A couple of thoughs on this rezoning process.

The Rational.

In 2014, the city decided “the neighborood didn’t developed as expected: let’s do something about it”. The city never admitted that the whole process was triggered by Westbank wanting to build a 30+ storey building at 5050 Joyce street [4]. (Instead, it rationalized it on the TransLink’s planned upgrade of the Joyce-Collingwood Skytrain Station [5] , as an opportunity to review its zoning policy)…and still… it was the right think to do (and there is no harm to admit it!)

  • don’t consider the Westbank application for spot rezoning,  but don’t reject it outright either – rather contextualize it in an  community plan.

Considering that the previous Joyce-Collingwood Station Area Plan dated back 1987, and considering that effectively, beside  the Collingwood village, which has became a posterchild for successful Transit Oriented Development [6], no much has happened elsewhere- some update was necessary.

The apriori limited area concerned by the rezoning makes also relatively good sense:

  • In the context of the Westbank application, you don’t necessarily want to have a community plan taking years to take shape
  • The transit station precinct specificity is in fine recognized by the perimeter of the rezoning, and this eventually allows to reach a quicker form of consensus (It is a natural density node) [7].

The city engagement processus.

  • A walk and “round table” was organised in December 2014, from there a diagnostic was “done”, which leaded to a first report
  • A workshop was organized on June 20, 2015 in 2 different sessions ( land use and building form, in one session and transportation in another one)

In this well attented workshop, the participants suggested different building typology for differents areas:

I have attended it, and in my recollection, the exercise turned out to be fairly consensual: the Marine drive development was seen by many as a good way to illustrates the desirable building form (and scale) for the Joyce station immediate vicinity, with transition zone formed by mid-rise and townhouse stitching it with the predominant Single family house area. The Transportation workshop was relatively uneventful. After an “open house” held in  July 2015, where the city staff presented its recollection of the above,  the Vancouver planners  proposed 3 differents zoning options (the difference residing essentially in the heigh of the high rise immediatly adjacent to Joyce Station). on October 20, 2015. Below is an illustration of the most ambitious proposal (highest tower):

Up to October 20, the things was rolling out surpinsigly smoothly. However, on october 20, at the location the city staff was unveiling its rezoning proposals, it was also an unadvertised “open house” hosted by Westbank to present its formal  5050 Joyce street application. That was  unfortunate enough and proven to be a turning point:

Quickly enough, some people “organizing on the ancestral, traditional, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples” launched a curiously worded petition and a new organisation popped-up Jara, with very certainly many well intentioned activists. Beside their concerns on “affordable housing”,  it has always been hard to understand their ultimate motivations (their last post doesn’t help either), leading them to adopt a rather confrontational approach with the city consultation efforts .

It is possible the people at Jara was not aware of the early stage of the consultation process: The city didn’t seem to have put lot of effort at reaching the neighborood [1], something Jara has been kind to correct. Jara has been pretty active at engaging the local citizens, and look to have engaged in some efforts overlapping the city’s organised workshop, and has produced its own report, however it seems to not have helped to dispell some misconceptions such as “rezoning = expropriation

That eventually leaded to another apriori more controversial open house on April 6, 2016:


The tension was quickly diffused by breaking the attendance in small group, preventing a town hall meeting showdow: the attendance turned out to have more questions that recriminations. However, where the attendance seems to agree is on the question of the benefits occuring from rezoning:

The neighborhood has accepted very significant densification. The Wall centre at Central park, has generated ~$12M in CAC + DCC, this in addition of the CNH annex and Mosaic space [2], from which apparently not a single cent has yet been spent in the neighborhood [9]… So it is certainly possible the neighborhood feels short changed on the topic. Explaining that the neigborly community centers, such as Killarney, a 30mn walk away, can serve Joyce Collingwood is probably unsatisfactory. It is not that the question of community amenities is new [2], but the expectation is to have those amenities such as swimming pool or ice rink, or even public libraries coming right in the neighborood accepting very signifcant densification; an almost pre-requisite for “density well done”

The draft plan presentation and the 3d model

3d printing model isualizing the proposed rezoning change for the Joyce COllingwood neighborhood

3d printing model isualizing the proposed rezoning change for the Joyce COllingwood neighborhood

The 3d virtual model previously presented in this post was a private initiative: it is my belief that the city should have shared its 3d model with the public (that to allowing the public to interact with it directly). The city presenting a 3d printing to illustrate the envisioned change is very welcome: It is an important tool to help the conversation…thought the model has arrived a bit late in the rezoning conversation (the city planner mentioned, the 3d model was only ready on Friday May 27, 2016), we just hope the city will make larger use of such tools (3d computer model and 3d printing) in the future.

The evil is in the details

I must admit, a final workshop to discuss the details of the plan (that is not questioning its general thrust, and densification objective which has been the object of previous workshops) could have been welcome: That will be the object of another post presenting the ideas shared with the city

The plan is scheduled to go beyond council on June 14 or 15th, 2016 – In the meantime, properties concerned by the rezoning have started to appear on MLS: the asking price is around 100% above assessed price (vs 20-30% for other properties in the neighborhood), all this “land lift” is something which will not be availbale for CAC (a direct consequence of the opacity of the city’s CAC policy, which is object of backroom deal)

[1] I have been made aware by a local mailing list relaying the Collingwood Neighborood House messages, but the city didn’t seem to have advertised the rezoning in the local flyer, the Renfrew Collingwood community news , neither at the Joyce station or other busy areas.

[2]RC Commty Initiative Sept 2012 draft

[3] this 3d model is freely accessible on the sketchup library site can be dowloaded in Google earth…and printed in 3d too…

[4] Westbank conducted an Open house on February 19, 2014 to gather feedback on its first prosoal. Westbank purchased the land for $9,930,000 in 2014 according to Colliers Canada

[5] Some observer will have noticed that the Joyce cCollingwood get a signficant upgrade in the years 2011-213 to accomodate the Compass card gate: most of it has been recently demolished, see more on the Metrobabel blog

[6] This Transit oriented DEvelopment has been the object of numerous study, as well as having attracted the attention of several blog, such as Fraseropolois.

[7] This is a striking difference with the Grandview woodland rezoning process, where the Commercial-Broadway station precinct is considered as no more than a sub-zone of the Grandview Woodland community. As such this precinct of regional interest (intersection of 2 rapid transit line) has been bogged down by local concerns which are trumping the general interest.

[8] The Jara campaign is also followed by EyeOnNorquay and more generally the rezoning is also follwoed with a critical view by CityHallwatch.

[9] Apparently the city, would like to use the CACs toward the building of a passerelle over boundary Rd: it doesn’t seem to be a request from the community and we don’t think it is a right use of the local CAC $: we will hopefully elaborate on it in a later post