Dear Mayor and City Councilors
We are the Cedar Cottage Area Neighbours (CCAN), we are 81 strong. We are sending this as an open letter which we will post to the CCAN website.
A number of our members have alerted us to the fact that the developer Cressey, when relocating a “heritage” house from 3365 Commercial Drive to 1705 East 18th Avenue, created a severe drop in elevation between a neighbouring property and this relocated house. They did this in order to convert what was a basement in the original house into an additional storey.
When the City Planner, Berg Balantzyan saw what the developer had done he simply rubber-stamped it. How is it possible that our very well educated, highly paid Planners in the Vancouver Planning Department can possibly think that creating a 13-foot drop in elevation between adjacent properties is acceptable, much less ‘good planning’? This is what happened at 1705 East 18th Avenue, The Conrad project at Commercial Drive and East 18th Avenue.
Are citizens to expect from now on that developers will be permitted to dig down, creating huge drops in elevation with neighbouring properties, so they can add extra storeys that are not part of the original rezoning? We are very concerned about the way the City of Vancouver Planning Department conducts itself.
It was alarming enough to learn that The Director of Planning, unbeknownst to citizens, makes changes to developments on the fly under the cover of “discretion”. Now we find that developers make major changes to what was originally approved, and planners just approve them, regardless of the impact on neighbours.
The Planning Department does not follow its own guidelines, bulletins, policies or Community Plans when reviewing development plans. Why is that; do they feel they know better than the approved policies of City Council?
Why is the Vancouver Planning Department so protective of their development documents?
Why does a property owner who is adversely affected by a new development have to pay hundreds of dollars through an FOI and then only receive a bit of information about changes in the development post public hearing?
Why does this Mayor and City Council think so many citizens have lost confidence in the Vancouver Planning Department? Could the reason be that the Vancouver Planning Department changes developments after the public hearing and behind doors closed to public scrutiny? Are there not enough checks and balances done during the rezoning / development permit process?
As you can see, we have many unanswered questions and frustrations about how the Vancouver Planning Department conducts itself.
We members of CCAN, believe there is a need for change in the way the Vancouver Planning Department is run. We request that there be a Development and Planning Ombudsman’s office dedicated to giving non-development industry citizens an objective ear to listen to and help resolve their concerns about developments. Dealing directly with the same department that is making these controversial development decisions is futile, because they simply defend whatever they do.
In the meantime, the owner of the property next to this project, a CCAN member, needs some resolution from you to this unsightly, unsafe sheer 13-foot drop in elevation the City has allowed the developer to create beside her property. If you doubt that this drop is unsafe, we can provide pictures from Saturday of children playing on the top of this retaining wall, running back and forth, with no railing, over a 13 foot drop to concrete below.
Mr. B. Straten, Secretary
On behalf of CCAN members (Cedar Cottage Area Neighbours)