North Vancouver NIMBY’s, playing politics and taking control

A few days ago I posted about the proposed development by Onni Group at the corner of Lonsdale and 13th in North Vancouver. I’ve received a lot of feedback on this piece, some positive, some negative but the most interesting Information I’ve received was a string of emails between a group of people who oppose the project and have thought of some creative ways to push their addenda within North Van city council.

Density is alive and well in North Vancouver
Density is alive and well in North Vancouver

These emails are between a group of people that call themselves “North Vancouver City Voices”. What started as a small community group of concerned citizens has turned into a full blown lobbyist group complete with plans to “shape city council” and “own council” to push their own agenda. The following emails were brought to the attention of Beau Jarvis who is Vice President of Development for the Onni Group. They were then forwarded to me by someone who shares my view on this issue.

The first email is fairly harmless, it’s the response that is shocking.

“Hi everyone,

I’ve only addressed people who have been participating in the back and forth to date.  We need to do something now and seem to be going round and round trying to come up with a plan.  The question is what to do – are we strong enough (or could we be) to rally people and:

-collect $$ and place either
-letter to editor, copy Council
-insert a flyer to the paper (Joan has checked prices, basically $60 per 1,000 plus printing)
-get a petition going (difficulty wording with so many issues)
-appear as a delegation

Personally, I think the major issue once again is the process and the fact that the City is being hijacked by developers/unions/ school boards etc.  A good start to the wording is Valerie’s:

The CityShaping event was presented as another opportunity for voters to register what we feel about the future development of our city when in fact it was another exercise to give the impression that we are actually part of a decision-making process.

The new OCP (Official Community Plan) is already decided I fear and if we don’t do something publicly before the next “event” on March 10th there may be  no point.    Surely the Councillors are getting feedback and if we can come up with a group name and contact they could refer people to us.   Thoughts?


And the response, I’ll highlight the parts that concern me in red.

“Hi everyone,

I am impressed by the number of people contributing to the email thread expressing concern about the City Shaping workshop. I count 20 to 25 names on the various emails. The suggestions about how we effect change in the current process are getting to be quite good.

Unfortunately, I think that if we pursue a public process of ads, mass meetings, etc., because of public apathy and because the other side will be turning out their supporters, we will face real challenges in getting enough people involved at this time to be a credible voice for change… especially with Mussatto, Keating and Buchanan (hereafter MKB for short).

I could be wrong on this, but I do believe it will be an uphill fight to get enough people engaged to make Council listen right now. More importantly, I think MKB will listen only to the extent of changing their tactics, not their objectives.

(The suggestions in the email thread might work well as we get closer to an election and we should keep them in our files, but for now, I think we need to focus on ‘Council-shaping’.)

That got me thinking about creating a working majority on council by targeting our efforts on Heywood and Bell. If we can work behind the scenes to get them to align with Bookham and Clark (call the group BBCH for short), then they can take charge of Council, set the agenda and limit the power of MKB.

How do we do that? Here are some thoughts on the matter:

First: from my perspective, it would be inappropriate to create the impression we are trying to ‘own’ council. We just want it to stop being the plaything of MKB and the interest groups that support them.  The key point is that if Bell and Heywood don’t work with Clark and Bookham, then the MKB group will continue to drive the city hall agenda.. and the deeply flawed OCP revision process is the current best example of that agenda. The only chance of change is if BBCH work together.

If thirty or forty of us invite Heywood and Bell to meet with us and we tell them that we want their support in working with Bookham and Clark to change the direction at city hall, we might just get their attention. Depending on how explicit we want to be, we can ensure they understand there are enough of us (and we are upset enough) to generate an ongoing series of letters to the NSN and some effective ads critiquing the two of them. The recent voting flip-flop over Harbourside make them particularly vulnerable. They will know (or can be reminded) that people not inclined to vote for the MKB slate will be, over the long run, influenced (as in the past two elections) by ads and other activities by independent citizens such as us. We needn’t go in with explicit threats, but we need them to understand that we want them working together and will be watching to see that it happens.  

In trying to convince BBCH to work together, we should be clear that we don’t have a complex or ideological agenda. This can be done with a simple, straightforward statement. For example, with respect to the OCP revision process… note that this is just an example…:

We believe the OCP revision process must be transparent, open and respectful of the intelligence and viewpoints of the citizens of North Vancouver and it should include all major development proposals before the city.

The current process is not acceptable because it is a mock-consultation with a developer-driven, density-biased agenda, orchestrated by city hall to achieve their desired outcome. It has no credibility with many citizens. City staff must be carefully instructed and monitored by Council to ensure the process is not tilted and the outcome is not pre-determined.

Our objective is to get a group of fair-minded council members to take control of the city’s OCP revision process.

I suggest we get together (perhaps half a dozen of us would be more efficient than 25, but whatever) to pull together some more details on this idea. The simpler we keep our objectives, the easier it will be to achieve agreement among us… and with the politicians. If we can agree on objectives beyond getting the OCP revision process back on the rails, we can include them too.

At some early point we will need to meet with Bookham and Clark to get their support for this effort. Eventually we could aim to get the four of them in a room to hammer out some ideas on how they cooperate, but for now this initiative needs to be seen as coming from us, concerned citizens, not from Bookham or Clark.

John Watson”

So let me get this straight, 20-25 people is an “impressive number of people” in a city with roughly 50000 residents (in the City of North Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver adds another 90000). OK, maybe I’m not good at math but that’s 0.0005% of the population. I’m sure they have more supporters but their most likely the “Doomsday Prepper” type and don’t own computers, cell phones or televisions.

Bad math aside let’s look at the real issue here. We have a group of people aiming to shape a city council to push their own agenda by threatening council members with attack ads if they don’t fall in line… These nut jobs have to remember that this is the city council and Mayor that their fellow citizens voted into office. If they would like to change the way the city is run perhaps they should run for office? No, that’s too hard and public for these folks, they’d rather threaten from behind the scenes. What a joke.

If people like this get their way where will we all live in 50 years? The GVRD is running out of land due to urban sprawl, the only way forward is to build up, not out. Affordable housing is a thing that is out of reach for the average person, density offers a more wallet friendly alternative to a single family home.

Let’s do an informal poll

Let this be a lesson to all of you. Be careful who you send email to and make sure that whatever you say in it you would be willing to say to someone’s face. In this case I’m sure the people involved would’ve preferred this information remain a secret. Welcome to the internet…



11 thoughts on “North Vancouver NIMBY’s, playing politics and taking control

  1. This is old news – date on the emails is February 21 2012 – and we’re hardly NIMBYs.. density done right is the goal!

    • Members of the public threatening city councillors and trying to manipulate democracy is never old news. Especially when it relates to an issue that is still current like the proposed development at Lonsdale and 13th. That project IS “density done right”. I’d love a response if you’re up to actually discussing the issue.


      • Scott, we can have a conversation … but “members of the public threatening city councillors”??????? can you give me an example?

      • Absolutely “Depending on how explicit we want to be, we can ensure they understand there are enough of us (and we are upset enough) to generate an ongoing series of letters to the NSN and some effective ads critiquing the two of them.” And the equally amazing “They will know (or can be reminded) that people not inclined to vote for the MKB slate will be, over the long run, influenced (as in the past two elections) by ads and other activities by independent citizens such as us. We needn’t go in with explicit threats, but we need them to understand that we want them working together and will be watching to see that it happens.” Taken from an email from one of your members. Your turn.

      • I’d love to see you post this article (and my previous one) on your site. I know you won’t do it though. If this is truly “old news” it should already be on your site with all the other posts about this single development, right?

  2. Actually – no it should not be on the site.. this email was dated February 21st, the first meeting of Voices was on March 6th. I think we started our website in May, so would not have posted anything that had not resulted in any action. Actions suggested in that email were not adopted by the group. I have posted an open letter you’re welcome to peruse, and don’t plan to engage any further with this nonsense.

    If you need any questions answered, don’t hesitate to contact me.

  3. North Van City Voices want to dictate policy and only want to see development on their terms completely ignoring the views of the majority of residents. They are the ones who resort to underhanded tactics and engage in spreading misinformation to further their misguided cause. They have an absurd belief that they, and only they, know what is best for the community. They are shameless and will continue on their path even after being exposed through their own emails pretending and claiming to be beyond reproach. Their typical response when being called out is to assert that the discourse is nonsense, ridiculous or pathetic. Again, in their view, they are the chosen ones who decide what everything is or should be. It is rare to see such arrogance.

  4. Another developer spin doctor ranting about NIMBY’s. Sorry but the people of this city will have their say in how this city gets built. If you don’t like you can move to Calgary.

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