink participants included Stephen Newhouse, lead planner, bus priority programs; Kyle Rosenke, senior advisor (acting director), government and public affairs; Drew Ferrari, senior advisor, public affairs, government and public affairs; and Sonia Takhar, senior communications and engagement lead, bus priority programs.

The visitors listened respectfully to the comments from Dunbar representatives and spent an hour longer on the walkabout than had been scheduled. Several even detoured downhill off Dunbar to a decommissioned No. 25 bus stop at King Edward and Collingwood to hear a senior’s concerns about the loss of the stop, which she had depended on to access businesses crucial for her daily needs. Throughout the tour, the officials emphasized they were there to listen and learn and that all the input they received would be taken back to their offices for consideration.

At the opening meeting, speakers emphasized how severely the cuts will affect a hilly community with a high and growing seniors’ population, an already-struggling business community, and an already-poor transit service. They also said the cuts appear to fly in the face of city policies to densify Dunbar, encourage transit use and create complete communities as part of efforts to fight climate change.

DRA board member Sara, whose multi-generational family lives in the neighbourhood, stressed the importance of convenient transit for seniors and families alike. Pointing around her, she said the area of the meet-up has many schools, playing fields, parks and churches, all well-served by the stops at 27th and 29th. Removing them and replacing them with one less-convenient stop at 28th “is not helpful,” she said.

The 27th stop serves the grocery store, the apartment building above it, and two coffee shops; the 29th serves the library and its small plaza, and is across the street from a medical clinic, drug store and new rental building. Fellow board member McIntyre noted that 27th runs west all the way to Camosun, and 29th all the way to Imperial while 28th dead-ends in less than a city block. “So let’s have everyone who wants to walk down 27th or 29th walk that extra block to get there. Hello?”

Sara, who is also a member of the City of Vancouver’s Seniors Advisory Committee, said longer distances between stops will discourage seniors and those with disabilities and mobility issues from using transit, especially in a hilly area like Dunbar. She noted that her mother, who lives in the apartment building above Stong’s, is one of those who will have to travel farther once the stop near the grocery store is gone, something she finds very difficult due to health and mobility issues.

 Jackie Weiler, who sits on the city’s Seniors’ Advisory Committee with Sara, stressed the importance of transit in enabling seniors to remain independent, healthy and active. Weiler, a longtime Dunbar resident who now lives at Arbutus, said one reason she moved was the difficulty and danger of accessing transit in Dunbar in snowy conditions, when everything shuts down because of the hilly terrain. “Lack of accessibility was a real issue for me.”

Convenient transit is also crucial for businesses, said Jeffrey Ho, owner of Blight’s Home Hardware at 3322 Dunbar. He spoke up after St. Philip’s verger Brandon stressed the importance of transit to Dunbar businesses, singling out Blight’s as an important part of the community, much used by her church. “It’s important for stores like that to survive, unless you want us all just to use Amazon,” Brandon said.

Following up, Ho noted the city is encouraging people to get out of their cars, and questioned how that fits with TransLink’s cuts. “I don’t understand how taking away bus stops is helping.” Plus, he said, the city is increasing density, and soon there will be apartment buildings all along Dunbar St. “Somebody has their messages mixed up.”

LISTEN TO:  CBC Radio One, The Early Edition segments, on bus stop cuts: Interview with DRA President Bruce Gilmour and Board Member Andrea Sara from November 30, 2021 and follow-up interview with TransLink’s Director of Systems Planning, aired December 1, 2021.

The DRA’s McIntyre, a retired long-time bus driver, said Dunbar is already so poorly served by transit that he calls it a “transit desert.” Large areas, like that between Dunbar St. and Pacific Spirit Park, have no transit service at all, he said, meaning some people must walk as far as 1.3 kms to get a bus. Given the poor service and long distances, he said, stops on Dunbar St. shouldn’t be farther than two blocks apart.

McIntyre also questioned the fairness of the cuts, saying it was like a “slap in the face” to discover how differently the Dunbar and Nanaimo ends of the No. 7 route are being treated. While stops will be mostly four blocks apart from 16th to 41st on Dunbar St., a similar distance on the Nanaimo end will have stops every two blocks.  “What is that all about?” he asked. “Is that balancing?”

McIntyre was also dubious that the cuts will achieve the promised result of increased reliability, saying it’s the traffic, not the stops, that make transit unreliable. He handed out a downloaded Next Bus map from 7:19 p.m. on Oct. 29 showing the already balanced No. 25 route had several bunched-up buses, and long gaps elsewhere. “Every rush hour morning and evening the service is no more reliable, or faster, than it was before because of traffic,” he said. Instead of cutting bus stops, he said, TransLink should focus on priorities for buses, such as queue jumpers at signals and bus lanes.

TransLink’s consultation process also came under fire, with McIntyre noting that residents’ first notice of the program was signs on bus stop poles announcing that the stop would either be removed or retained as of Jan. 17. Such wording sounds “pretty final,” McIntyre said. It’s “confrontational, even nasty,” to come into a community and “put up all these signs and get everyone upset,” he said. “What about some engagement first, and then see what happens?”

What did the walkabout accomplish?

In a follow-up email to participants, TransLink’s Sonia Takhar called the visit “extremely productive,” adding that all members of the team “commented on how much they were able to learn from you all.” She said the team would take time over the holidays “to look at the proposal again based on your feedback.”

McIntyre said he believes the Dunbar representatives were able to point out many things the transit officials hadn’t been aware of, including a bus stop relocated on one map and not changed on another.  The stop involved is the No. 7 southbound at 10th and Alma, currently shared with the 9, 14 and 99 routes. One map indicates no change for the No. 7, while another shows it being relocated to Alma on the south side of 10th Avenue, meaning Dunbar passengers would have to cross a busy intersection to transfer to another bus.

“I really think that TransLink staff had more than ‘a-ha!’ moment,” McIntyre said. When he told a Toronto friend, a city councillor there for many years, about the walkabout, “he said, ‘You can’t go into a neighbourhood with a long-established bus service and yank out almost half the stops.’”

Sara said she thought TransLink staff were able to see a “major disconnect” in their decision making on some points – such as removing bus stops in front of new buildings, in front of coffee shops and plazas, in front of new traffic-controlled intersections or removing bus stops where there is already foot traffic in dire need of a crosswalk.

Sara even dared to hope that TransLink might play a positive rather than a negative role in Dunbar. By making the right decisions about bus stops, it could help support local business, facilitate public space and encourage active transportation, she said. It could also help the community’s voice be heard on such things as traffic lights and crosswalks: “Having TransLink on board as a community partner who can assist with supplying dollars to fund the safe street infrastructure is a win-win.” 

TransLink seeks feedback on plans to cut nearly half of Dunbar bus stops in January

by Carol Volkart, Newlsetter Editor

All along Dunbar, cardboard signs have gone up at every No. 7 bus stop announcing whether it will stay, go or be relocated as of Jan. 17, 2022.

Residents have until that date to tell TransLink what they think of its plans to remove nearly half of the bus stops between 16th and 41st. Go to translink.ca/busstopbalancing to see TransLink’s route map and do a survey to provide your feedback.

The map shows that TransLink is planning to cut a total of nine stops between 16th and 41st in both directions, and create one new one. This does not include the three No. 7 stops eliminated on Dunbar earlier this year as part of an earlier round of cuts to the No. 25 route that affected dual stops.

At the end of the latest process, Dunbar will have slightly more than half of the bus stops it once did on that stretch – 15 compared to 26.

The removal of bus stops, which will also occur on the No. 4 route in January, is part of an ongoing TransLink program known as “Bus Balancing.” The transit agency says bus stops on many routes are too close, and that removing a number of them will improve travel times and service reliability. It says the cuts will mean round-trip savings of more than six minutes for the No. 7 route, and more than four minutes for the No. 4.

Many Dunbar-area transit users have already been affected by the program, which began with the No. 2 route in 2020 and continued with the No. 25 and No. 17 routes in 2021. The Dunbar-King Edward intersection has been particularly affected. Besides the three dual No. 25/7 stops cut on Dunbar earlier this year, another three stops on King Edward between Dunbar and Balaclava were also removed in that round of cuts.

Former longtime TransLink operator Angus McIntyre, a Dunbar resident, charged that the program will make it more difficult for many to access transit. The longer walk is harder for the elderly or those with mobility or other health issues, he said, and questioned how much time the cuts will save anyway. In a story in the fall issue of the Dunbar Residents’ Association newsletter, he said TransLink seems to have changed its attitude of prioritizing mobility and increased quality of life for a minority, even if it means a slightly longer ride for others. “TransLink has now decided to make the time on the bus shorter for the majority by making the walking/wheeling time longer for the minority.” See: Quality of life

DRA president Bruce Gilmour, who is blind and gets around with his seeing-eye dog Marley, said the changes to date have been disorienting for him and he’s finding the system less reliable and more difficult to access. Dunbar has a large population of seniors who will be increasingly reliant on transit as they age, he said, and cutting transit access will also cut their ability to lead healthy, independent, active lives. He also questioned the priority TransLink is placing on cutting round-trip times, noting that most trips are short-haul and few passengers take round trips.

To get a sense of what the planned changes look like in real life, I walked the No. 7 route north- and southbound between 16th and 41st one day. That section of Dunbar Street is on a hill that peaks between 26th and 27th. While not steep for the average walker, the incline would be noticeable for those with mobility issues, or for those pushing baby carriages or carrying loads of groceries.

Starting at 16th and heading south, I passed the stop at 17th, which stays, then came to the abandoned concrete slab of the previously removed stop at 19th. The next stop, between 21st and 22nd, remains, but there’s another “ghost” stop – with a naked pole and slab of concrete – at 23rd.. There are no more stops until the top of the hill, across the busy King Edward intersection.

The King Edward stop will remain, but in the shopping area, stops at 27th and 29th are being removed and replaced by a new one at 28th. On the downhill journey to 41st, there are only three remaining stops – at 31st, 33rd and 37th, as the 35th and 39th stops will be removed.

The southbound tally: Six stops are being kept, with a new one being created and four removed (but don’t forget the two “ghosts” at 19th and 23rd.) That means the southbound Dunbar route from 16th to 41st, which once had 12 stops, ends up with seven.

On the return trip north, the 41st stop remains, but the one at Mayfair is being cut, leaving the next stop at 38th. From there, I passed a sign that the 36th stop will be cut, leaving a long five-block uphill trek to the next at 33rd. The 31st stop remains, but the one outside London Drugs at 30th is being removed, and the next remaining stop is at 28th. The 26th stop will be cut, with the next across the King Edward intersection at 25th. Heading north down the hill from there, the stop at 22nd remains, but a naked pole and a massive concrete slab mark the previously decommissioned 20th stop. Then there’s only one stop left, at 18th, as the 17th stop is being removed.

The northbound tally: Eight stops remaining and five removed, (not counting the “ghost” at 20th.) A stretch of Dunbar that once had 14 stops will now have eight.

McIntyre said the Dunbar end of the No. 7 route appears to be getting different treatment from the Nanaimo end. Although TransLink has said two-block spacing is too close, that spacing has been left in some areas of Nanaimo, he noted, while on Dunbar, most of the spacing is four blocks.

The cuts come on top of already very poor access to transit in Dunbar, McIntyre said, arguing that TransLink should consider the walk time from people’s homes to bus stops, which it doesn’t. “TransLink will not acknowledge the fact that some homes in Dunbar and Southlands are 900 metres to 1.4 km from a bus stop.”

While TransLink encourages residents to fill out its survey, the polished quality of its map, with all the removed stops marked with red Xs, raises questions about how likely it is to change its plans. Nor is the record of reversals from previous “balanced” routes encouraging: Two stops were reinstated on each of the No. 2 and No. 25 routes, and six on the No. 17.

But this is our only chance to tell TransLink what we think before nearly half our bus stops disappear early next year. Once they’re gone, it appears to be hard to argue them back.

Whether we use transit or not, we should be thinking about those who already struggle to get to bus stops; about our aging population, most of whom will eventually have to give up their cars; and about the push for everyone to get around in a more environmentally friendly way. Transit and bicycles are the usual solutions to our transportation dilemmas. But not everyone, after all, can ride a bike.

How the Dunbar Garden Club aced the pandemic

Jutta Zeisler (President) & Midge Oke (Past President)
of the Dunbar Garden Club

By Carol Volkart, DRA Newsletter Editor

The COVID pandemic blighted many things, but not the Dunbar Garden Club. A year and a half after swiftly changing its practices to keep members safe, it’s flourishing, with even more members than in pre-pandemic times.

“We haven’t let COVID stop us from doing things,” says Midge Oke, who led the club through an imaginative rethink of all its activities in the first year of her two-year presidency.

Monthly meetings, usually held in the Dunbar Community Centre, switched to Zoom, with attendance about the same as for pre- COVID gatherings. Tours of members’ gardens went ahead, but were timed, with limited numbers and strict social distancing. Two annual plant sales were arranged by phone and email, with earnings only slightly below usual. The knowledgeable member who runs the “show bench” – discussing plant material contributed by members – now does it by PowerPoint at the monthly Zoom meetings. And the club’s newsletter, full of photos, tips and event information, continues to arrive in members’ email inboxes every month.

All of which – plus a general wave of interest in gardening sparked by the pandemic – has boosted club membership from the usual 85 to 90 people to more than 100. Monthly meeting attendance is the same as in pre- COVID days, at close to 60.

There was a downside to the changes, of course. Gone were the end-of-meeting chats over tea that were a highlight for many: “It was a good time to mingle and we’re missing that,” says Oke. Nor could there be the usual friendly celebrations marking annual highlights like plant sales or garden tours.

Oke says Zoom will never be as good as in-person events, but given that most club members were very restricted during COVID because of their age, “being able to see each other [online] was very positive.” And garden tours, even limited to a few at a time, meant “we could at last see our friends face-to-face across the garden.”

Some aspects of the forced changes were positive. Because speakers didn’t have to attend in person, they could be recruited from further afield. Zoom meetings were more accessible to those who don’t like to drive at night or in bad weather. Speakers’ presentations were recorded, so members who didn’t attend the meetings could watch them when they wanted. The Zoom format made dropping in easy, encouraging a growth of temporary members.

These positives may prompt the club to attempt to offer combined Zoom and regular meetings in the future, says Oke, although it may be a technological challenge, so no definite decisions have been made. In the meantime, the fourth wave of the pandemic means this fall’s meetings will continue on Zoom until at least November.

As for why the club flourished instead of withering during the pandemic, there’s a clue in Oke’s description of what she hoped to accomplish as president – namely, to “maintain it as the open, welcoming, inclusive, friendly place that it is.”

She sees the club as a forum for sharing ideas, solving problems and learning about new plants and gardening practices, but more importantly, as a place for making friendships based on common interests. Unlike many garden clubs, which focus on specific plants or interests, the Dunbar club is a general-interest one, making it more diverse and open to all interests and levels of expertise. And because it’s locally based, members tend to live close to each other, fostering a sense of community.

Openness and helpfulness are part of the club’s ethos: When members tour each other’s gardens, there are no judgments, Oke says. “Everybody has different conditions and every garden is a work in progress.” When there are difficulties, as COVID proved, people pitch in. The plant-sale coordinator, for example, took offers and requests for plants by phone and email, then picked up and delivered them. And when the new president Jutta Zeisler takes over this fall, she won’t be on her own, Oke promises. “COVID reinforced that the executive is very strong and ready to help cope with difficult situations. There is always support.”

Inspired by home gardens her parents created in England, Oke has cultivated her own in Dunbar for decades. She believes in the importance of gardens to the larger community. Beautiful, well-maintained gardens inspire people’s respect and pride in the place they live, she says. And after 34 years as a member of a club that encourages such gardens, Oke is pleased that in spite of COVID, it’s still going strong.

The Dunbar Garden Club meets the last Tuesday of every month (except for June, July, August and December). Please visit our calendar for further details.

Be the eyes and ears of the neighbourhood: Join the Dunbar Community Patrol

Grey Joyce & Marlene Anderson-Joyce

By Marlene Anderson-Joyce, Data Coordinator

 Although our Dunbar neighbourhood is one of the very safest in the city, we do get our share of house and car break-ins.  Thankfully, this summer saw a decrease in those two crimes. During June, July and August we had reported break-ins into 20 houses and 33 cars. There was also one car stolen and no commercial businesses robbed.  That’s a 28-percent decrease from the same period in 2020.  All property crime totals are available on the Vancouver Police Department website at http://vancouver.ca/police. At the top, click on Crime Statistics, scroll down and click on GeoDash Crime Map and follow the prompts. These statistics are updated every Wednesday afternoon if you’d like to see where crimes are happening weekly.

 Your Dunbar Community Patrol does its best to cover as much territory as it can, but we’re always in need of new patrollers, especially cyclists. During COVID we have not been able to accept new patrollers.  However, we are hopeful that we will be able to use the Dunbar Community Centre for interviews and training this fall. So if you enjoy meeting new people, walking or biking for some exercise, and getting to know Dunbar better, please see our Recruitment Flyer in this issue.  We’re now in our 17th year and continue to work with the Vancouver Police Department to assist in ensuring the safety of Dunbar residents and businesses.

In 2005, I joined the newly formed Dunbar Community Patrol as reports coordinator and walk patroller. Since then I’ve enjoyed meeting dozens of interesting and personable neighbours that I’m unlikely to have met otherwise. I take pride in doing the best I can to help protect our neighbourhood from the criminal element that unfortunately no neighbourhood can now avoid. I can honestly say that no street or lane has escaped my scrutiny, daytime or late at night, at some time during the last 16 years. Some patrols are what one might call “uneventful,” and some are not. You never know what you might find.

Blueline Map shows City’s proposed rezoning of Dunbar.

Click on the image below to download or open in your browser. It’s a large file, so please wait for it to load.

Consultation lacking in City’s plans for rental apartments in large areas of Dunbar, says DRA

By Carol Volkart, Newsletter Editor

The Dunbar Residents’ Association has spoken out against a city plan that would open big swaths of Dunbar to four-, five- and six-storey rental apartment buildings, townhouses and multiplexes if approved by city council this month.

“We urge you to vote against it and work with communities like ours in finding better ways to bring needed housing to Vancouver,” the DRA said in a submission to a public hearing now being held on the controversial “Streamlining Rental Rezoning” plan.

The hearing began on Nov. 2, but so many speakers signed up that it was continued Nov. 4 and resumes Nov. 9 with speaker No. 50 out of 97. About 600 pieces of correspondence have been received so far, nearly evenly split between “support” and “oppose” factions. The numbers may still grow, as people can still sign up to speak or send in correspondence until the public input part of the hearing ends and council members begin deliberations.

The DRA’s major concern about the plan, according to the letter by president Bruce Gilmour, was that neighbourhoods and their residents had not been consulted or properly informed about a proposal that would dramatically affect them. “The DRA has not had the courtesy of even an official notice of this plan, and we know many of our residents are unaware of it.”

The plan is aimed at dramatically increasing the supply of rental housing – although not necessarily affordable housing – along designated arterials where there’s easy access to amenities like stores and schools. It’s a city-wide initiative, focused especially on low-density areas such as Dunbar.

Under the plan, the entirety of the block on and adjacent to a designated arterial would be eligible for the new, higher-density forms of housing. Six-storey buildings would be allowed on the main arterial, with four- and five-storey rental buildings permitted in the rest of the block. Projects would require rezoning, neighbour notification, a public hearing and council approval, but the plan is expected to increase rezonings and result in full-block land assemblies.

Since one of the designated arterials is Dunbar Street, from Fourth in the north to Southwest Marine Drive in the south, the implications for Dunbar are significant. For example, apartments would be permitted in an area stretching from Highbury on the west side of Dunbar Street to Collingwood on the east.

Adding to the impact is the designation of stretches of arterials that intersect with Dunbar, such as West 41st, King Edward, West 16th, West 10th and Fourth, meaning that eligible areas run not only north-south but east-west as well. A summary of the proposal is at https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/streamlining-rental-summary.pdf.

Commenting this fall before the public hearings began, DRA board members questioned how such a sweeping plan could have come this far with so little public information, notification or consultation.

Gilmour noted that it took a Dunbar listserv posting by civic commentator Elizabeth Murphy for the DRA to learn some of the plan’s details and ramifications.

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods, which includes many of the city’s residents’ associations including the DRA, called the city’s consultation process “extremely flawed” and designed to ensure a predetermined outcome. The process emphasized special-interest groups, “and avoided most of the population of Vancouver,” the coalition said in a July 2021 letter to council.

Elizabeth Ball, a former Non-Partisan Association city councillor who serves on the DRA board and whose home will be affected by the plan, said: “There has been absolutely no consultation whatsoever with us.” She said council appears to be relying on online “push-pull” polls to tell people what it’s up to – “the polls where they tell you what they want you to say so that whatever you answer is a trap.”

DRA board member Bill Rapanos, a longtime Dunbar resident and former city planner in Burnaby, criticized the plan’s top-down, “big-bang, one-solution” citywide approach that ignores the peculiar characteristics of neighbourhoods. “What does the city have to lose by consulting with the people who live in Vancouver neighbourhoods instead of just the developers?” Smaller, more widespread solutions might be found through consultation, he said. “There is no one big solution to providing rental housing but there are many small steps that together could do more than the six-storey blockbuster approach.”

He suggested tax incentives or density bonuses to encourage duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes instead of single-family ultra-luxury homes. Tax incentives for small rental suites in all new detached buildings should be provided through zoning regulations, he proposed. He said current policies encourage “reverse affordability,” because older houses with secondary suites are being torn down and replaced by luxury houses for one family only. “I walk the neighbourhood and I can see how the new buildings are being built. They’re not putting suites in the basement. If you’re building a $5- to $6-million house, you’re not going to fool around with tenants.”

Rapanos predicted the plan will result in long stretches of neglected arterials because an oversupply of rezoned land will encourage land speculators to buy it up and wait for developers to buy them out. “You need only look at the south Cambie redevelopment corridor to see how the formerly well-kept homes on this arterial street now look like hell.”

Another board member said she understands the need for more housing “but I feel like we’re moving very fast without consultation. They don’t seem to be listening to the neighbourhoods.” A six-storey 109-unit rental project at 41st and Collingwood proposed under an existing plan, for example, “is not liveable housing, it’s very tiny spaces” and the building design doesn’t fit with the neighbourhood, she said. “We did meet with the developer but he wasn’t interested in listening to us. He just wanted to move ahead with his proposal.”

Architect and author Brian Palmquist, a Dunbar resident whose “City Conversations No One Else is Having” series on the CityHallWatch website https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/ frequently targets the disconnect between the city and its residents, said there’s already enough zoned capacity to meet housing needs for the next decade, based on the census and Metro Vancouver housing demand estimates. The problem is not lack of zoning, he said, but the slow pace of development for smaller projects, as the city prioritizes megaprojects over smaller, less-lucrative ones.

Palmquist agrees with the current zoning allowing four-storey condo buildings along arterials, and thinks six storeys for rental-only projects along arterials is reasonable. He suggests their impact could be tempered by rezoning one or two lots across the lane – not the whole block – to allow four-storey buildings, but “the farther we carry four- or six-storey development along side streets, the more we simply goose the land values. They will not create more affordable housing; it will just be condos that march down the street.”

Rapanos and Gilmour emphasized that changes are needed and that Dunbar is not opposed to adding people or housing. But the new housing shouldn’t be the ultra-luxury type that is turning Dunbar into another Shaughnessy, says Rapanos. Instead, it should be a variety of small-scale, relatively affordable housing types that will help shift Dunbar back to the diverse, busy neighbourhood it used to be, with kids, families, students, seniors and a mixture of low- and high-income earners popping in and out of thriving local stores.

Gilmour stressed the DRA is not against density “or saying change and development is forbidden.” Residents want a thriving, diverse community, but they also want to be consulted in how that is achieved, he said. “It is a process requiring planning and the identification of concerns and the remediation of those concerns – what all parties at the table can live with.”

References:

Public Hearing Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20211102/phea20211102ag.htm
Report for Public Hearing: https://council.vancouver.ca/20211005/documents/spec1.pdf Eligibility Map: https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/streamlining-rental-summary.pdf

Media:

https://elizabethmurphyblog.wordpress.com/2021/10/30/citywide-rezonings/

https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/west-side-residents-upset-with-city

https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2021/10/30/streaming-rental-arbitrary-citywide-rezonings-murphy/
 
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2021/11/01/demarco-streamlining-rental-problems/
 
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2021/11/01/palmquist-rental-streamlining-or-steamrolling/
 
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2021/11/01/hein-10-policy-considerations-streamlining-rental/
 
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2021/11/02/streamlining-rental-rezonings-speculation/

Let’s add the right kind of housing to Dunbar without losing liveability

By Bruce Gilmour, DRA president

This summer, my family and I enjoyed the pleasures of country life in the south Cariboo. However, with my ear to the ground, I was also learning about trouble brewing back home in Dunbar. It came out in dribs and drabs because the city did not bother officially informing the Dunbar Residents’ Association about big changes planned for our community. Now the story is less about being asked to the table and more about struggling with what we learned after the fact! As explained elsewhere in the DRA’s fall newsletter, the city is planning to allow four-, five- and six-storey rental buildings on blocks along arterials. Anyone who lives on a block adjacent to Dunbar Street might see four- or five-storey rental apartment buildings going up next door, with six-storey buildings on Dunbar.

The city says this is necessary because of the urgent demand for more rental housing. But I think the real need is affordable housing that meets the variety of needs in our community, from the young family starting out, to long-timers having to make changes as they age. The city’s failure to talk to residents means its plan does virtually nothing to ensure the resulting housing meets the needs of all ages and abilities, or is affordable. The new buildings will be mostly market rentals, which will be ridiculously expensive in a place like Dunbar. When land prices are sky-high, rents will match, and who will really be served by this plan except the builders, developers and rent collectors?

Lots of people will be hurt, though. People who have lived in these areas for decades, upgraded their houses and planned to retire in them, may find a four-storey apartment going up next door. There are better, less-disruptive ways of adding the kind of inclusive, affordable housing our area needs, and the city should be working with us in creating it without losing what has attracted us to this community in the first place.

Consultation is key. The DRA has had no official notification of updates to the neighbourhood plan, an engagement process, or timelines. Nor have residents in affected areas been told how to contribute to the plan. Apparently, the city now thinks that online surveys that most people don’t even know about are sufficient to check the communication box!

What can we do? Although public hearings on the plan began Nov. 2, there were so many speakers that they have been extended, with the next hearing Nov. 9. There’s still time to write council and speak out for the liveability that must be the starting point of any conversation about rezoning.

Let’s insist on a local process for creating housing that fits the size and scale of our neighbourhoods and adds to its inclusivity and affordability. Speak out to preserve retail character and diversity, green space and walkability, pedestrian safety and community gathering spaces, parks and playgrounds, traditions and heritage, and housing forms and character. Liveability is built from active and healthy neighbourhoods with affordable and inclusive housing for its residents!

How to contact city council:

Fall greetings from the Dunbar Community Centre

We hope you are all keeping safe and well.

We continue to take a gradual, thoughtful approach and thank you for your patience and cooperation as we navigate the changes required because of COVID. At present, masks are mandatory in public spaces, including the Dunbar Community Centre.

The Fall program guide is on our website.  Our Fall Community Centre hours of operation are:
Sept. 7-Dec. 23, 2021
Mon-Fri: 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
Sat: 8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Sun: Closed
*closed Dec. 24-Jan. 3 (reopening Jan. 4, 2022)
Updated Fitness Centre hours will be out soon.

If you’ve got ideas on senior programs or how we can enhance the quality of senior recreational or social activities, please send them to us by email at dunbarcca@gmail.com

We look forward to seeing you!