NPA Vancouver’s George Affleck calls for review of the City’s Granville Entertainment District policies

The NPA reaffirms its commitment to bring forward and support policies and strategies that shape and deliver vibrant public spaces in the downtown and across every neighbourhood in the city.

February 15, 2018, Vancouver, B.C. – NPA Vancouver City Councillor George Affleck is calling for a review of the City’s policies relating to the Granville Entertainment District. At next week’s City Council meeting, Affleck will introduce a motion asking for staff to assess the effectiveness of the City’s existing policies in reducing street disorder, reducing gender-based violence, and improving business in the Granville Entertainment District.

Affleck’s motion echoes a previous motion he brought forward 4-1/2 years ago in July 2013 entitled “Review and Enhancement of Granville Entertainment District” and it follows the recent death of Kalwinder Thind who was fatally stabbed outside a downtown nightclub at the end of January.

“Four and half years ago I brought forward a motion calling for consultation with the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, and other stakeholders, and an update on the Granville Entertainment District. My intent was to have Council address the issues we continue to see in this area of the downtown,” said Affleck. “The Vision majority on Council sidelined my Granville Entertainment District motion in 2013, and now, four and a half years later, we’re no further ahead than we were back then. It’s very discouraging and unacceptable that nothing has changed.”

The minutes of the July 9, 2013, Council meeting indicate that Affleck’s 2013 motion was referred to staff with direction to prepare a memorandum for Council reviewing the process by which a design team was selected to create the “$21-million, national award-winning Granville Entertainment District.” The referral motion also specified that the memorandum should include information relating to the cost of construction and any feedback received from stakeholders regarding the redesigned street.

The referral of Affleck’s motion in 2013 was moved by Vision Councillor Heather Deal and seconded by Vision Councillor Louie.

NPA Vancouver Councillors George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball, and Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr, all voted against Councillor Deal’s referral motion.

In addition to calling for a review of current City policies relating to the Granville Entertainment District, including recommendations relating to the parking and transit situation on the street, and options for enhancing the dining and live music experience on the street, Affleck’s new motion calls for Council:

  • to direct staff to work with the Vancouver Police Department, Bar Watch, and other relevant stakeholders to determine the viability, budget, and timeframe for reactivation of the Street Surveillance Camera Network
  • to call on the Provincial Government to join the City of Vancouver, relevant stakeholders, and the transportation industry (i.e., taxi, limousine, transit) to develop a targeted strategy to provide better transportation services unique to the Granville Entertainment District – a high need area of the city
  • to direct staff to review the possibility of allowing later hours for the Granville Entertainment District to smooth out closing times of various establishments rather than requiring entertainment district businesses to adhere to policies which unnecessarily, and adversely, affect these businesses and in turn unnecessarily, and adversely, affect Vancouver’s reputation as a robust tourism and hospitality destination
  • to direct staff to consult with the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame (which has invested over $300,000 for bronze plaques up and down Granville Street), Entertainment Producers, Vancouver Civic Theatres (such as the Orpheum which fronts onto Granville Street), and the City Archives regarding the issues evident in the Granville Entertainment District and to include these stakeholders in all future matters and consultations pertaining to the Granville Entertainment District.

The City of Vancouver’s stated strategy for the city’s downtown is “to shape and deliver vibrant public spaces.” The City’s website further states that Vancouver’s public spaces – our plazas, squares, streets, laneways, pathways, and waterfront – are where people connect with the city, and with each other; where public life happens and community is created.

The NPA is firmly committed to bringing forward, and supporting, policies and strategies that shape and deliver vibrant public spaces in the downtown and in every neighbourhood across the city.

A preview of the text of Councillor Affleck’s motion is appended at the end of this media release.

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For more information please email media@npavancouver.ca

MOTION – Upgrading, Reviewing and Revising the Granville Entertainment District

MOVER: Councillor Affleck
SECONDER: Councillor Bremner

WHEREAS

1. Vancouver’s public spaces – our plazas, squares, streets, laneways, pathways, and waterfront – are where public life happens and where community is created – spaces where we connect with the city and with each other;

2. “Places for People Downtown” seeks to create a strategy to shape and deliver vibrant public spaces in downtown Vancouver;

3. At the Tuesday, July 9, 2013 Regular Council Meeting, Councillor George Affleck introduced a motion entitled “Review and Enhancement of Granville Entertainment District”;

4. Councillor Affleck’s motion called for City staff to consult with the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and other pertinent stakeholders to provide an update on the Granville Entertainment District with a view to:

  • Reviewing the parking situation on the street;
  • Providing options for enhancing the dining experience on the street, including allowing greater use of the street for outdoor dining by neighboring food establishments;
  • Reviewing other potential upgrades and opportunities for the area

5. Councillor Affleck’s July 9, 2013 motion was referred to staff with direction to provide a memorandum to Council reviewing the process used to select a design team to create the $21-million, national award-winning Granville Entertainment District, the cost of construction and any feedback received from stakeholders regarding the redesigned street (referral moved by Councillor Deal; seconded by Councillor Louie – opposed by Councillors Affleck, Ball, and Carr);

6. A records search conducted by City staff for the memorandum to Council noted above in WHEREAS clause No. 3 failed to locate any follow up memorandum to Council reviewing the process used to select a design team to create the $21-million, national award-winning Granville Entertainment District, the cost of construction, or any feedback received from stakeholders regarding the redesigned street;

7. At the Wednesday, June 14, 2017, meeting of the Standing Committee of Council on City Finance and Services, City staff presented Liquor Policy Review recommendations to Council, including a recommendation to adopt and implement adjustments for the Granville Street/Granville Entertainment District “to reduce problems”;

8. The City Finance and Services Committee heard from four speakers at the Wednesday, June 14, 2017, meeting in support of the report and 16 speakers who were either in opposition or expressed concerns regarding specific aspects of the report;

9. Councillor Carr offered an amendment at the June 14, 2017 committee meeting whereby the recommendations referencing the Granville Entertainment District and the Downtown Eastside in recommendations E.19, and I.27, on pages 13 to 14 of the Policy Report dated June 7, 2017, entitled “Liquor Policy Review – Recommended Actions”, be removed, and be referred to a working group of key stakeholders noted elsewhere in the staff recommendations;

10. Vote No. 02024 records that Councillors Deal, Jang, Louie, Meggs, Reimer, Stevenson and Mayor Robertson opposed Councillor Carr’s June 14, 2017 amendment relating to the Granville Entertainment District and the Downtown Eastside and the amendment did not carry;

11. A recommendation, contained in the staff report presented to Council on June 14, 2017 (i.e., “Liquor Policy Review – Recommended Actions”), to direct City staff to establish a working group of key stakeholders in the Granville Entertainment District, including local bars and restaurants, Bar Watch, the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, Vancouver Police Department, Vancouver Coastal Health and community organizations, including women’s organizations, to improve consultation and co-ordination of efforts to reduce street disorder and gender-based violence, and to improve business in the area carried unanimously (Vote No. 02027);

12. Events of recent days underscore the fact that violent crime continues to be a persistent issue on Granville Street and it is time to change how the Granville Entertainment District operates to make it a safer place for people late at night.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED

A. THAT Vancouver City Council direct staff to review current City policies relating to the Granville Entertainment District to assess the effectiveness of these policies in reducing street disorder, reducing gender-based violence, and improving business in the area, and provide recommendations relating to (but not limited to):

  • A review of the parking and transit situation on the street;
  • Options for enhancing the dining and live music experience on the street, including allowing greater use of the street for outdoor patio dining by neighboring food establishments
  • A review of other potential upgrades and opportunities for the area

B. THAT Vancouver City Council direct staff to work with the Vancouver Police Department, Bar Watch, and other relevant stakeholders to determine the viability, budget, and timeframe for reactivation of the Street Surveillance Camera Network; and

C. THAT the City of Vancouver call on the Provincial Government to join the City of Vancouver, relevant stakeholders, and the transportation industry (i.e., taxi, limousine, transit) to develop a targeted strategy to provide better transportation services unique to the Granville Entertainment District as a high need area of the city; and

D. THAT Vancouver City Council direct staff to review the possibility of allowing later hours for the Granville Entertainment District to smooth out closing times of various establishments rather than requiring entertainment district businesses to adhere to policies which unnecessarily, and adversely, affect these businesses and in turn unnecessarily, and adversely, affect Vancouver’s reputation as a robust tourism and hospitality destination; and

E. THAT Vancouver City Council direct staff to consult with the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame (which has invested over $300,000 for bronze plaques up and down Granville Street), Entertainment Producers, Vancouver Civic Theatres (such as the Orpheum which fronts onto Granville Street), and the City Archives regarding the manifest issues evident in the Granville Entertainment District and to include these stakeholders in all future matters and consultations pertaining to the Granville Entertainment District.

 

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Building the new NPA: an open call for Mayoral Candidates

Vancouver, B.C., January 30, 2018 – Today, the NPA officially launches an open nomination process to seek out a mayoral candidate to lead the party into this fall’s municipal election. NPA President Gregory Baker says the NPA wants to provide a long runway between the announcement of the mayoral nomination contest and the nomination meeting itself in order to attract as many strong candidates as possible. The ideal candidate leads change, builds consensus, and bridges differences.

Baker says the NPA’s mayoral nomination contest will be an opportunity for potential candidates to share their ideas. It will also provide an opportunity for the NPA to reflect and build on the important contributions the party has made in shaping the city over the past 80 years.

“We’re making every effort to improve diversity in our candidate selection by reaching out to a wider group of Vancouver residents. We want to get it right and have the best candidate represent a new, revitalized NPA,” said Baker. “The people of Vancouver deserve a leader who champions the interests of all its citizens, not just a handful of special interest groups.”

Baker says the NPA is looking to broaden its relevance given the changing political landscape: “The electorate has changed and there are new challenges to address; the NPA has to move with the times. We have a new provincial government, and with so many current members of Council not running again in 2018, we’re looking at a substantially new City Council. It’s a great opportunity for the NPA to rebuild and renew.”

Those who may be interested in exploring the NPA mayoral nomination can contact the NPA by phone at 604-637-7951, by email at info@npavancouver.ca, on Twitter @npavancouver, or through Facebook at facebook.com/npavancouver/. Prospective mayoral candidates can request an application package by emailing candidates@npavancouver.ca.

A candidate selection committee will be established to review applications and interview prospective candidates. The Committee’s recommendations will then be brought forward to the Association’s members at a nomination meeting sometime in the spring.

The process for selecting NPA candidates for City Councillor, Park Board Commissioner, and School Trustee will be announced at a later date. Those interested in these positions are encouraged to contact the NPA as noted above.

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Media please call NPA President Gregory Baker at 604-637-7951 or email media@npavancouver.ca.

Keep city councillors accountable to Vancouverites

The following opinion piece was published in the Vancouver Sun on May 15, 2017.

Not so fast. That’s my message to Vancouver city council, preparing to consider a measure next week that would shift responsibility from elected representatives and onto city staff for the making of potentially disruptive decisions affecting road use.

Vancouver happens to be one of the most densely populated, traffic-choked jurisdictions on the continent. The public these days has every right to be concerned about the adjustments that are being made continually to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, transit-users, the disabled and motorists.

Yet, councillors are poised to consider a report Tuesday that seeks changes to the Street and Traffic Bylaw that would transfer important decisions into the hands of city engineers. Decisions such as removing traffic lanes or parking spaces to make room for wider sidewalks or bicycling infrastructure.

Vancouverites elect city representatives to oversee such matters for good reason. Councillors, unlike city staff, are directly accountable to members of the public. They know that, to remain in office, they must make decisions that reflect the views of their constituents.

Further, their decisions are open to public scrutiny, discussed and debated at open council meetings, not in cloistered back offices away from public scrutiny.

Vancouverites care deeply about how their city streets are used. Who can forget the fury of some Vancouverites several years ago over a city decision to block car access along Point Grey Road or the ire of business owners whenever adjustments are made along Commercial Drive, a popular and heavily used artery in Vancouver.

Even the smallest changes can damage business interests and greatly impact motorists trying to get to and from work. Indeed these days many motorists, undertaking necessary commutes, feel their needs are being forsaken in the interests of those who pedal to their destinations. And business owners are rightly riled when disruptions stemming from road improvements disrupt the running of their businesses.

Judgments about balancing the interests of these various groups, no matter how small the issue, should be in the hands of city councillors, not bureaucrats.

A city report to council is arguing that existing traffic-bylaw provisions need updating, to better reflect a modern era in which Vancouver is no longer as car-centric as it once was.

And, it asserts that it would be more efficient to allow city engineers to make their own decisions about small improvements to local streets rather than having to seek council approval, and the often messy public consultations that accompany these decisions. The report offers assurances that large-scale and controversial projects would continue to be directed to council.

Specifically, the bylaw amendments being sought would give the city engineer authority to reallocate public rights of way, divert motor traffic from streets and reroute transit routes onto different streets with TransLink support.

The problem, of course, is that in the current era no reallocations and diversions imposed on Vancouver’s heavily used streets and sidewalks are equally distributed in their implications for members of the community.

All such adjustments appropriately require the scrutiny of councillors who remain directly answerable to the cyclists, transit-users, pedestrians and motorists using the streets.

And problematically, the determination of which projects would be decided privately and which are significant enough to warrant councillor input would rest in the hands of the bureaucrats rather than folks who are publicly accountable.

What this change would mean is that Vision Vancouver members never again would have to publicly defend their decisions about creating bike lanes.

And this matter raises a further concern. If decision-making on transportation issues can be taken privately, in the interest of avoiding public scrutiny, will such a strategy be used elsewhere by the city?

I also believe that input from the public, especially during council deliberations, is a very necessary part of the decision-making process. This bylaw change seems to negate that fact entirely.

I firmly believe the buck stops with city council. When we start circumventing that process, we are in big trouble.

George Affleck is a Vancouver city councillor with the Non-Partisan Association.

Open Letter from Former NPA School Trustees

On October 17th, 2016, we publicly raised concerns about the work environment at the Vancouver School Board. Our concerns and other allegations of wrongdoing resulted in the commissioning of the Goldner Report, an internal Vancouver School Board report that an independent expert was retained to investigate and prepare as per School District #39 (Vancouver) Harassment in the Workplace Policy. On March 7th, the Vancouver School Board released the redacted confidential version of the report.

The School Board’s primary mandate is to facilitate the effective teaching and learning of students. As trustees, we always respected the sound advice and well-considered recommendations provided by our senior staff. Senior staff, the education experts whose expertise and experience are essential, need to have a healthy environment to ensure the proper functioning of the school district.

The Goldner Report confirms the public statement the former NPA School Trustees made in their October 17, 2016 release calling for action to end the toxic dysfunction at the Vancouver School Board. To question the validity of the report is not helpful in moving forward to ensuring that our education experts have a healthy place to work for the betterment of all students in Vancouver.

While the Goldner Report identifies and confirms the issue that we raised, WorkSafeBC, who has the broader mandate to make specific recommendations, still has to issue its report on bullying and harassment.

This has been a difficult time for all of us. We look forward to learning about the recommendations of the WorkSafeBC report and how they will be implemented for the good of the Vancouver School Board staff and all of the students.

Sincerely,

Fraser Ballantyne
Penny Noble
Christopher Richardson
Stacy Robertson

NPA Park Board Commissioners Standing Up for Safety at Community Centres

Vancouver Park Board Commissioners Casey Crawford, John Coupar and Sarah Kirby-Yung have called for a Special Park Board Meeting to address safety concerns related to the use of Park Board operated community centres as warming centres by the City of Vancouver.

Sarah Kirby-Yung will bring forward a motion in response to the concerns of parents regarding safe access to community centres used as warming shelters.

Commissioner Kirby-Yung says “We appreciate the need to provide additional cold weather shelter relief for those in need. At the same time, Park Board facilities and staff are there to provide recreation services, and safety for patrons has to come first.”

Commissioners are concerned that neither staff nor the facilities are equipped to support the homeless at this time while ensuring the community safe access to our facilities. “Parents are sounding the alarm and saying they no longer feel comfortable going to centres like Creekside Community Centre,” said Kirby-Yung.

The City shut down Creekside Community Centre as a warming centre immediately following the incident of a child being exposed to a used hypodermic needle. The West End Community Centre warming centre was shut January 11 in response to safety and security concerns from the community centre association.

NPA Commissioners are deeply concerned about the chronic and growing homeless issue in Vancouver. They are also committed to delivering on Park Board’s mandate and ensuring safe and comfortable use of community centres for Vancouver residents, including families, young children and seniors. The recent warming centre trial at community centres resulted in the dumping of needles and drug paraphernalia within public spaces.

The Special Park Board Meeting will be held this evening, January 12 at 7:00 pm at the Park Board office at 2099 Beach Avenue. Interested parties can speak by registering before 12:00 PM today, the day of the scheduled meeting.

Register to speak at http://vancouver.ca/your-government/speak-at-a-meeting.aspx or sign up by phoning the Park Board’s Meeting Information Line at 604-257-8158. You can also email your comments to pbcommissioners@vancouver.ca

Opinion: Vision’s spendthrift ways are making Vancouver more expensive

Okay, everyone, hold on to your party hats. It’s that time of the year again. No, I don’t mean your plans for New Year’s Eve. I mean the City of Vancouver’s annual operating and capital budget.

Yes, that’s right, the most under-reported, least-interesting, pre-Christmas financial juggernaut that has, in fact, become one of the many reasons Vancouver is so unaffordable and, if properly analyzed, would demonstrate clearly that Vision Vancouver and Mayor Gregor Robertson are short-sighted, out-of-control spendthrifts when it comes to managing your tax dollars.

I have voted against every single operating budget since being elected in 2011. People may say, “Well, George, you are just doing what opposition politicians do.” But no, that’s not the case. I understand the importance of social responsibility and the many issues Vancouverites hold dear, including how we might build, with partners, truly affordable housing.

But we can’t bankrupt the city in the process. We need to make balanced decisions.

Let me simply put the math on the table. Don’t be afraid. It won’t hurt (well, it won’t hurt much … bear with me).

This year, we will see one of the highest property tax increases in Vision’s eight-year reign of error: A 3.4-per-cent increase for residents, plus, averaged out, another 1.2 per cent increase in various fees, including water, sewer, and solid waste — the big three. That works out to a total tax increase of 4.6 per cent, more than twice the current rate of inflation.

If you look back a little over 10 years ago to 2005, the city’s Annual Financial Report (the only place you can find anything close to line item budget info from City Hall these days) shows that Vancouver taxpayers handed over a combined total of $622 million to the city in property taxes and related penalties and utility fees. That money paid for roughly 75 per cent of the city’s operating expenses.

Now, jump ahead 10 years to 2015 and look at those same four budget items: property taxes and utility fees (water, sewer and garbage). The total take is $937 million. Nearly a billion dollars to pay for roughly 75 per cent of the city’s operating expenses!

When you compare 2005 to 2015, it works out to a total revenue increase from property taxes and utility fees of $315 million. If you convert the 2005 numbers into today’s dollars, you will discover that it works out to a 30-per-cent increase in tax and fee revenue for the city in just 10 years.

Now, the mayor and Vision might argue that this revenue increase is justified because of population increase. This is patently untrue.

The population of Vancouver has only gone up by 10 per cent in the same 10-year period. This means revenue from property taxes and utility fees has outstripped population growth by a factor of three to one.

Sadly, amid all this talk about affordability — mostly related to the housing market — there is one thing that we as a city council can control: spending. But Vision has clearly not controlled spending and they show no interest in ever doing so.

With taxes and fees increasing 30 per cent over a 10-year period (or three times the rate of population growth), it has indisputably contributed to making Vancouver a far more expensive place to live than ever before.

So, on Dec. 13, when the vote comes down on the budget and I, as usual, vote against it, don’t mark it up to George just being George. No, we need to get our house in order at City Hall. For too long Vision has treated the taxpayers of Vancouver as complacent writers of blank cheques.

We can no longer accept this annual dip into our wallets with blank stares. Money matters. The buck-taking has to stop somewhere. And there is no better time than now, this year, maybe even today.

George Affleck is a Non-Partisan Association Vancouver city councillor.

Published in the Vancouver Sun on December 1, 2016

NPA Councillor Ball defends access to parking in West 10th Medical Precinct

Vancouver, B.C., October 31, 2016 – Vancouver City Councillor Elizabeth Ball will bring forward a motion to City Council on Wednesday November 2 at 9:30 am from the Seniors Advisory Committee regarding access to the West 10th Medical Precinct.

Councillor Ball says “Patients, caregivers and seniors with critical health care and treatment needs are begging that access to hugely important street parking remain available on West 10th Avenue behind Vancouver General Hospital.”

West 10th Avenue is home to the British Columbia Cancer Agency, the VGH Eye Care Centre, the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, the Mary Pack Arthritis Centre and many other critical services.

The City is considering installing separated bike lines along this busy and much needed corridor that includes the entrance to VGH Emergency Care. The suggestion has been made that 77 much needed parking spaces will be removed, making life even more difficult for suffering patients.

Patients and caregivers are pleading for priority access on this busy stretch of road that is also the access road for delivery and services.

The entire NPA Caucus supports seniors’ needs in our community. Councillor Melissa De Genova will second the motion.

NPA Councillors disappointed by decision to politicize Vancouver neighbourhoods

Vancouver, B.C., October 19, 2016 – NPA Councillors are baffled by Vision Vancouver’s decision to assign two Councillors to each of Vancouver’s twenty-two neighbourhoods. Vancouver has an at-large system that allows voters to choose 10 Councillors citywide to represent them.

Councillor Melissa De Genova is concerned by the process and the lack of answers from the Mayor with regards to the way he chose individual Councillors for liaison positions. “Nothing about this process is fair and it is the neighbourhoods that lose out. This is Vision Vancouver’s attempt at a mini-ward system. At least with a ward system the electorate gets a choice. Today, Vision made that choice for Vancouver voters” said De Genova.

De Genova holds the opinion that this is politically motivated. “It might have been more fair if he had picked names from a hat. When I asked the Mayor what metrics he used to place Councillors, he admitted that there were none. He could have used highest votes and election data, or assigning Councillors with fewer responsibilities to a greater number of neighbourhoods or the most densely populated areas, instead he assigned a Vision Councillor to every neighbourhood.”

All three NPA Councillors voted against Vision Vancouver’s motion on January 20, 2016 to assign neighbourhood liaison positions to Councillors. “Vancouverites have voted firmly against Wards. This form of ward-lite as an early campaign exercise is both inefficient and confusing to the public” stated Councillor Elizabeth Ball.

“I stand by my opinion that we were elected to represent Vancouver at large. I will continue to do that and attend any specific residents’ needs whether I’m a liaison in that neighbourhood or not” Said Councillor George Affleck.

NPA Councillors are committed to representing all Vancouver residents equally and will continue to respond to correspondence, issues and concerns from Vancouver residents and voters citywide.

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