Burnaby City Hall (Dustin Godfrey / Burnaby Beacon)

Burnaby city council roundup—May 9, 2022

As usual, housing played a major role in last night's city council meeting—and it was the subject of the most debate as well.

By Dustin Godfrey | May 10, 2022 |5:00 am

Do the provincial or federal governments pull their weight when it comes to building housing on their own land in Burnaby? No. At least, that’s what city council agreed on last night in their first regular meeting in May.

There wasn’t a whole lot of back-and-forth in council, but there were a few items that drew councillors’ attention. One was a report on new rentals being built and proposed for the city.

Rental housing report

We wrote about the rental housing summary for our council preview, so we won’t go too in-depth on what was in it. But essentially, it was a report that showed how many units of rental housing were in various stages of development—from entering the zoning process to completion—since 2012.

Included in the summary was a table breaking down the above, including a column for “projects on non-profit or other government lands,” which included 828 units—235 of which are completed and tenanted.

That was next to a column dedicated to projects on city lands, which totalled 1,733. Of those, only 52 are tenanted, and 1,304 are still in the rezoning process.

Vibe check

Anyone who has followed this city council over the last few years is likely well aware of the spicy words they have for senior levels of government when it comes to housing. And last night was no different.

Independent Coun Colleen Jordan suggested breaking the “non-profit or other government lands” column into two to see how much land other governments have put up for development for non-market housing.

“I think if we include government lands, it would be like one (unit),” she said. “This is giving the government far too much credit for potentially having 800 units on their properties.”

“They get no credit,” agreed Mayor Mike Hurley.

Jordan also asked for the report to include dollar values attached to the summary, something general manager of planning and development Ed Kozak said was expected for the next quarterly report.

He added that staff could look at getting that information to council before that point.

Vote check

N/A

Development approvals process

This, also, was included in yesterday’s council preview, so we’ll be brief. City staff reported to council on Bill 26, provincial legislation that was passed last year to help streamline some approvals processes for developments at the city level.

That included removing the requirement for cities to hold public hearings on zoning amendments that are consistent with the official community plan, allowing cities to delegate decisions on “minor” development variance permits to staff, and allowing local governments to change up the public notice mediums for public hearings. Currently, cities must advertise that in a local newspaper—now, cities can place the advertisements in digital news outlets or on social media as well or instead.

Vibe check

The rental housing summary wasn’t the only place where councillors had jabs at other levels of government—Coun Pietro Calendino used this to take aim at the provincial and federal governments for their joint report on housing last year.

Council has taken umbrage with the report in the past, as it did not include municipalities in the process, and laid much of the blame on local governments.

“It’s pointing the fingers for the delay at local governments but, conveniently, leaving out the provincial building code issues, fire code issues, which are imposed, environmental requirements, which are imposed, which all take time at the approval process,” Calendino said.

“There are also federal regulations that we need to observe. It’s not that we are the only culpable people here.”

Jordan, meanwhile, stressed that the delegation of development variance permit decisions to staff would only apply to “minor” DVPs. What would classify as “minor” is yet to be determined.

Staff are currently focusing on the DVP changes and expect to make recommendations on that in the future, but they are also looking at the other two changes to the provincial legislation.

Council also returned to this item later on in their meeting, when Jordan proposed a change to the public notice requirements in the city. Currently, the city must notify neighbours within 30m of a proposed development of a public hearing, but she noted most neighbouring municipalities set that requirement at 100m.

Jordan proposed 90m, though she welcomed any amendments to increase it, saying it would be about 300 feet.

Calendino, however, suggested that the motion be referred to staff in its process around the development approvals process, a suggestion that was put to a vote.

Vote check

Main item: N/A

Referral: Approved; Jordan dissenting

Bainbridge East

Things were, for a moment, looking testy between one councillor and a delegation. That delegation? Once again, Herb Simak and Salim Janmohamed were at council to oppose the Bainbridge East portion of the Bainbridge urban village.

The two had presented to council at the end of February to show their disapproval of the Bainbridge East section.

The two got to go before council again, as a new proposed community plan map had been published by the city since then.

The two say they surveyed the residents in their neighbourhood—a total of 108 homes, of which they say 66% are against the plan.

The two also made the argument that, while others’ opinions should also be considered, the most important opinions were those of homeowners who lived in the neighbourhood.

Vibe check

However, Calendino challenged the two Bainbridge residents on this.

“You must be aware of the situation that we find ourselves in Metro Vancouver, BC, the rest of Canada, the rest of the world, in terms of housing. There’s a huge shortage of housing everywhere,” Calendino said, adding that a million new people are expected to arrive in the province in the next 10 years.

“Most of the large cities around the world don’t really have single-family housing. They just have larger complexes. … If all the neighbourhoods in the city were to react like you do, could you suggest to me what the cities are supposed to do?”

The delegates responded by asking if everyone who wants to live in BC are “all entitled to live in the urban centres.”

“Or can they live where there is housing and space, like Abbotsford? Is it everybody’s God-given right to live in Burnaby?” Simak asked.

Calendino turned the question back at him: “Is it a God-given right [for] you to live in Burnaby? It applies to you, as well.”

Simak said he “bought the land, built the house, paid the taxes. I’m following all the laws.”

“I feel like it may not be my God-given right, but it’s my legal right,” he said.

Calendino suggested that everybody has a right to housing.

“You don’t have any answers for me, what is the city supposed to do to accommodate those 100,000 people?” he said.

Simak asked what would happen if the city didn’t accommodate those 100,000 people. “Would they become homeless? Or will they go somewhere else and live somewhere else?”

Hurley cut off the conversation at that point, saying it was not appropriate. He added that the city has heard from Bainbridge residents and would take their concerns into account.

Vote check

N/A

Quick takes

Not everything that went on in council last night was a big conversation, so here are a few quick takeaways from the meeting.

Housing agreements: The city is looking to use housing agreements to legally bind properties with rental units provided through the rental use zoning policy to remain both rentals and below market in perpetuity. Staff asked for direction to develop a bylaw for housing agreements. Vote check: Recommendation passed

Active sidewalks/patio program: This is the program that allowed businesses to apply for expanded patios on public sidewalks or even streets during the pandemic. Staff asked for direction to develop a permanent program and to extend the temporary program until October. Vote check: Recommendation passed

Willingdon Lands: The Willingdon Lands, owned by three First Nations in Metro Vancouver, was up for a “conceptual master plan.” Council voted on first reading of the bylaw to establish the master plan. Vote check: Recommendation passed

Grosvenor Brentwood redevelopment: A conceptual master plan for this development proposal from the Duke of Westminster-owned developer Grosvenor was up for second reading. Vote check: Recommendation passes; Sav Dhaliwal dissenting

Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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