Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

New council may rescind majority vote for duplexes in Vancouver

Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr drafting motion to rescind vote of previous Vision Vancouver-led council
Photo Dan Toulgoet

I know many of you are excited about the possibilities of what a new mayor and council might do to make Vancouver a more affordable city.

They’ve got four years to make a mark.

But, it appears, they’re going to be doing some serious housekeeping before they get started.

Let me explain…

Let’s go back to that vote Sept. 19 at city hall that saw Mayor Gregor Robertson, his five Vision colleagues and Coun. Hector Bremner vote in favour of allowing duplexes in most single-family neighbourhoods.

Remember how controversial that was?

Well, Robertson and those six councillors are gone now, but two of the councillors who voted against that “quick start” in the city’s new Making Room housing program were re-elected. That would be Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr and NPA Coun. Melissa De Genova.

And, as I reported last week, both Carr and De Genova wanted to make that point known for a second time in voting against the enactment of the bylaw that would put the new duplex zoning amendment in motion.

They did this Oct. 30 at the last council meeting with the old gang.

But after some feedback from city manager Sadhu Johnston, which was based on discussions with the city’s legal department, both councillors reluctantly agreed to vote for the bylaw. Johnston didn’t get into the nitty gritty of the details, but said it was a longstanding practice of council to approve the enactment of a bylaw, despite how a councillor voted at the conclusion of a public hearing.

So that was that.

But this isn’t over, folks.

Carr told me Monday that she plans to introduce a motion “as soon as possible” to rescind the vote on duplexes. She is still checking on the “legal language” of her motion but hadn’t heard back from staff at the time of her speaking to the Courier.

“I’m in limbo without clear direction on how to proceed, but I do expect that information will come to me,” she said. “The goal, all the way along, was to not pass that particular bylaw or motion because there was really insufficient public consultation on it — especially at a time when people yearn to be engaged in a discussion on how the city is going to develop and accommodate growth.”

It appears Carr, who is one of three Green councillors, might have the support of De Genova, who is one of five NPA councillors on the new council.

“What I can say is that I would be in favour of revisiting the situation,” De Genova said. “But then again, I also have fiduciary responsibility to the City of Vancouver, and I’d have to consult with my legal staff and see if that would be problematic for the City, or if it could open us up to any scrutiny, or cause hardship for people who had already put plans in [to build duplexes].”

De Genova said she had already been contacted by a person who has applied to build a duplex on their property. Both she and Carr made it clear they’re not against duplexes — “I’m against blanket zoning,” said De Genova, arguing the public wasn’t properly consulted about allowing duplexes across the city when Robertson introduced his motion.

So what does city staff think of this?

In an Oct. 29 memo to the former mayor and council, Gil Kelley, the city’s director of planning, outlined some of the things that could happen:

  • Generally, a new council is free to reconsider previous bylaws and resolutions of its predecessors.
  • If the new council wanted to take steps to reverse some or all of these [duplex zoning] amendments, council would need to hold a public hearing prior to approving an amendment to reverse the amendments that are currently proposed.
  • If (as is the case here) the matter being reconsidered is a zoning bylaw amendment, then a key issue is what to do with the applicants who have sought to develop their properties in accordance with the impugned amendments.
  • Section 570 of the Vancouver Charter authorizes a method of preventing or withholding such applications.
  • The new council could also be amenable to have the city issue permits for duplexes until it revises the bylaws to forbid them. No resolution would be needed under section 570 if council was not concerned about the approval of some duplexes.

The Greens and the NPA both campaigned on the need for a city-wide plan. That is another motion Carr expects to introduce at the Nov. 13 council meeting. It’s about to get real, folks.