Thursday, 24 October 2013
THE LESSONS OF BEOWOLF AND GALAXY QUEST
The rezoning of Stong's market in Dunbar can be best understood by reading the Legend of Beowolf. The Danish King Hrothgar had constructed a mead hall which I have always imagined as being something like Stongs market in Dunbar. The Community was justifiably pleased with it There was, however, a demon named Grendel who lived in a cave. He did not see the Mead Hall as as his ultimate amenity. Regularly attacking it, he pruned the heads off the bravest Danish Soldiers. Not until Beowolf came along from Sweden and ripped Grendel's arm off and killed his mother, did things return to normal.
So yesterday, when the news broke that the City was slinking off in defeat, one of our many bloggers, crowed, "City Hall staff hear the community & quash Harwood's proposed rezoning of the Stongs site on Dunbar"
Not since the first of 30 platoons of defending Danes were dismembered by Grendel, has anyone so underestimated an opponent's prowess.
The CBC reported that Planner, Brian Jackson, explained, "The planning department found the proposal did not meet city regulations."
Of course they didn't. The statement is a truism. Rezoning by its nature is a change of regulations.
He continued, "If this would have been rental housing on top of Stong's, there would have been rental policy that would have allowed us to consider a building of six stories. But the applicant was proposing condominiums on top of Stong's".
What did the planner, mean by the word "regulations?" Some of the residents of the Dunbar shire assumed he was referring to the "Dunbar Vision Document." That document was the result of a process initiated many years ago by the Planning Department that took a long time to complete but which was never enacted as an Official Development Plan ("ODP"). An ODP does not effect a change in zoning but it does require that if a zoning bylaw is changed, the change must be consistent with the plan.
So what! The Sermon on the Mount was never enacted either.
To truly understand Dunbar you must read more than just Beowolf. You should also watch the film Galaxy Quest. An ancient civilization of octopus people on the other side of the universe started receiving broadcasts of Star Trek. The shows became known to the Octopusians as the Historical Documents and shaped every detail of that civilization including their motto, "Never Give up, Never Surrender."
Gilligan's Island was another important historical document.
The Dunbar Vision is like the "Historical Documents." It is kept alive by devoted residents who never give up and never surrender.
Now, Vancouver's Planner knows perfectly well that the DUNBAR VISION is not an Official Development Plan. If it were, then a zoning amendment would have to be consistent with it. It is, however a historical document. It lives in the hearts of all Dunbarians. The fact that it is old, has no legal status and has not yet been set to music, is of no import.
If we carefully parse the words of the Planner, "If there was rental housing on top of Stongs *** six stories...but the Developer was proposing Condominiums."
The Developer is being invited to modify his plans to supply rental housing.
What about the money that the City gets when it rezones the land to CD-1 in the form of amenity charges? Will it have to give that up?
Of course not. It will ditch the hated CD zone. It will replace it with a new zone called C2-Stongs - a variation on C-2 adjusted for Dunbar because we are special. Each neighborhood in Vancouver will get the same kind of variations in their C-2 zones. The amenity charges will be even higher because construction costs for rentals are likely to be cheaper than for condo's.
Who will live in the rental units? That depends on how affordable they are. Councilor Jang has already defined affordability as whatever people can afford. He will work it out. Whatever!
They are on to a good thing. The next phase will likely be to ban cars on streets in front of your home if you agree to take in boarders.