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A "Neighbourhood Centre" Wants to Eat the Heart Out of East Vancouver

Bob Rennie cashes in on 2300 Kingsway development

by Joseph Jones

Norquay residents and supporters rally at City Hall in September 2007
Norquay residents and supporters rally at City Hall in September 2007
Community Working Group presents its plan to city planners in July 2009
Community Working Group presents its plan to city planners in July 2009

Also posted by dawn:

When city planners and developers set out to remake a neighbourhood, the first thing they like to do is to conjure up a new name, something like Railtown or Nolita. In the heart of East Vancouver, planners came up with "Norquay," already the name for an elementary school north of Kingsway and a park south of Kingsway. (The area surrounds the 1.35 kilometers of Kingsway from Gladstone to Killarney.)

Norquay has been sitting in Vancouver city planner crosshairs since March 2006. Over the past four years, the 11,000 residents of two square kilometers have faced three distinct incursions.

The first battle ended in June 2007 with Norquay's strong rejection of a Draft Plan to rezone everything. Following that, the City hired an independent consultant, who advised planners to throw out those illegitimate survey results that they wished had never happened – and to stop doing surveys!

The second battle ended in July 2009, when the planner-initiated Community Working Group presented their own plan to city planners. Many meetings had made it clear that planners did not want to see consensus coming from neighbourhood residents. The real purpose of five workshops and eight meetings was to enable planners to claim "extensive consultation" – meaning that they gathered a wide range of opinions and ideas to sift through and to pick out whatever suited their purposes.

The third battle started in November 2009 when Director of Planning Brent Toderian brought a different planning team back into Norquay. He told the community working group that he was going to involve himself directly in the process, and that Norquay would be seeing a lot of him. (No sight of him since that first meeting, though – only his squads of five to seven planners.) The new approach has consisted of sporadic reportbacks on what planners have been cooking up all by themselves.

On 12/14/16 June 2010, city planners will use three Open Houses to "consult" Norquay and the rest of Vancouver about their new plan. Their plan ... not ours. Like three years ago, they propose to mass rezone the entire area.

"Neighbourhood centre" planning already resulted in October 2005 approval for a mass rezoning of 1600 properties around Kingsway and Knight. In the first year there, property tax increases ranged from $250 to $1400. With an averaging brought in retroactively after protest, the average increase went down to $160. But after two years, that temporary mitigation came to an end.

Ouch! Pay hundreds of dollars a year more in property tax to a greedy wannabe "world-class" city that brings little more to your neighbourhood than an increase in tearing down and rebuilding. That is a Vancouver sort of sustainability – for a construction industry to cart even more embedded energy off to the landfill, for a city council to suck up extra dollars to stuff into the maw of Olympic overspending.

The 2001 City figures specifically for "Norquay" show 32% low-income households. Gentrification aims to drive out this class of renter so that brand-new "market affordable" buildings can be bought by anyone with half-a-million or so. The current Norquay Open House brochure anticipates that mass rezoning would increase  the rate of annual replacement of housing stock in the area by 50% to 100%.

In the bigger picture, the first knife in the gut for Norquay was a January 2006 site-specific rezoning for a 22 storey tower at Kingsway and Nanaimo that blockbusts the neighbourhood. At the city council farce where that rezoning was rammed through, not one mention was made of the comprehensive neighbourhood "planning" that was about to begin, or how the condo project would connect.

The infamous Bob Rennie is marketing that condo project right now as "2300 Kingsway." That's same Bob Rennie who sees the 2010 Winter Olympics as "a $6 billion ad buy" for real estate marketing, and who thinks Vancouver's economic future lies in providing a safe place for the wealthy around the world to park their money.

Where does Vancouver's "neighbourhood centre" scam look to reap its next harvest? Hastings Sunrise North, the area surrounding the 1.4 km of East Hastings that stretches from Semlin to Renfrew. That eastern jaw of a gentrification vise will put even more squeeze on the Downtown Eastside (and also exert northside pressure on Commercial Drive).

If "neighbourhood centres" were such a good thing, west side residents of Vancouver would be howling because they did not get one of the first four!
 

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Comments

Fantastic in-depth story!!

Wowza peeps!

What a fantastic in-depth story!!

Thank you so much for this hard work.

I am passing it all around.

Keep them coming!
Tami

Norquay

"Norquay" isn't some cobbled-together name from planners or developers. The area, school and park are named after John Norquay, Metis leader of the late 1800's. Do a little research if you want to call yourself a journalist.

oh...

snap!!

Good work on fighting those

Good work on fighting those greedy capitalist fat cats! I dream of the day when the revolution will happen and East Vancouver will become the "People's Socialist Republic of East Vancouver". Then all the fat cats living there can be stripped of their wealth and the billions and billions of dollars they plan to use on building HongKong-style condominiums (that so scare the people of Renfrew-Collingwood) can be distributed equally amongst the people and be used to build all the amenities needed AND desired.

Norquay

I'd like to know what miniscule percentage of the actual residents of Norquay this "Journalist" represents. Him/Herself? A small vocal group of individuals who will bitch at anything that wasn't their idea? A developer who didn't get his way with the city? A group of people who basically think anything the government does is bad... their government after all?

I've been to enough of these panel dicussions around the city, to be able to spot someone who has not really done their research and understood all the issues at hand. I encourage people to read between the lines and ask yourself the important question, "Who is this "Journalist" (I personally don't think much of their ability as a writer) and what is their motivation.

I am not saying, let the city do what they please. By all means, make them be transparent, but, for god's sake people remember there is always another side to every story.

Norquay

 great in-depth summary of the 1-2-3 of gentrification! Well written and measured piece!

 Bob Rennie has ruined this

 Bob Rennie has ruined this city. 

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