Follow Toronto’s Example

Dear Mayor and Council
I urge you to follow the example of Toronto and cancel the Laneway Housing Program. Your unilateral repudiation of long-standing residential zoning bylaws destroys neighbourhoods, congests the city, risks increasing crime and vermin, and turns Vancouver into an oppressive warren of row houses – an eyesore that never stops oozing. In implementing this destruction, you have not only acted contrary to homeowners’ wishes, but have refused to accord homeowners the opportunity to make their wishes count in your own deliberations.
In my opinion, your actions epitomize bad government, and are consistent with your mode of governance to date.

Eric Levy
West Point Grey

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11 Responses to Follow Toronto’s Example

  1. Sandy says:

    Wow. Speak for yourself. Nothing was done unilaterally. There was much public consultation about laneway housing. Many opponents of laneway housing were heard by Council and City staff. I am very happy to see that in this world-class city, progress has trumped your kind of NIMBYism.

    The City needs more density. If you don’t like it, move to the suburbs. I hear you can still get acreage in Mission for 1/4 the price of homes in West Point Grey.

    I’ve walked down several lanes in the city where laneway houses have been built. The lanes look livelier, which I am sure has decreased crime and vermin (seriously, vermin?)

  2. Brian says:

    Eric speaks for a lot of people. Read the eco-density greenwashing babble on the city’s website about neighbourhood consultation, which the city doesn’t do.

    Instead, they effectively rezoned the whole city’s single family neighbourhoods without due process. Follow the money: this council is in the pocket of developers. On every issue, council pretends to consult locally then defaults to development in spite of what the people who live in whatever neighbourhood is being affected actually want.

  3. Michael Lyons says:

    How ridiculous to say that the council is ‘in the pocket of developers’, Brian. Follow what money? Are you suggesting that council is doing something other than following a popular plan for our city and are lining their own pockets in the process?

    They didn’t rezone single family neighbourhoods – they relaxed a bylaw to allow neighbourhood families who want or need it to add a small amount of additional living space to their home. A standard lot can only add 500 s/ft (more modest than a basement suite) to house family or help with the mortgage.

    Contrary to what your personal experience and feeling is, this is a very popular program. Most of us in the 21st century see the need to add more living space in existing neighbourhoods – to better provide utility services, to maximize public transport usage, to minimize urban sprawl, to protect our agricultural land reserve , have fewer cars on freeways and to allow people to live closer to where they work, shop, play and get an education.

    This fulfills a very long-standing community plan to add more density in existing neighbourhoods. There has been no secret that this had been on the plan for many years and the city received so little resistance and so much support for this (and other density increasing activities) that it was a no-brainer to approve the laneway house program. While you few people were speaking against it, the rest of the city has been applauding it. The public is being heard.

    Almost 2 years later, less than a couple hundred laneway houses have been built and (with the notable exception of the handful of supporters of this blog) the residents of our beautiful city seem to have embraced them.

    • Webmaster says:

      For those of you who don’t know, Michael Lyons – the very same young man who is so prolific on this website with comments in defense of the Mayor’s and City Council’s laneway housing project – is the VP of Marketing and Sales for Smallworks Studio/Laneway Homes Inc., which built the “West House” laneway house funded in part by Vancouver taxpayer money. Our money. In his pocket. Delivered by the Mayor and City Council.

      And he calls us biased!

    • Brian says:

      Michael,
      glad I wasn’t able to respond until I saw the webmaster’s post about the special interest you represent. Though I don’t usually bother jousting with court jesters, as you so clearly are, I will mention a couple things.

      There is now a long history of this council ignoring citizen input and facilitating every development proposal that comes along at the expense of both livability and what people who live in the neighbourhoods want (ie Norquay, Mt Pleasant, Chinatown, Laneway Housing, Shannon Mews, Cambie RAV corridor, the Regional Growth Strategy, etc etc etc) as is evidenced by this Georgia Straight article (containing even more illuminating video):
      http://www.straight.com/node/392866

      My comment “‘in the pocket of developers’” and “follow the money” both refer to the history above in conjunction to politics as its always been played. Look at where a political party’s funding comes from and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what side of an issue they’ll come down on. I’m not suggesting that the Vision council is stupid/corrupt enough to line their own pockets personally. Although I can certainly resent them lining yours, as they did with my taxes.

      It’s becoming ever more clear to more and more of the public as this council steamrolls through more communities that the only thing that will stop the its rampant development-at-any-cost bias is huge pushback a la the Vancouver not Vegas campaign. All these individual little neighbourhood groups that council keeps ignoring gotta get together in a big Vancouver not Vision pushback in time for the next civic election.

      You are correct, city council didn’t rezone all single family neighbourhoods. They wouldn’t get away with that. So they just effectively rezoned them instead by “relaxing the bylaw” as you put it.

      Your description of laneway houses is laughable. You’re not describing the hulking laneway houses that I’m seeing, the ones degrading neighbourhoods as shown on this website that people are furious about. Your last three paragraphs are just the usual spin one would expect from your perspective.

      But there is another perspective and that is evidenced by Seattle which has severe restrictions on laneway housing, and Toronto (My god, imagine Toronto ahead of Vancouver!) which stopped them completely.

      “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” –Prof Albert Bartlett

  4. Sandy says:

    For those of you who don’t know, this commenter (Sandy) has no relationship to Smallworks or Michael Lyons, yet strongly supports laneway housing and the City’s initiative to increase density by allowing the construction of laneway houses.

    Of course Smallworks benefits from this initiative. So do the homeowners who build laneway houses for their kids or parents or nannies, or as rental income property. And so does the City, in the way of increased tax revenue.

    The posts on this blog are nothing more than NIMBYism (or should I say, NIMNBYism), poorly disguised as “concern” for the livability of the City.

    • Brian says:

      Sandy, thanks for the full disclosure. I don’t disparage your honestly held beliefs even if I think they are misguided. I’d simply ask you to show me the same courtesy, and agree that we disagree.

      NIMNBYism I presume is, NIMNeighboursBY ? Reminds me of the expression that your right to swing your fist around ends at my jaw. Similarly, your right to screw up your yard should end when you screw up my yard. As you can probably tell, I’m a member of NIABY (Toronto chapter) and NIABYWR (Seattle Chapter).

  5. Michael Lyons says:

    As I have stated and proven in the past, I was baised towards laneway housing before I joined Smallworks. Smallworks would not support my commenting on here as it lowers us and drives undeserved traffic to your blog. That said, I practically begged to work there because I believe in the need for density in existing neighbourhoods. I am an outspoken environmentalist first, a lover of my home town of Vancouver second and part of a sustainable building company third.

    It’s the constant complaining about city council not listening to you that irks me here. You continue to assume that yours is the only voice asserting their choice. Why do you assume that if things are not going your way that there must be some corruption or conspiracy? I do know that there is no vast bag of money in laneway housing for developers and certainly not for the small builders like Smallworks who are hired by homeowners/residents/neighbours to add the laneway houses to their usually modest properties… and no money going back to city hall in any way shape or form (other than regular building permit fees) from any of us for laneway housing.

  6. Brian says:

    Michael,
    Lowers you? What, deigning to debate the issue? Because there is still an issue here, just as there was in Seattle and Toronto, even if you and city council refuse to admit it. And more important than the issue of laneway housing itself, is that is spite of all the warm and fuzzy, greenwashing, eco-density marketing babble on the city’s own website, is the issue that neighbourhood consultation and process is NOT being followed. Another issue is that city “planners” are being turned into pimps for the development industry.

    Okay I know you’re a marketing guy, and so take your hyperbole with the proverbial grain of salt, but your comments about being an “outspoken environmentalist” and “lover of your home town” are too much. It’s an old tactic to “wrap yourself in the flag” on any issue and in this case, imply that people on the other side of the issue can’t attack laneway housing from the perspective of being either an environmentalist or a lover of Vancouver (don’t love it to death, Mike). As I was laughing, Samuel Johnson came to mind: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

    I am neither a conspiracy theorist, nor do I assert there is any monetary corruption (other than that normally inherent in the funding system of civic political parties which is subject to far less stringent controls than provincial or federal politics). It’s a long and dishonourable tradition in BC civic politics for developers to fund political parties. There doesn’t have to be any individual corruption. It’s systemic.

    What many people from many different groups and areas all over the city assert is that council doesn’t follow its own processes in terms of neighbourhood consultation on almost every development issue that arises. Again, watch the Georgia Straight video (link above) and some of the reader comments on the article for a good sense of citizen frustration that causes.

    You know what irks me? People on your side of the issue constantly misusing the word “sustainable” (though at least you didn’t couple it with the word “growth”, which is even more egregious word torture). Just a tip Mike, such misuse has become so prevalent, it’s become a leading indicator for the presence of greenwashing. So much of what we as human beings do (and laneway housing is part of that) is a part of planetary exponential population growth. And as the planet is starting to so clearly indicate to us, though we’re not listening, this is clearly not sustainable.

    • Sandy says:

      Brian, do you think it is more sustainable to drive the population that uses these laneway houses (grandparents, nannies, homeowners downsizing, students, what have you), out into the suburbs? How is that accomplishing anything? Oh right – it would help YOU out because it would keep those people out of YOUR backyard.

  7. Brian says:

    Sandy,
    If you want to have a question about one of the most currently tortured words in the English language feel free. What’s the “sustainable” population of Vancouver? Another 1 million? 2 million? 5 million? 10 million? Pick a number. Or the planet will.

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