City of Vancouver Proposals for Norquay Village:
A Statement of Concerns



This document aims to provide a critical summary of events, issues, and concerns related to City of Vancouver plans for “Norquay.” The aim is to facilitate communication among Norquay residents, persons from other concerned Vancouver neighborhoods, and relevant City Planning staff.



The term “Norquay Village” has been chosen by Vancouver City Planning to designate a 1.35 km stretch of Kingsway from Gladstone Street to Killarney Street, and a surrounding area extending from East 24th Avenue to East 41st Avenue. (Norquay Park lies on the south side of Kingsway, and Norquay Elementary School is located at 4710 Slocan Street north of Kingsway.) Most of this area is a part of Renfrew-Collingwood; the portion west of Nanaimo Street is a part of Kensington-Cedar Cottage. Norquay Village is one of nineteen ”Community Vision Neighbourhood Centres“ identified on a City Planning map entitled Identified Local Area Planning Needs.

Norquay Village has no apparent natural relationship to the area’s existing jurisdictions, amenities, geography, historical relationships, or traffic patterns. It is one of three “neighbourhood centres” sketched along Kingsway in Vancouver. “Kingsway & Knight” lies to the west and “Kingsway / Joyce” to the east. A fourth potential centre, “Fraser Street – North,” touches Kingsway at East 16th Avenue, but halts at the boundary of Mount Pleasant.

The basis for designating and implementing such “centres” is not at all clear. Eleven are located on or east of Main Street, and eight (two only “potential”) west of Main Street. Thus far, implementation involves four centres (Kingsway & Knight the first, Renfrew-Collingwood now in process, Hastings-Sunrise North and Main Street-Riley Park announced for 2008). All of these first four are situated in East Vancouver. Vancouver’s “communities” are named and mapped under City of Vancouver Information About Your Community. The Community Visions / Neighbourhood Centres process affects these communities: West Point Grey, Hastings-Sunrise, Dunbar, Arbutus Ridge, Shaughnessy, South Cambie, Riley Park-Little Mountain, Kensington-Cedar Cottage, Renfrew-Collingwood, Kerrisdale, Sunset, Victoria-Fraserview, and Killarney. These communities are excluded: West End, Downtown, Downtown Eastside, Strathcona, Grandview-Woodland, Kitsilano, Fairview, Mount Pleasant, Oakridge, Marpole, and Southlands.


Draft Plan, Survey, Open Houses

A twelve-page document titled Draft Plan for Future Housing in Norquay Village Neighbourhood Center and an Improved Streetscape for Kingsway was distributed in English and Chinese to the “Norquay” area in late May and early June of 2007.

Among other things, this Draft Plan proposed to rezone about 2400 single-family dwellings out of RS-1 into RM-1 and RT-10. Such zoning would allow three to six dwelling units per existing lot. (The affected area amounts to about one-quarter of the entire Renfrew-Collingwood community. The larger centre sketched for Kingsway / Joyce would be a substantial increase on this one-quarter.)

The content of the Draft Plan is complex and confusing. The nine numbered sections present a range of topics, an extent of information, and a selection of detail that a university student might find challenging to comprehend. The brochure ended with a complicated nineteen-question survey.

Distribution of the brochure and survey was careless. Unaddressed material was tossed onto sidewalks and porches. Some residents took the brochure for real estate development advertising; many others regarded it as junk mail. The 30% of the residents having a first language other than English or Chinese were given no indication of the importance of the contents (such as the eight-language warning common to many City of Vancouver communications: “IMPORTANT INFORMATION Please have this translated”). The early summer timing of the distribution would find recipients busy with end of school and plans for vacation. Taken together, these factors seem calculated to minimize community response. The survey closed on June 20. Some residents who would have responded only became aware of the significance of the survey after the deadline. Others discarded the brochure and then had to make photocopies or use a neighbor’s computer.

At the two open houses, held at Norquay Elementary School on Thursday June 14 and at Renfrew Park Community Centre on Saturday June 16, Norquay residents encountered a number of frustrations. City Planning staff echoed the first page of the brochure, stating that the Draft Plan was “implementing the R-C Community Vision.” This statement, later found to be far from true, has generated growing concern among communities across the entire city. Staff proved unable to talk about issues or concerns lying beyond their narrow mandates of rezoning or design of street features (lamp poles, garbage cans, etc.). Matters like property taxes, transit, and parks could not be dealt with. At the Renfrew Park open house, a young woman reported finding no one who could speak to her parents in Chinese, the most common first language in Renfrew-Collingwood.


Apparent Haste

In a consultation on June 17 between Norquay residents and three city planners (June Christy, Grant Miller, Kathleen Kern), September 2007 appeared to be a target for taking a City Planning recommendation on Norquay Village to City Council. Even without the subsequent strike, such a timeline showed incredible haste in attempting to make a major change to the neighborhood. We now have informal indications that additional consultation and process will occur, if only because of the lengthy strike by City of Vancouver staff. The terms “expedite” and “faster” in a June 6, 2007 document ( RTS no. 6772, VanRIMS no. 11-2000-14) on incorporating EcoDensity in Neighbourhood Centres reinforces our perception that a wide-ranging agenda for the entire city has been assigned an internal ”rush“ status. Given the huge consequences of these proposals for the future of all of Vancouver, this haste breeds widespread fear and distrust.


Community Vision

A detailed analysis demonstrates how the Draft Plan tramples the Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision. That Community Vision received unanimous approval from City Council on March 23, 2004.

These are prominent examples of how the Community Vision has been disregarded. Consult the full analysis for more details.



Although we are now being told that the EcoDensity initiative has nothing to do with the Draft Plan's lack of conformity to the Community Vision, this is hard to believe. The June 6, 2007 document cited above, and the EcoDensity – Suggested Tools and Actions – Draft (May 2007) document line up with the extreme neighborhood makeover proposed in the Draft Plan. For example, the Tools and Actions document calls for rezoning all arterials to RM-1, rezoning all single-family areas, and surrounding parks with higher density. All of these “suggestions” were imported into the Draft Plan. This evident attempt to inject a scarcely introduced, little discussed, and less understood ideology into an established planning process is unacceptable.

Yet undefined future aspects of EcoDensity implementation may open a door to even greater density. The City appears to have little or no funding to service increased density. Any bonusing to developers to meet such needs would only expand on a density that already greatly exceeds what the Community Vision has approved.



City Planning officials make vague statements about affordability, with an implication that city plans will somehow increase affordability. At the same time, the Draft Plan states: “New units are always more expensive than older ones of a similar type and size” (p. 4). The City of Vancouver’s own local community census data shows that Norquay presently has 25% to 30% low-income households. The development proposed for Norquay can only displace many present residents who already enjoy affordable housing.

Is the “affordability carrot” being used to sell new development and higher density to unanalytical hopers? The following points need to be considered. If Vancouver is among a few cities worldwide that provide a “hot market” for globalized real estate, will provision of additional units do more to fuel further speculation than to house existing residents? What evidence shows that an increased number of housing units in Vancouver has made housing more affordable, or even mitigated rising prices? If the MLS Housing Price Index of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver shows August 2007 East Vancouver benchmark figures of $650,551 for single detached housing units and $468,791 for attached housing units, what about the $648,000 asked for a new duplex at 1368 East 27th (Real Estate Weekly, Sept. 21, 2007, p. 11) or the $629,000 for a new courtyard rowhouse at 3826 Welwyn Street (Real Estate Weekly, Sept. 14, 2007, p. 7). Exactly what is “more affordable” about new market housing (strata-titled rather than freehold) on less land? (It seems a much poorer financial investment, especially considering that the overhead of maintenance fees adds substantially to the ongoing cost of any strata-titled property.)

Most talk by officials of affordability seems divorced from any provision of government money, whether municipal, provincial, or federal. Unless some level of government is putting in money, how will real estate developers make housing more affordable?



The Community Vision calls for coordinated planning for neighborhood amenities such as traffic, utilities, parks, city facilities, social housing, senior’s centres, and schools. Also of concern are impacts on less visible infrastructure like hydro, water supply, and sewer. Trying to increase density ahead of any such planning increases tax revenue to city coffers without giving anything substantial to the neighborhood. Such an approach loots the affected neighborhood, taking away quality of life at the same time that the city boosts general revenues at the expense of the neighborhood.



The new denser development that can already be seen seems to continue to cater to the automobile (parking spaces underneath skyscraper units, and ground level of courtyard rowhouse devoted to driveways and garaging). Serious disincentives for automobiles in Vancouver coupled with genuine improvements in public transit must precede any further densification. Ecology must start with automobile policy.


Seniors Housing

Seniors Housing was the type given by far the greatest approval in the Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision. It receives no mention whatsoever in the Draft Plan. If the City wishes to find good will among the older residents of Norquay, this interest must be addressed. With regard to amenities related to seniors, it deserves remark that the City of Vancouver provides six stand-alone facilities west of Cambie and none east of Cambie (Vancouver Courier, 24 Nov. 2006, p. 9).


Mass Rezoning

Mass rezoning appears to be a tactic to eliminate further consultation on development within the neighborhood. Once done, blanket zoning gives City Planning and developers complete freedom to do whatever they want to the neighborhood, within relaxed and broad specifications of new zoning. Any broad rezoning must be done at a level that ensures substantial (not pro forma) neighborhood input into significant deviation from a norm appropriate to the neighborhood. The Community Vision should define that norm. The norm should include number of housing units per existing residential lot, and allowable heights for buildings on larger parcels of land.


Floor Space Ratio (FSR) Paired to Ground Space Ratio (GSR)

Floor Space Ratio is a key measure of allowed density. Another ratio requirement should be balanced against this common measure of allowed development. A Ground Space Ratio (GSR) for any particular development should indicate an amount of clear ground available for things like grass, shrubbery, flowers, public patios, and children’s play space. (Children play in backyards, rain soaks into unpaved soil, etc.)



Concern for crime prevention should not lead to large developments designed as gated communities. Balkanizing a neighborhood cannot be considered an improvement to that neighborhood. If crime statistics show that particular kinds of development are not desirable, those forms of development should not be undertaken. It has been reported that present dense development near the Joyce skytrain station already correlates with undesirable levels of crime.


Social Ecology

The values of long tenancy and residential commitment must be recognized. Destablization of a functional neighborhood through a single-minded focus on density neglects considerations such as policing costs, public safety, landscape quality, litter removal and street cleaning, boulevard maintenance, incidence of graffiti, and varieties of informal social support. Tax policies (such as a transfer tax that decreases with length of tenancy) should encourage stability and discourage speculation and nonresident ownership.


Heritage and Character

The new RM-1 and RT-10 zonings make insufficient provision for preservation of heritage, character, and streetscape diversity. Under RM-1, nothing is protected. Under RT-10, there is weak provision for character retention. No neighborhood should be exposed to the development of a single-era urban monoculture. Everyone lives in a particular neighborhood, and should not have to go to some other neighborhood to experience “heritage.” Good examples of all architectural types, even post 1940, should be retained for the future in all neighborhoods.

To designate any particular area of Vancouver as a “redevelopment slum” is unfair to property owners and residents alike, both economically and socially. More than one Norquay resident has already expressed concern about the implications of rezoning for their already planned improvements to private property.


Density Transfers

“Heritage density” should not be exported from one Vancouver community and dumped into another. Vancouver residents live day-to-day in their own communities, and should not be expected to subsidize quality added to other local communities that they may never visit. Such density dumping would degrade a particular community’s capacity to preserve its own heritage.


Construction Ecology

Encouraging the deterioration of existing housing stock in prospect of redevelopment is not good stewardship. Sending solid housing stock to the landfill and replacing it with new inputs of energy and resources makes a joke of ecology. Redevelopment should strive to maximize use of existing structures.


Property Tax

On August 1, 2007 the City of Vancouver issued a news release regarding City Council amendments to allow for tax averaging for rezoned Kingsway-Knight residents. This minimal step ameliorates a blatant unfairness, but it does not address the fundamental issue. After three years, all of this mitigation of the property tax increase attributable to rezoning is lost. No long-term resident (as opposed to an opportunistic speculator) should be forced to pay extra for continuing to live on their property just because the City has imposed an unwanted change of designation. There need to be provisions that any tax disadvantage attributable to rezoning is triggered only upon sale or redevelopment by the current owner. This could be achieved by linking rezoning of any particular property within a rezoning area to the sale or redevelopment of that property. Without such a provision, the City of Vancouver can only be seen as a tax grabber and exploiter of long-term residents.



If expropriation of any residential property proves necessary, the property should be acquired whenever the current resident chooses to sell, if at all possible. Any forced sale should compensate not only for the market value of the property, but also for any associated real estate fees (selling the old, buying the replacement) and provincial transfer taxes. Every resident deserves this financial recognition of loss of choice in the matter.


Kensington-Cedar Cottage

A significant portion of Norquay lies within the boundaries of Kensington-Cedar Cottage. The Draft Plan for Norquay reflects no consultation with Kensington-Cedar Cottage.


Kingsway & Knight

This first experiment in designing a Neighbourhood Centre requires use and assessment before any of the elements can be taken as a pattern for development elsewhere. This use and assessment requires the passage of some time. No experiment should overnight become a formula. Transparent processes should respect the individuality of particular communities.


Kingsway & Nanaimo

The process for this major spot rezoning seemed to occur behind the scenes between the developer and City Planning. The developer’s two open houses were the only public process before a done deal was brought to City Council for pro forma approval. The only significant amenity was 37 daycare spaces in return for a huge rezoning concession. This amenity will be largely invisible to a community that faces a second gated community on top of a big box store that will attract hundreds of automobiles daily. The city’s talk of enhancing the pedestrian quality of the neighborhood seems cynical. (Renfrew-Collingwood had expressed hopes for a quality store to walk to – Choices and IGA Marketplace were mentioned. Instead, the community was sold out to Save On Foods.)


The London Guard Site

The empty field on the north side of Kingsway between Gladstone and Nanaimo awaits redevelopment. The developer who has placed signs on the property seems to have gone into a holding pattern. Norquay must be fully involved in this and any other future large-area redevelopments.


The 2400 Motel Site

Some discussion has taken place with regard to this city-owned property on the south side of Kingsway. Heritage Vancouver has an interest in the preservation of the site. Further discussion must involve a broader Norquay constituency and relate to other impending area developments.


Large Parcels of Land

The City Planning process for Norquay Village has been hasty and reactive thus far. The local community should not suffer long-term damage just because a few large parcels of land have happened to become available for development. Good planning requires community consultation and allowance of time for adequate community process.


Vancouver’s Livability

Vancouver’s noted livability is not simply a result of its planning history. A generation ago, citizen action prevented supposed planning experts from imposing the disasters of a freeway into downtown and wholesale demolition and redevelopment in Strathcona. The variety of Vancouver’s neighborhoods and constituent communities is key to the quality and livability of the city. Those communities must have ongoing and genuine input into their own development.



Compiled and written by Joseph Jones with the assistance of Jeanette Jones, this overview attempts to distill the interests and concerns of both Norquay residents and citizens across Vancouver. Much consultation has taken place in its preparation. The content will be modified as warranted by facts, developments, feedback, and new perspectives.


Version 1 released October 10, 2007
Last updated October 15, 2007

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