Comments on 1155 Thurlow rezoning for 22-storey tower (Public Hearing July 15): Density, rents, urban design, and fairness

1155 Thurlow, aerial photo site surrounding CoV-PH, 15-Jul-2014(Updated/revised) Though the creation of social housing is a laudable objective, an examination of this application from the perspective of urban planning and fairness to the West End neighbourhood shows that  some things are seriously wrong with this development.

This post is a compilation of comments WEN has received on this rezoning application at 1155 Thurlow, going to Public Hearing on July 15, 2014. To be updated as more come in.

The site is where  Central Presbyterian Church stands today. The application has been coordinated by Henriquez Partners Architects (other recent projects by this firm include what is now the 21-storey The Alexandra at Bidwell and Davie, and the former site of St. John’s Church, now 22-storey The Lauren, at Comox and Broughton).1155 Thurlow, building image CoV-PH, 15-Jul-2014

The application is for a “22-storey mixed-use building comprised of a church, child day care facility, one retail unit, and a total of 213 dwelling units of which 168 would be secured as market rental housing and 45 would be secured as social housing. The proposed floor space ratio (FSR) is 9.45 and height is 63 metres (207 feet).”

Key concerns:

  1. Density of the project
  2. Rents for the social housing units (and whether these are truly “social housing”) and market rental units (for which no information has been provided to the public)
  3. Other urban planning considerations
  4. Fairness to the community

Continue reading

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Public Hearing 15-July-2014 (Tues), 22-storey tower at 1155 Thurlow Street (1108 Pendrell Street) (DE417385)

1155 Thurlow, building image CoV-PH, 15-Jul-2014A Public Hearing will occur on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at Vancouver City Hall, for an important development application in the West End — a 22-storey tower at 1155 Thurlow Street. Below we provide official information from the City, based on e-mail, website (Rezoning Centre and Public Hearing agenda). Separately, we will provide an independent analysis, time permitting. If you feel you  are affected by this development, we encourage you to write or speak to City Council. See the Public Hearing agenda for info on how to do so.

1155 Thurlow Street 1155 Thurlow, aerial photo site surrounding CoV-PH, 15-Jul-2014
North 1/2 of Lot 1, South 1/2 of Lot 1, East 1/2 of Lot 2 and West 1/2 of Lot 2, Block 24 District Lot 185 Plan 92; PIDs 015-750-051, 015-750-060, 015-750-078 and 015-750-086 respectively
To rezone 1155 Thurlow Street from RM-5B (Multiple Dwelling) District to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development) District, to permit the development of a 22-storey mixed-use building comprised of a church, child day care facility, one retail unit, and a total of 213 dwelling units of which 168 would be secured as market rental housing and 45 would be secured as social housing. The proposed floor space ratio (FSR) is 9.45 and height is 63 metres (207 feet).

From City of Vancouver Rezoning Centre

Rezoning and Development Permit Application – 1155 Thurlow Street (1108 Pendrell Street) (DE417385) Continue reading

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WEN appeals Supreme Court decision, challenges City’s logic and facts on STIR and Rental 100 developer incentive programs



WEN appeals Court decision, challenges City’s logic and facts on STIR and Rental 100 developer incentive programs.

(Vancouver, July 14, 2014) Continuing its legal action with the City of Vancouver, West End Neighbours (WEN) announces that it filed a notice of appeal with the BC Supreme Court on June 30.

In its May 30 decision, the Court found that “there has not been unlawful delegation of legislative authority by the City,” and that it is “within the City’s authority to establish an eligible development of ‘for-profit affordable rental housing’.”

WEN continues to assert that the City improperly granted generous incentives to developers under Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) and is still doing so under the Rental 100 program. WEN finds it troubling that the Court agreed with the City, finding that it can define affordable rental housing anyway it wants. In fact, the City’s thinking could be characterized by this simplistic definition: “Affordable housing is housing someone can afford” (as stated by Vision Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang on August 19, 2013). Continue reading

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West End Plan will spark a real estate boom here, says Business in Vancouver (June 17, 2014)

West End aerial view, in CoV WE Plan draft 22-Oct-2013Business in Vancouver carries an interesting story about the West End Community Plan.

Real Estate Boom Projected For Vancouver’s West End: A new community plan unlocks value—and development potential—in one of Vancouver’s most storied (and storeyed) neighbourhoods
(by Margo Harper, June 17, 2014)

WEN has raised many issues about flaws in the public engagement process that led to the adoption of the Plan in November 2013, and a package of major zoning amendments in January 2014. Did the community get the full goods during the process? Now we are beginning to see what the Plan is looking like for the real estate and development industry. In time, we will have a better understanding of impacts on our community. Who benefits and who loses from the Plan? Below are some excerpts and relevant points. We encourage readers to also see the full original article.

Real Estate Boom Projected For Vancouver’s West End

Vancouver’s West End is on the verge of a dramatic real estate revival sparked by density brought on by a recent community plan, according to a real estate industry report to be released Thursday.

The article goes on to indicate how important the West End Plan will be for a development boom in our neighbourhood.

The report, to be issued on June 19, is Colliers Spring 2014 LandShare Report, “which analyzes sales, rezoning and development applications in all municipalities, Metro Vancouver has seen a surge in the completion of larger scale transactions since the beginning of the year after recently introduced community plans spurred land owners to sell. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than Vancouver’s densest urban village.”

“Nothing would have happened without the West End community plan,” says James Lang, the market intelligence manager for Colliers International Realty. “That plan unlocked value and growth potential in the downtown core where land is so scarce.” 
“…There are other ones [real estate deals] in play that I can’t talk about yet,” says Lang. “We are expecting three or four significant sales to close soon. These will be quite large transactions for existing buildings. When the community plan came in, the land value went up. The land is now worth much more than the buildings, so it makes sense to redevelop.”
The Rental 100 program—while a boon for developers—has not been without community controversy. The West End Neighbours Association (WEN) has challenged the program several times in B.C. Supreme Court—most recently on the grounds that it would not provide affordable housing to Vancouver renters. In a recent decision, the B.C. Supreme Court found that the City has wide discretion to define housing affordability, and said further definition is best left to voters at the ballot box.

In a press release, WEN director Virginia Richards criticized the city rental program which has “virtually unlimited powers to give developers incentives without producing affordable housing.” 

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Supreme Court judgment released in WEN legal challenge to STIR, Rental 100: Initial response by WEN


Judgment released in WEN legal challenge to STIR, Rental 100: Court finds that City has almost unlimited power to define Housing Affordability as “Affordable Housing is Housing Someone can Afford”

(Vancouver, 30-May-2014)  West End Neigbours reports today that the Honourable Madam Justice Susan A. Griffin has handed down her judgment on WEN Residents Society v. Vancouver (City) (2014 BCSC 965). In effect, she found that the City of Vancouver has virtually unlimited powers to give developers incentives without producing “affordable housing.”

This issue goes back to 2009 when City Council adopted the Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) program, replaced by Rental 100 in December 2011.

Virginia Richards, speaking as a Director of WEN, said as an initial response: “Our legal challenge was successful in forcing the City to make changes to bylaws in December, but we regret this Court decision today. We are residents who feel something is fundamentally wrong with City processes, and with the STIR and Rental 100 programs in particular. We were motivated to take action to challenge a City Hall that appears to be overstepping its boundaries in so many ways. We are grateful to the many people who gave us moral and financial support for our legal initiative, and for their understanding that this whole attempt has been done with considerable personal sacrifice. It is not something we started lightly. Though the judge’s opinion is that the City of Vancouver has not broken the letter of the law, we feel that this is very different from the spirit of the law.”

More initial comments: Continue reading

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Video, media of Vancouver heritage advocates at threatened Legg Residence, 1241 Harwood, 25-May-2014

On Sunday, May 25, 2014, between 100 and 200 citizens gathered despite heavy rain to put a spotlight on issues surrounding the accelerating loss of heritage homes in Vancouver. This event was held in front of the Legg Residence at 1241 Harwood Street in the West End. Below is video of presentations plus a compilation of links to media coverage.

Caroline Adderson (Facebook: VancouverVanishes)

<a title=”; href=”; target=”_blank”>Michael Kluckner</a> (artist, author, heritage activist)

Elizabeth Murphy (policy expert, <a title=”; href=”; target=”_blank”>Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver</a>)

Adriane Carr (Councillor, City of Vancouver). (Sorry for low volume, due to rain water on microphone. Will try to fix this, but meanwhile, please turn up your volume to hear.)

Talented violinists started the event

Continue reading

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Photos of 1241 Harwood, Legg Residence, locals’ event to stop heritage demolition, May 18, 2014

About 200 people stopped by and talked to organizers Shahla and Paulette, who organized this four-hour event to raise awareness about the Legg Residence and explain that it didn’t have to be this way. Many people felt the same!

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“Stop the Demolitions” major event planned at threatened heritage home – 1241 Harwood, The Legg Residence, May 25 (Sun) 3 pm

“Stop the Demolitions”
3 pm on Sunday, May 25, 2014
1241 Harwood Street

Update on speakers:

  • Michael Kluckner (artist, author, and heritage activist)
  • Elizabeth Murphy (Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver)
  • Adriane Carr (Vancouver City Councillor)

While demolition equipment has been moved into location this week, a large turnout is expected at this event in front of the Legg Residence in Vancouver’s West End. Renowned author/artist Michael Kluckner (Vanishing Vancouver, and Vanishing Vancouver: The Last 25 Years) is one of the scheduled speakers at this event. It is being convened by citizens concerned about the loss of heritage, and they have created a Facebook page for the event here. Further details, links, and background are below.

1241 Harwood poster 25-May-2014

Poster in PDF format: Vanishing Vancouver, 1241 Harwood, heritage event 25-May-2014

For several years this site has been the centre of debate about development versus protection of heritage and the environment. CityHallWatch has shown that processes at City Hall let the citizens of Vancouver down, as the City failed to use tools at its disposal to save both the house and trees on the site.

The Vancouver Sun and other media last week quoted the City’s Director of Planning Brian Jackson indicating that the building could be saved if someone came forward with a proposal to move it.

But we have obtained the following response from a “Property Rehabilitator” who investigated moving the Legg Residence:  Continue reading

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Locals to protest loss of trees, heritage, noon to 4 pm May 18 (Sun) at Legg Residence, 1241 Harwood

Tulip Tree June 2011 (1241 Harwood St, West End, Vancouver)We are passing on this message as a public service.

Protest the loss of trees and heritage at Legg Residence
12 noon to 4 pm, May 18, 2014 (Sun)
Location: 1241 Harwood
For information or to support the effort, please write .

Locals will be gathering to protest and express their views about the loss of several mature evergreen trees at the Legg Residence (1241 Harwood) in Vancouver’s West End, which were logged last several days ago to make way for a demolition of the Class A heritage home and construction of a 17-storey tower. They are also protesting the imminent demolition of the building, and the City’s approval of a tower that does not comply with local zoning guidelines. Many people feel the City of Vancouver and developer were wrong to choose this option. The site is also home to the largest tulip tree of its kind in Western Canada, which could grow to be 200 years old if undisturbed. There are concerns that the construction may also doom this tree.

More information:

1241-45 Harwood – Tulip Tree & House – background

Demolition coming for Legg Residence (1241 Harwood): Zoning explained – How much height and density did the City really have to give the property owner?

Note that another event is planned at the site on May 25, 2014 as well. Info on Facebook here.

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Demolition coming for Legg Residence (1241 Harwood): Zoning explained – How much height and density did the City really have to give the property owner?

(This article is copied from CityHallWatch with permission. Neighbours are planning a protest this weekend, ahead of demolition slated for May 20. Stay tuned.) There’s been some confusion in recent media reports about the upcoming demolition of the Legg Residence (the Class A heritage building at 1241-1245 Harwood Street in Vancouver’s West End), the City’s options, and the zoning for the site. Let’s clear that up, as an important case study and evaluation of the performance of the media, as well as public servants and elected officials at Vancouver City Hall. Is the public receiving accurate and correct information? Was it really a choice between saving either the tree or the heritage house — one or the other — as suggested by Mayor Robertson in a Global TV interview? Or were there other options? Robertson’s comments on the Legg Residence are just after the one-minute mark of this Global news video on May 9, 2014 (click here to see video and article):

GlobalTV RobertsonRobertson said: “It’s really unfortunate to see the loss of a heritage building. The City’s worked really hard on getting a new heritage program in place. But the neighbourhood was very clear – that they wanted to see the tree saved. And that means development on the rest of that site. Which is, which is you know, respecting the neighbourhood’s wishes.”

Legg ResidenceDoes it follow that the neighbourhood’s wishes were to demolish the Legg Residence over saving the 12-storey tall Tulip Tree? Or that it was not possible to save both the tree and the heritage house? Was the neighbourhood even given a choice between saving the tree or the house? Could the City have worked “a little harder”?

Perhaps the best place to answer these questions is to see what the City is required to permit under its zoning bylaws for the height and density on this site:

RM-5A zoningThe City is only required to grant a fraction of the maximum possible height and density for the site. This power of the City to decide is one of the tools with discretionary zoning. However, City staff instead chose to grant the maximum permissible height and density. This  choice by the City paved the way for the demolition of the Legg Residence. The City of Vancouver had every right to tell the property owner that it can only build up to 60 feet (at the centre of the site, but lower at the edges) and to say it can only build to a Floor Space Ratio of 1.0 (vs. 2.2). Why didn’t the City play “hard ball” with the applicant in order to save the house? That is a question for the Mayor and City Council to answer.

If there’s any party that is responsible for the demolition of the Legg Residence, then it is the City of Vancouver. There were other choices. The following images show how much higher the tower is than the maximum permitted (i.e., if requested, the City is required to permit) under this site’s zoning (transparent pink envelope):

It’s also worth noting the City could have also conducted an investigation into the $2 sale of the Legg Residence and the murky circumstances around the transfer of the holding company ownership. This never happened.

There is also the issue of the 400-foot tower separation guidelines for the West End. That’s another policy that might have been used to limit the height of the tower proposed for the site of the Legg Residence. Continue reading

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