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Arbutus Centre: Park impact

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Block D will replace what now remains of the existing mall. It is a three storey building. The Main Floor now houses the liquor store, bank, Safeway (pharmacy and convenience store only) and the dance studio. The top floor used to be offices but is currently unoccupied. The building sits on a basement car park with what used to be the Village Recreation Centre which is now used by the Dance Co with a pool now rented to a company which teaches children to swim. That part of the building although underneath the stores is at ground level on the park side.

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This views is taken from the path through the park looking south east. Immediately in front is the pool and the roof of the atrium between the liquor store and Safeway can be seen at the top of the building. Behind it is one of cranes in use to construct blocks A and B.

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^

In the drawing, the point where I was standing to take the picture would be on the bottom edge midway, looking south east.  I have put a ^ mark in the title space which ought to line up no matter what screen you are using to view this.

So the pool block gets replaced by the row of town houses set in echelon along the path. Behind that looms Block D. Here are the elevations for that block – west and north respectively.

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Block D will be twelve storeys high or 72m (236ft) geodetic datum. But sits on land one storey above the park ground level – to the right of the image above. The extended Yew Street is on the left of this view.

The crane is currently constructing blocks A and B which were granted permission for 8 and 6 storeys respectively. Since the crane has to work over the 8 storey structure, the tip of the vertical tower of the crane is probably a good indicator of where the roof of the proposed block D will be.

Unbelievably the design panel and staff reports both draw attention to the impact on the park – and use words like “massing” and “shadowing” to characterize the issue. But that is not enough in their view to stop the proposal. They both indicate that somehow this can be mitigated even though the developer will have been granted permission to proceed. I simply do not understand why this council would approve this proposal before any of the necessary changes have been designed. It is not at all clear how these impacts can be reduced. It is also not clear how staff will determine that the concerns have been adequately addressed.

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This building was recently completed at the SW corner of West Boulevard and 37th Ave. It is pretty typical of what has been approved in recent years.

The Ridge

This is The Ridge at 16th Avenue and Arbutus.

Both of these are four storey buildings on a major arterial. What is proposed now is a building three times this height, overlooking a park.

AFTERWORD

The tweet below appeared on my Tweekdeck feed on Tuesday July 17 around 2pm

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Written by Stephen Rees

July 14, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Arbutus Centre Update

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There was a Press Conference held at City Hall at lunchtime today, while the rest of the world was watching a football match. I did not speak on camera but I am hoping that I will be able to link to both the CBC coverage and Jen St Den of the Vancouver Star Metro in due course.

This week I came across an interesting blog post about the Urban Design Panel’s take on the proposed development.   Frustratingly the link on that page to sources just takes you to the city’s page on the development  which is silent about the UDP. To find that I had to do some digging but I did eventually find the minutes of the UDP meeting on February 26 2018 . You have to click on the link that gives you a pdf file: the Arbutus proposal is the first item. I am going to quote from that

1. Address: 2221-2223 Main Street
Permit No. DP-2017-01206
Description: The proposed amendment to the existing CD-1 (642) is to permit an increase in the maximum allowable floor area across Block C and D, from 67,065 sq. m (721,881 Sq. ft) to 77,611 sq. m (835,400 sq. ft.); and an increase to the maximum building height on Block C from 57 m (187 ft.) to 60 m (197 ft.), and on Block D from 57 m (187 ft.) to 72 m (236 ft.). The proposal is being considered under the Arbutus Centre Policy Statement.

Zoning: CD-1 Amendment
Application Status: Rezoning Application
Review: Second (First as Amendment)
Architect: Brett Hotson, DIALOG
Norm Hotson, DIALOG
Owner: Wendy LeBreton, LARCO
Delegation: Margot Long, Landscape Architect, PWL
Peter Joyce, BUNT
Staff: John Chapman, Tim Potter & Grace Jiang
EVALUATION: SUPPORT with Recommendations

 

So the interesting bit for me are the recommendations: recall first that this UDP meeting came after the Open House (February 13). The Policy Report considered by Council on June 19 states

The application was reviewed by the Urban Design Panel on February 26, 2018, and was supported with recommendations (see Appendix C). Staff conclude that further refinements are required to the design as conditions of the rezoning amendment as noted in Appendix B. A reduction of density on Block D is anticipated through design development. The applicant has proposed to replace this floor area by adding a penthouse storey onto the eastern wing of Block A through a Development Permit amendment.

So now I have two documents, essentially saying the same thing. The project was reviewed and a number of concerns identified.

Panel’s Consensus on Key Aspects Needing Improvement: Having reviewed the project it was moved by Ms. Avini Besharat and seconded by Mr. Sharma and was the decision of the Urban Design Panel:

THAT the Panel Support the project with the following recommendations to be reviewed by City Staff:

• Balance distribution of density between the two parcels; the density may need to be reduced to achieve appropriate massing and to mitigate the overshadowing.

• Reduce the shadowing of the Public Square, street, and private courtyard on parcel D;

• Reduce shadowing of the park;

• Further design development on the architectural expression in order to simplify and calm down expression of the building;

• Further design development to the view analysis to include roof top structures and mechanical RTUs and to review how they impact the view. The height may need to be reduced to preserve the view of the North Shore Mountains.

Related Commentary: There was a panel consensus that the original concept was the preferred choice. The second concept was a big change from the original. The original application was a better fit and blended in smoother. The current concept is too bulky especially with building D.

Then panel agreed there was a very significant addition of height and density being absorbed mostly on the western parcels which created a misbalance. The original concept was lost because the additional density has been dropped on one block, and should have been better distributed. A consequence was a large parcel created that is out of context.

A panelist noted there were fundamental issues with planning and massing of the entire space. If massing is properly planned in the first phase there would be better relation. There is a loss in transition down to the lower scale units. A panelist noted the site is in a real bowl which could be to the applicant’s advantage.

Moving forward with the architectural expression the strong parti concept has been diluted as well. In the earlier models the parti was cleaner and simpler. A panel member suggested looking at the elevations to determine if they want to be closer or completely different from what is across the street. The elevations should be revisited to be a lot cleaner without losing elevation and height.

7 to 12 storeys created significant shadowing on the park, open space, and street. Yew Street will be completely shaded in the afternoon. The impacts are also significant on the view. Viewpoint is important and cannot be ignored. A big bulky building has a lot of negative effects on the neighborhood; in this case Main Street is too over shadowed. There are intrusions to public views in the City of Vancouver all the time however these issues are on the whole block.

Building C, on the west façade has so many different fenestrations and proportions. In general a calmer and boulder contemporary expression would be more successful. A panelist noted public views can be better distributed back to building C.

Just to be clear “parti concept” refers to the idea that this development has to fit into its surroundings.

” The parti is a simplified version of the plan, and it describes the overall configuration or organization of the building.” is one of the definitions offered.

It seems to be inconsistent to approve a building – but with the observation that it does not fit into its surroundings. If planning is supposed to achieve anything at all cannot it be at least based on a simple concept – does it fit in?

 

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This illustration shows most clearly what has changed since the original proposal was approved. This building is much too big for this site.

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And this table shows the figures for dwelling units over all four parts  – which I am afraid got a bit confused during the press conference but are in fact not confusing at all. Council policy was recently changed to require 30% social housing units in large scale developments, but Larco are still only offering 20%. And just in case you were wondering what “affordable rental units” might cost I have replaced (July 17) what was here with something more reliable.

In the case of the 2109 West 35th Avenue development, Baker said that renters must have an annual income of $150,000 to be able to manage paying the rent for a three-bedroom unit at $3,702 per month, based on the 30 percent affordability threshold.

So don’t go confusing “affordable” with “social housing” – they are quite different and should NOT be added together.

Even so, staff are still recommending adoption, because of the $2m now being offered towards the Arbutus Greenway.

As was pointed out in discussion today, there are plenty of examples of developers being required to meet different specifications as a condition of approval, who manage to complete their projects and casually ignore these requirements with no penalty.

It really seems odd to me that staff would recommend approval of a project which raises so many concerns. A much safer approach would be to deny the application for expansion, but suggest to the proponent that this proposal needs to revised and then resubmitted once these concerns have been dealt with to the satisfaction of staff. However, the concerns of building height and massing are such that they cannot be reasonably accommodated just within areas C and D, and A & B are now under construction so that the only changes could be made there would be on the allocation of units between the market/rental/social/affordable classes.

No building recently approved along Arbutus Street is over 6 stories: not the Ridge (at 16th Avenue) nor the recently completed block at 49th and West Boulevard. Approving a 12 storey building sets a new standard which will undoubtedly be embraced by  developers on the half dozen or so sites around Arbutus Village which are either already acquired or on the point of being so. We accept that there is a need for more housing on the West Side in general, but dumping all of it on Arbutus Village seems a bit much.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

July 11, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Petition to Van Council: Vote Down the Arbutus Mall Rezoning

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Council: Vote Down the Arbutus Mall Rezoning Amendment

We, the undersigned residents of Vancouver, call on City Council to respect due process and community input, and to reject the rezoning amendment for 2133 Nanton Avenue (Arbutus Centre), which goes to public hearing on July 18th, at 6:00pm.

The application seeks to add 127 new units to the development and to increase the maximum height from 8 storeys to 12!

The developer’s stated rationale for their application is to provide more housing in the midst of Vancouver’s housing crisis, but even with the new proposed social housing and below-market units in the amendment, the majority of the development will still to be out of reach for lower and middle-income residents.

If Council approves the amendment, they will be backtracking on a 2011 rezoning agreement based on years of community consultation in exchange for a negligible contribution to affordable housing.

In order for residents to be able to trust the city and its planning process, Council should vote NO to the Arbutus Mall rezoning!

Contact Octavian Cadabeschi for more info at 604-813-2105, or
ocadabeschi (at) unitehere.org

Note the email address has been munged to reduce the impact of robot scrapers

This petition can also be submitted online

You could also print off the text above and add signatures, names and addresses below and send to City Hall.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 9, 2018 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Urban Planning

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Arbutus Centre Public Hearing

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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

Consultations on the BLine for 41st and the Greenway

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Thanks to Rick Jelfs of Transport Action BC for the heads up on two sets of consultations going on at present. This illustration comes from the City of Vancouver’s PDF of the Arbutus Greenway in its expected final form with a streetcar!

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  • TransLink is asking for public input on four new B-Line routes – 41st Ave (UBC – Joyce Stn);  Fraser Hwy (Surrey Central – Langley); Lougheed Hwy (Coquitlam Central – Maple Ridge); Marine Drive (Dundarave – Phibbs Exchange). The 41st Ave. proposal includes the return of local trolley coach service along 41st Ave. More information at https://www.translink.ca/bline.
  • Vancouver has a “proposed design concept” for the Arbutus Greenway at http://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/arbutus-greenway.aspx

I must admit I was a bit sceptical of the 41st Avenue B-Line until I saw what was actually proposed – which involves a considerable change to the current #41 – which would be cut back to Crown and would use trolleybuses – which is something that I have been pushing whenever anyone would listen for many years.

2149 Training on 41st at Cambie

Trolleybuses aren’t used on the 41 right now, but the wires on 41st are used for training and relocating trolleys. Probably much less now that Oakridge OMC has been sold.

V9486 Hybrid

The current generation of hybrid Novabus, has a final electric drive – but no poles even though 600v is within easy reach.

Xcelsior bendy on 41st at Arbutus

The articulated buses used on the 43 and 49 that will be on the B Line

BYD Battery Bus

The short lived experiment with loaned battery buses from China (BYD). Another trial of different battery buses was recently announced. They will be able to charge along the route (100 Marine Drive) but again not using trolleypoles.  All those pictures were taken by me along West 41st Avenue.

I am of course also pleased to see a cross North Shore B Line running through both West and North Vancouver. I was involved with the first groundbreaking bus service to cut through the iron curtain that used to separate transit on that side of the water. There is even talk of combining City and District in North Van which at that time was unthinkable! But I digress. Even if you can’t manage the open houses you can still do the surveys.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 20, 2018 at 10:45 am

Weekly Photo Challenge: Favourite Place

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Favourite Place (and yes I have anglicised the spelling) ought to be harder to pick. But “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” and while there are many places in Vancouver that I could pick, the loss of our view cones and corridors is one I feel very strongly about. We are blessed with a place of quite extraordinary beauty – a deep inlet (actually a fjord) at the foot of the North Shore mountains. For a long time Vancouver was mostly concerned about cutting down trees and making stuff from them. The old growth forest is almost gone except for one or two areas of park managed to make it look like we imagine it ought to have looked. Stanley Park is actually just one of several such places.

For as long as I have been here, there was a firm policy to protect the view of the North Shore mountains and the inlet from a number of significant places. Now the pressure to allow ever more taller towers across the city means that these views are vanishing. And one such development is right next to where I live. I took this photo with my phone while walking on the Arbutus Greenway at W 37th Avenue. Overlooking Quilchena Park with a spectacular view – and two tall cranes in the process of blocking that view with condos. The developer has recently gone back to the City to ask for permission to add more floors to the part of the development nearest to our six storey building.

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The roof of our building is just below the height of the current tree canopy, so it almost invisible. The new buildings will be up to 72m (263 ft). The developer says that fits the view because it would match the nearest skyline of the North Shore mountains: the snow capped peaks will still peer over the top. The City has yet to rule on this proposal, and I took the photo so I would be able to look back in future at what we will have lost if the developer gets what he wants.

I went back and took a picture with my camera using the zoom lens.

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Written by Stephen Rees

March 21, 2018 at 10:35 am

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.

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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.

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The Arbutus Ridge Community Association is certainly not happy.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 13, 2018 at 8:24 pm