Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Rezoning the Arbutus Development

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Arbutus Rezone

I had thought that I had written something here about the redevelopment of the Arbutus Mall which is just next door to where I live. I am actually quite surprised that I haven’t been able to find anything. It is mostly on flickr. So to give you a very quick background, when Arbutus Village was first built it was a real exercise in being a complete community. There were apartments and townhouses, a park and a shopping centre which included some local services, like dentists and insurance offices, as well as a recreation centre. The Mall had a large Safeway as its anchor tenant as well as a liquor store, bank, dollar store and so on, with a significant amount of surface parking between the buildings and Arbutus Street.

Arbutus Mall 4.6.17 panorama

A couple of years ago, a new development was approved to excavate the parking lot and build more apartments over commercial and retail space on the ground floor, with parking underground.  I was quite pleased to see that start construction as the huge high level flood lights for the parking had been shining into our apartment windows all night long.  The light pollution meant we could never see any stars. It also interfered with my sleep. Of course it was a blow to see all the small businesses disappear. Safeway kept the pharmacy open – a requirement of their license, with a small convenience store providing essentials. The Liquor Store also stayed open to protect its grandfathered rights which might otherwise be lost due to the proximity of the Prince of Wales High School. The post office tried to stay open but couldn’t, due to lack of foot traffic. And we lost our recreation centre to commercial operations of a dance school and a swimming school. At least the indoor pool now saw much more use than formerly.

Arbutus Mall redevelopment pan

The scale of the proposed development was roughly equivalent to the buildings around it. There are three condo buildings of six storeys – known around here as “high rise”. What the developer was going to build was not too different – and there would be more townhouses and a wider social mix as the city was insisting on more rental units. Once development got underway on the first two buildings, the developer (Larco) applied for greater density on the part of the site closer to our building and the park. This evening we went to an Open House. The information on the many boards around the room is available on the city web page . There are a lot of documents there too.

The City Vancouver has received a rezoning application for 2133 Nanton Avenue (the Arbutus Centre) to amend the existing CD-1 (642) (Comprehensive Development) District. The proposal would increase the residential floor area, including an increase in the number of market and social housing units. The specific amendments include:

  • An increase in the maximum allowable floor space for all uses from 67,065 sq. m (721,881 sq. ft) to 77,611 sq. m (835,400 sq. ft.). The additional floor space is to be accommodated on Blocks C and D (the western portion of the site).
  • An increase to the maximum building height on Block C from 57 m (187 ft.) to 60 m (197 ft.) and the maximum building height on Block D from 57 m (187 ft.) to 72 m (236 ft.).

The rezoning application proposes no change to the amount of office and commercial space, and includes an expanded Neighbourhood House.

The images below are taken from the Applicant Boards pdf file available on the City web page.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.59.43 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.59.58 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-17 at 3.00.17 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-17 at 3.00.31 PM

The scale drawings give a much better idea of how much bigger the new proposal is compared to the pictures. In fact I think the Block C illustrations are almost comically misleading. The size of the block in the new proposal seems to be comparable to the original at first glance until you realise that the scale is quite different. Not only are there more storeys above ground, the below ground is also greatly enlarged, although the consultant told me that the parking ratio is only one space per unit. Two spaces for car share are included – which might at long last see some Modo cars parked here, something I have been lobbying for, though I think two is unlikely to be adequate. I also suggested that dedicated parking for evo and car2go be included. The Arbutus Club across the street already provides a lot of demand for both.

Given that the site is adjacent to the #16 trolleybus we might, I hope, see more service on that given the number of other four storey additions to commercial areas in Kerrisdale and the proposed major transit interchange at Broadway and Arbutus once the stubway opens. I suspect that the ratio of one parking space per unit will also generate considerable on street parking demand as the retailers will want to reserve much of their underground for customers.

I know that the major concern I have heard from my neighbours is the scale and height of the buildings. We are also aware of other developments that are going to be proposed on Eddington at Valley (Amica – currently a two storey residential care facility, with the adjacent townhouse development) and at McBain and Valley/King Edward (currently town houses and three storey condo apartment block). We do not know how high these will be yet, but the fear is that Larco’s proposal will set a precedent for much taller buildings.

In the applicant’s rendering shown below the building I live in is at the bottom right hand corner. The Amica building slated for redevelopment is behind it – about half way up the right hand side of the image. At this time we have no idea how high that will be.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 3.05.26 PM

The Arbutus Ridge Community Association is certainly not happy.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 13, 2018 at 8:24 pm

One Response

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  1. The following is the comment I posted on the City web page

    “The proposal to increase the heights of Blocks C and D is far in excess of what should be allowed at this location. Ten storey buildings looming over the park and the adjacent 6 storey building where I live will greatly reduce the amenity value of the park and the surrounding “village”.

    “I was told by the Transportation Consultant at the Open House that the parking supply of the rezoning proposal was based on one space per unit. Without significant increase in transit service (especially on bus route #16) and other alternative transportation, I think a significant increase in on-street parking in the neighborhood is inevitable. A broader analysis is needed in view of the proposed redevelopments of a number of sites in the immediate vicinity including Amica, Quilchena Gardens townhouses and the McBain strata on the corner of Valley and King Edward.

    “Space for two car shares is inadequate and more provision for car2go and evo as well as Modo is essential. Charging for electric vehicles and bicycles should also be mandatory.

    “The applicant’s statements about underground water bely the present experience. Since development of sites A and B began significant volumes of water are now being continuously pumped at the corner of Yew and Nanton. Even so, flooding along the Yew frontage of Amica is commonplace after heavy rain.

    “The proposed rezoning is excessive and has scant benefit for the existing residents and park users. The application should be refused.”

    And as soon as I posted that the following reply appeared

    “Thank you for your comments about the proposed rezoning.

    “Your comments, as well as other comments received from the public, will assist staff in assessing whether the proposal is in the public interest and whether any changes will need to be made to it. All public comments will be represented in our report to City Council advising of the merits of the proposal. Should Council decide to consider the application, a public hearing will be held and you will have an opportunity to speak directly to Council with any comments you still want to make. Letters received after the report has gone to Council will be included in a summary of correspondence that Council receives at the Public Hearing.

    “A Public Hearing is advertised in the Planning Matters section of the Courier newspaper. We also mail notices to property owners within an approximate two-block radius of the site to tell them about the time, date and location of the Public Hearing.”

    Stephen Rees

    February 17, 2018 at 3:44 pm


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