Why development? Because it impacts everything else

You may be upset or overjoyed by bike lanes, angry or pleased at the removal of a statue or maybe you just like (or don’t) the mayor.

I invite you to forget all that for a moment and focus on the one big over-riding issue: development.

This is city council’s big nut, cracked open at every council meeting: the most consequential and important file in their portfolio, the ability to decide what gets built in this town, or not, by policy or direct vote at council meetings.

Development, (or in a broader sense, land use) is those new skyscrapers downtown or in Vic West, the apartment you live in on upper Johnson, the new place right next door in James Bay you appreciate, tolerate or can’t understand why it was ever approved.

Development affects everything else. Are you worried about housing affordability? That is (or should be) the number one development issue. Parks, policing, traffic, homelessness, the health of our downtown and our neighbourhoods, the aforementioned cycling lanes and other traffic issues, the very character and type of city we live in, our impact on the environment. They’re all connected to development and land use decisions.

The city staff and their board of directors, our city council, make decisions on thousands of building plans every year. Among those few that arrive at council chambers, most are fairly small-scale and inconsequential and pass by unanimous vote.

At The Record, we’re focusing on major development issues, the ones people care about most and, in many cases, have the greatest effect on the city and its neighbourhoods. So how do we define “major”? A new high-rise tower downtown may not be of consequence to you, but a much smaller development next door may occupy your rapt attention for months and cause you to organize your neighbours to lobby city hall.

So we let the public decide whether a development met the criteria for inclusion in our record table. If six or more people (excluding the developer and staff) showed up at a public hearing to speak on a project, we count it as major. If the public cares, we care.

Six is more than an arbitrary number. Many building proposals that allow formal public input attract no speakers at all, others up to ten, a very few others, well over 50 or even 100 residents waiting in line for hours to speak. So we calculated six as an informal median of public interest, which sometimes reflects opposition, other times, praise for a particular project.

As expected, nearly all the largest and most controversial projects made our list. We decided to bend our rule of six speakers only twice, for projects that didn’t meet that threshold but they were too big to ignore–the 26 storey record-high building on Herald Street and two 21-floor towers on Yates.

So have a look at our table, think about how these decisions affect you and the city, read our analysis and share your comments with us.

Do you want to do your own check on city council minutes, votes and even webcasts of their meetings? It’s all here, starting at this page. Good luck.