Rogue Bureaucracy: threat to democracy.

by Richard Balfour on April 18, 2013

Part 1 of 4+
Vancouver, British Columbia
Myths of Civic Government
Delayed publishing 2013

What the City doesn’t want you to know.

2013 from review of a period 1970 to 2000 with a focus of 1990 central part.

Draft pre print, 2013
Old City Foundation Press
ISBN assigned.

Richard Balfour
Architect & Planner
Part 1: Setting
-A bit of history, geography, sociology and economics
-whose city is this anyway?

Part 2: The Myths versus The Reality
1. Charter of Rights and Freedoms
2. Common Law and the Vancouver City Charter
3. Good Planning
4. Freedom of Expression
5. Neighbourhood Rights?
6. Good Communication and a healthy community.
7. Access to Info
8. Public Service: Civil Servants?
9. Open Government versus Unaccountable Control.
10. How to be part of  your city.  Homo milk versus la creme ou du lait.

Part 3: What now.
1. Know your rights when dealing with the city.
- legal, precedence, social graces
2. How to civilize city hall, restore democracy, address corruption.
-local, provincial, boards of appeal, getting involved.
3. The Rebuttals, the Propaganda to come.
-who cares, who makes the excuses, what hidden agendas.
4. Separating the wheat from the chaff
- save the baby, flush the bath water.

Part 4: Implications beyond Vancouver
- influence in other jurisdictions, at present
- influence in other jurisdictions, with Local Government Charters
-influences beyond B.C. Definitions:
Normally these would be put into an appendix, but given nature of this discussion, it is necessary to review definitions at the start.
We live in such a politically correct era, to a point where nothing is said in an outright fashion anymore.  So when certain words are used, it raises alarm bells and great shouts of ‘for shame’ and great tsk-tsking, wagging of fingers and threats against the character if not the person who dare question authority or challenge the drift of society.  Some words are used as they are the most appropriate, not for shock value, but to get to the nub of the problem. At the start of a chapter where a word is used which we know will raise eyebrows or more, we will start with a definition from a respected english dictionary or thesaurus. Due to the nature of this book, we start with; Corrupt.

Corrupt: The New Webster Dictionary and Encyclopedia;
(L. corrumpo, corruptum-con, and rumpo, rumptum, to break; whence also rupture, abrupt, disrupt, etc)
To change from a sound to a putrid or putrescent state; to cause to rot; fig. to deprave; to pervert; to impair; to debase; to defile, taint, pollute, or infect; to bribe; to debase or render impure by alteration or innovations (language); to falsify ( a text). -v.i.  To become putrid; to  putrefy.

Corruption; The act of corrupting, or state of being corrupt, putrid or rotten; putrid matter; pus; depravity; wickedness; loss of purity or integrity; debasement; impurity; depravation; pollution, defilement; vitiating influence, more specifically bribery;    Law, an immediate consequence of attainder by which a person was formerly disabled from holding, inheriting, or transmitting lands.

Severity (of Authority) (Roget’s Thesaurus): (as applied on the public:)
tyrant, pedant, formalist, stickler; petty tyrant, disciplinarian (upon others), martinet, sergeant major…….authoritarian, despot, dictator, autocrat, inquisitor, persecutor, oppressor, bully, taskmaster, slave driver; extortioner, bloodsucker, predator, harpy, ogre, brute, hard-liner.

Absence of Authority; (Roget’s Thesaurus):
(as in lack of accountability to political masters); please oneself, defy authority, resist control, disobey; take on oneself, arrogate, usurp, authority, be undue.

From the Oxford Dictionary:
b. Law. corruption of blood: the effect of an attainder upon a person attainted, by which his blood was held to have become tainted or <oq>corrupted<cq> by his crime, so that he and his descendants lost all rights of rank and title; in consequence of which he could no longer retain possession of land which he held, nor leave it to heirs, nor could his descendants inherit from him.

II. Moral.
4. A making or becoming morally corrupt; the fact or condition of being corrupt; moral deterioration or decay; depravity.
<Ntilde>1340 Cursor M. (Fairf.) 1553 (heading) <th>e corrupcioun of <Th>e lande ofter synne.
1526 Pilgr. Perf. (W. de W. 1531) 10 That is it that preserueth mannes soule from spirituall corrupcyon of synne.
1592 Davies Immort. Soul viii. xxi, As from Adam, all Corruption take.
1711 Steele Spect. No. 107 31 The general Corruption of Manners in Servants is owing to the Conduct of Masters.
1849<min>50 Alison Hist. Europe I. ii. <sect>50. 168 Have the arts and sciences contributed to the corruption or purification of morals?
1856 Froude Hist. Eng. (1858) I. ii. 172 The clergy as a body were paralysed by corruption.
1874 Green Short Hist. viii. 476 The blow at the corruption of the Court which followed was of a far more serious order.
b. (with a and pl.)
1340 Hampole Pr. Consc. 4953 And clense it of al manere of syn, And of alle corrupcions, bath hegh and law.
1605 Bp. Hall Medit. & Vows i. <sect>16 My progresse so small, and insensible; my corruptions so strong.
1684 Bunyan Pilgr. ii. 137 The young Man had strong Corruptions to grapple with.
1727 Swift Gulliver Pref. Let., Some corruptions of my Yahoo nature have revived in me.
c. Corrupting influence or agency.
<Edh>1340 Hampole Psalter Prol. 3 <th>e whilk waxis noght soure thurgh <Th>e corupciouns of <Th>is warld.
<Ntilde>1386 Chaucer Pars. T. 3825 Right so is a wikked prest corrupcioun ynough for al a parisch.
1813 Byron Br. Abydos ii. xx, How oft the heart Corruption shakes which perils could not part!
1875 Jowett Plato (ed. 2) V. 124 The love of money is the corruption of states.
5. Evil nature, <oq>the old Adam<cq>; anger, <oq>temper<cq>. Now colloq. or dial.
1799 C. Winter Let. in W. Jay Mem. (1843) 36 His corruptions were roused by the report.
1829 Blackw. Mag. XXV. 545 Fling doon the Stannard<em>if you dinna, it<cq>ll be waur for you, for you<cq>ve raised my corruption.
1830 Galt Lawrie T. v. xii. (1849) 247 <oq>Let alone my goods<cq>..exclaimed I, for my corruption was rising.
1848 A. Bront<euml> Ten. Wildfell Hall xxxi, I am no angel, and my corruption rises against it.
6. Perversion or destruction of integrity in the discharge of public duties by bribery or favour; the use or existence of corrupt practices, esp. in a state, public corporation, etc.
<Ntilde>1425 Wyntoun Cron. vii. viii. 703 Quhat for corruptyown and inwy, Thare charge <Th>ai dyd nocht detfully.
1494 Act 11 Hen. VII. c. 21 If any of the petit Jury toke..any some of money..after any suche corrupcion by the Graund Jury founden, etc.
1570<min>6 Lambarde Peramb. Kent. (1826) 141 Guy..escaped soon after by corruption of his keepers.
<Edh>1600 Hooker Eccl. Pol. vii. xxiv. <sect>8 Simoniacal corruption I may not for honours sake suspect.
1651 Hobbes Leviath. ii. xxvi. 144 The frequent corruption and partiality of Judges.
1769 Junius Lett. i. (1804) I. 13 It is not sufficient..that judges are superior to the vileness of pecuniary corruption.
1827 Hallam Const. Hist. (1876) II. xii. 398 The real vice of this parliament was not intemperance, but corruption.
1880 McCarthy Own Times IV. lix. 316 The ballot has not extinguished corruption in small boroughs.
<dag> b. A case or instance of corrupt practice. Obs.
1621 H. Elsing Debates Ho. Lords (Camden) 14 The corrupcion wherewith the L. Chancellor was charged, viz., twenty-three severall corrupcions proved by wytnesses.

8. The perversion of an institution, custom, etc. from its primitive purity; an instance of this perversion.
1656 J. Harrington Oceana (1700) 38 The Corruption then of Monarchy is call<cq>d Tyranny.
1661 Bramhall Just Vind. ii. 10 They who first separated themselves from the primitive pure Church, and brought in corruptions in faith, practice, Liturgy, etc.
1776 Johnson 5 Apr. in Boswell, Afterwards there were gross corruptions introduced by the clergy, such as indulgences to priests to have concubines.
1867 Smiles Huguenots Eng. iii. (1880) 45 The Huguenots..denounced the corruptions of the Church, and demanded their reform.
1878 Morley Carlyle Crit. Misc. Ser. i. 201 To judge a system in its corruption.
9. Change of language, a text, word, etc. from its correct or original condition to one of incorrectness, deterioration, etc.
1494 Fabyan Chron. ii. xlvii. 31 It was called Caerlud or Luddys towne: and after by corrupcyon, or shortyng of the speche, it was named London.
1599 Thynne Animadv. (1865) 6 Of necessytye, bothe in matter, myter, and meaninge, yt [Chaucer<cq>s text] must needes gather corruptione, passinge throughe so manye handes.
1634 Ford P. Warbeck i. iii, Tell it [the writing] a sure intelligence of all The progress of our enemies<cq> intents Without corruption?
1679 Plot Staffordsh. (1686) 417 It was ever after call<cq>d Wulfrunes-Hampton, since by corruption of speech Wolverhampton.
1710 Swift Tatler No. 230 33 The continual Corruption of our English Tongue.
1862 Rawlinson Anc. Mon. I. viii. 215 His numbers having suffered corruption during their passage through so many hands.
1861 Max M<uuml>ller Sc. Lang. I. ii. (1880) 47 By phonetic corruption..not only the form, but the whole nature of language is destroyed.
Vancouver, British Columbia, 2002
Myths of Civic Government


10 things the City doesn’t really want you to know.

Part 1: Setting
-A bit of history
Why does the average citizen not know of this, or worse, hardly seem to care?

Background and Rationale:
A note on format and approach.
For a topic like this, where what appears to be true and what really happens is open to debate and yet the public at large is not aware of important social changes which will affect them over time, it is important to start with the big picture.  We have myths, common beliefs in how our society operates which are perpetuated by propaganda, mostly by power structures, controlled press and the common need to feel good about ones society.  However, over time there is a tendency for things to drift, and if society is not vigilant, within a generation or two, what everyone thinks is true gets corrupted.
Corruption is defined above.

What is purported to be true becomes a facade, and behind the facade, to find what really goes on, you have to open the door, walk in and participate in a process.
The word to purport is very significant, it begs the question, is there false advertising, or is the proponent honestly portraying a condition or situation?  False advertising is one extreme of which a consumer society must be wary.  Propaganda from government is another. It is a nice way of saying in polite society, it this BS or not?  We often do not think that sales pitches and propaganda are an instrument of local government, in a modern society, they are a civil service, only doing their job, are they not?  Surely a bureaucracy does not sell itself to anyone, seek growth, and expansion, particularly n a climate of restraint and budget cutting?

The difficulty is that most people do not need to participate in city hall processes and many choose not to.  Those that do and find it a pleasure, are a minority.  We are mostly talking about public service aspect of the Planning department here, the rest of the departments are either housekeeping units like Engineering or City Clerk, with straight forward agendas and with little discretionary power to diddle with the public.  Other departments like Finance, Housing and Properties, and Parks are more service or back up units.

But Planning has been given unusual power and profile because it is a motherhood issue, we all want to make things better.  The desire to do this is so strong there is a tendency to bend rules, allow a little more feasibility, to give more power to effect community change.  All this is well and good to a point.  It is when the line is crossed and this power becomes illegal, unethical, immoral, unaccountable and without an avenue of appeal that yo know things have got out of hand.  It is this aspect of the “thin edge of the wedge” being now firmly implanted as a full blown machine of self serving corruption than we now have to deal with.  This analysis focusses on the city of Vancouver, but has implications across the province as bureaucracy in smaller towns seek to emulate the big city machine.  It has implications in other towns and cities across the continent and around the world as Vancouver promotes some of its urban development product as new and leading edge.  However they do not reveal teh real price of this situation to the city and to the citizens, as taxpayers and as applicants.  They do not reveal the corruption of law and rationale process that it takes to accomplish this.  In fact other places would not be able to copy this aberration in maladministration because the laws in other places are clearer and law suits against planners, in Washington and in England, for instance have quashed such attempts to make planning a lawless endeavour;
(footnote on 2 cases…………——)

Also, the promotion by Vancouver as a planning ideal is misguided in part due to the naivety of the planners themselves who are bereft of any education in history or law under which they should be operating. But more of that later.

To start, we deal with the big picture items of what law we think we live under, prove it not to apply in the city of Vancouver, and try to determine what is really going on. We will then expose you to the real nature of current planning administration, and let you figure out how we can clean up city hall.

Will it take individual action, court action, class action law suits, a new housecleaning council, a Supreme Court Injunction, amendments to provincial legislation,or reorganization of government, or a combination of all of these?

This message may not get out to the public who needs to know because few people in the city deal with this form of public private interface, until it is too late. Most people after dealing with it either want to change the system or walk away in disgust.

In the city of today, a shrinking number of people deal with land use, zoning and development permits because a growing proportion of buildings are not built by users, but by corporations, developers and teams of Architects, lawyers and support teams of engineers.

The slide into the current morass is in part due to social changes and to the sociology of an often overlooked and misunderstood profession.  How the profession of architecture has changed in the last 20 years is pivotal to the trend in abuse of authority.  Because design is considered so sacred, as a means to improve society, there is a tendency, if not checked, to let all other aspects including law and civil rights become subservient to ‘good design’.  This all sounds quite innocent until you look at the sociology of the profession and society, the psychology of the actors, and how slowly the abuse of authority corrupts the society.
In addition, to make matters worse, in addition to every person thinking they know everything there is to know about design if not architecture, and everyone has some say in everyone else’s business today, there is the Martha Stewart factor. The MS factor just shows you really do not need to know what you are talking about at all and people will pay you to blabber on about all manner of things. Bad taste at a premium.  On top of that is another layer of the generation raised on Walt Disney and the icons of architecture set out on Main Street USA.. Surprisingly, Tomorrow-land, Fantasy Land and such get relegated to the back lot in the  mind of the design police.  It is so much easier to sell what one grew up with, so that Vancouver at the turn of the Century in 2000 was busy replicating the last turn of the century of 1900, with mock tudor as the de-rigeur style.  All of this with more power to enforce design than Adolf Hitler gave Albert Speer in building the New Berlin.

The role of the Architect has changed in this administrative environment.  The start of corruption started with so called discretionary zoning, meaning at first both sides could exercise discretion in changing zoning law to get a better product.  The land owners architect would bring forward proposals to gain one thing but in exchange for some public benefit.

The planners tried to codify such changes and wrote guidelines based on the good practices of the first “bending the rules” projects.

In the first cases, there was a discussion between equals each seeking something in exchange.  As planner need to create intellectual pigeon holes for design through bylaws, the guidelines became more rigid.  And as the law department instilled the fear of precedent or new directions that might be challenged in court, the supposed flexibility  of design guidelines hardened into rigid interpretation, often more rigid than a bylaw would be.
Once this snowball started rolling, then the city staff also could not keep up with new areas and although city council had to adopt guidelines in a plan and zoning bylaw for an area, the staff started to leapfrog the process and hand out guidelines for areas that they legally did not apply to.
In an attempt to somehow balance the need for design flexibility, what started out as a good idea again had unintended consequences; Planning hired Architects on staff to interface with Architects working for the land owner.

In terms of interpretation, having a common language, this is often a good idea.  If the city or district in question has a good law department or even senior staff to keep the city architect planner within the good taste and bounds of the law, this can work from moderately well to magnificently. The staff can support new ideas and even expedite projects through the approvals process.

A bit of Planning History;
Leadership in Bureaucracy.
During the early 1990’s, after Ray Spaxman left as Director of Planning, and the Absolute Power was allowed to filter down to all levels of bureaucracy, there was an attempt to correct this for a short period.  when more than a dozen associations and institutions were asked to work with the new Director of Planning, Tom Fletcher.  In the usual fashion, the city named the people in each group that they wanted, people ‘they could work with’, who thought like ‘the city’, meaning, the staff at city hall.
Unfortunately at the same time this issue was becoming more to the consciousness in the same institutions, and at a fair number of them appointed representatives that were not ‘so malleable’.  This lead to very serious and well thought out proposals to clean up the city systems and restore a sense of order and justice.  In the same way that such reports had been made every 5 years or so over the last 20 years, as the problem grew, the staff attacked the advice, the council stonewalled the reports and the problem only got worse.  Within a year, the new Director resigned to another city.  The search for an international or at least national calibre of planning director as proposed by all concerned, did not happen.

The council, as if to rub everyones nose in a bad smelling pile, instead rotated the director position among 5 ‘Directors of Planning”.  The rudderless ship now was cruising in more directions than ever.
Bodies such as the AIBC were infiltrated by staff electing a member . to sit on the council.  As a self governing body which is purportedly protecting the public, we had a situation where the corrupt and unprofessional conduct was now being defended from within the Institute itself.  Within a year, power centrist on city council aligned with a new AIBC president to decapitate the committees that were ‘giving the city a bad time”.  The one outspoken committee inside the AIBC instead quit, notified the membership about what was going on, and formed an independent public group with more open accountability, int the form of the Vancouver Planning Coalition.
Shortly after, such institutions were co-opted by councilors from the NPA to make sure there was no more opposition and criticism, that a cooperative, consultative method would be used to reach ‘consensus’.  Well the noise died down, but the house cleaning never started.  The leaderships were co-opted, but the voices of dissent did not disappear, they just went underground and to the opposition or to guerrilla warfare.

This is more than an analogy. The tribal mentality of ‘special society; a tribe within city hall is even recognized by staff in the hall.  Circumstances vary, but the conversion from initiation to acculturation takes from 3 to 12 months.  If by 18 months the new staffer is not indoctrinated, they usually move on to other work.

The reason this whole mess is being exposed, by past committees and current analysis, is that there is a significant group of professionals who have known both sides of the counter, who have worked in the city planning office or others, and who have also practiced in the private sector.  What the city also forgets is that the so called private sector, as professionals, have a public obligation.  The first is to also protect the public first.  So those that know best have to reveal the corruption, if not from within, then from experience and comparison.  To some in bureaucracy, this is stated as an act of betrayal.  To some in the private sector, they also say ‘shut up’, the system is sick, but we make money doing this make work.  The fact that there is not value added but destruction of value seems to be missed in their efforts to feather their own nests.

The absence of Law or for respect of Civil Rights
In Vancouver’s case, from early 1970s to the present, the guiding hand was not present, the law department made no effort to teach new staff and design oriented staff that there are limits in common law, in planning practice that protect the land owner from abuse of authority, that leaves the owner and his architect certain freedoms of expression.  It is this breakdown in law and protocol which is the subject of this analysis and which raised the question of how to correct  such a terrible maladministration.

In contrast, most municipal law departments or the municipal lawyers, provide more direct leadership to make sure the bureaucracy knows the  limits of planning law and respects the rights of the applicants.

It is not even certain in the case of Vancouver, that giving courses in law and even good manners would do much good when the attitude is so pervasively negative, elitist and self reinforcing. It may be too late, and require wholesale firing and replacement with a smaller, leaner, efficient and law abiding Civil Service.

At all times it must be pointed out that this critique is not leveled at all the workers.  Most are civil, knowledgeable, and the well meaning manage to keep on track out of basic civility.  The problem is a systemic one mostly, and the incorrigible staffers fall into two camps; a few may benefit from training and monitoring afterwards.  The worst cases will only benefit themselves and the system by retiring.

How to distinguish the types can be sorted out by how they answer 10 questions;

Return to the Political Factor; holding the elected accountable and getting reform into government.

There is only one small glimmer of hope.  Part of this corruption of planning administration has come about from political ignorance at one level, and outright neglect by design on the other.  As most councilors do not know the legal and moral limits themselves, they encourage “flexible powers’ by planners.
Others, like the creme de la creme councilors, encourage planning abuse as  it serves their local constituency, protection of a high rent enclave to the detriment of the rest of the city.  Such abuse is therefore either tolerated or encouraged to accelerate until challenged.

The challenge has to come if for no other reason than the council has delegated power it really does not have. The planners are exceeding their authority because the council has exceeded their own. In most societies this leads to revolution. Correction of this problem in Vancouver will likely be by means of talking about it, but those seeking corrections are up against a machine that does nothing but; a city department that specializes in ‘Talkitecture”. It is a propaganda machine paid to work against it’s own citizens.

To explain why this has happened and to show how it must be corrected, we will take a look at the social structure of this tribe within the city, the self appointed  Caste of social controllers.

The Brahmin Caste reference is an allusion to how an administration views its rights, roles and responsibilities. A hereditary class of administration like in India has more in common with how it operates like the same sense of entitlement, one can do no wrong, like the Vancouver Planning department does than does a system based on training, meritocracy and a sense of responsibility and accountability.

The Brahmin Caste in India was replaced in government by a new elite of officers trained in the British Military tradition by officers from Sandhurst.
Conversely, the generation of officers trained by combat and administration who ran city hall and other places like it were replaced by a post war generation with no tradition of being trained as an officer and a gentleman.

In contrast the liberal arts, and the post grad schools of planning and architecture set up mind sets in their education which can be good for society and change but which can also be perverted in the wrong application.  People educated to question and challenge make good rebels and good designers, but the notion of ‘god given talents’ in the hands of a bureaucrat tends to make some people think they are god or at least, his right hand authority on earth when it comes to design.
The Sociology of Design:
It is when the power of the city is abused and combined with the Role of the Architect, ‘protecting the public’ from ‘Bad Design’ and ‘Bad Architects’ that the whole smell of corruption is at it’s worst. (this is an actual quote from more than one self appointed design czar in City Hall). In no other profession would this kind of bad mouthing and usurping of rights and authorities be tolerated, particularly when the result is an assault on the common law rights of the citizens of the city.
The current state of affairs in the city is comparable in medical terminology, to having a surgeon having his work reviewed by a nursing committee with the power to deny him practice.

At another level, the city by it’s actions is attempting to usurp the Provincial granted powers to self governing professionals by staff decreeing who can do what kind of work in that jurisdiction.  If this in itself is not stopped the affected professions are at risk. Also, such attempts to control access to city services is in  itself open to corruption, payola and the likes not seen since Tammany Hall in New York, or the mob controlled Chicago City Hall in the 30s. The counter argument to this comes from staffers in the city who take on new and illegal powers, and the new few anointed professionals who benefit by the exclusion of others.. If anyone thinks this is in the public interest, they need to review the concept of supply and demand.  We also need to question whether we are an open and democratic society or not. If not, the rules of engagement will need to be addressed by all.

There were periods when efforts were made to clean this up, but each time is fails.  How and why this happens will be explored later on. A summary of each presentation to council is in the appendix B.

The Lack of  Discipline and the Passive-Aggressive.

Most people say any anti-military influence must “a good thing” but fail to appreciate what discipline in training can provide to the worker and society, There is a reaction against war and soldiering, we are looking for new traditions, and on top of that we have more women in the workforce, and more graduating from university over this period.

The fact that women still seem to tend to graduate from the soft side of academia rather than engineering and science also tilted the new civil service with a majority of new actors who tended to talk more about problems than do something about it. But this is not about women per se, but about anybody that uses gender or any other attribute as an excuse to get ahead, have special privilege, and then use it as an excuse to deny responsibility.  The best of both worlds for the passive aggressive behaviour in the workplace sucks the energy out of anyone dealing with it, and costs society time and energy.

The passive aggressive mode of inaction, lack of accountability and lack of discipline can be measured in staff time, budget costs, delays to the applicants, higher building cost, higher bank costs.  Also it affects the self esteem of all concerned, increases frustration and kills the spirit of people who are otherwise highly motivated to be creative and solve problems.  If a non-productive bureaucracy had any accountability, it would start by firing the dead wood, hiring people with a can-do attitude and re-train anyone in between in both good manners and law, how to achieve results and inspire staff to greater heights.  As much as private corporations have gone overboard in this direction at the feel good end, but still not so much in the discipline end, governments have been slower.  At the municipal level such restructuring and reinvigoration is very rare, and long overdue.

The old fashioned notions of honour, obligation and accountability were replaced over a generation with pass the buck, nobody is in charge, everybody has  a veto on anything and its only the fault of the system.

To speak in terms of gender may sound the alarms in the camps of the always politically correct, but if the gender aspect is part of the problem, it has to be dealt with like anything else.

The Chair of a professional committee dealing with gender issues and equality in the workplace, Eva Matsuzaki, has pointed out the discrimination that women suffer in trying to get to the top.  Quite rightly she cites that even though women make up half the students and graduates in Architecture at UBC, for instance, few get registered and fewer yet make it to the top of private practice.  It is probably a truism to say there is discrimination in the profession, that there is an old boys club mentality that is hard to break through.  And women cannot deny biology, that motherhood is something hard to deny either as an aspiration or as a responsibility, which easily takes a five to ten year bite out of life at the critical period  which often overlaps with career building in a profession. Given that undergrad plus professional school plus a 3 year internship is a decade or more, who has the super powers to be everything to family and profession.  As Eva sums up, it is often easier to bypass the profession and seek employment in a related area of design and planning. For this and other reasons, more women end up in associated roles in set design, interior design, and increasingly, in planning departments where there are even rules and special consideration for hiring and promotion.

What has also happened in the last 20 years is that such gender specialization also has triggered other imbalances, some sociologically ancient, some modern and not so healthy either.  In not all cases, but to a high degree in Vancouver, we have what some inside staff at city hall call; a Matriarchal Society.  The glass ceiling that women are concerned about has been modified in some civil services, to have an estrogen gate so that a new imbalance is realized.  This is not well documented and mostly anecdotal, but it also happened in the 10 years of NDP government in Victoria, where such an effort was made to correct gender imbalance in favour of females that it became almost impossible for WASP gents to get a contract or a job.

Biologically, the family of great Apes to which we are closest related, tend to live in groupings of all females in one group and all males in another, only getting together for the obvious. Otherwise relations can be pretty much on the aggressive side.

Karl Marx was concerned about gender roles too, calling them oppressive, hoping for a day where the boundaries could be blurred, that the ideal man or woman could be all things. The tyranny of specialization was seen as a loss of power. Marx’s ideal life allowed one to fish in the morning, farm in the afternoon and be a philosopher at night.

How do  such concerns over trends of specialization or overcompensation for female hiring impact the governance of a city?  At first glance, they seem trivial, and in fact are only small part of the bigger problem, but to understand the working relationships is important in a form of governance that is breaking down, where lines of authority and accountability are eroding and being replaced by unaccountable personal relationships.

The aspect of personal conduct is also an issue in some environments where consistency of treatment, conduct and fair play are expected of all, and nobody should need to check out the sexual politics of public encounters before proceeding in safety.  In matters of design in local government however, there seems to be room for all kinds of personal whims and problems to colour the conduct of business.  Some selected anecdotal case studies from the last 10 years are in an appendix at the end of the book, for illustration of how bad things can get.

From Anthropology to psychology, the socialization of little girls and how they deal with violence has startling impact, not in mixed society, in what is determined as normal open exchange.
(Refer to: Nick Crick, University of Minnesota, at SFU, Marlene Moretti, SFU psychologist..see also article in Vancouver Sun. May 11th, 2002.)
The fact that females deal with other female adversaries with coldness, cunning and ostracization is one thing. In mixed society the interplay  between the sexes gets complicated enough, worse when the dynamic breaks down when it should not, But the ability to harm by denial, obfuscation, and just pursing of the lips is an art form, not limited to females, but a stereo type.  What happens when the stereotype becomes reality, and more, a fact of social interaction.  When the unwritten rule replaces the law, when whim rules over logic, the feminine passive aggressive psychology is a norm which must be identified as part of the governance equation. It then must be seen as acceptable new behaviour, or not.

(If so, how does one deal with the PPMS factor. (the first P stands for permanent). The outrageous behaviour is hormonally triggered by someone outside their field of competence, and out of fear, exhibits aggression or passive aggression to take command of the field of play.(If this all fails, then the female role comes forward as the helpless victim, roll over, play with me, I am at your mercy).

This might have never become a new factor to deal with in Society if not for the combination of the Baby Boom generation and gradual social upheaval that created the new power/status and role adjustments. To gain some of the social benefits for some, without the traditional basis of judgement is a disaster.  The basis of judgment is not male oriented, it is the rule of law and order, of tradition that is thrown out, abandoned, leaving abuse and corruption in its wake.

The double standard kicks in, where passive aggressive behaviour is used to control power is what is supposed to be an open public process of fair treatment, tilts the scales against an applicant.

To raise the issue with the administration usually gets responses like; don’t whine, what is a level playing field?,  why don’t you do as you are told, can you find someone more accommodating, even subservient, perhaps out of fear?

The sado-masochistic role playing in planning administration became a ‘tribal standard’ practiced to varying degrees by all staff. It is just that it was perfected to a greater degree by frustrated staff wanting to practice architecture, but from the public side of the counter, without accountability.

In an atmosphere that is becoming more like Humpty Dumpty view of the world; ‘anything is what I say it is, nothing more, nothing less”, the role of the “Reasonable Man” as a judge might ask when this gets to court, is hard to find and increasingly hard to define.

The growth of an aberrant culture is more than tribal evolution.   The networking of interest groups has always been around, just watch chimps at grooming time, it is just that in the 1970s it became a ‘thing to do’, and unquestionably this worked to promote individuals where it had not happened before.  Not only women’s groups did this, but Vancouver has it’s own various groups from a Gay Breakfast Club to any number of  minority interests seeking majority influence, all which meet regularly to ‘discuss ideas’ and promote each others positions in the civic arena.

It is a  normal part of group relationships to protect power.  However society is aware of this possibility and in some ways seeks to protect the public from abuse by association, influence pedaling and such.
The checks and balances in the civic level  are weak.  The growth of the size and influence of civic government snuck up on all of us.  Now that cities are vying for special status under the constitution, we all better be ready to seek safeguards of our life and liberties before this happens.  In terms of scale, we also have to be sure that such status is accorded true Metropolitan level of government, a Regional city state,not just the petty fiefdoms that make up each of the now constituted city or town areas in B.C.

The breakdown of law and the replacement of rules by ad hoc treatment and punishment of ‘bad behaviour by withdrawal of affection might work well raising kids, but has no place in the administration of bylaws.  It is in the combination or matriarchal attitudes, a loss of discipline and law, and the use of personal influence that we find a confluence of bad practice, a corruption of the rule of law.  The fact that the law deals with property rights and design issues seems of small importance to most people, “what is the big deal?”, until they become the victim.
The feminine aspect of this analysis is not the sole cause, only a part, but it is a critical part of the need to correct maladministration and return discipline to planning. To come back to the Rogue aspect, usually a male metaphor, might help balance things out.

To speak   of a Rogue Bureaucracy also might seem an overstatement to some, maybe too colourful for others, but another analogy might help.

The picture of a rogue elephant in the Savanna also seems just romantic until you meet up with him. Usually they are avoided by all.  But in this case, if you wander into the grassland in pursuit of your own business,and even if warned about the risk, it is not until the beast rears up and cuts off your escape that you realize you should have brought your elephant gun.

In the same way, going to city hall anywhere in BC these days can be a hazard for the novice.  Most people give up and hire an intervenor, an expeditor, and architect or lawyer.  In the face of increasingly silly laws and a growth of what planners like to call guidelines, but which are used as a bludgeon of influence, Architects by their training have become the front line agents in the planing counter  skirmishes.

This has also happened due to the increasing use of planners trained in architecture on the public side of the counter. Where this once good idea went wrong is that they did not have enough training in common law and the constitution, nor was there any monitoring of their actions by the legal department or by their masters, the council of the city. Neither was there enough control and censure used by their own self governing professions, for what transpired was and is unprofessional conduct, with direct harm to the public.  In some ways the arrogance of Development planners was beyond reason, they not only wanted to be known as Planners, but as Architects, but not only as architects but as Super Architects, because, in their own words, they were above the Architects Act due to the liberties given them by the Vancouver Charter.  The fact that the city charter itself is ultra vires by denial or common law and common decency never seemed to phase any of them.  It was however, obvious to some of the senior planners, who admitted, yes we are breaking the laws, but we do it to protect the public.  Again this is the almost religious zeal, a mission or cause which casually subverts the rights of others with impunity up to now.  At one level they are all not responsible for this situation, the elected officials are responsible for delegating powers they were not legally entitled to and they not policing them after.

But the professionals, if they wish to be considered that, have a responsibility to the public too.  They have a responsibility to uphold the law.  The design laws and the city charter are of a much lower order of law and rights than the basic rights of the constitution and as fought for and won over thousands of years.

To place oneself above the rest of your profession, to pass judgement on others designs, to make rules on how one can use or not use their own private property is a huge assumption to make in any case.  When the new design police/architect planner also has little relative experience it is beyond understanding and borders on the absurd.  It would be funny if it were not so serious.  This kind of practice is so out of control that even the most internationally famous architects who also live in Vancouver, get treated like ignorant neophytes of design. It is hard to believe even Arthur Erickson for instance has had to put up with this kangaroo court and charade, both in Vancouver, Burnaby and elsewhere.  Architects who come from back east or beyond are dumbfounded to find this goes on in B.C. without someone challenging it.

It is time to correct the course of this bloated malpractice of civic administration before we wind up with more violent reaction or a class action suit which could drain the city coffers.

How did this start from such a worthy first goal?

In the late 60s, the Director of the School of Architecture, Henry Elder, foresaw the day when a majority of his graduates would be working in the public sector.  His students saw that in those days as a positive option, perhaps as real Architects in the Public Works department, or building social housing, helping the Third World, all creative and value adding activity.

According to Professor Emeritus Wiseman, recounting in 1988, at UBC, the Planning and Architecture Schools did not train the students with some of the basics required to do planning administration such as bylaws.  Even though both programmes are post graduate schools, not everyone has an undergrad background in history, law, ethics and other essentials that might not sound important until you realize that they might help keep you out of trouble.  The ideals of beauty and past theory of planning and design are not taught so much as given exposure.  The   real zealots of planning or architecture have strong feelings even as they enter the profession. What schools do is give the language of the profession, the technobabble and buzz words.  One really dangerous trend is that some students really only learn the nomenclature without understanding the theory, but sound like they might.  This is termed ‘talkatecture’, in cases where the new professional does not draw at all but pontificates in endless babble of “bullshit baffling brains.”

Sounding more like lawyers than designers, these types usually go on to become professional talkers or administrators, not doers or men of action.  Out of frustration, the tendency for the talkers is to get jobs where they can deny the actions of others. In Vancouver, they become the Design Police.

The concept of zealot in design control has more in kinship with the graduates of the School of Theology, the newly minted   prosthelytizing, converting, saving the people from themselves. (We are all guilty of it, including the authors).  It is when is is done without respect to citizens rights, ignorance of common law and precedent that it gets really dangerous.

For planning graduates it is bad enough, they have s training that basically deals with designing a system of pigeon holes.  The real danger is letting architects into the equation, because there is no end to what they want to control in detail.

The profession itself is to blame, because architect were finding planners were not trained to discuss design in detail, the profession asked the city to hire architects on staff to deal with such issues. This started out fine to start with, a few who spoke a common language.  It was fine while the trade offs on design were limited to the downtown, where zoning control was thrown out the window. In high density areas such trade offs could be kept fair and in balance, as the gains on each side were significant, and the power balance was near equal. The city had more to gain.

However, once started, the taste of power was too much, the staff grew and more and more areas of the city came under ‘Discretionary Zoning”. As it moved into lower and lower densities, the power of the city and staff grew but the gains dropped away.  the power imbalance grew asymmetrically.  The homeowner or small developer was no match for planners with no rules but their own authority based on whim, not logic or written hard fact.

It is when this absence of law and accountability hit even single family and duplex areas that it really went out of control. But few complained because only a few percent of the population gets involved in a year.

And you cannot complain because you then for sure get now approval.  Real complainers get blacklisted as
“bad clients”, “bad architects etc.”

What we have however, is a large number of people with a background in Architecture, playing architect, working for the city, purporting to be “protecting the public”.  Only slightly worse is the planner with no architectural training who still thinks he can dictate design on behalf of “All the People”.  The harsh reality is that the roles in the public sector have become increasingly abused, uncontrolled,  self defining, seeking its own growth, and without conscience to the cost to the public in a whole number of ways. How this came to happen, why it is so bad in Vancouver compared to other towns and cities, and how this is impacting civic governance, health and spirit, is detailed below.

When there was one absolute Director of Planning in charge at least you knew where a veto was controlled. but later, when everyone in planning would actually say “I am the Director of Planning for purpose of dealing with you”, it meant anyone and everyone had a veto on an application.  This still applies today, nobody has closed the Pandoras box of the power of the self anointed design police.

This is the kind of decline in standards, morality and accountability that have led great empires and civilizations in other times into rot and decline.  Amongst other factors, this was part of the fall of Byzantium (the system is ‘Byzantine”), the Mandarin Empire (mandarins now also means bureaucrats), Rome, and even the USSR,  While Ottawa and Victoria have made efforts to downsize bureaucracy and rationalize what it is that government does, local government ins B.C. is by far the most wasteful, energy consumptive and non productive mess of red tape.  There is a mind set that says just because the local government is supposedly closer to the people, it must to doing fine without question. It is because most people really do not interface with local government that this is accepted as part of the urban myth. It is time to expose the myth and try and put the city on a firm legal and administrative footing.

Vancouver has reached the point where it is very difficult to get anything done without major effort. Everything costs more because there are more people who know how to say no than know how to get to yes.  It is a wonder anything gets done at all in such a climate.  As more energy is sucked into the engine of design policing, the costs of product go up but the quality goes in no certain direction.  The only thing which feeds this is a period of inflation and high demand from immigration.  No slow growth area could absorb this cost, if you compare planning process, attitudes and building figures from slower growth areas whether in BC or the Maritimes.  Most places would just not put up with such nonsense.  What lets this part of the world operate in such a vacuum of logic and good government?  Part of the reason is the way debate is stifled, dissidents maligned or their character assassinated.  Some aspect of “flakey west coast pseudo intellectualism” is what one local critic calls it..(On this issue lots of quotes are possible, but few want to be identified due to the danger of criticizing the system.)  Critics who have to work with the system are few due to the consequences, the loss of business, the black list status at city hall.  Critics outside the system are rare as it seems a non issue until they become part of the system, so the system is protected through fear and intimidation.  Architects in Vancouver have quit taking work in the city because of the mess, the loss of money in dealing with the inefficient and corrupt system.  Others have  quit the profession altogether out of disgust with this issue.  Fees do not cover the ever increasing demands of a whimsical and out of control, unaccountable bureaucracy.  In addition, the fees the city charges for processing keep going up to pay for ‘their costs and time” which grow with no control or accountability.  So the homeowner or developer pays twice or greater for actually less service and more harassment.  And then we get to the real unconstitutional parts, the attack on personal freedom, freedom of expression, enjoyment of property, and loss of privacy,

In terms of the constitution, the suspension of same at the federal level, under the War Measures Act for instance, is considered draconian.  The suspension of civil liberties under  martial law has happened only a few times and is increasingly less likely to be declared with an educated and more aware public.  Few people know that under martial law in Canada, a person or the rank of major can try you in court martial and sentence you to death. That is a person with maybe 12 years experience as an officer.

In a less onerous fashion, the constitution is suspended in Vancouver, your rights at risk on any issue dealing with land use and design, as the law under the Vancouver Charter essentially says the law is that there is No Law.  The difference in Vancouver also is that your rights are at the whim of the equivalent of a corporal, or at best a Captain in terms of comparable experience and maturity of judgement.  On top of that, they lack ‘battle experience’ in most cases.

The lack of discipline in training and ignorance of the law,  combined with talkitecture and lately in the 1990’s, the advocacy of hiring for “race, gender and short stature, disability”  or other characteristic need tilted the social make-up of many civil services.  It was only to be expected that this would affect how they operated, or in some cases, did not.  In Vancouver this reached the absurd situation where the new city administrator was appointed with her greatest claim to fame was leading the Women’s Issue department in city hall. This is not to downplay any of these efforts, but there comes a time, particularly when in a period of irrational political correctness, that honest questions must be asked. The greatest objections at that time will come from guilty parties, but their defense will not be stated in an outright fashion, it will be couched in terms of motherhood and times are changing and we must adapt to change.  But whose change is it.

It depends where you are in the system.  In  a city that supposedly seeks affordable housing, we have one example that quantified the cost at a scale most home owners can relate to.  A local builder of duplexes in Vancouver, now on the NPA executive, when dealing with a discretionary duplex zone in Kits in the early 1990’s, estimated that the planning department Gingerbread design review process added easily $75,000 to cost of one unit in design fees, gingerbread applications to the building, cost of delays, not to mention staff time.

Of course staff time is paid for by all citizens through taxes.  When asked to improve efficiency  by staff however, there has never been an improvement there, and instead of seeking how to improve, staff usually seek to pass on the needless costs by adding processing fees to the land owner.

To show how this is politically supported, one response from council was that as prices of real estate were so high in Vancouver, if you could afford to buy here, you could afford the high cost of design approval.

What is forgotten is that most people bought a house long before the prices rose, most people cannot afford to buy their own house at today’s prices, and most likely their own children by extension, will never afford to live in their own community when they grow up.

Part of this attitude of who cares is left over from the early 1990s frontier mentality where you bought low, sold high and moved over the next mountain range to start over.  But we have no frontier left to move to.

In contrast, immigrants from already socked in cities around the world do not sell the best land and move on, they move here, but the best most expensive land they can afford, and keep it.

This latter trend has created an impact in the high rent districts like Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale, as the new comers often had different tastes in architecture than the locals. What was more galling was they built houses that in some ways looked more impressive, used better materials than the local old nouveau riche.  They were soon put in their place with a bylaw to show them who was boss. (Refer to Pitt Dog Bylaw  Chapter ——-)

The problem was made worse in the 1990s because of the imminent transfer of Hong Kong to China, the pace of change was too fast for neighbourhoods to adjust to in some cases.  In some neighbourhoods, in the areas of the “Golden Dragon; up to half the houses in a block at times were either empty with security guard patrols, or with a local caretaker in place, often with the children in the family going to school here while the parents went back to China or other places to make the bigger bucks.

Luckily the worst did not happen.  If China had come down hard, the impact of the not fully arrived families on local schools, roads and hospitals would have been chaotic.  Right now the adjustment is still tolerable as the cross Pacific drift is evened out now probably over a generation.

How does this demographic factor affect planning approvals.
First the new bylaws stopped the newcomer and made him conform, even if the price was down-zoning of whole neighbourhoods (less house per lot).  More house could be built in these zones if you signed away your rights and let the city architect planners tell you how to design your own house.
Secondly, just to be sure, some neighbourhoods were redlined to deny any application for rezoning. (See Chapter…)
Third, the already established trend of insult and injury by staff upon any applicant got worse.  Any neighbour complaint about an application was enough to allow the neighbour automatic rights to veto your own design intent. And if you got a new wannabe architect staffer, you had to do things their way or no approval. Then a committee.
Permits for simple buildings like single family which in any normal process might take one hour or a couple of days now took weeks, months or more.
If there is any doubt that this form of mind control, design dictates and old money protection of neighbourhoods is a tall tale, the city planning operations at the time indicate the ‘war footing’ they put themselves on, either by self direction, or from the Pitt/Clarke bylaw lobby for what was termed the RS5 bylaw.  Much of the departmental resources were mustered to go into neighbourhoods to wage propaganda war.  Staff and consultants were used to generate not only a bylaw but what was termed ‘a workbook’, an insulting bit of design rambling meant to educate homeowners, designers, and yes, even Architects as to what ‘good design’ is, and what is not, complete with a small thesis on how to fit in with your neighbours by using cut and paste from your neighbours facades.  Never mind what your own tastes are, or what your lifestyle, your building programme or budget might be.

This was heavily influenced by Clarke, who made much of the fact that she had visited California and thought they did that there, but mistakenly, her design and control examples were from planned unit developments where people buy into a community with controls. In Vancouver, in an existing neighbourhood, this was not a voluntary buy in but a jack boot dictatorial removal of property rights.  It was not just about design.
In addition, some staff spearheading the bylaw changes had little field experience in design, but did have a penchant from their own schooling for ‘infill’ and ‘sensitive treatment’.  What they failed to realized that enforced sensitive treatment is itself insensitive to the person requiring the greatest amount of change and consideration, the applicant.

The strange fact which showed up the psychological and status conflict flaws in the system were in the test cases tried by some firms in the city .  If an Architect applied, it became a drawn out thesis debate on design.  If the landowner went in for permits with little information, he usually got processed faster, with help, not hindrance.  From a citizens point of view, that in itself should warrant wholesale replacement of the system.

At this same time, the errors in the bylaw system and the moral corruption issues, the ethical conflicts of planners trying to play architect were not just ignored by the city.  Efforts were made to go after the licence of the critics, to personally attack the critics in public, in addition to blacklisting them inside the hall.  As to some, the AIBC seemed to be attacking ‘too much’, planners sought a nominee to the aibc council, to cut off debate from inside, like a fifth column.  Afterwards, Clarke and her group went after the control of the AIBC directly by seeking support of the members who gained from the byzantine bureaucracy, who had no trouble accepting any wonderful thing the city would throw at them.
During this period, attitudes and nomenclature in the hall was in the battle mode; gathering intelligence, establishing defensive arguments, attacking opponents, isolating the opposition.  Reasonable inside sources of course themselves could not offer sound compromise as any opposition was seen as “the enemy.”

At this same time, as controversy was muted in the press by political connections, all media were monitored.  As some in the Chinese immigrant community felt targeted by the bylaws racial nature (nice english tudor please, not garish pink stucco boxes), local radio personality Hanson Lau hosted some Chinese talk show programmes to talk about design controls, social attitudes and ethics.  Some local architects even appeared on the show, and the city went to all the trouble to tape, transcribe and print the dialogue of the shows.  One would think they were dealing with a foreign power at a national security level.

To say such perversions in a civic system is corruption at first sounds like overstatement.  Because the evidence of outright graft is not there, it seems a little more acceptable to the amoral set.

One former senior planner said “the corruption in Vancouver Planning today reminded me of Chicago in the 30s,or Mexico at times”. A colleague of his responded that he   “would prefer the Mexican graft because at least you know what to pay and what you get.  In Vancouver, it is a case of who’s butt to kiss, how often, how long, and whose is next”. The uncertainty of this politically correct corruption is just too much for anyone to reasonably tolerate.

There are as usual,  staff persons in planning who do not enjoy this either, but they usually do not last or at least do not get  promoted.  And that is why this comes down to a political problem.  The sycophants have won to date, have been promoted.  This is in part due to the long lasting essentially single party government of the NPA over the last few decades, with councilors elected from a narrow confines in the West side of the city, being pampered by planners who in turn get promoted for saying just the right thing, doing the political planning rather than the social, land use and economic planning one should expect of them.

This connection will be explored later on, but this is one area where the citizens could clean house by first getting a council that is visionary, rational and accountable, who in turn will clean up city  planning.

Part 2: The Myths versus The Reality

1. Charter of Rights and Freedoms
“The Charter has given Canadians a much greater appreciation of legality and has improved the level of debate.”  Editorial, Montreal Gazette, April 2002.
“But is has not demonstrably improved access to liberty or a defense of historic right.”
Most Canadians now take our Charter of Rights quite seriously now, and the fear of a deluge of law suits filling the courts under the Charter did not happen.  Maybe it should have, but it seems Canadians are such a nice bunch that they would sooner whine and complain than to fix a problem. On the other hand, as John Ralston Saul claims, our nation has inherited not just French and English culture, but also the Aboriginal way of life has influenced our lives so we talk things out more in a circle than appear before a Judge and Jury.

But this tendency to accept authority and talk rather than act also means we tend to put up with a lot more infringements on our rights and freedoms than either the Americans or the English, the Aussies or many Europeans for instance.  With a high ratio of immigrant population that tends not to assimilate, but to stand more apart, there is also a tendency by the new citizens to put up with a lot of being told what to do by 2nd and 3rd generation Canadians, who just happen to be white, english speaking and more often  richer.

In addition to the lack of challenges, the lack of fighting spirit, any rights under the Charter can be watered down on a wide range of issues if the Province uses the Notwithstanding Clause. What has happened in Vancouver is the equivalent of a Notwithstanding Clause in municipal government; a suspension of the constitution, the equivalent of a Municipal War Measures Act, over real estate and design of all things.

What has all this got to do with civic government in the early 21st Century?
One of the reasons local government goes unchallenged, particularly in Vancouver, is that local government has taken on powers without challenge to date.  Some lawyers think there is room to use the Charter to assert civil rights and to keep city government accountable, except for the city abuse through another legislated mechanism; the City Charter.

What has been permitted to happen, in part through design, but mostly through neglect and lack of vigilance, is a corruption of government. This is permitted by how the Charter of the city of Vancouver has come to be expressed, interpreted and expanded. It is used in ways and means beyond the original intent, and in fact beyond the general intent of most elected members of council, save a few, who quietly encourage staff to act in what they themselves sometimes admit, is illegal and unethical.

The City of Vancouver by virtue of the sloppy wording and maladministration by city staff, is one area in the country living outside the Charter of Rights and as yet without appeal to common law standards of fair treatment and justice. This will be explained below, but first, what is the Charter?.

The Charter started out in the system of English government as a means of managing the Commons, roads, real estate, services, and other business of government to slide out from under the power of the local fiefdom, Lord or Bishop who usually controlled great areas of rural counties.  In British Columbia, the Municipal Act and now the Local Government Act  did not seem to give the city fathers enough power  and scope within which to act, so a special Charter was given to the City of Vancouver to manage at first the same kind of real estate and servicing problems, taxation flexibility and a growing list of special privilege not afforded in the Acts governing other local municipalities.

Originally, the Charter did not have much to say about planning powers.  Unless challenged, planning powers can be open to abuse by any authority. In Vancouver in the 1960’s, a powerful personality of Ray Spaxman and a sequence of Mayors and Councils sought ever more open interpretation of powers, to delegate authority for planning and design from the elected representatives to the Director of Planning.
This in itself could be either bad of good. The planning department grew and grew but really did little planning of land use, grand visions or even transportation and services.
Under Ray Spaxman, the department decided it was more fun to play Architect, in a grand fashion.  If anyone asked about city visions or forward planning, the quote was;
We have the Bartholomew Plan of 1929 and we stopped the urban freeways in the early 1970s. The Greater Vancouver Livable Region Plan adopted by the GVRD in steps over the 1970s provided for the scaling down of the Vancouver Central Business District and the creation of New Town Centres in the suburbs.  Luckily, Expo 86 came along to give Ottawa an excuse to fund a proper rapid transit system and the restructuring of growth became a reality.

Whole areas of the central city were down-zoned without compensation, in the downtown, and the West End, to the severe hardship to many citizens.  But to assure more rapid urban development of the Expo 86 site after the Worlds Fair, that site was up-zoned to a much higher density.  So in fact, a transfer of potential capital through new development was made from local land owners in the core and west end, to the new owners of the Expos lands, who happened to arrive from offshore, eager to build with what amounted to a 20 year monopoly on urban development in the central city. To make things even more attractive, the Provincial government took over the cost and liability of cleaning up the industrial and hazardous waste on the fair site and new urban neighbourhoods.

In the 1970s and 1980s there was also a deindustrialization of the Metro area, with rail yards and industries relocating out to Surrey, Coquitlam and Pitt Meadows.

Against this backdrop in land use shifts, the Vancouver Planning Department, in the words of Senior Planner Ralph Segal, was considered “one big infill site”.

While Spaxman was Director of Planning, design control was extremely centralized but focussed on architecture and urban design, not planning in the ‘traditional’ sense.  Part of this was rationalized on the basis that conventional planning was under attack at the time, that it was being discredited as just another mechanism to consume land and rape nature; road, cookie cutter lots, shopping centres and freeways.

The GVRD plans were trying to counter this with what was later called ‘the new urbanism” by the Americans.  Urban development started to be accepted and within the constraints of the Agricultural Land Reserve as the public saw the new benefits.  (For example, in Maple Ridge during this time, the pressure to develop strip commercial like Abbotsford, Surrey and Coquitlam was countered by the infill and redevelopment of the downtown of Haney with shopping , recreation and institutional uses mixed in the town core.)

Given this culture of design, there was a significant move by graduates of architecture schools to work more and more in the public sector, a case of supply meeting a new demand. In  the city of Vancouver, under Spaxman, they had a public service role to start out, but Spaxman always had the last word, and if in doubt, he could be used to make an appeal on design and land use, but there was nowhere to go from there.  The fact that even he did not articulate any grand vision or move towards any community plan, made everything an ad hoc decision.  Instead of planning, considerations of building design started to override the  land owners wishes, the users needs and economics  was used to discuss ‘public benefit’ over private costs, which might have been fine if kept in balance.

But things really fell apart when Spaxman arrogantly locked horns with council once too often, in particularly at the time, Mayor Gordon Campbell.  With some people, it is possible to disagree, even dislike each other but still have respect for each other as people, free spirits and as professionals.  Sometimes a mean spiritedness intervenes, and a revolution develops.
Spaxman left the city, but some notions of corporate-speak at city  hall had seen a growth of bureaucracy, or middle managers and wannabe architects working under Spaxman.  When he left, the structural shakeup and new management devolution of authority created a much bigger mess than anyone had expected, at least for those that had to deal with the City.

In place of one dictator, the City now had a small army of what were called Development Planners, many with architectural training and a desire to play “Design Police.” This might have been a Good Thing (as they say in 1066 and all that), if there was also accountability, appeal mechanisms and fair play.  But there was not, and there still is not…………….
2. Common Law and the Vancouver City Charter

One of the oldest principles inherited from Roman Law says
Delegetus Non Portus Delega
(meaning: Responsibility Given Cannot Be Transferred)
-anyone who does not observe this Dictum will have his head on
the block – quoting Irvin Kew Architect in discussion with Provincial Government on this issue.

Authority cannot be delegated if it is not one’s to have in the first place.  Council has the authority to do plans, zone property and even general dictate some general principles in design, even colour materials and theme in Official Community Plans, but to go much beyond that has been challenged in common law jurisdictions and overturned.

One of the benefits of several millennia of civilization is the notion of common law, where reasonable decisions in similar society are accepted as a standard in one’s own. In not all cases are other decisions accepted automatically, or are adjusted and fed back into the loop so even the original case can be changed on appeal.

In a sister jurisdiction, in Seattle, arbitrary decisions by planners were taken to court because they were not based upon explicit, written and legal basis.  The court told the planners to smarten up, work from written law only and discretion was confined to a reasonable area of discussion.

In England, similar cases of abuse where planners changed their minds or between staff were told by the courts that once an applicant acted in good faith on the ruling or interpretation of an applicant, that became the norm and a staff members change of mind could not change the applicants project.

In Alberta and Washington State amongst others, but as neighbours, they have deadlines for decisions by which time the applicant can proceed with his intentions and without further delay.  Timeliness is written into their planning law.  Not in Vancouver, nor anywhere in B.C.

In our traditions inherited in common law, one would expect to appeal a bad decision by a bureaucrat, but it as yet does not happen in Vancouver. Why not?

The American Constitution sets out ideal like life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, the French proclaim Liberty, Fraternity, Equality.  The Canadian mindset worries first about ‘Order and Good Government” It is of course to be expected that all those things are also espoused by each others governments, but look where our priorities lie.  The concern for peace order and good government were paramount in the settlement of the west in the 1800’s, as new Canadians were only too glad to avoid the American Indian Wars of conquest of their own west.

The prim outlook, the need to control oneself and all your neighbours is seen by travelers who “sense a feeling of negativism as they cross the Rockies” after experiencing a more unbridled outlook certainly in Calgary but also anywhere in the East, whether in the US or Canada.

Some of this is experienced in the US Pacific Northwest to our south, so in part it maybe just a psychological reaction to the wet rainforest climate and gray skies. The attitude in BC can be illustrated on any freeway, where other places say slow traffic keep right, in BC the fast lane is to the right as the sanctimonious self proclaimed traffic police putter along at just below the speed limit, and they honk if you pass them at all.  This need to tell everyone else what to do pervades the society and might in part be due to the realization that there is no more frontier, no where else to go, this is a nice place, I am here, keep everyone else out, close the gates.  The reactionary NIMBY society seems to flourish in BC more strongly than anywhere else.  In some ways it is a natural reaction to arriving in the promised Land and it gets expressed in idealistic environmental terms, but it does not hide the basic mean spiritedness, the selfishness of a pampered society.

NPA party and the 1990s.
The implications to the city when this is exercised as political power is that the rich and powerful do everything to control power, to act to gold plate their own neighbourhoods and dump all perceived ‘negative land uses’ on the poorer and unrepresented parts of the city.  The power elite also refuse to seek Metropolitan government as they would lose their status as big frogs in the little puddle.  As of this writing, formal ward systems or democratic area representation have been stonewalled from Vancouver for decades.  In place of that, the perpetual power machine of the local NPA have a new unofficial ward system of 2 seats for Chinatown, one for gay west enders, several for the creme de la creme area of Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale, a member from Kits Point who tries to close the public beaches and other areas off from the city at large, with some token opposition from COPE.

How does this get translated into rigid social control and why does design become such an important element it community building?

The society of pursed lips and perpetually crossed legs personification,  of Vancouver as a puritanical no fun city is not just a feeling or a nuance to the society.  If we look at how the city governs itself and projects attitudes through law and administration, the sense of control abuse of authority show up as not only a by product of local power mongers, but as a conscious policy of protection of high rent real estate, reactionary social planning and  consolidation of political power.

The fact that all the Federal Charter powers are negated under local government is no accident, but due to a gradual rewording of innocuous Acts, bylaws and other documents over time.  The advertised product called the city of Vancouver sounds good on paper and in the public relations bumph, but the reality of administration is something else.

Because of the Charter and abuse of authority, common law practice and examples like the above have no bearing.  As conditions worsen, individuals talk of taking the city to court, or to sue individual staff, but is has not happened yet.

Others try to deal with it as a systemic problem, seeking to correct the mess  by working with council and staff, but every attempt has only managed to make things worse.  It has been the experience of ‘client groups’, that every reorganization and restructuring makes things worse. This can be demonstrated by the review of the different reports by outside bodies to city council over the last 20 years, outlined in Appendix C.

The flow chart for processing even simple single family permits get more complicated, the staff relations diagrams get longer and wider and the same usual suspects keep getting promoted.

Window Dressing as Problem Solving:
Every five or ten years, in response to complaints, there is some form of committee, task force or other that makes a show of solving these problems of maladministration and injustice.

In the early 1990s under Director of Planning Tom Fletcher, the most representative and wide ranging input was sought to make corrections.  Unfortunately the process itself is usually flawed because it is controlled by the very people causing the problem. In 199…, reports were sent to council from the AIBC, UDI, ….etc….
Staff ignored or ridiculed the input and and arrogant council under the direction of the Planning Committee Chairman Jennifer Clarke, made light of the whole thing.   For good reason, as will be explained later, she and others had a conflict of of interest, certainly a vested interest in having the rogue bureaucracy operate the way  it does.

This is a legal and political problem that could be solved in court, not as a single issue or appellant, but as a class action suit.

Courts or Political Correction:

—-Architects and Lawyers etc..

It could be corrected by a council that recognized the problem and cleaned it up.  The most effective method is to have the Province amend the Charter or do away with it and start over, returning the rule of law to the city of Vancouver.

Unfortunately, the current provincial government is contemplating making matter worse by implementing a new Charter power for all local governments in B.C.

As more than one very Senior bureaucrat said in Victoria, this is a disaster.  Vancouver cannot handle the power properly and now they want to delegate this abuse of authority to every little town in the Province.  The lobby by  local government, and behind the scenes by power hungry planner has been at work through changes in government but this nice in theory, disaster in practice legislation appears to be moving ahead.  it is time to challenge this assumption now and forever.  How it affects individuals needs to be shown before anyone will really care.

A Municipal Board of Appeal, for all of B.C.
Most citizens are aware of the Board of Variance, a place to make an appeal on interpretation from the Planning Department.  This mechanism works the same and exists in most jurisdictions.  Based  upon ground of hardship, a citizen applicant can go to the board and seek redress or relaxation to permit something otherwise not permitted in a bylaw.
In most places it works well, as intended and is a check and balance to overzealous bureaucrats or silly and redundant laws and regulation.

However, in Vancouver over the last 15 years, the Board has been hobbled by  limitations set upon it by the planning department so that the extent and number of successful real appeals are not anywhere near what they are outside the city, or before the noose of control was tightened.  It now essentially operates not as an independent board, but as a reinforcement to the planning controls.

In most part this is a power play at work, but it is based on the ever growing body of not just bylaws, but the interpretation of them in Administrative Bulletins, and more-so from “Design Guidelines” which again are in the category of being “just what we say they are, nothing more, nothing less”.
The Board of Variance is now a misnomer, it is really now a board of reinforcement of regulation. What makes this doubly insulting to the citizen applicant is that issues are not presented in an open and fair manner, but by staff it seems that are picked for outright bellicose behaviour, with stringent direction on pet staff issues, on which way the board should vote, just in case they had any idea of being impartial or lenient.

For a start, the Board of Variance needs to be reviewed and liberated to do it’s job again.  At another level, a number of groups and associations have been lobbying for 10 years with the Provincial Government to bring in a Municipal Board of Appeal, just as  exists in Alberta and Ontario.  If the new BoA does not happen, and if council cannot clean up the system after another election, concerned citizens should seriously consider asking for a judicial or ministerial inquiry into the misguided administration.
The original intent of the Board of Variance has been increasingly restricted so it cannot do its job anymore due to the restriction put on it,  again, by references to and limitations of the Vancouver Charter.  The restrictions can be found on the city web page:
City of Vancouver 453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Y 1V4 (604) 873 – 7344 Fax (604) 873 – 7060
May 1997
Authority – Director of Planning
Effective August 12, 1982
Pursuant to Section 563 of the Vancouver Charter regarding official development plans, the Board of Variance cannot consider an appeal which, if allowed, would authorize any development contrary to or at variance with an official development plan.
The Board of Variance may, however, consider an appeal against a decision of the Development Permit Board or the Director of Planning regarding areas of discretion, where such appeal, if allowed, would not authorize any development contrary to or at variance with an official development plan.
and in another bulletin:

Planning – By-law Administration Bulletins
City of Vancouver 453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Y 1V4 (604) 873 – 7344 Fax (604) 873 – 7060
May 1997
Authority – Vancouver Charter
Effective February 9, 1983
The following is intended to clarify the jurisdiction of the Board of Variance in dealing with nonconforming
uses pursuant to Section 568 of the Vancouver Charter:
(1) The Board of Variance has jurisdiction to extend the 90-day maximum period set out in subsection
(3) of Section 568 of the Charter to 180 days.
(2) The Board of Variance does not have jurisdiction to allow a change of use in a non-conforming building where the new use would constitute a use not permitted outright in the relevant zoning district schedule.
(3) The Board of Variance does not have jurisdiction to allow any change of use which would be contrary to or at variance with an official development plan.

Bylaws also have been modified lately to move in a direction where the usual setbacks are dealt with not in the usual siting sections, but in ‘the permitted use’ section of the bylaw.  This removes the option of making appeals on siting to the Board of Variance, and any property owner or potential purchaser of land in Vancouver better be aware of this new level of control, restriction, and denial of appeal.

This is another reason why a new independent board of appeal is needed, particularly under any form of Charter governance.
Such a board at least gives a place to turn to seek a redress of grievance.  If you run into a silly law or an unreasonable bureaucracy, there is a simple appeal possible on basic grounds of interpretation and to make sure that what is being enforced is ‘reasonable’.

After 10 years of lobbying with governments of different stripes, there still is not response to make sure there is balance in the system to protect private citizens rights.  This kind of appeal board will be even more a necessity if the local government Charter is enacted to give Carte Blanche powers to all little communities in B.C.

Louis IV of France gave carte blanche to his nobles, death sentences where only the name had to be filled in.  A similar approach to approvals systems like Vancouver, where any excuse to deny is used and not questioned and everyone involved has a veto.


3. Good Planning
Now we have an idea of what should be but isn’t, what is but should not be, how is planning hijacked at city  Hall?

_____Reference to similar high handedness in Delta, New West, West Van

Chapter Outline on Circling the Wagons

The Pitt bylaw was a first for the city in trying to protect a high rent district from any consideration at all of any development of any kind.  To make it work it actually down-zoned the area for the amount of building one could have, which if you have money is not a big loss, you only need so much house.
So in an era that a city centre of this age and maturation should be looking at infill and densification, the very heartland of the land mass, Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale areas were made a protected area. Not for wildlife, for the Old creme group.

The Pitt bylaw which became RS5 and other plethora of zones, before adoption even tried to exclude community level uses permitted everywhere else; schools, hospitals, group homes etc.  It was only when the planners said this would be illegal that such an exclusion from the general conditions was amended to conform to overall city wide policy. (the planner on this does not want to be known or quoted for good reason.) The daughter of Pitt, is Jennifer Clarke, city councilor and aspiring mayoralty candidate, known widely as the school -marm driving any sense of fun, merriment or love of life out of the city.

What is not so widely known, is that in addition to the zoning bylaw, there was another innocent looking, motherhood sounding policy adopted: The Neighbourhood Stabilization Policy.  This has since been changed to The Kerrisdale RS Districts Rezoning Policy. This has essentially “redlined an area” in which nobody could even apply for rezoning. Any question of land use change was denied. Even institutions could not raise such questions as at one point only one ‘demonstration project ‘ was permitted in what was called, ‘one neighbourhood’, even though by most definitions in planning the area was made up of a dozen real neighbourhoods.
Adopted by City Council October 7, 1980
Amended February 22, July 24, 1990 and January 18, 1996
The Director of Planning is instructed to advise applicants or potential applicants wishing to alter the residential zoning in Kerrisdale* that Council would not be prepared to consider any rezoning application from single-family residential to apartment, townhouse or other higher-density residential use, unless:
i) the application is submitted under the City’s Neighbourhood Housing Demonstration Program**; and
ii) the proposed density and form of development for the total site would be compatible with adjacent
* The policy generally applies to lands surrounding the RM-3, RM-3A and C-2 Districts located between 37th and 49th Avenues, Larch and Cypress Streets.
** Rezonings for Neighbourhood Housing Demonstration Projects, whether publicly or privately
initiated, will be considered on condition that:
(a) the application demonstrate a new housing form in the neighbourhood, improved affordability, and a degree of neighbourhood support; and
(b) any increase in land value, beyond the normal profit allowed by the City’s standard bonussing
process, be converted into improved affordability.
Further information on funding and how to apply for a Neighbourhood Housing Demonstration Project is available from the Housing Centre.

We should not  forget Vancouver is unique in that institutions are not zoned necessarily, but permitted in all zones, with the intent that a community has a balance of services. Under “conditional use” they even are supposed to get what is called  “Green door service”, special processing, fast tracking, extra consideration.  And it is true, to some degree, if the neighbourhood is east side, downtown or even Kits, but not in the creme zones.

When it was pointed out to Deputy city manager, an ex planner, Ted Droettboem, that such a removal of property rights (the right to appeal or apply for rezoning) was denied to this area, he agreed that the bylaw and policy was ultra vires, or illegal.  Such moratoria on rezoning under provincial legislation and precedent, are only supposed to apply for a year while community plans are sorted out.  So a year delay or removal of rights was acceptable but not an indefinite suspension.
If all neighbourhoods were treated the same way it also might be seen to be just, but when an area with such protective influence is cut out of the city maturation process, it impacts the rest of the city. Protection is one thing, favoritism is something else.

When one looks at the demographics, the movers and shakers in the NPA civic party, the power house councilors and where their friends and neighbours live, it is a disturbing pattern which reveals the soft underbelly of the questionable practice of the city. There is no better example of having one law for the rich and another for the poor, or at least the rest of the non-creme elite.

The deficiency in  Community needs and services is dramatically affected by  this protectionism of real estate values. The attitude of the Jennifer Clarke/ Pitt Bylaw for Kerrisdale is a good example of how narrow and self centered zoning law, through control of city council can protect a narrow interest group to the detriment of the society at large.

Institutions have a hard time in a already developed and maturing city, as you cannot plan for them at the community level, the demands shift too much; schools open, fill up, close, get sold and another generation fills  the neighbourhood but too late, other solutions need to be found. Everyone says not next door to me.

This extra layer of control or denial of rights, depending on your position, is a layer of armour to protect certain property rights to the detriment of the rest of the city.  It is interesting that at this time that Puil, Owen and Clarke all lived in this area and the NPA  heavies also controlled this process indirectly.  Is control of city hall so important?  Maybe so if the biggest investment anyone makes is usually their home, and in the case of the creme neighbourhoods, the investment is bigger than most.  This is the same group who also wail about making arterial streets work better, so even the suburbanites cannot get downtown any faster.

Jennifer Clarke, who liked to promote herself as a community leader in reality was only a defender of very narrow, mean spirited NIMBY protectionism, her fathers RS5 bylaw (you can only build Tudor or Disney) was her vehicle to run for city hall.
Beyond that, on other issues she had little real depth or understanding and in fact ducked for cover if a real controversial issue came up.  On the Arbutus rail corridor preservation for instance, she disappeared, having a ‘conflict’ as she lived along the line, but in the background, worked all avenues to have the line as anything but rail or transit use.

There is nothing wrong with anyone protecting their territory, but is such blatant protectionism fair or just when compared to how open the rest of the city is to change?

What needs to be exposed is the social organization of the bureaucracy relative to the elected councillors, particularly when there is a period of oligopoly or one party government.  Knowing where the power lies is good for self preservation, and the televised council meetings as window dressing for decisions made in back rooms is a great bit of theatre.  The sycophants of bureaucracy make a parody of great ape troupes in the wild, with the body language, the bowing and scraping, showing of teeth and everything else just short of rump display. (Although inside sources say this may also be a back room activity).

The crossover in power sharing between the elected and the bureaucracy can be corrupted during long periods of one party government with no flesh blood or social shake ups.  This was most evident in BC after 25 years of Social Credit government and to some degree after 10 years of NDP in the 1990s.  The social interaction between elected and the hired allows the roles to blur and bureaucrats forget their place and legal limitations.  There has been concern in Ottawa over long periods of Liberal government and what this does to Bureaucracy, the Mandarin Class.

How class, status and power works in Canada is often not viewed too closely, we like to think we are an egalitarian society, which is sometimes true.  In the 1960s, Porter wrote the Vertical Mosaic, looking at power and families, money and influence.  Even in colonial times central Canada had the Family Compact and the Chateau Clique.

Less has been written of late, or of the West Coast, about power structures and influence, and most analysis of social and political power is buried in demographic and statistical studies by Sociology students at university.  It is taboo subject and as interpretation of dry statistics starts to require some subjective input, the subject often gets frozen out by political correctness vigilantes, or it is written in a popular vein for local magazines with lots of fluff but nothing useful to apply in real life.

In the younger by comparison Vancouver, compared to the power elites in Ottawa, Toronto or Montreal, the social interaction is even more direct, personal and constant.
In the intimate confines of small local government, councilors with power and certain personality traits will lean on staff, depend on them to a degree which is perhaps unseemly, but the staff if willing and accommodating become like personal servants instead of civil servants.  This has been observed in public and by other staff inside the hall and it has a negative impact on the morale of the whole operation. But it also reinforces the power of the politician, the power of the sycophant, and it one trains junior staff to emulate the conduct. Again the slippery slope of unprofessional conduct taints the image of good government.  When it comes time for re-election, this close buddy system allows for councilors to make direct use of staff for research, rapid policy development and support not afforded other candidates. Usually the party in power has total control over this kind of access and this helps perpetuate the rule of the incumbents.  At the federal and provincial levels there are at least ethics officers and oaths of impartiality to deal with this problem, but in local government there is less control and a greater pressure not to correct this. This in itself is another link in the chains of corruption that need to be broken.

What is it that the power elite and their design police are trying to control anyway? What made design and land use so important all of a sudden? Why is there more outrageous control of what should be private decisions so strong here compared to cities with even more high prices land, like Toronto, New York, London or Tokyo?

Part of it is the machine has been allowed to grow.
A comparison of staff and productivity factors for the Lower Mainland and other larger cities will show this.
4. Freedom of Expression; the myth of;
This is one of the myths of our society.  Really free expression has always been controlled to some degree, to the point where even artists are banned, exiled, executed, or their works destroyed.

The neo-petite- fascist trend to political correctness in all modern society has reached a new high or low depending on how you view it.  Now, if you offend one, you offend all.  It has come to the point where critical debate is stifled and humour is a dying art.  On the west coast, everything is sacred.  It is no wonder Vancouver now even labels itself as No Fun Vancouver.  Cultural events and celebrations get cancelled, whittled down and moved into venues with more police control.  Police seize wine from festival goers and make pronouncements for the public not to go to their own downtown streets on New Years Eve.
Welcome to Vancouver, the so called World Class city of the New Millennium.

In the fine arts, Vancouver is probably one of the open and free cultural centres in  the world, if you go to the theatre, an art gallery, or even to a naughty part of town. But in architecture, there is another attitude.

Maybe because architecture is so public, every building has a face, the what offends one offends all regimen is at fault.

Everyone feels free to comment on anyone else’s clothes, personality, choice of car or mate.  But your house, ma’am, is on MY street.  The NIMBY attitude in combination with political correctness now extends from the street into your property, in fact inside your house.  This means there is now nor real freedom of expression.  Even though it cannot really be codified, the blue rinse mob in tennis shoes want to design your house.  And in Vancouver they are doing it with the help of a bloated staff of wannabe architects o the public payroll.  You now get to pay a fee to be abused, to have our own freedoms removed, and to have all your neighbours given a veto over what rightfully is your own prerogative.  Out of  hundreds of horror stories, a few anecdotes can illustrate how far this has come.  In any other part of the Common Law world, this would have been challenged in court a long time ago.
5. Neighbourhood Rights?
This is another area of excuse for city malpractice of the law and design control.  It appears from existing bylaws and design dictates that there are neighbourhood rights for only certain neighbourhoods.  There are other neighbourhoods who also have heavy design and lifestyle controls but with fewer “rights”.  And then there are neighbourhoods with no rights, no controls and no plans.  In some ways the citizens there have the most rights of all because they do not have inflicted on them ‘the neighbourhood rights’.
After the Kerrisdale/Shaughnessy RS5 fiasco, there was criticism that the zoning was elitist, protectionism and it was a subsidy to the rich. It was.

But in part from council reaction, but mostly at the religious drive of the ‘inspired’ architect planners, city hall staff actually went out into evolving NIMBY neighbourhoods and actively promoted “planning services”, “let us design a new zoning for you”.

If this was a free enterprise promotion it might have been bad enough, but here was the planners asking for a make work project, based on selfish drives for neighbours to ‘control your neighbour’.
It was like whipping up a lynch mob, with cries of stop this, stop that, which is really great until you are the one affected.  The same vigilantes were not so righteous when they became the applicant.
This was all made worse by a tendency by the self appointed design police, the Martha Stewarts of Vancouver, to stress ‘craftsman houses’, trying to recreate a Vancouver that might have happened a century ago. Too many of them had been to Disney land but had never seen the World.

In short, the expansion of Discretionary Zoning into new neighbourhoods was not a growth of rights, but a severe restriction of rights of the property owner. Again, what the city purported, was not the truth.
The costs of this expanding bureaucracy and meddling in personal choice, was higher fees, longer processing time, higher carrying costs and actually more acrimony in neighbourhoods as each side got more frustrated over who controlled what.  In fact the power of the Neighbourhood rights was just a transfer of design whim to a bureaucrat behind the counter.
Another myth of local government; local control.

6. Good Communication and a healthy community.
Part of the myth of community planning is that it is based on open and active communication with the neighbourhoods. First of all, what the city of Vancouver calls neighbourhoods are really large administrative areas each made up of dozens of what even in planning school, are recognized as real neighbourhoods (school, store, church, knowing your neighbours at least by sight) At a large public conference in 2001, over 80% of the attendees said there was 200 neighbourhoods in the city in their own perception.

There are neighbourhood associations, quite strong, well organized and self funded in the city but for the most part the city council tries to ignore them, planners deal as little as possible with them, as they do not reflect the administrative units the city calls neighbourhoods.

It seems the existing community groups are just not the right people, and council, just as it does with other issues, seeks out other appointees that are more of ‘the right kind of people’, appointed not from the grass roots, but from the top down.  As a result, community groups in many cases become breeding grounds for new politicians.  In the last decade, the community groups themselves, tending to be ignored by city hall, have come together in an umbrella communications network called ‘community to community’.

The overall impact of this attempt to filter input but still try to appear proactive, with open communication, is another evolution of the  link between the political oligopoly, senior staff and a cynically manipulated propaganda machine presented as a community planning communication programme.
Out of frustration with the lack of real input to plans, which are really developed in back rooms, all manner of interest groups and special lobbies have sprung up.  One only has to look at the number of bodies that have arisen to pick over the next carcass of  bare land, the South East False Creek area.

The cacophony of interests could be invaluable as an asset if some focus and real public input would be respected.
7. Access to Information

8. Public Service: Civil Servants?
-Civic Bureaucracy as a Tribal Society
-the role of Institutional Memory
-the cost of empire


The analogy is not lightly suggested, my own background from a pre-architecture degree in Sociology   plus  some in depth experience in government at every level gives one some sense of when special dynamics are at play.
Please bear with the analysis from this abstract point of view. This is not meant to be taken lightly, this subject and this analysis is part of a book in progress. Some people will have no patience with this kind of metaphor, but to some, it leads to some greater understanding, please bear with me.

Background for comparison:
In pre-industrial society tribes  defined territory and defended it.
Or, there was some accepted overlap in geography like the plains Indian tribes, war sometimes, intermarriage, a norm and to an extent that when European trappers arrived, who assimilated who is the question, the Metis was the result.
Sometimes there were intermingled but also warring societies as in the Great Lake Basin before the Europeans decided to give some political order of their own. General peace but raiding for wives was a common theme you don’t see much in the modern world but it has resurfaced in China due to the male dominant birth rate and a shortage of women.
In modern urban city state landscapes, a new warring hierarchy has arisen: the tribal bureaucracy, a self defining, all-powerful entity who really answers to no one in fact.

How is this like a modern cityscape?
In a city like Vancouver, the tribes have been replaced with roaming bands of interest groups in the landscape, if not at war, then at least checking out the landscape, looking for allies, putting down enemies by any means, and expanding their territory and power. The physical landscape is replaced with a virtual landscape of vested interests. (We all have one, it is just some declare it and others parade in a costume, pretending to serve one purpose as they do another).
In the case of the city of Vancouver, planning law and control has grown outside the normal laws of the society which gave it birth, it was nurtured at first by well meaning intellect who thought a little unfair treatment was fair game if some public benefit could be shown. (The Spaxman Era).

Planning control involved a growing intimidation of the public. It did  generally go unnoticed by the public at large until they became an applicant, but professional bodies dealing with the city on a repeated basis noticed the drift towards a design police state and an abuse of civic authority.  To review the AIBC Council report to the City of Vancouver Council of March 8, 1994, not only the current problems of the time were illustrated, but the past pattern of abuse and subterfuge of democratic principles was highlighted.

Things only got worse with the loss of a strong Director of Planning, so instead of one benevolent dictator over-riding constitutional rights, we soon had dozens of prima donnas all declaring that they were acting as “the Director of Planning”.  This confusion only got slightly clearer when a few years back, 5 people were declared to operate collectively as the Director of Planning. Theatrical farces have had less to play upon. Things only got worse.

When one looks at the list of reports about planning and abuse of power, the recurrent themes of complaint, attempts at problem solving and cycles of consultation, there is a clear pattern of abuse and disregard of the public trust. This responsibility for this abuse rests with two prime groups:
1 -the members of Councils of the City of Vancouver over a long period of time, and
2) the wannabe or frustrated professionals hired to act on behalf of Council and the “public”.

Cultural Attitude:
This same “public” to be protected, however is not just “the protected”, but over time, each citizen or homeowner as an applicant becomes, “the aggressor or transgressor to be controlled.” This is a recurring cultural theme within the department, the public as applicant is not to be helped, but controlled, policed, manipulated, to the extent where important aspects of public policy remain hidden and only revealed if it serves the purpose of the bureaucrat.  If breaking a rule serves his purpose, the rules stay hidden. So much for equal treatment before the law. Bylaws were subject to change so often and to such a degree that nearly all properties become non-conforming and subject to more intense and arbitrary scrutiny.
Even worse, inside the planning department the myriad jumble of laws and contradictions gave rise to new “interpretive bulletins” which internally governed how design submissions would be judged.  Power became so diffused and abused that individual plan checkers and “development Planners” made their own interpretations, imposing whimsical and arbitrary rulings. If you want a permit, you agree with them, if you fight you get rejected applications with ridiculous reasons. But there is no where to appeal. In a normal society based on common law and common sense there would be a knowledge first of all that you cannot trudge on other’s rights, and secondly that there would be a method of appeal.  At the petite bureaucrat level, there is no where to turn.  The fact that a management system allows the abuse to continue and not have an appeal system is indeed criminal. Wars have been fought and great bills proclaimed to right this wrong in history.

But Vancouver is an exception, in part because the tribal bureaucracy model of society and control is in play.

In the cultural landscape, the planning department has grown from a small body of helpful individuals into an army of very unproductive, self satisfied, smug, know it all vigilantes armed to do whatever each thinks is right to “process” development.
If they all were Angels or Solomon’s, benign judges,  all would be wonderful, however, our society has developed layers of laws to protect us from such well meaning or otherwise, Overlords

These same people who purport to protect the public, admit in confidence, in small groups, that they know they are acting illegally, “but we do it to protect the Public”. From what.
Who protects us from the Design Police of city hall, there is no appeal body, no Police Commission of Design. (This may be corrected if the letter to the Province is acted upon, a new Board of Municipal Appeal.)

So, we have dealt with the staff. Misguided or unguided zealots, want-to-be architects frittering away their time at public expense. (this is not said lightly, if they did planning instead of trying to play architect, the same staff could have planned the city long ago and retired… but still we pay the bills…..)

To Council, the elected body.  We have a history of Councils  paying lip service to democracy but still handing over unconstitutional powers to a staff untrained to handle an interpretative role of planning regulation in the way permitted by a naive or worse, a conscious council. Individual members of Council swear ignorance of these subtleties, but for reason are they elected, just for show, how is it possible to give over powers to unelected and unaccountable civil servants? In the end these elected people should be held accountable, unfortunately, when this finally gets cleaned up, the majority of well meaning but misguided politicians will have come and gone.

Back to the tribe. The planning department has grown so large and so fast with little real direction except to meddle in private affairs of architecture and realms of personal taste, all built upon the notion of “defending the public”, from what, we really do not know.
It is the public that now needs to be defended from the zealots who want to practice architecture from the public side of the counter.

It is here the tribal mentality shows itself: new people are new for so long, then become assimilated into the mantra of obfuscation and endless meetings of many people with conclusions of little consequence.

Applicants or the public who are not compliant with the tribal mantra are known as “bad or difficult clients”. Lists are kept of “good ones and bad ones.”
The old, historic meaning of  civil servant has not parallel in such an environment. There are so many ways to say no that to get any positive response is seized as a prize.  This becomes reinforced in time so a creeping  in definition of rights so rights are gradually eroded. There is evidence that the circling of wagons take place even between staff and council, against those who object, the nay sayers must all be alienated and marginalized.

This is a summary of the perverse decay of a bureaucratic culture that feeds upon a power which they have no constitutional basis. Unfortunately, when something this big gets this powerful and this corrupt, it will not be enough to ask for change.  It will require a revolution or a complete firing of most of the staff and a rebuilding.

The history set out in the AIBC document and others shows a 20 year period or the same complaints escalating, that is the problem got worse, the abuses grew, the cavalier attitude of “public servants” grew even more out of proportion.

This tribal metaphor is part of the history. It is not a lighthearted sociological essay, but part of the analysis of what is going wrong. It is not just the by-laws and administrative process, it is the culture of the institution of the planning bureaucracy that needs some radical surgery.

If the system of laws and administration is what is so important, a change of people should not be a problem. If we are concerned about the loss of “institutional Memory”, or the ability to seek out “former public enemies for future hits”, to paraphrase a former planning official, then all the more reason why the people have to go. We have created a monstrous and labyrinthian system that serves nobody except the bureaucrats who get paid to contemplate the mysteries of every submission.

This tribe needs to be relocated for the health of the rest of the community. To quote Ralph Segal “why should we throw out the Baby with the bath water?”
Perhaps it is  Rosemary’s Baby.

9. Open Government versus
Unaccountable Control.

The legally correct and generally accepted role of design review is for either a review by peers, in that a design committee with 6 or more design professionals and others ask questions and give ADVICE only. They do not APPROVE.  The Socratic method of questioning an applicant is a way of leading discussion to  examine options, to have all better understand a problem. Given the make or break nature of design review in civic planning, it is in fact a semi-judicial process which requires a good degree of mature judgement, which means the criteria for selection of persons for jury duty is that they are peers in design, not novices, and even if experts, they are never to force their own opinion, slander an applicant or his work, and they are to treat each applicant with decorum and respect.
In the City of Vancouver, none of the above applies.
The city, by hiring architects as Development Planners, has in it’s application of the process, turned the review of design into a Peer Review of the Architect. When this was pointed out to the city, the Development Planners had the gall and audacity to lay a complaint that their critics could not complain about them or tell them what to do, they were above the law due to the nature of the City Charter.
Here we have a case of the critics who would not be criticized, and their illegality was defended by an illegal act.
Architects in such a design review role could probably keep on the safe side of the ethical line, if as in other municipalities, or other cities around the world, they kept their line of review to questions and at most suggestions. However, in Vancouver, they have crossed the legal and ethical line by going beyond laws, bylaws or even guidelines by imposing design changes by applicants, requiring changes in order to get permit approvals. Personal taste of the bureaucracy is imposed on the applicant.
At the professional level, the self governing body should be correcting this, but it is not.  The unprofessional and unethical conduct is going without review or correction. It may be the fault of the political masters, and that can be corrected perhaps at the ballot box and with a good housecleaning, but the abuse of authority and breaking of the law by the professional may require the review of the profession itself if it cannot also police the action of the member.  The other alternative is for the professional not to try and wear two hats, resign either the job or the profession to rid themselves of the conflict of interest.

But the root concern here is not about professions, but about the rights of the applicant, the homeowner or developer.  The horrendous infringement of rights is something that hits every citizen of the city.  As an individual you may not be concerned, until you are an applicant, but on principle, everyone should be concerned enough to see this cleaned up. If it cannot be done at the city level, the provincial government should be petitioned for the repeal of the act that allows this injustice to occur; the Vancouver Charter.

This of course also lead into the issue of charter government for all towns and cities.  In Ontario, they have been after this for years, seeking what they call “Home Rule”, more power of governance for local government. But Ontario also has the Municipal Board of Appeal as a place to turn when you run into a crazy situation or clerk with bad manners.

BC is trying to enact a Local Government Charter which, if left without checks and balances, will be, to quote a very senior official in Victoria, ‘the biggest disaster to hit the province’. The problems outlined in Vancouver above would be repeated in every little fiefdom in the province.

Even if by chance this is enacted, it should only be done if the Municipal Board of Appeal is put in place first. Either that, or citizens will need to become like the Americans and start suing for any injustice.

The purpose of this book is to help people understand the seriousness of this situation and to take action to correct it. If by chance they do not care or are asleep on the issue, the slide in corruption will only continue.
The great slide took place under the Mayorship of the very people who went on to become premiers of the Province; Harcourt and Campbell.  As mayors they allowed the staff to run amok, grow in number and multiply regulation upon regulation.

As premier, Campbell now boast of cutting regulation by a big margin and to download regulation to the local government.  This is one of the most unkind insults of all, it is not just the number of regulations, it is the DISCRETION permitted under each, the unregulated power of the bureaucrat.  The bulk of regulation is not at the provincial level anyway, it is at the city level, and growing. This part is a very cruel joke on the citizens.

To illustrate how bad discretion had become, during the 1990’s review of process, the city planners   were called the Sheriffs of Nottingham.  For those also short on history, before the Magna Carta, while King Richard was on the crusades, local shire-reeves, or sheriffs proclaimed they acted in the name of the king.  They could ask for anything and did, as in to bed your eldest daughter on her wedding night. The point is there was nobody to say no to any request, in this sense the bureaucracy has more power than an absolute monarch.  And things even the monarch would not ask for, nor would even local councils, as they would be too ashamed to ask, are now demanded by staff in city planning.

The unreasonable demands of monarchs was restricted over hundreds of years, and elected government inherited the restrictions to protect the citizens, but single acts like Charter government can reverse this progress unless the citizens wake up.

It got worse when every staff member proclaimed absolute power, staff then was termed as having the Spartucus complex. All wanted to be leader, I am Spartacus, no, I am Spartacus says the next……

Perhaps, like Spartacus, all aspirants need to be nailed to a cross.… in both cases, all supplicants get nailed.

10. How to be part of  your city.  Homo milk versus la creme du lait.

Part 3: What now.

1. Know your rights when dealing with the city.
- legal, precedence, social graces

Return from ex-staffer of sorts:

“I am not so sure that they encourage the illegality, as they seem to encourage that their interests be somehow, some way, considered to be within the law. When it is not possible to have their interests legally legitimate they encourage staff to figure a way to make it appear within the legal definition and request an assessment as to the potential problems that could arise and what to do if challenged. Most municipal by-laws if challenged would be deemed by the higher courts as not legal. They know however that most people do not know this and they go to great lengths to make sure that the public is not made aware, that is really what their legal beagles are around to ensure. And that is also why City employees are forbidden to issue an opinion on anything that occurs as City business, an employee can only state facts, you are not even allowed to say what you think about any City business in public or in a public forum, whether you are on or off duty. All City of Vancouver employees have a gag order as one of the terms of employment. They also know that few people have the time and resources to challenge them.
I have been told by the Property Use Inspectors that the by-law enforcement measures are totally dependent on the public thinking that the City has the ability or legality to enforce by-law infractions when actually they are very limited as to what they can actually do and have to follow a very arduous, lengthy path when someone does not go along with all the by-laws.
When people challenge them in court, they usually either back down, lose or find that the court penalty for breaking the by-law is less than they hoped for.  First, they never do anything unless their is an official complaint lodged. They may then issue threatening official looking letters, hoping you will cooperate, they have to wait at least 3 months to see if you will, if not, they issue a second threatening letter, they then have to wait another 3 months to see if you can be convinced, they will try to persuade you that you will be in big trouble if you do not comply, then they try to make a deal or appeal to your moral sensibility, finally, if people are still on their ass to do something about the infraction, they are able to set out to take the person to court, this is not a preferred route to continue on for them though because at least another  6 months will go by and they are never very sure of the outcome, it often is not in the Cities’ favour.

In response to:
Original message:
It has been my intent to get a book out on all this stuff, and then wanted to do a short version in time for the election, which means it should be out now.  What I really need to get out is the illegal part of planning administration and how it is encouraged by the politicians as it serves their purposes and of their supporters.  Only a few of us that have worked both inside and outside the local government scene know the whole picture,the lawyers do not want to challenge it because they make money out of the mess and architects are split; some of us are outraged that blatant illegality is ‘excused’ while another bunch love the cesspool as it makes a certain kind of business for them. As one said “why fight it, any architect worth his salt knows how to worm his way around city hall”.   doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy? This is worse than the dark ages.

2. How to civilize city hall, restore democracy, address corruption.
-local, provincial, boards of appeal, getting involved.

3. The Rebuttals, the Propaganda to come.
-who cares, who makes the excuses, what hidden agendas.

4. Separating the wheat from the chaff
- save the baby, flush the bath water.

Part 4: Implications beyond Vancouver
- influence in other jurisdictions, at present
- influence in other jurisdictions, with Local Government Charters
-influences beyond B.C. Appendix A
The Anecdotal Evidence; what to watch out for when dealing with Discretionary Authority.

These are only a few samples out of hundreds of horror stories.  They have been chosen as indication of what is wrong, what to watch out for, and some for just tearful humour. Appendix B

It’s late in the day for me to give any Latin lessons, but here it is again- Delegetus Non Portus Delega ( meaning: Responsibility Given Cannot Be Transferred) anyone who does not observe this Dictum will have his head on the block.  On the earlier e-mail re: “ability to practice” – the Law will refer to the First Principle for answers.  In this case, the logic would go some thing like this:

* Question – What determines one’s ability to practice architecture?
* Answer – The Architects Act

* How then is one able to practice architecture?
* Answer – one has to enter through an educational  programme and  reach a level of competence through studies and work  experience and examinations required by the Act before license is given to practice architecture.

* Question – Who is then the custodian and exerciser of the Act?
* Answer – The Architect’s Act confers upon the Members on the AIBC Council the “Responsibility” to ensure that the   requirements of the Act are
carried out

* Question – Can one be declared unfit to practice architecture?
* Answer – Yes, if one has suddenly suffered a memory loss and forgotten all
one’s lessons or flouted the rules of conduct  and professional
practice requirements as covered in the Bylaws of the Act (all these sins)

* Question – If one had not suffered or entered into any of the above, can
one be declared unfit to practice architecture by     the AIBC?
* Answer – No, unless by Supreme Court Order; but all thorough reasons and evidence of incompetence for the accused   will have to be provided by the Institute for such an action

* Question – Could the whole profession be reassessed for it’s ability to practice architecture?
* Answer(1) – Yes, if 100% of the membership has consistently failed to respond to the ideals and requirements of the   Architects Act.

The question will then become whether the Members on Council (now and before) had the competence     and “ability to be serving on Council” seeing that such an enormous failure has been recorded under their watch!
* Answer(2) – No, if a normal historic percentage has failed to live up to expectations of the Act; only those failures are  required to be re-minted

I could go on, but it is time for a cool beer at the local hostelry – however I shall leave you and your compadres with one though;  if you and all your compadres had been handed the key to the Pearly Gates and it was found that all of you were really  unfit to stay in heaven after the examination given by St. Peter- who do you thing God should send down to
Should it be St. Peter or all of you?  (remember – Delegtus Non Portus Delega!!!)


Farm-scrapers are not smoking hot.

by Richard Balfour on March 29, 2013

I at least will add this to my blog site which Charles Dobson pushed me into doing but I have not been diligent at it.

On 2013.03.28, at 4:15 PM, Rees, William wrote:

Richard’s assessment won’t likely get published anywhere which is a pity because for thermodynamic and mass balance reasons alone, it is absolutely accurate.

To David Shipway on unworkable solutions of buildings as farms:
- architecture is about the marriage of art and science.
then there is talkitecture, archiporn, imagination without a basis of reality, nice pictures with no meaning.

This is just as meaningless as the wet dream spaceship farms between galaxies with no real sunlight, but plants need sunlight, and mushrooms are no full substitute.’
This intellectual masturbation is supposed to give people hope that they can overcome the limitations of the earth and their own bodies.
It is bullshit. Someone did not do their research; biology, to start. See Eating Sunlight.

Even on earth, these take quantum inputs of energy and water that the land beneath cannot supply nor the area of sun input cannot provide.
But even worse, the embodied energy to build these machines that do not work is millions of times more than what nature provides.
In short, these folks should all be shot with a ball of their own waste.
This is a crime against human innocence, not wanting to admit we are overpopulated but not wanting to admit the hard corrections to make.
These so called farmscrapers do not even make good ruins, which is what they become shortly after commissioning as in addition to the labour of farming, you now have the labour of maintenance of a structure impossible to maintain; plants growing are antithesis to building standing against natural forces. The resources do not even exist to make this a solution, and even if so, this is a disaster, not a solution. This is akin to the silly folks suggesting 200 foot dykes to maintain Wall Street against rising oceans.
Lets all get real.
Even the forest in the foreground cannot be sustained naturally given the subsurface structure required to hold these phantoms in the air.
The local problem is the pave it all crowd use this visual malarky as excuse to consume the real farmland.
Did you know the UBC agriculture department does not deal with farml land economics anymore, but how to turn farms into urban use?
This is all suicidal.


On 2013.03.25, at 4:51 PM, david shipway wrote:

‘Farmscrapers’ take eco-friendly architecture to dizzying heights in China

OMG, this is just awful. What will the industrial mindset come up with next?



Metro Vancouver: a needed Change: Democracy

February 14, 2013

A case study in ungovernability. Where to start with needed change in a divided city. You must wonder how and why such things as our local inititiative like the one for biochar are done in Vancouver, as in not going the Metro government route to start with. Why not? We do not really have regional [...]

Read the full article →

New Gulf Island is Vancouver

February 12, 2013

60m tide vanc to abby I am the first to defend the rural, the farmland, the ALR. However the rural urban dichotomy with the unworkable unsustainable suburban oil age model is dead or if we keep building the model, more death. We are looking to use the thorn hill model of three stage rural urban [...]

Read the full article →

Ice Sheet Collapse and Metro Van Transportation

February 10, 2013

Terry, Paul,and the others onthe rail to Abby committtee…. While I am old time advocate of reopening interurban line, in fact all rail, all trails back to rail and now for a new upper levels rail line for post ice sheet collapse ocean levels, updated ISC info now admitted by more authorities suggests we better [...]

Read the full article →

2d planners not learning from the Old World, or their own masters.

February 4, 2013

Leveling Mountains, not learning from the Old World, including your own ancestors: I have written on this earlier. This is a case of not learning from their own history again, or the problem with 2d planners, not learning that mountain slopes are not a liabilty but an asset. Hills, have more surface area and naturally [...]

Read the full article →

Ending oil in farming, doing it by hand.

January 22, 2013

This energy intense machine we have created is not sustainable even in short period, and like the cities that collapse from end of energy inputs and food, the food collapse is due to end of energy inputs. The only recourse for those that wish to take it or die as an alternative, is to find [...]

Read the full article →

Forest soils recovery and sustainable forest hamlets

December 21, 2012

On destroyed forest floor recovery, of course the biochar, but also the  waste cakes from sewage treatment of ‘the sludge’. This latter part was supposed to be used intensively for gardens and farming but the lawyers got involved in Metro Vancouver case and it is only used slightly, burned other places. The issue with them [...]

Read the full article →

Dobie Guest Post on end of currency

December 21, 2012

Post-Collapse Money and Currency By Dobie Many of us have had the experience of borrowing money from a bank to buy a home. There is a brief period, after all of the paperwork is completed, when our bank account shows a very large balance. Soon, though, a very large cheque or transfer is taken from [...]

Read the full article →

Act on climate or die

December 12, 2012

Gee Thanks Bill,  and happy holidays to you too. Here it is back in pdf just in case and forwarding to the Usual Suspects. Earlier today I wrote about how plain silly the one meter ocean rise in BC Government study is now we face certain 6m rise, likely 60m rise in century, not from [...]

Read the full article →