Vancouver City Councillor

Challenges for 555 Cordova show Central Waterfront Hub plan is proving its worth

Most of the controversy about Cadillac Fairview’s now-rejected “origami” tower at 555 West Cordova has centred on how it fits in with the city’s past, especially heritage buildings like CPR Station to the west and the Landing to the east.

But an equally important question is how any project at that site fits in with the city’s future.

The 555 West Cordova project would be the first inside the boundaries of the Central Waterfront Hub Plan, adopted by council in a sleepy hearing in 2009 to guide the future of the most critical commuter and transportation hub in the province.

This is where Skytrain, Canada Line, West Coast Express, Helijet, Seabus, cruise ships, rail lines and many bus routes cluster. This is where jobs and people come together.

If we want to exploit all the possibilities of emerging sustainable transportation opportunities, including more commuter rail and intercity high speed rail, we need to protect that hub.

Many of those fuming at the Cadillac-Fairview proposal were quick to point the blame at a road allowance protected for future use on the rail lands below Cordova. The “revelation” that development on those lands is guided by the Hub Plan has already triggered calls for the Hub guidelines to be revised.

Is that necessary? No doubt any plan can be improved, but this one — the product of several years of study and consultation — has already proved its worth. And it certainly has everyone’s attention.



January 30, 2015 Bookmark and Share

Help wanted: residents in Jim Green’s affordable housing projects who can help assess his legacy

Are you now or have you ever lived in one of hundreds of affordable housing units that Jim Green helped build in our city? If so, Tyee journalist David Ball would like to talk to you as part of an upcoming series that assesses Green’s hopes for his affordable housing projects against the outcomes, as seen by the residents themselves.

That means you’re a resident or former resident — or you know someone who fits the bill — of the DERA Co-op, Bruce Eriksen Place, the Tellier Tower, Pendera, Four Sisters, Lore Krill, Solheim Place or Woodwards, nearly 1,000 units of social and affordable housing that Green steered to completion.

Ball can be reached at or 778 318-4673. His report is scheduled for completion in time for the annual Jim Green lecture, an annual event that seeks to build and move forward Green’s ideas and philosophy.

January 19, 2015 Bookmark and Share

The “cannabis dispensary” boom and what the city can — and cannot — do about it

The explosion of cannabis dispensaries and walk-in marijuana clinics across the city is raising alarm in many quarters, not least among regular small business owners who worry about the impact on neighbourhood retail districts, where private liquor stores and even pharmacies are closely regulated, but dispensaries are not.

The growing frustration was perfectly captured in a letter last week to Councillor Kerry Jang, copied to all members of council, from Claudia Laroye, executive director of the Marpole Business Association. On behalf of her members, Laroye spells out the growing concern at the proliferation of “illegal, non-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.”

Jang’s reply, which I’m reprinting below with his permission, is an excellent example of how apparently straightforward issues can be exceedingly complex and ultimately beyond the city’s jurisdiction to solve. Kerry is working with city officials to see if there are innovative ways to handle the problem, but I agree completely with him that this issue won’t be resolved until Ottawa is forced to take action. Here’s his reply:

Dear Claudia,

Thank you for your letter regarding medical cannabis dispensaries that have been opening across the city.

The new Federal laws governing medical cannabis that came into effect on April 1, 2014.   The new Federal law requires medical cannabis be obtained via mail order from licenced producers and must be smoked.  There are also limits as to how much cannabis can be obtained at one time as well as a limited number of strains under this new law.  However, these laws do not take into account that many patients – allowable under the previous Federal law – cannot smoke cannabis and have always used extracted the active ingredients in cannabis to create tinctures or oils, or is ingested as food additive.  These methods require different quantities of cannabis that the new laws prohibit.  Moreover, many patients also had access to strains that had different levels of the active ingredients that are now no longer available.  Indeed, these new laws have limited a patients access to medicine and is the basis of the challenge to the new law at the Supreme Court of Canada.  The case is presently on-going and has resulted in the growth of these dispensaries that serve patients across the city.

This situation has presented the city with a conundrum.  As the lowest order of government, we cannot create a bylaw that would contravene a law or right provided by a senior level of government.  Any city action, such as shutting down dispensaries or creating a business licence category for dispensaries would be in contravention to either the new laws on medical cannabis or on the other hand, a patient’s right to medicine.  The City was able to create bylaws and business licence categories for body rub parlours for example because Federal and provincial law governing body rub parlours exist and do not conflict with other laws.  This is not the case with cannabis dispensaries as I have been advised. [Read more →]

January 16, 2015 Bookmark and Share

Building new rental in Vancouver: can Canada’s “rental boom” help Metro?

Just 60 days after a hard-fought civic election in which the NPA vowed to kill Vision Vancouver’s Rental 100 program, Vancouver Sun reporter Barbara Yaffe is fuming that “Vancouver lags behind nation’s rental property boom.”

It’s good news that reporters like Yaffe acknowledge the crisis in rental housing construction and the role rental can play in housing affordability.

Missing, of course, is a reminder that an NPA victory on Nov. 15  would have eliminated a program that has increased annual rental construction from a few hundred units to more than 1,000, a pace Mayor Gregor Robertson wants to maintain for the next four years.

Given Vancouver’s rental program — and a similar effort in New Westminster — it would be interesting to know how much rental is being built in other municipalities like Burnaby and Port Coquitlam, where land costs are lower and new Evergreen Line stations offer fabulous opportunities. My guess is that the number is very low.

Will the national boom help other Metro municipalities? Expansion of the rental stock in Surrey, Burnaby, North Vancouver, Coquitlam and all the rest would be welcome news. [Read more →]

January 13, 2015 Bookmark and Share