Big Changes. Not A “Minor Amendment”

Why is the City of Vancouver considering the construction of a massive concrete structure in a residential neighbourhood to be a “Minor Amendment” to a previously approved development application? The original application did not include a large, sunken, concrete structure with the capacity for 700+ people and an artificial turf field. Shouldn’t the construction of such a large, private, sports facility (in a residential neighbourhood) require a completely new application, if this massive concrete structure was not part of the original application?

Effects on the Neighbourhood – Parking and Traffic

The private sports stadium that the City of Vancouver is being asked to approve is a large concrete and artificial turf sports venue that has a stated seating capacity of 700+. Has the city done an assessment on the impacts of traffic and parking in this residential neighbourhood based on the actual capacity of the private venue that is being proposed, or is it basing its decisions on the “estimated attendance” that has been provided in the traffic assessment submitted by the applicant? A private venue of this capacity should be subject to the same assessment standards as a theatre, concert hall or nightclub. Shouldn’t it be granted approval based on its actual capacity, as opposed to an estimate of potential attendance that has been supplied by the applicant? Why does the traffic assessment submitted by the applicant not include any reference to the potential impacts of the actual, stated capacity of the venue that they are seeking approval for?

Public Safety issues – First responders delayed

There is a Fire Station that will be directly affected by the increased flow and density of traffic brought to the neighbourhood by this private facility. It is a matter of public safety that these first responders have immediate and unobstructed access to Renfrew Street at all times. Any increase in traffic or potential obstruction puts members of the public at risk, and is completely unacceptable.

It would be both reckless and irresponsible of the City of Vancouver to approve the construction of this private facility if the ability of first responders to respond to matters of public safety is hindered in any way. With a stated venue capacity of 700+ people, this would seem to be an obvious problem in approving a project of this nature, and would put public safety at risk if this application were to be approved.

Potential flooding, Property values

We know that there are underground waterways that flow beneath the field where this development is being proposed. Has the city done any environmental impact studies to determine how this massive, sunken, concrete structure, the concrete retaining wall, and the removal of the established soil base will affect potential flooding and water flow patterns in the surrounding residential neighbourhood? If not, why has this not been investigated? Any change in groundwater distribution/flooding patterns has the potential to negatively affect property values for homeowners in the surrounding area. The change in the permit application – from a grass field to a concrete stadium – has significant financial ramifications to property owners and taxpayers in the surrounding area. Why is this not being addressed?

Potential Wildlife/Environmental Impacts

Has the City done any environmental impact studies on whether or not the artificial turf that is being proposed by the applicant contains any pollutants that will leak into the groundwater? Are there any health risks to members of the public? If there have been no impact studies to determine this, it would seem like a responsible course of action for the city to do study this before approving the application.

Has the city done any impact studies on how the construction of this facility will affect established botanical/wildlife/bird habitat in the neighbourhood? If not, why has this not been addressed as part the public consultation process before moving forward with such an enormous project?

Please come to the Open House at Notre Dame and ask City Staff if any of these issues have been addressed. Please share any other concerns you have as well, and send them to us. Our email address is: notredameneighbours@gmail.com

The Open House is tomorrow, 3 April 2019, from 4:00 am to 7:00 pm. It’s not a public meeting – there won’t be an open mic – but you’ll be able to speak to representatives from the City of Vancouver.

Biased Traffic Study Not Good Enough

Open Letter to the City of Vancouver

Thank-you for forwarding the new information regarding the updated traffic study and tree assessment.
Some comments on the traffic study:

The introductory sentence says it all – “As requested, Bunt & Associates (Bunt) has prepared this letter report to support the construction of a new playfield, spectator seating and parking lot at Notre Dame Regional Secondary School in the City of Vancouver.”

It is clear that the sole purpose of this incredibly weak and biased “study” is, as defined above, to support the school’s proposed plans.

The recording of traffic on a normal school day is completely irrelevant to the potential impact of the proposed McCarthy Stadium. The study also claims to have monitored an “event” when 200 people came to an AGM. No significant parking or traffic concerns were noted. A more representative event might have been the open house for prospective parents on Jan 17 when the Notre Dame parking lot was completely full and overflow cars were parked in fire hydrant zones, private driveways and sticking into intersections. City traffic enforcement staff had to ticket and tow several vehicles that night.

Future stadium events have the potential to be far more disruptive.

The study takes Notre Dame’s word that this multi-million dollar facility, with 740 stadium seats and capacity for over 1000 more (as per Notre Dame’s own press release) will be used only a few times a week for practice and a small number of games, with anticipated audiences of 40-80.

Traffic assessment needs to be done on the actual capacity of the venue being studied, not on the extremely low estimate given by the school on the projected attendance/traffic generated.

The school has always sought ways to bring in revenue by renting out its facilities to third parties —from bingo nights in the 90’s, to renting the parking lot out to school buses and PNE parking, to the current rental of the gymnasium for non-school events.

It is only a matter of common sense to predict that, having spent millions on this new stadium, Notre Dame will attempt to use it as a revenue source.

If the school insists that the stadium will not be rented out, they should sign a binding covenant to that effect. Perhaps the City could facilitate such a document.

Neighbourhood Density

The new traffic study makes this inaccurate statement (2.1.1, second bullet):
the immediate neighbourhood has not materially changed from what was present in 2007; “

Since 2007, like most Vancouver neighbourhoods, we have seen a big increase in densification as people seek to make city living affordable. Laneway houses and multi-suite houses are now replacing singly family dwellings.

Two examples of local changes since 2007:

On the SW corner of the Notre Dame campus there used to be a double lot with a bungalow and one occupant. The same lot now holds two multi-suite houses and two laneway homes, multiplying the density by x6 at a bare minimum.

Similarly, on the NE side of the campus another single family house on a double lot has been replaced by two sets of multi-suite and laneway homes.

These are only two examples of recent developments in the area. It is a neighbourhood- and city-wide trend that is only likely to increase in future.

New Parking Lot

It is ridiculous to project that the reduction in parking lot size from 98 spots to 68 will not cause problems, even on a regular school day, let alone during events.

Not only will the number of parking lot spaces be greatly reduced, there will also be no street parking at the SW corner of the campus where the entrance and exit to the new lot will be. This corner, you may remember, is where the two new multi-suite houses and laneways are located, and that stretch of Parker Street is heavily used by those residents for parking.

Field Lights

The traffic study mentions at least twice that no field lights are included in the current permit amendment and on the stadium drawing included with the traffic plan there are indeed no signs of light stands.

However, light stands are clearly visible on the official permit application drawing on the City Permit web site, so we assume that these are part of the official permit amendment request.

While the school may not be requesting field lights at this point, it seems that they are putting in infrastructure so it will be easy to flip that switch via another “minor permit amendment” — once the dust from this one has settled. Eventually, lights will bring even more traffic and parking issues to our neighbourhood.

Firehall No. 14


Cars parked in the No Stopping Zone in front of Firehall #14

From page 7-8, 2.2, Bunt & Associates

“There is a No Stopping zone in front of the fire hall and its driveways. In addition, traffic cones were noted to be deployed along the curb (see Figure 3). Nonetheless, motorists were observed to stop (and sometimes wait) in this No Stopping zone in order to drop-off and/or pick-up students. Additional signage (engineering), reminders to parents by the school (education) and the issuing of tickets for parking violations (enforcement) should further discourage people from stopping and/or parking in front of Fire Hall No. 14 and its driveway. In 2007-2008, Engine 14 responded to an average of 1482 calls per year or four calls per day.1 Engine 14 would most likely respond to a call by turning right on Venables Street towards Renfrew Street and driving past the school’s main entrance and primary pick-up/drop-off area. Should Engine 14 need to respond to a call when students are being dropped off or picked up and Venables Street was blocked by cars parking, the engine may need to turn left and circle the block counter clockwise to reach Renfrew Street. The peak school drop-off times are from 8–8:30 a.m. while peak pick-up times are from 2:45-3:15 p.m.”

So, from this part of the study we learn that Notre Dame parents will ignore (a) common sense and (b) parking cones, in order to persist in parking in a firehall “No Stopping” zone.

Signs, fines and school announcements may or may not solve that particular problem.

The firehall situation neatly sums up the “drive through” attitude displayed by school parents/visitors. Imagine this problem multiplied by sports crowds (school or otherwise) looking for parking and dropping off/picking up players on weekends/evenings/holidays.

The fact that the traffic study is quite sanguine about the fact that a fire engine on a life-saving mission may have to “turn left and circle back counter clockwise” to get to Renfrew is somewhat breathtaking, and indicative of a failure to see beyond school’s convenience.

We hope that these comments and observations will be taken into account and will encourage a far more extensive and realistic study into the impact of McCarthy Stadium before any permit amendment is granted.

A first step to doing this would be to acquire an accurate assessment of the potential use and volume of traffic to be generated by the stadium — one based on reality and not the unrealistic estimates currently being put forward by Notre Dame.

Yours truly, Notre Dame Neighbours

WHAT YOU CAN DO

To pass on any of these, or your own, comments about parking and traffic concerns surrounding the proposed McCarthy Stadium, write to andrew.wroblewski@vancouver.ca and/or gil.kelley@vancouver.ca
You can also write to Vancouver’s Mayor and City Council.