Vancouver Plan Implementation – Repeal of CityPlan Community Visions

October 31, 2023                                                                                                                

City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4

Dear Mayor, Council and City Staff

Re: Vancouver Plan Implementation – Repeal of CityPlan Community Visions

The Dunbar Residents’ Association is immensely concerned about the recently released report going to Council on November 1, 2023 that proposes to repeal CityPlan Community Visions. We oppose the repeal. If it is to happen, however, we urge that CityPlan’s key central philosophy of robust community engagement be retained and that all Vision documents be permanently and readily available on the City’s website.

The Dunbar Community Vision was approved by Council in September of 1998 after a year and a half of extensive community engagement and consultation. While that was 25 years ago, our understanding is that Visions such as ours were intended to be living documents regularly updated with community involvement.

The DRA has always been eager to collaborate with the City on changes affecting the community and Dunbar Vision but, over the years, have noticed declining City interest. Now we learn, with only a few days of advance notice and no preliminary discussion, that the Dunbar Vision is to be eliminated on the grounds that it has been superseded by the Vancouver Plan and is supposedly at the end of its original lifetime.

We urge the City to institute a proper engagement process so that Dunbar residents, and all other Vancouver residents, can work with the City in helping meet the challenges of current realities. Whether the work is carried out under CityPlan or the Vancouver Plan, we believe the key to success is ensuring local residents are deeply involved in the evolution of their communities.

Our city is growing and changing and Dunbar residents would like greater opportunities to participate in the continuing development of our city and our neighbourhood.

Yours truly,

Board of Directors, Dunbar Residents’ Association

Public hearing – multiplexes and RS-zoning changes

September 13, 2023

City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4

Re: Public Hearing – Multiplexes and RS-Zoning Changes

Dear Mayor, Council and City Staff,

The Dunbar Residents’ Association wishes to state its opposition to the Multiplex proposal now before City Council. We have long been on record as supporting increased density to our area, but this proposal would allow excessive, overwhelming change without proper consultation with residents.

The information and engagement processes surrounding this proposal have been so poor that most residents aren’t aware of it even to this day. The reality is that not everyone is on social media or avidly following City Council or Shape Your City on the internet. No postcards were sent to affected addresses, so people did not receive any written notice either and are unaware of how severely impacted they soon may be.

While developers were heavily involved in the creation of this plan, community associations like ours weren’t even informed about it. Where were our workshops?

We urge Council to put the brakes on this proposal while a better engagement process takes place. Improve the plan. Then, begin with a small pilot project that tests its effectiveness and impact, and revise it accordingly before instituting something citywide.

The loss of trees and green space, along with parking and infrastructure problems are of major concern, especially when the resulting housing will be affordable to so few. And the plan would incur the demolition of older homes which have long provided affordable secondary suites for seniors, students and young families.

The DRA is a member of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods and supports the points in its extensive submission on this issue. Please refer to CVN’s informative Appendix September 11, 2023.

Please consider our concerns and vote no to a plan that would drastically transform our neighbourhoods without the informed engagement of Vancouver residents.

Yours truly,
Board of Directors
Dunbar Residents’ Association

Rezoning application at 3581 West 30th Avenue

July 10, 2023

City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4

Re: Rezoning application at 3581 West 30th Avenue

Dear Mayor, Council and City Staff

The Dunbar Residents’ Association (DRA) Board writes in opposition to the proposed rezoning application for 3581 West 30th Avenue from RS-5 (Residential) District to RR-2A (Residential Rental) District, to permit the development of a four-storey market rental building at a height of 13.7 m (45 ft.) and a floor space ratio (FSR) of 1.75.

In referencing the Dunbar Community Vision (1998) “Approved Vision Direction 20.1 Community Involvement in Decision Making : Community residents should have more input, and more timely input into decision making about changes in their community, such as development projects, transit planning, street and traffic changes, park design etc.”

The application would set significant precedents for the Dunbar community given that the proposal is for a residential (non-arterial) street. We recommend that the applicant work with the Dunbar Residents’ Association, and in turn the affected residents, to come up with a proposal that works for both the applicant and the Dunbar community.

For example, we believe the Approved Vision Direction 7.1 should be considered. “More housing variety should be provided in Dunbar by rowhouses, four- and six-plexes and duplexes, which have many features of single-family houses but would cost less.”

Timely engagement with community members impacted by development could contribute to better outcomes for liveability in our neighbourhoods.

We appreciate and support the City’s efforts in adding density and a variety of forms of housing in all neighbourhoods and would like to be a partner in these discussions and decisions.

Yours truly,
Board of Directors, Dunbar Residents’ Association

Rezoning application for over-height seniors’ community care facility

July 5, 2023

City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4
Attention: Nicholas Danford, Rezoning Planner

Re: Rezoning application at 3329 – 3429 West 41st Avenue and 5649 – 5683 Blenheim Street for a Seniors’ Community Care Facility

Dear Mr. Danford,

It came to the Dunbar Residents’ Association (DRA) Board’s attention last month through communications with concerned residents in Dunbar that a rezoning application at 3329 – 3429 West 41st and 5649 – 5683 Blenheim for a Seniors’ Community Care Facility was linked to the Dunbar Community Vision.

Having had several conversations with Amica and Pooni Group, we were aware of the proposed project. We were, however, not aware during those discussions that the project was proposed under the 1998 Dunbar Community Vision. We had assumed incorrectly that the project was being proposed under the enabling six-storey Secured Rental Policy, allowing for a maximum height of seventy-two feet. We were also not aware at that time of the project’s proposed height of 94 feet.

Once aware of these aspects of the project, members of the DRA Board began to undertake a careful review of the application and became aware of the project’s proposed height and massing and the significant impact it would have on liveability for area residents, especially those to the north of the project.

Although the application is linked to the Dunbar Community Vision, many aspects of the proposed project depart from its stated intentions.

Vision Direction 9.1 Seniors Housing identifies that “Seniors should have a variety of choices of housing that allow them to stay in the community as they age (e.g., congregate housing, intermediate and extended care).However, with Vision Direction 9.2 Seniors’ Lowrise Housing, “Lowrise buildings (up to four storeys) committed to seniors should be permitted, provided the scale and design fit into the neighbourhood. They should be located near local shopping and transit.

It is in Vision Direction 9.2 that the application departs significantly from the Dunbar Community Vision, specifically in scale and design that fit in to the neighbourhood. Further, although not stated, one would assume four storeys to be in the range of forty feet.

The project’s proposed height of 94 feet, width of 496 feet, and depth of 129 feet, is a substantial change from the properties to the north where houses range in height from 25 to 35 feet and the average lot’s width is 50 feet. This difference in scale is significant.

Further, the design of the project needs to be sensitive to the fact that the lots immediately to the north are on average one hundred feet in depth. The atypical depth of these properties would mean that the shadowing would be even more significant than if their depths were the more-common one hundred twenty feet. The design needs to keep this in mind to maintain the liveability of the properties to

Further, the Dunbar Vision document notes that Seniors’ Housing Rezonings Vision Direction 9.2 “…would be implemented through site-specific rezonings. That means that when a group that is organizing housing for seniors finds a site, they would be able to apply for a rezoning. Each rezoning would be considered in consultation with neighbours.We have learned from the neighbouring owners that there has not been meaningful consultation and they feel that their concerns have been neither heard nor addressed.

This requirement for consultation is restated in Vision Direction 20.1 Community Involvement in Decision Making where Community residents should have more input, and more timely input, into decision making about changes in their community, such as development projects, transit planning, street and traffic changes, park design, etc.

Vision Direction 14.2 addresses Preserving Existing Private Greenery. “There should be more preservation of existing trees and major shrubs on private sites than is now required.” With the current proposal, the adjacent neighbours will experience an irrevocable loss to nature with the proposed removal of seventy mature trees at the back of the property including the wildlife that inhabits those trees. More should be done to preserve existing trees and major shrubs.

As stewards of the Dunbar Community Vision, the DRA Board is requesting the following for the rezoning application with a view to maintaining liveability for those who would be impacted by the proposal:

1. Consultation – that there be sufficient consultation with neighbours who would be affected by this application to ensure that their concerns are addressed. Stefan Aepli, Architect AIBC, SIA, LEED AP, a member of the Urban Design Panel, advocated that there be more study for impact on neighbours.

2. Ceiling height – that the ceiling height for each floor be reviewed. At the Urban Design Panel review on May 24, 2023, Bryce Rositch, Architect AIBC, AAA, FRAIC, architect for the project, specified that nine-foot ceilings would provide sufficient air circulation. The drawings however show an allowance for ten-foot ceilings on most floors.

3. Height allowance for mechanical equipment – with respect to the height required for mechanical equipment, many members of the Urban Design Panel thought that the height allowance for mechanical equipment could be reduced. Reza Mousakhani, P.Eng., CPHD commented that at least a foot could be taken off.

4. Massing – that the overall massing be reviewed with a view to breaking up the massing so that more sunlight can filter to the north. Kai Hotson, Architect AIBC, member of the Urban Design Panel referred to the project as “a big wall.”

5. Setbacks – that setbacks of the building mass to the property lines be increased, most importantly the setbacks to the north, with a view to reducing the impact on neighbouring properties.

6. Shadowing – that minimizing shadowing to the north be a component of a review of height, massing and building setbacks.

7. Fence to the north of the lane – we recommend that the design decisions for the fence be made in consultation with the neighbouring properties, that it be built with environmentally friendly materials, that along with suitable planning it provide privacy, and that it be light-friendly so that light can filter to the properties to the north.

8. Traffic study – that a thorough traffic study be conducted for minimizing congestion and maximizing pedestrian safety, keeping in mind that an increase in traffic would be generated not only by the current proposal but also the six-storey development to the west and the five-storey development to the east.

9. Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) – we recommend that consultation take place with the DRA for input on what contributions would add value to the community.

Yours truly,
Board of Directors, Dunbar Residents’ Association

Blueline Map shows City’s proposed rezoning of Dunbar.

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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

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 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.”


Public Hearing Agenda:
Report for Public Hearing: Eligibility Map:


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:

Streamling Citywide Rental Rezoning letter to City

Nov. 2, 2021

City of Vancouver
Mayor Stewart and Council

Dear Mayor Stewart and Councillors:

Re: Streamlining Rental Citywide Rezoning

This letter is to inform you that the Dunbar Residents’ Association opposes the Streamlining Rentals proposal. We urge you to vote against it and work with communities like ours in finding better ways to bring needed housing to Vancouver.

We strongly believe that residents and neighbourhood associations should be consulted and considered an integral part of the discussion before significant changes to our communities are introduced. 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.

This council’s approach is markedly different from that of the late 1990s, when a year’s worth of intense citizen engagement led to the Dunbar Community Vision. Residents’ opinions were treated as if they mattered, and there were workshops, surveys and community liaison groups to create the plan, which was approved by council in 1998. Residents accepted new types of housing such as rowhouses and four- and sixplexes along arterials, provided they were small-scale, fit into the area, and the community continued to have some say in the details.

If this council were willing to collaborate instead of imposing top-down citywide rezoning, we believe residents would be equally willing to embrace change today. With proper consultation, the city may find that small-scale, gentle-density zoning options are more effective in this community than the one-size-fits-all solution it is proposing. Under this approach, the city could encourage new types of housing with density bonuses for duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes, and discourage single-family luxury homes with a slight reduction in density for them.

The DRA acknowledges the need for more family-friendly, affordable housing, especially for people who work in Vancouver, and welcomes opportunities to collaborate with the city in adding it to our community.

Please reject this proposal and start again with a more collaborative, consultative approach with neighbourhoods.

Yours truly,

DRA President Bruce Gilmour, on behalf of the Dunbar Residents’ Association