(Updated 27-Jul-2020) It is important to follow-up on major developments to see how they are performing for residents and the neighbourhood.
A [correction] 19-storey tower proposal for a luxury condo at this specific site in 2007 (original address 1754-1772 Pendrell, now 1770 Pendrell) set off a chain of events like a firestorm. That brings us to today.
The “Save the West End Town Hall Meeting” held by a former residents’ association at the then Coast Plaza Hotel in April 2008 was attended by over 500 people. The unanimously-adopted resolution included request to the City to put a moratorium on new tower construction. At the meeting, Councillor Tim Stevenson, appealing for more votes to boost his civic party (Vision Vancouver) from a minority to a majority in the 2008 civic election, asked for votes and promised to fight for the requested moratorium. Vision Vancouver ended up with a huge majority in the election. Eventually this tower proposal was dropped but many more kept popping up. Amid the controversy, West End Neighbours was created and launched a petition in 2009, and garnered over 13,000 signatures by 2013, calling on the City to put an end to spot rezonings and instead to develop a comprehensive plan through meaningful consultation. Mayor Gregor Robertson put a hold on rezonings but only while the Community Plan process was underway. The West End Community Plan, eventually adopted in November 2013, no longer permitted new towers along Denman Street in this part of the West End (but opened the door wide open for towers of virtually unlimited heights and densities along Georgia/Alberni, Burrard/Thurlow, and Davie Street, and reduced tower separation restrictions, among other changes). Meanwhile, the Pendrell site had been quietly purchased by Westbank Projects Corp (CEO Ian Gillespie), and the tower proposal came back to life, this time as a rental building, with the 21-storey concept grandfathered in for supposedly having been in play before the West End Community Plan. Local residents filed a petition in B.C Supreme Court to stop the project, and lost. See a more complete history here, plus links to previous WEN articles further below.
One justification for the Council approval of the rezoning at the Public Hearing of July 13, 2015, was that this building would provide much-needed family-oriented rental housing.
However, as of today, July 24, 2020, with the building now open for occupancy, a three-bedroom unit is listed on Craiglist at $4975 a month, far above the proposed rent of $2850 that was indicated to City Council to justify the rezoning in 2015.
It is important to note that City of Vancouver staff worked hard to justify this Westbank rental building in their June 2015 Report to Council:
The table that staff included outlined the “proposed rents” by the applicant (Westbank/Henriquez) for the project (see red circle for 3-bedroom units at $2,850):
If you pull out a calculator, you will find that at $4975 a month, the three bedroom unit currently listed on Craiglist is $2,125 ([correction] or 75%) higher than (nearly double!) the proposed rent of $2850.
Note that from the trees in the photos, this unit is at a lower level (perhaps 6th floor) in the building. Higher floors will be renting at higher prices, floor by floor, up to the twenty-first floor. And parking is $200 extra (or $230 to park your Tesla).
One might be justified in concluding that the City gave Westbank a deal far more lucrative than planning staff told Vancouver City Council, the public, and taxpayers.
Our municipal government is trying to respond to the need for more rental housing in Vancouver by using a number of programs, incentives, and deals with developers. But this specific case is just one example showing that follow-up reviews are needed, and that the City needs to take a closer look at the costs, benefits, and effectiveness of those programs.
Follow up questions. Did the promised Community Amenity Contributions get paid? What are other units in the building being rented at in 2020?
Reference: (Proposed tower in Vancouver’s West End divides community, Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight, 8-Sep-2015) Excerpt: These 26 units will be replaced with an equal number in the development, with rents 20 percent below the West End average. This means that new residents in these homes will pay $761 a month for a studio, $961 for a one-bedroom, $1,565 for two bedrooms, and $2,428 for three bedrooms. The remaining 152 units will be rented at market rates. A studio will go for $1,250, one bedroom for $1,550, two bedrooms for $2,200, and three bedrooms for $2,850. According to a staff report, “when compared to home ownership costs, these rents would provide a more affordable alternative to home ownership.” Staff also advised council that the project “would make a significant contribution towards the City’s overall affordable housing goals”.