Stephen Rees's blog

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

Arbutus Centre Public Hearing

with 2 comments

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We have now received a notice from the City that there will be a Public Hearing on Wednesday July 18 at 6pm at Vancouver City Hall in the Council Chamber.

I wrote about this development back in February. The city webpage on the proposal includes the Policy Report considered at the Council Meeting on June 19. This is a substantial document but if you are concerned about the way that the originally approved project has now been expanded you should read it.

The important bit seems to be:

This report evaluates an application to amend the existing CD-1 By-law for the site at 2133 Nanton Avenue and 4189 Yew Street to permit the development of an additional 8,016 sq. m (86,283 sq. ft.) of secured rental and social housing residential floor area. The proposal is intended to help address housing needs in the area and changing conditions since the previous rezoning. The proposed amendment would result in 25 additional units of social housing accommodated in the development of Block A. The application also includes an expanded Neighbourhood House and Adult Day Centre, additional secured market and below-market rental housing, as well as a contribution towards construction of the Arbutus Greenway. A reduction of 1,000 sq. m (10,764 sq. ft.) of office space is proposed.

The application has been assessed and found to generally meet the intent of the Arbutus Centre Policy Statement and other City policies. Staff support the application subject to design development and other conditions outlined in Appendix B. It is recommended that the application be referred to Public Hearing, with the recommendation of the General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability to approve it, subject to the Public Hearing and to the conditions in Appendix B.

The details in Appendix B are extensive and deal with issues like massing and shadowing.

The report on Public Consultation indicates that most people who went to the open house opposed the increase, but the staff feel that current council policies override that consideration.

The text on the City’s Notice of Public Hearing is as follows:

Council will consider amendments to CD-1(642) (Comprehensive Development) District to:

  • add additional residential density

  • increase the maximum allowable building heights on the western portion of the site from 57m (187ft) to 60m (197ft) for Block C and from 57m (187ft) to 72m (236ft) for block D

  • to increase the number of social housing units by 25

  • to increase the size of the Neighbourhood House and Adult Day Centre

  • to add additional secured market and below market rental housing

  • reduce the amount of office space by 1000 sq. m. (10,764 sq. ft.)

The proposal is causing concern and UniteHere Local 40 is organising an Emergency Community Meeting on Thursday July 5th at 6pm to 8 pm in the Kerrisdale Community Centre Room 005

Anyone may register to speak at the Public Hearing starting from 8:30am Friday July 6, 2018 until 5pm on Wednesday July 18 at publichearing@vancouver.ca or by phone 604 829 4238 or in person from 5:30 to 6pm on the day of the Public Hearing. You may also submit comments to publichearing@vancouver.ca or by mail to the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, 453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver BC V5Y 1V4. All submitted comments will be distributed to Council and posted on the City’s website.

The main problem I have with this process is that it treats this site and this development in isolation. Since there is no City Plan, this is common to every development proposal. There is no assessment of the cumulative impact of all of the developments that are going to happen in the neighbourhood. Redevelopments of a number of sites in the immediate vicinity include Amica, Quilchena Gardens townhouses (Yew and Eddington) and the McBain strata (townhouses and a three storey condo) on the corner of Valley and King Edward. Other redevelopments are highly likely since the development of Arbutus Village started in 1984 and most of the larger condos show signs of age and are in need of significant upgrades/repairs. Developers are already showing interest. If the proposal to increase the building heights in the Centre are approved, this would increase the incentive to replace the existing townhouses and six storey condo buildings with much taller towers. While the City staff appear confident that the local transportation system can cope with the increment of development in this amended zoning proposal, the cumulative impact of all of these developments is an order of magnitude greater than what is here today.

Along Arbutus Street from Valley to 33rd Avenue, the development is currently low rise but is already in the process of being replaced – and it is highly likely to be seen on the block adjacent to Arbutus Centre as well.

Each one of these developments will be considered in due course in isolation. This type of spot rezoning is common in Vancouver, but is a recipe for failure. It is one of the reasons that at least one candidate for Mayor in the October 20th election, Patrick Condon, is calling for a City wide Plan. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Complete Disclosure – I live in the 6 storey building adjacent to Block C. It is already on the market with Colliers and is attracting the interest of developers.  No decision has yet been made by the owners who are considering the choice between sale and extensive renovations.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 30, 2018 at 11:53 am

2 Responses

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  1. One should be careful what one wishes for. “One City Plan” could end up more onerous than our much criticized experience with spot rezoning when the policy is led by those who could have underlying tendencies toward formulaic urban design imposed dictatorially city-wide, and who are economically illiterate especially on analyzing the true cost-benefit relationships of the Vienna Model (public rental housing) and transit.

    Moreover, I wouldn’t vote for anyone who pins all the blame for the affordability crisis solely on foreign money when in fact it is just one player of many (record low interest rates and preserving the detached home on big lots over 80% of all residential land arguably have had just as much if not more influence), and who thinks that trams are the only form of transit that works. Vancouver is far too diverse for simplistic solutions, and One Plan cast over such complexity is bound to fail.

    I believe there is much merit in past experience such as with City Plan / Neighbourhood Visions, and the more recent Citizen’s Assembly planning process used in Grandview Woodlands. Take the best of these exercises and mold them into a new one if necessary. And promoting all forms of transit by adapting it to specific needs and demands through unbiased transit planning (something Condon admitted in a Human Transit blog post he doesn’t know much about) is the course that will benefit society the most.

    Alex Botta

    July 5, 2018 at 3:42 pm

  2. My comments about the process are in favour of planning – as opposed to seeing what we can make up as we go along which has been the approach in Vancouver of the present administration. Yes they are better in some respects that the previous NPA – just as the provincial and federal governments are not nearly as bad as the conservatives before them.

    While the Arbutus Centre development provides rental housing very little is going to be affordable. Under the present application not much changes in that regard. The developers are not actually doing much for the community, and certainly very few people in housing need in the area – the sort of people who work in the city, providing essential services – will be able to afford to live in these new buildings. Do not expect them to be occupied by bus drivers, or nurses, or police officers – let alone the essential care givers for many of the existing residents.

    The people who live here are concerned about three things: building height, density and water (drainage). There was an development process which had dealt with local concerns and that was reflected in the original permits. This present application seeks to destroy the compromise that was reached – and the staff recommendation appears to endorse breaking that agreement. But with very little in return for the community as whole.

    Stephen Rees

    July 6, 2018 at 4:24 pm


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