Density bonusing is arguably the least understood aspect of the City’s development and densification process. The City, through density bonusing, pursues amenity contributions of varied types and amounts. This process often fails to recover the true cost of the additional burden densification places on City taxpayers.
One example of this is the potential for increased density to consume spare infrastructure capacity in our imbedded water, sewer, transportation, and traffic control systems. Where various components of City infrastructure reach a “tipping point” ahead of plan, it can cause a premature replacement of that infrastructure before is has exhausted its natural or programmed life. This in turn causes increased financial burden to the taxpayer. Example; a sewer pipe system alleged to have a life span of 100 – 125 years, the purchase of which is amortized over 40 or 50 years, could become subject to demolition and replacement at 25 years or sooner, because City densification has accelerated demand beyond capacity. We must therefore throw out a perfectly good asset many years before it would otherwise require replacement. These same principles are hard at work with our roadways and sidewalks, as they undergo repeated assault from developers and utilities.
One example of this issue is found at the Pinnacle Versatile towers located on Esplanade. When heavy downpours occur, some storm water drainage grates located in the underground parking structures of some of these new buildings back up as if water fountains, flooding the parkade areas. Residents have had to establish emergency procedures to ensure their cars are not damaged when each storm water flood begins. The effected Strata owners have suffered excessive costs to clean the parkades after each flood event. The Strata’s must pay these costs even though the source of the water is a backup from the City’s storm water run-off systems. These systems are obviously no longer able to handle the flow rates due to the increased densification, in Upper Lonsdale, yet even more densification is being proposed.
The ability to fully cost recover certain infrastructure investment through density bonusing and amenity fund contribution demands has some legal limits under provincial law. Despite this fact, City staff has become quite adept at selling increased air-draft and density for dollars, as well as various other concessions, some of which have or will cost the City far more than they have given to City residents in reward.
IT IS MY POSITION THAT the City should resist density bonusing above the OCP limits simply for amenity fund contributions, without a truly compelling reason. The OCP should not be used as a densification “floor” design parameter above which developers, with staff’s help, pursue the “ceiling” through a program of “density-or-dollars”. Therefore;
- I will support a revised OCP process, in which public input is sought in relation to any density bonusing modifications available within the OCP, to ensure that the guiding principles are based on public input, and not as a result of a revenue-enhancing scheme which directly contradict City residents objectives.
- I will support a process where density bonusing amenity contributions are automatically channeled to the City’s priorities to ensure that monetary reward (if any) received through density bonusing is spent on the established list of priorities, and that projects containing unlisted amenity priorities are not able to jump the cue as has occurred in the Onni (13th and Lonsdale) rezoning bylaw.
- I will not support a density bonusing regime which is not subject to limits, but is limited solely by council oversight.
When I find myself in a position to effect these changes, the policies and principals setout above will guide my decisions.