Sirus Grames-Webb, posing for photographers beside the Chambers’ mace before delivering comments to Council. Credit: FCSNA

False Creek South resident Sirus Grames-Webb joined *RePlan Chair Richard Evans at the City of Vancouver Council meeting on May 30, 2017. They were there to respond to the latest Council Report being presented by City staff.

The purpose of the City is to make living space as nice as possible, so that people enjoy living there. If you look at False Creek, that’s what a city should look like—it’s the perfect image for planners.

– Sirus Grames-Webb

The staff report recommended that Council:

  • Approve the proposed False Creek South (FCS) community planning process

  • Direct staff to report back on nominations for a neighbourhood planning advisory group

  • Direct staff begin engagement towards developing a FCS Resident Protection and Retention Plan

In addition, staff provided updates on work (since their previous report to Council in January 2017) to:

  • Explore affordable options for all FCS residents to remain in the community

  • Develop a framework process for resolving FCS strata lease end issues

  • Research land governance options for FCS

In his opening remarks to Council, Gil Kelley, General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability, noted, “Lease renewal needs to be done in parallel with community planning.”

Bill Aujla, General Manager, Real Estate and Facilities Management, reported on four meetings with FCS strata leaseholders in May, where he presented the City’s framework for negotiating lease end issues. (More than 400 people turned out for the presentations.) City staff members are currently compiling findings from the meetings and an online leaseholder survey.

False Creek South residents at a May information session for strata leaseholders. Credit: FCSNA

Mr. Aujla intends to work with *RePlan and members of the Strata Leasehold Subcommittee (SLS) to identify the key issues and develop options for their resolution by October 2017. *RePlan and the SLS are working actively with him to plan and hold discussions. And his department has reviewed *RePlan’s research into alternative governance options and hired a consultant to conduct further research, with recommendations due at Council by March 2018.

In addition, Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas, General Manager, Community Services, explained the City is piloting its framework for co-op leases with seven co-ops on city land, and will report back to Council later in 2017 on what’s been learned. Marina Co-op is the one FCS co-op in the pilot group.

*RePlan’s recommendations

Richard thanked planning staff for ensuring the report, “… intertwines a community plan, affordable housing, leases and governance. Further, the report recognizes the leases as an opportunity for a broad, community-wide discussion of opportunities for green investment, appropriate infill development, and affordable housing opportunities for existing local residents.”

A portion of the *RePlan Committee outside City Hall, following the Council meeting. Credit: FCSNA

He also said, “… concern has emerged that delays can increase uncertainty in the neighbourhood. In this regard, *RePlan has demonstrated its leadership and built trust in our community, and can help the City find efficient paths to new leases.”

On behalf of *RePlan, Richard recommended Council:

  • Assign staffing levels required to resolve the non-profit and co-op leases as soon as possible, so substantive progress can be made by the autumn.

  • Begin public engagement for the planning process in earnest only when the general terms of lease renewal for all tenure types—co-ops, stratas and non-profits—are defined and approved by Council. While this does not necessarily mean signed leases must be in place, it does mean substantive terms are generally agreed upon. *RePlan is ready to work with the City to meet the target date for this work in October.

  • Assign Councillors Andrea Reimer and George Affleck—both of whom are familiar with the issues facing False Creek South—as Council Liaisons to the community.

A youthful perspective

Sirus was up next, and told Council life in False Creek South is “awesome” for kids:

If I am correct, some of the city’s main goals are for the city to be green, affordable, livable and high density, just like False Creek is today. Let me explain. 

If I want to play a big game, like capture the flag, or kick the can, in a 200-meter radius of my house, there are at least 50 kids, so within a few minutes we can always find over a dozen kids to play. That shows density.

Each enclave has a courtyard, and in each there are 20-30 trees, where the younger kids can make little stick houses, with leafy roofs, and play with fairy toys around the garden. That shows green.

These enclaves—which False Creek kids call co-ops even though I just found out some are co-ops, some are stratas, and some are non-profits—they all seem the same to me. That shows affordability.

To get to school, I walk for two minutes, and am in my classroom and on the way rarely see a car. But I always see a kid from our school, a parent I know, or a neighbour. There are no crosswalk monitors in my neighbourhood. That shows livability.

Sirus suggested, “… you should make more places in Vancouver like this. And he offered to take councillors on a tour of FCS; Andrea Reimer and Adrienne Carr took him up on the offer.

Unanimous support from Council

Then Mayor Gregor Robertson and councillors voted unanimously to:

Councillors had directed staff to develop these terms of reference at the January 25th Council meeting. With multiple work streams underway—leases, planning, governance—staff proposed a two-phase community planning process:

Phase 1 (14 months): Focused on an area City staff calls the “community edge,” outlined in purple below:

may 30 sirus

Sub-area 1: Explore opportunities for transit-oriented development and improving connections to the transit station and FCS.

Sub-area 2: Explore options to consolidate layers of road network and the former rail corridor into a more unified design to ensure the flow of vehicles, create better north-south connections between FCS and Fairview Slopes, integrate the seaside bypass bike path and future streetcar, and determine the best use of any residual public space.

Sub-area 3: Work with the Arbutus Corridor planning team to identify opportunities to connect the Arbutus Greenway to the seawall and seaside bypass. Review land uses and development or redevelopment potential.

Phase 2 (timeline to be determined): Refine the Phase 1 plan with further planning in the existing FCS community on long term land leases (the rest of the area outlined in red above).

Community planning will focus on issues people in the neighbourhood identified: housing, neighbourhood character, transportation and connectivity, the local retail economy, green buildings and infrastructure, environmental sustainability, public facilities, and social sustainability with community services.

Councillor Andrea Reimer suggested the planning principles be expanded to include more on art in public spaces (one of Sirus’ suggestions!), general economic activity, childcare, and integrating Indigenous design.

“We have the opportunity to do extraordinary work … staff and *RePlan have us on a good course … we have to get it right: this work is of dramatic importance for generations to come and for residents who need their leases renewed.”    Mayor Gregor Robertson

The FCS Planning Advisory Group’s role will be to:

  • Advise on engagement and act as a channel to their community/interest perspective

  • Advise City staff, through review and evaluating planning products

  • Reflect diverse perspectives

The group of 20-25 will have representatives of residents from different FCS tenure types, *RePlan, adjacent areas, and city-wide perspectives (e.g. Parks Board, School Board, Translink). City staff will put out a public call for nominations and report back to Council with recommendations in fall 2017, with Council making the final decision on appointments.

“I’d like to thank staff and my neighbours … the community has come forward to say we have issues, come forward to work with the City to resolve them to the benefit of both … [FCS] is an award winning neighbourhood with diverse sources of affordable housing … there’s room to grow while protecting the community.” Councillor Geoff Meggs (also a False Creek South resident)

Senior Planner Karis Hiebert noted the importance of security of tenure for FCS residents. In January 2017, Council directed staff to develop affordable housing options for all FCS residents to remain in the neighbourhood. One part is creating a protection and retention plan for residents on city-owned land in False Creek South. Options will include scenarios like relocation due to building renovation or redevelopment, and displacement due to the potential costs of new leases.

“We heard loud and clear leases are important … [FCS] is an iconic area; now is the time to reinvigorate the original vision for the community.”                Councillor Adriane Carr

*RePlan requested Council Liaisons to help our work with the City stay on track. Councillors Affleck and Reimer will liaise with FCS community reps, and share information to keep other council members informed. Councillor Reimer asked staff to cross reference reports on different types of leases—stratas, co-ops, non-profits—from different departments to streamline access to information.

“Thanks for putting Councillor Reimer and myself forward as liaisons … it will help us move forward so we don’t have to wait any longer.”                     Councillor George Affleck

“This is a fantastic experiment … time is of the essence.”                              Councillor Andrea Reimer

“I have faith the neighbourhood is really ready for this … I’m looking forward to information coming back from the two Council Liaisons.”                         Councillor Elizabeth Ball

Next steps

*RePlan has lots of upcoming work based on this latest report:

  • *RePlan and SLS members will be working with staff in the City’s Real Estate department to develop strata lease options for owners to review

  • *RePlan members will be meeting with our new FCS Council Liaisons

  • *RePlan and its Community Planning Working Group will be working with the City’s planning staff on our participation in the process and advisory group

*RePlan believes new leases with affordable payment options are key to resolving lease expiry issues, and will enable us to develop a successful community plan together. We are willing and eager to play a leadership role with City Council and staff to achieve this outcome.                                                                                   

-  *RePlan Chair Richard Evans