Dunbar Re-Vision

An Open Letter to the General Manager, Planning & Development, City of Vancouver

December 31, 2012

Dunbar StreetDear sir:

When considering a proposal for a zoning/land use change, how does one weigh the interest of a business, in relation to the interest of the homeowner?

I cite the case of the Pacific Arbour Retirement Communities’ Letter of Enquiry for their proposed land use for the 4600 block of Dunbar Street. This comes at a time when the City appears to be focused on increased land use density, in the interest of housing affordability.

Our community based Dunbar Vision Plan calls for land use of the nature proposed by Pacific Arbour to be built to a maximum of four stories in the village of Dunbar (commercial area).


Your planning group, in weighing this proposal, obviously will look to the adjacent commercial area for context. They will see one story commercial  zoned structures lining Dunbar, offering plenty of viable commercial potential. What might be less evident is the economic viability of this current land use. Businesses in Dunbar face the retail challenges of a changing buyer demographic, of big box retailers in the suburbs, and more recently a greater assault on “bricks and mortar” establishments, online, in home buying eg. Costco Online. Existing Dunbar businesses are dealing with an ever increasing rental burden, in the face of declining sales.

Is the commercial sprawl to the 4600 block of Dunbar warranted, when common sense suggests a revitalization of the existing commercial area is necessary, even crucial, to avoid a pending economic ghettoization of Dunbar Street. Even the City, as a landlord,Dunbar Apartments has its retail space at 16th and Dunbar  vacant since the building opened back in September. (Perhaps the wisdom of ground floor retail could be reconsidered for a seniors residence in the village given existing vacancy rates.)

Should the homeowners in and around the 4600 block of Dunbar be subjected to land use change in their neighbourhood, for the sake of a business proposal which is clearly in the wrong location? The fact that this concern has managed to assemble a parcel of land should have less significance, than the need for revitalization in the village proper. One can merely walk through the village to see that the proposed development located within the village would fit like the proverbial “hand in glove”.

Land use policy has long term implications for the community. It should not be based solely on how and where the simplest land assembly was achieved. We strongly urge your decision making group look at the community’s changing socio/economic fabric. The Dunbar Vision Plan reflects a keen sense of the community’s needs, and it wisely directs future development to the village.

Will your decision making be guided by practical land use policy, or by political will?

Mike Andruff

Dunbar Re-Vision

604-644-0056 (more…)

@PacificArbour Update – They are not going away!

December 23, 2012

While our posts have slowed through December, we have been busy behind the scenes. Here is a 30 second movie made for broadcast to the community:

Pacific Arbour have $4,475,000 reasons (the cost of their two acquired properties to date) why they are not going away. Earlier this month, they submitted their Letter of Enquiry to the City. They expect to submit their application for rezoning in early February 2013.

As a community, our time is short to prepare our position with respect to this development. We have numerous committees organized to addess our concerns.

If you want to make a difference, sign up on the volunteer list (top right corner of this page) on this website, or call 604-264-7444.

Response from the Mayor

November 28, 2012, we corresponded with Mayor Roberston to address our concerns about the Pacific Arbour proposal. December 20, 2012 we received a reply from Connie Pavone, Mayor’s Office, stating the Mayor was not available to meet with us, and that we should direct comments and/or concerns to Brian Jackson, Director of Planning and Development.

In fairness to the Mayor and his council, we are ahead of the rezoning application in voicing our concerns. However, recognizing 2012 Vancouver Courier, Newsmaker of the Year was neighbourhood dissent, and that Vancouver Vision has even placed social housing under fire, can we expect a fair shake in 2013? The Mayor and his Vancouver Vision dominated council, in 2012, repeatedly placed the developer’s interest ahead of the communities’ interests. If you care about livabilty in Dunbar, and want to be a be a part of what it becomes, make a new year’s resolution to join the Dunbar Re-Vision group.

@MayorGregor Happy Fourth Anniversary!!

December 10, 2012

(Credit to Rand Chaterjee for shooting this video, and the Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) who organized a gathering of 400 people at Heritage Hall in 2008 to help celebrate the first Vancouver Vision victory. Vision had committed in writing, to support community based planning, but since that time they have betrayed the public trust.)

As we recall, Mayor Gregor was ebullient in his high praise for neighbourhoods back in 2008. It was music to the ears of all who would listen. But how have things been in the last four years? Can we say that the neighbourhoods have had their say?
It turns out with respect to land use issues, with the exception of the casino proposal, that the neighbourhoods have had to fight, with out success, every project passed through council.
But, perhaps things are soon to change. @MayorGregor and Councillor Reimer have set a new task force into motion. It is called the Engaged City Task Force. Additionally, and more recently, when he talks to his peers he uses language like, “I am concerned that these proposals are being considered in the absence of full public input”

This assuredly, will be the neighbourhoods’ salvation. Just as it has been for Dunbar. Of the hundreds of letters sent to the Mayor and Council regarding the Pacific Arbour proposal for the 4600 block of Dunbar Street, including the Dunbar Re-Vision request for a meeting, nary a reply was received.

What part about, “Serious Voice” were we to believe? Surely you can’t be serious? See: RAMP   WEN   ARCA   Norquay  Yaletown   Strathcona       Mainlander   FCRA   SHPOA    KennCedCot   Calm   CCAP   DTEast   KARA   CHW   DR

Happy anniversary Mayor Robertson.

Planning by developer or planning by neighbourhoods?

December 4, 2012
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cknw_am980_vancouverA discussion of seniors housing in Dunbar did not go unnoticed by one of our residents. Again, the usual commentary suggested, “Why would anyone be against seniors housing in Dunbar?” A factual reply earned interesting insights as to how a developer’s perspective would change this city for increased density through enhanced spacial relationships with properties behind arterial streets. Here is the transcript:

CKNW – The Bill Good Show

Transcript of discussion

December 4, 2012, 9 – 9:30 am time slot.

Guests: Michael Geller, President Michael Geller Group; Lesli Boldt, President, Boldt Communications; Frances Bula, Civic Affairs columnist, Vancouver Magazine, The Globe and Mail

Caller Number 2:

Linda: “Hi, I’m calling about the six story proposed seniors residence in Dunbar.”

Bill Good: “Yah.”

Linda: “The problem is not the fact that it is a seniors residence, in fact, I think most of us would welcome a seniors residence in Dunbar. The fact is, the problem is, that it is six stories to seven stories tall, which means that the people behind that are separated only by a lane between their property and that property. The property, the seniors residence would be on the west side. That means they would get no sun anywhere in their property from about noon on, everyday of the year. So what we would have is a developer benefits from putting up this residence and makes profit at it, and the residents that are around there pay for it. Their property values are going to go down, and their quality of life will go down substantially. Uh, furthermore, we find that the a City, again is over riding our Vision plan that residents worked for the City with, talked about what we wanted, we said we were fine with four stories.”
Bill Good: “ But the developer says that four stories will not, eh, does not make business sense.”

Linda: “I realize that, but would you be happy with a wall 65-75 feet about 25 feet away from your property along the whole length of your property from front to back?”

Michael Geller: “So Bill, I agree with this concern. And, ah although I did say at a previous show that I thought the residents of Dunbar should not consider the Vision statement that they developed a few years ago as the bible, I do agree with the concern that there is something wrong with the juxtaposition of a five story or six story buildings with single family houses immediately behind, which is why the City Task Force did look at this idea of creating transition zones behind the arterials as literally a transition between the higher density buildings and the higher buildings and the single family areas. By taking the next row, if you like, the next block immediately behind, and saying, “You know what?” Why don’t we allow townhouses, stacked townhouses, and maybe three story apartments on those properties. Yet it will result in a bit of an increase in value for those properties, but then you begin to get a gradual transition in height.”

Bill Good: “But, does that force people to have to move?”

Michael Geller: “Over time, it might, but they have an option. They don’t have to move. But what it does do, is it begins to create to my mind, a better relationship between the higher buildings along arterials, and it’s not just Dunbar, it’s Broadway, it’s many other arterial streets, and the single family neighbourhood that I think most of us could accept continuing for decades to come.”

So there it is, presently zoned single family land is to be up zoned in the areas next to arterials? Can this be what they are possibly suggesting for the 4600 block of Dunbar? The Dunbar Vision plan contemplated this type of development in the village, not in single family zoned land. So which way will it go? Will the developers reshape our city as they plan when and where they will put in the developments, or will saner, sensible neighbourhood plans win out?

It is interesting to note that Harwood Developments, who own the Stongs land, do have a transition development planned. But, they would do so on appropriately zoned land in the village.

Thank you to our neighbour Linda for your vigilance and for a most revealing discussion.

Wanted – People who Care to Be Part of the Solution

December 3, 2012
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Back on the October 30th Bill Good show, Frances Bula said in response to Bill Good explaining that Dunbar Re-Vision was having a protest,  “And a quite vigorous one, like they are planning a march, or a rally, or something, at City Hall next/on November 16th and they had a meeting that drew 250 people the other night.” 

I started wondering about that comment, which led me to her blog post that garnered 103 comments. See: Post Frances was aware her blog was resonating with the community when she made that comment. Appreciating what it takes to have people respond to a post, I dug further into the story.

 I started reading the comments, and I encourage you to do the same. It is evident from the comments, that Vancouver Vision policy and the key word “Dunbar” were colliding, and at the same time touching a nerve in the community. It also made me aware of the gross  misunderstanding of the issues that existed among individuals. Some people tend to stereo type, and generalize,  and their reality is  what their memories tell them.

The internet grants the entire spectrum of society an opportunity to voice their opinion. That’s the nice thing about the internet, it’s very democratic (I wish Dunbar Re-Vision had that same opportunity with city council see this site).

And here are samples of comments:

 “ … god bless the people power of the People’s Republic of Dunbar.”

“ … this is Dunbar, a fantasy place that has never accepted its fair share of growth/development/social service facilities.”

“ … remember that it was group of Dunbarites and Shaughnessy dwellers that held the reins for decades …”

“ Vision Vancouver is in line with the ICLEI agenda with that of their major sponsor Joel Solomon that of Hollyhock and last that of Agenda 21.”

“ I once met a planner … When I asked him what the greatest obstacle to sustainability in Vancouver is, his immediate reply was the Dunbar Residents Association.”

“True to form, Dunbarites oppose any densification, wanting to pull up the drawbridge.”

As a Dunbar resident,  all I can think to say is, “Ouch!” 

Does our past define us forever? Has the community not sufficiently changed to warrant a new characterization? I went searching for some answers.

 Here are some facts to consider:

In the two polling stations, in the 2011 civic election,  that comprise the bulk of Dunbar, Mayor Robertson of Vancouver Vision received 48% of votes offered for mayor, and he did win polling station 113, one half of Dunbar. The 1030 votes cast, represent approximately 5% of the population (we do not have the registered voters number).

Polling Station 112 113 Total Votes
Gregor Robertson 390 564 954
Suzanne Anton 552 478 1030

Next, I went looking for information on immigration in the Metro Vancouver area. At this site , I happened to isolate data for the two polling areas identifed above. Here is where some of the almost 40,000 immigrants who arrive each year in Metro Vancouver are laying down their roots.

Enthinicity/Polling Station Area 112(% of ethnic pop)/(Metro avg.) 113(% of ethnic pop)/(Metro avg.)
English 31.8 (23.1) 33.8 (23.1)
Scottish 23.01 (16.1) 25.5 (16.1)
Chinese 22.3 (18.2) 17.9 (18.2)
Irish 17.2 (12) 20.4 (12)
French 10.6 (6.5) 5.8 (6.5)
German 8.8 (9.7) 12.1 (9.7)

So what I see from my brief gander into the make up of Dunbar, of those of us who did vote (a scant too few), almost half of us voted for the Mayor. And we continue to have a broad based community of ethnicities.

In my view, we:

  1. have to increase voter engagement,
  2. have to stop falling prey to the “divide and conquer” tactic used by too many in our community. It is easy to be negative, rather than taking the harder journey to provide solutions.
  3. have to receive transparency from our civic leaders, see this site,
  4. have to keep asking for public consultation, and
  5. have to start supporting our fellow resident associations, showing increasing numbers at future civic gatherings (see this site ).

Are you ready to be part of the solution?

Respectfully submitted,

Mike Andruff

Pacific Arbour President Talks About Seniors

December 1, 2012


We could build a retirement home in a farmer’s field on top of a mountain and it would fill up …” – Peter Gaskill.

In a series of articles written  in May 2012, by Business in Vancouver, in conjunction with a CBC investigation, on the state of seniors care in BC, Mr. Gaskill, President of Pacific Arbour Retirement Communities, explains how the retirement community business has changed in North America. “We told everybody it’s an unending demand … Well, that just wasn’t the case … people didn’t look at the details.”

“In Victoria, the seniors who would move into a retirement home, that demographic is on the decline … there’s fewer of them each year, “ said Gaskill.  “The baby boomers only just hit 65. They don’t move into retirement homes for another 20 years; it’s easy to forget that.”

On a recent talk show interview, Bill Good asks Mr. Gaskill, “Is this an exclusive care home?”  Gaskill explains that residents will pay for the cost of services provided.  He further states that, “we respond to the neighbourhoods that we build in”, meaning that they build to a cost level that the community will bear. He has previously explained that there is no profit in care homes. He will build an independent living residence. But, is this what the community needs?

On the one hand, it would appear that he says expensive, independent seniors residences are less in demand than previously thought, and on the other hand he indicates that he must build 130 units in Dunbar to make his business model profitable. His past remarks seem to be at odds with his current beliefs. We must ask again of Mr. Gaskill, “Do you have the right profit numbers in your proposal?”  Have you looked into the details?

Reading the series of BIV articles captioned the “Grey Area”, it is clear Dunbar, like the rest of the province, needs seniors care homes in contrast to expensive, independent living residences. The effect of this need is brought home in this interview with Rebecca Maurer. She talks about the struggle to find care for her mother in this article. (For those with appropriate browsers, her CBC interview link follows:)

Rebecca Maurer

In spite of this discussion, the Mayor of Vancouver and his Vision council seem blindly interested in all the independent seniors residences that Pacific Arbour can supply (it’s good optics). However, when resources like this neighbourhood’s land are so dear, have we, as a community, carefully weighed our options and considered what is most appropriate for the needs of our aging population?

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