Agenda Index City of Vancouver



Vancouver City Council


General Manager, Community Services Group, in consultation with Fire Services, Engineering Services, the City Manager’s Office, Legal Services and Environmental Health Services of the Vancouver/Richmond Health Board


Better City Government - Enforcement Review




Council has approved a number of resolutions authorizing the Better City Government program.


The review of the City’s by-law enforcement work was established at the beginning of the Better City Government (BCG) program as the City’s seventh priority of fifteen. It is also seen to be an integral part of the on-going work on Development and Building Regulation (DBR), the City’s first BCG priority. There are a number of systemic issues which require significant work, as well as opportunities for increasing efficiencies. Included in the re-design will be consideration of the many difficulties surrounding chronic non-compliance.

We propose a staff-driven, consultant-facilitated re-design of this work, including all components of the City involved in enforcement, with the purpose of making our enforcement procedures more consistent, effective and efficient, identifying problems with existing by-laws and improving customer service.


Early in the Better City Government program, the regulation of businesses and property use and commensurate by-law enforcement was identified as one of the top priorities for the City. During the course of the Development and Building Regulation Review process, other enforcement issues, generally related to the Building By-Law, were also identified as a top priority for review and change.

The enforcement review was originally scheduled to begin in 1996. However, a decision was made to delay it because of the extent of staff involvement in the DBR and Licensing reviews, along with other significant initiatives such as DOMINO, the CSG’s file imaging system. It was felt that we couldn’t do justice to another major project at that time.

Now that these other projects are into implementation, the Community Services Group has the time and resources to carry out the next major Better City Government project - the business process re-design of enforcement.


Among the many services the City provides to its citizens is the licensing and regulation of businesses operating in the city, the enforcement of by-laws affecting property use and the enforcement of building regulations. This is a multi-department set of processes involving the processing of applications, permits, inspections and the enforcement of many by-laws including, but not limited to, Building, Zoning and Development, Standards of Maintenance, Untidy Premises, Sign, Noise, Health, Graffiti, License, Street and Traffic, Fire, Vehicle for Hire and Health. To give an example of the scale of this activity, the Zoning and Development By-Law alone covers almost 40 uses requiring enforcement - from Bed and Breakfast accommodation to the location of Satellite Dishes.

The lead responsibility in the provision of these services is the Community Services Group (CSG). The Vancouver/Richmond Health Board also has a major role by providing Environmental Health services under contract to the City. Several City departments outside the CSG also have important roles to play; particularly, Engineering Services, Fire and Rescue Services, Legal Services and Police.

Customers of these processes include the city at large, communities of the City, property owners, aggrieved neighbours, business owners and operators, business clients and internal City customers. Customer objectives are frequently conflicting, and it can be a challenge to balance public and private interests.

There are upwards of 200 staff working in business, property use and building enforcement, including: Property Use Inspectors, By-Law Administration staff, By-Law Enforcement Coordination staff, NIST members, Lawyers, Building, Plumbing/Gas and Electrical Inspectors, Fire Inspectors, Engineering Inspectors, Health Inspectors, Police and Planning staff.

In the majority of cases, citizens comply with the City’s by-laws and if they do not, the reason is often that they were ignorant of the by-law’s existence and they readily comply after an inspector’s visit. Our main responsibility in this kind of case is one of providing education, improving public awareness of by-laws and portraying a positive image of the City.

Significant systemic issues have been identified, however, which - even if compliance exists - lead to inconsistencies which can result in inequity. Systemic problems can also cause inefficiency and staff frustration. These issues require concentrated and coordinated effort and include:

- conflicts between by-laws or between by-laws and procedures
- cumbersome processes with sometimes lengthy cycle times
- variations in priorities between work groups
- enforcement staff not involved when regulations are developed
- work groups not knowing or acknowledging the consequences of their actions for another work group and ultimately, the customer.

Still other concerns arise when we do not get voluntary compliance and must resort to issuing various orders and, in a relatively small number of cases, referring for charges or show cause hearings. These cases are the “problem” houses or businesses which create both public and staff frustration over our lack of effectiveness. Some of the contributing factors are:

- ineffective penalties
- difficulty assembling information for legal proceedings
- constraints of the court system
- by-laws not compatible
- lack of authority to effectively enforce.

At the same time as needing to address these issues, there are also many positive opportunities, which, through effective collaboration and coordination, could serve to make our systems more effective and efficient, improve customer service and provide a more rewarding working environment for our staff.

The Request for Proposals was sent out to 11 consulting firms and we received proposals from seven. A staff committee representing the involved departments and a variety of staff levels heard presentations from four short-listed consultant groups. After discussion, it was agreed that SMG/Columbia would provide the best value and the most experienced people. This firm has worked for the City before, undertaking projects for Fire Services and the City Manager’s Office relating to Hastings Park. They have a number of both government and private sector clients and have a great deal of experience in business process re-design.

The methodology, as outlined in our “Request for Proposals” and as proposed by SMG/Columbia Consulting Group is essentially one which develops joint consultant/staff teams and is substantially staff-driven. This includes staff from all levels of the organization. The intent of a staff-driven process is to acquire good and complete information, to improve communication and to develop the support which lays the foundation for implementation.


SMG/Columbia has quoted a price range of $160,000 to $175,000 for the work they have proposed to do. The $15,000 difference reflects a range in the number of consulting days and will be finalized prior to the contract being signed.

The additional $15,000 being requested is for space rental, furnishings, equipment and supplies, and most significantly, for the cost of small, positive changes which can be implemented during the course of the re-design work. Being able to make some changes along the way not only results in a better process but also increases support and maintains momentum.


The General Manager of the Community Services Group is proposing an inter-departmental business process re-design of our enforcement processes.

The anticipated outcomes of the re-design process and the subsequent implementation phase include: improvement in customer service by increasing consistency, effectiveness and efficiency; increased public awareness and understanding of our by-laws and enforcement role and powers; improved coordination and information sharing among our various enforcement staff and activities; a decrease in the number of issues which come to Council’s or the court’s attention; and identification of actions required to address conflicts between by-laws, between by-laws and procedures and between by-laws and policies.

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