1550 Alberni (43 storeys, Westbank) goes to Urban Design Panel Dec. 2 (Wed)

1550-Alberni-Street-2 image Kengo Kuma, Westbank, smallWestenders may be interested in knowing that the UDP, an influential advisory body to City Council, will be reviewing an application by Westbank Projects Corp (CEO Ian Gillespie) for a 43-storey tower at 1550 Alberni. Details are as follows.

Urban Design Panel
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Meeting starts at 3 pm, and 1550 Alberni is up at 4:15 pm
Agenda: http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/committees/agenda-urban-design-panel.20151202.pdf

Official details from the agenda follow further below. Three other applications are also being discussed in the meeting, one being the Vancouver Art Gallery.

We have covered this application before: “Pre-application” open house (June 29, 2015), and public open house (November 3, 2015). This UDP meeting is another step toward the rezoning at a Public Hearing at an as-yet unknown date. In some cases, the UDP raises issues for the applicant to address before it comes back a second time for another vote. For more about the UDP please visit the official City page here.

4:15 pm Address: 1550 Alberni Street
Description: To construct a 43-storey mixed-use building, including 188 residential units with retail at grade.
Zoning: DD to CD-1
Application Status: Rezoning Application
Review: First
Architect: Merrick Architecture (Greg Borowski)
Staff: Linda Gillan and Colin King

Continue reading

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1668 Davie: 23-storey Larco tower on London Drugs lot, approval slated Nov 30 (Mon) at Development Permit Board

1668 Davie 23storey tower view London Drugs looking SE, labelled

Location of existing buildings, parking lot, and Larco’s proposed 23-storey tower

A proposal by Larco Investments (no website – 331750 BC Ltd.) is at the final stage of approval at the Development Permit Board on Monday, November 30, 2015, starting at 3 pm, at Vancouver City Hall. The meeting is open to the public and the agenda for the meeting is here. Members of the public are permitted to address the DPB. Please see the City website for information on how to write or speak to the DPB.

This is the second of four new towers on the same block. 1188 Bidwell was the first. The Davie and Cardero Safeway tower redevelopment is next. Be prepared for construction noise and traffic disruptions for the next few years.

All this development was unleashed by the West End Community Plan adopted in 2013. City Council pre-zoned the area so that no public hearing is required. The Board cannot deny a development if it meets the zoning requirements, “official development plan,” and guidelines.


West End Neighbours has reported on this application before, with some analysis here:

The City’s website now carries information about the application, including the staff report on public input and comments received, and the recommendation to approve the application for Larco.

Main report: http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/committees/report-dpb-1668-davie-street-DE419443.pdf

Appendix:  http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/committees/report-dpb-1668-davie-street-appendix-d.pdf

 As we have noted before, one outcome of the West End Community Plan is that major tower projects can proceed very quickly from the moment the public first learns about them to the time they are improved by an internal decision of the DPB. Elected officials are completely outside of the formal process in these pre-zoned areas.

The application was submitted to the City of Vancouver on August 15, 2015. The open house to present the information to the public was held October 20 (display panels only, just one-on-one discussion with City staff, and no open discussion or Q&A session). The period for the public to comment on the project was “closed” on October 30, just ten days later. The staff report is dated November 4, just two business days later. That staff report remained secret for three weeks, and was only made public by being posted quietly online in the past few hours (Friday, November 27), with no other notification to the public or people who had provided comments. And now, after the weekend, the Development Permit Board will approve the application on Monday, November 30th. That’s, in effect, on the next business day after the information was made public.

See the “Meetings” tab here:


We note that the public is also kept at an information disadvantage in preparing to address the DPB, as the Minutes of the October 7 Urban Design Panel (UDP) review of this project are still not available at this time:


Below are some selected and salient excerpts from the staff report based on public input:

“To date, a total of 21 written responses have been received. Two respondents requested additional information about the application, one expressed support for the project, and 16 respondents wrote in either direct opposition or with significant concerns as outlined below. Continue reading

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1540 Haro Street – DE419183. Development application seeks boost from 27 to 31 units, laneway changes. Public input due TODAY, Mon, Nov 23.

1540 Haro, Google street view FRONT Aug 2015

Front view of 1540 Haro Street in the West End. Credit: Google Street View

A resident just today notified WEN of this development application. Today (Monday, Nov 23) is the stated deadline “to be part of the application’s review,” though you can still write the City until the Development Permit Board meeting (which could also be soon).

1540 Haro Street – DE419183

Comments for the record go to: Vaughan Kopy, Project Coordinator, vaughan.kopy@vancouver.ca, 604.871.6536

The proposal is to create four new dwelling units on the main floor. Total number of units would increase from 27 to 31. Existing open parking at the lane frontage would be enclosed and one might guess that some portion of the parking area would be incorporated into the new dwelling unit area. Parking would decrease to six spaces total for the 31 units.

Because the City posts such marginal information, it is almost impossible to determine what is actually proposed to happen on this site and whether the parking proposed is bylaw compliant.

This is the existing lane (subject building at the right of the photo):

1540 Haro, Google street view Aug 2015

1540 Haro Street, current lane view. Credit: Google Street View

It is interesting that this was one of the blocks used as part of the “Laneway 2.0” toolkit during the consultation on the West End Community Plan (adopted Nov 2014), which was supposed to improve West End lanes. Ironically, based on this application, the so-called “improvement” to the lane will be converting the existing open parking to steel garage doors. This is clearly not the “pedestrian-friendly, landscaped outcome” that was promised to West Enders.

The site appears to be owned by Gordon Nelson:

Given the limited re-development potential for these currently-affordable 1950s walk-up apartment buildings, the City of Vancouver appears to be setting things up so that over and over again the West End will see evictions, reconstruction, and reconfigurations to increase numbers of units by making them smaller, combined with upgrades with higher-end finishes. Watch for higher rents.

This is potentially a perverse outcome of the West End Community Plan. Watch to see what happens with this application’s approval and eventual outcome.

Our story last week showed how the City’s STIR incentive program, originally supposed to produce “affordable” rentals, produced “The Lauren,” a Westbank tower at Comox and Broughton that is now renting at small two-bedroom for $3,500.  Our local government seems to be having difficulties developing policies that produce truly affordable rentals. Continue reading

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Followup: Is “laneway housing” (infill development) meeting objectives of the West End Community Plan?

laneway house 601-comox-addressed-1071-cardero, ARROWThis is another installment of our ongoing coverage to follow up on the implementation of the West End Community Plan.

Indicating that several laneway apartment buildings are coming to the West End, a reporter recently asked West End Neighbours if the community thinks “laneway housing” is a better way to densify the West End than towers. Or are there some unsuspected issues with this form?

Below is a response from WEN. If a person is looking for binary YES/NO answers, the answers would probably be “not really” and “yes,” respectively.

Until these projects are built, it’s difficult to say whether they will be successful or not. It seems clear that these are not the types of “laneway buildings” that people anticipated through the Plan process. During the process leading to approval of the West End Community Plan in November 2013, the community was generally led to imagine laneway “houses” similar to ones can see in quiet residential lanes elsewhere in Vancouver.

But the reality of what the City is permitting in the lanes of the West End is quite different. And there are many questions about whether or not these buildings will meet many key objectives of the Plan.

Overall the focus on this type of somewhat impractical development seems to have been a distraction from the larger impacts of tower development, as the number of units arising from laneway infill development will likely be very small. Similarly, laneway homes in the rest of the city are unlikely to be solution to providing significant numbers of new housing units (and in some ways are simply increasing the price of existing single family properties). It would seem that the city could benefit from a more comprehensive approach to re-development -– an approach like other municipalities have with an overall official community plan for the entire city. But that is probably part of a larger discussion.

Below we delve into further detail. Continue reading

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Followup: “Unaffordable” rental housing created at The Lauren, 1501 Broughton (formerly 1401 Comox, St. John’s Church)

The Lauren 15-Nov-2015

Photo credit: Craigslist and The Lauren

(Updated) Any organization should monitor the outcomes of its decisions. The conclusion below is that at “The Lauren,” the City did not create “affordable rental housing” for the West End community. In fact, quite the contrary.

As you read this, here are two questions to keep in mind:
1. Should our municipal government be giving developers generous incentives like waivers of development cost levies, and large increases in density, to create expensive luxury rental housing like this?
2. Should the city be doing more to monitor rents being charged for buildings built with these developer incentive programs, to help guide future policy decisions around rental incentives and community planning processes?

In June 2012, City Council approved the rezoning and development of this former site of St. John’s Church to build a blockbuster 22-storey rental tower at the corner of Broughton and Comox Streets in the West End. At the time, West End Neighbours told City Council that if the rezoning application by Westbank Projects Corp. was approved, it would create some of the most expensive rental housing in the West End…and as you can see below, WEN was right! One could say that the City failed to created affordable housing on this site.

Not only did the developer get a good deal, the community also got hosed, receiving less than it should have in Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) and Development Cost Levies (DCLs).

Tenants first occupied the building in September 2014, so now, just over a year later, we are starting to see some turnover, and rents being advertised. See this listing on Craigslist (full text copied further below)

The listing indicates a monthly rent of $3,450 for a two-bedroom apartment. The first thing to note is that it appears the square footage represents false advertising, as the plans approved by City Council indicate this unit as having 843 square feet, not the 1,000 square feet advertised in Craigslist. See staff report on the project: http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20120515/documents/p1.pdf.

So, it appears that the listing is not providing prospective renters correct information about the unit’s size.

Now as for “affordability,” if we use the unit’s true and approved area of 843 square feet, this works out to rent being at $4.09 per square foot.

Compare this with the range of $2.00 to $2.96 per square foot that senior planners, under supervision of the Director of Planning, wrote in the staff recommendation for City Council to approve the project in 2012. Page 14: Continue reading

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West End Parking Survey: City Hall asks for YOUR input til November 30 (Mon)

Cardero_Nelson towards Davie-aerialVancouver City Hall is asking for input from residents regarding parking in the West End. An online survey is open until November 30, 2015.

To take the survey, please
CLICK HERE (“Talk Vancouver website).

We note that scores of new towers and new density are proposed for the West End under the West End Community Plan adopted by Council in 2013 — towers 20, 30, 40 and up to 60 storeys high. The thousands of new residents will bring more traffic.

Below is some information on the City web page dedicated to parking in the West End (vancouver.ca/westendparking), plus some excerpts of the survey. To support public involvement WEN has also created a little poster for you to download and post in your building or local bulletin board. Download here (PDF): West End Parking Survey WEN notice, Nov 2015

“Parking in the West End is difficult today.”
Finding street parking is difficult during busy periods, especially for visitors.
Residents – Time taken: 5 minutes. Added driving: 1 km. 
Visitors – Time taken: 10 minutes. Added driving: 3 km. 

Circling around the West End to find parking is inconvenient, increases congestion and pollution, and reduces safety. [On top of that, it makes residents and visitors rather angry, some vowing never to return again!] Parking affects everyone in the community – regardless of how they travel. Continue reading

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Vancouver’s West End wins Grand Prize in the “Great Neighbourhood” category of Great Places in Canada 2015

Inukshuk photos, CIP 2015 Great Neighbourhood AwardsThe Canadian Institute of Planners announced yesterday that the West End has been awarded Grand Prize in the “Great Neighbourhood” category of Great Places in Canada 2015.

Excerpt from press release (4-Nov-2015): Great Neighbourhood winner, the West End in Vancouver, was chosen because of a collaboration of many factors. Juror Jaspal Marwah MCIP, RPP states that “the West End makes it easy, safe and inviting for residents to walk and bike to work, to access thriving local businesses and to explore Vancouver’s beaches, trails and Stanley Park. Transit access, traffic calming, street furniture, treed promenades, pocket parks and public spaces reflect a thoughtful approach to place-making. Home to the city’s LGBTQ community, the West End’s density is evenly matched by its diversity of residents, and by a strong commitment to creating an inclusive community that prioritizes affordable housing.”

The honour of “Great Place” is awarded by a jury of Professional Planners based a variety of planning merits under each category. Nominators receive a prize and a plaque is given to commemorate the place’s new designation. Winners were announced in conjunction with World Town Planning Day  events (Nov. 4 – 6). Here is the link to the full submission – a great description of life in the West End: http://greatplacesincanada.ca/gpic_places/west-end/

WEN comment: What an honour for the West End and everyone who has made it what it is today! For the future, residents need to stay on their toes and stay involved, as dramatic and rapid change is happening to the character of the neighbourhood as a result of the West End Community Plan adopted in 2013.  Continue reading

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Open house for 1550 Alberni, 43-storey Westbank tower: Nov 3 (Tues) 5 – 8 pm

1550 Alberni open house card for 3-Nov-2015Interested residents are encouraged to go to this open house, review the display, and provide comments at the open house or online. Though not stated prominently in the City’s documentation, the developer is Westbank Projects Corp, with financier Peterson Investment Group. Marketing is by Brook Pooni Associates. Architect Kengo Kuma. It appears they forgot to post the date of the open house on the on-site notice board, so it’s up to the community to spread the word about the open house.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015, 5 – 8 pm
2nd Floor, 1550 Alberni Street


(date of notice card October 19, 2015) Continue reading

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“Is it ignorance, arrogance or just greed?” Former chief planner laments City of Vancouver’s current developer behaviour

Vancouver’s popular former director of planning (1973 to 1989), Ray Spaxman, sent this e-mail to colleagues in the city’s urban planning and development community on Friday, lamenting the state of affairs in this city. A copy went to Vancouver’s mayor and the head of the Urban Development Institute. Much of what he mentions is behaviour we have witnessed in the West End, especially since the West End Community Plan was adopted in 2013.


Hello Dear Colleague,

As time goes by and more and more “spectacular” high rise proposals appear in the newspapers, as do the anxious cries of affected neighbours, I become increasingly appalled at the lack of neighbourliness in our development processes.

Surely, no sensitive and respectful person would propose to shove a high rise slap in front of an existing high rise whose residents obviously enjoy some of our gorgeous views without trying as hard as possible to minimize the impact on those views. Surely, you would think, the City would require, at the outset of any proposal, that the proponent account for how they intend to address such issues?

Instead, residents wake up one morning to see in the local newspaper another iconic “world class” tower, and then suffer the dreadful shock of noting that it is proposed on the site right in front of them. It gets worse as they attend the public open houses to review the details of the proposal. There, at significant expense, the proponent has prepared a lovely, gallery-quality display to describe the proposal. (Visitors may be asked to take no photos to ensure that the proposal is not misrepresented by people who may be unable to recognize the real values of the design proposal!). At the open house there may be no description, discussion or recognition of the impact these “internationally attractive” icons would have on their neighbours. Instead poetic descriptions of the wonder of the creativity of the architecture and carefully crafted statements that the building will meet all the city’s requirements are provided. It takes some knowledge of the city’s bylaws and development processes to find out that the real and vital issues of good neighbourliness have been hidden in the imperative of persuasion.

What has happened to clear and honest explanation? Why aren’t developers required to describe accurately all the implications of their design on the neighbourhood? You’d think they might want to meet their neighbours when they start thinking about what they intend to do on the site.

It is so disappointing to know that such practices and requirements used to be common practice in Vancouver. It was those principles that helped to create the neighbourly city. It seems that while consideration of growth, density, height, variety, iconicism, value uplift, international recognition and investment is relevant, they should not be pursued at the expense of good neighbourliness.

While this discussion focusses on the need to improve the processing of major high rise proposals, we need to get the processes of respecting neighbourliness in order if we are to be successful in densifying other areas of the city. Continue reading

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West Enders, take the Translink survey on transportation. Deadline November 6.

Translink logo moving in livable region Oct 2015We encourage West End residents to do this Translink online survey. You could make a difference by ensuring your voice is heard regarding needs of our community. Please also spread the word to friends, family, and more. Deadline: November 6, 2015.

Click HERE to take the survey.

TransLink is undertaking a major transit network consultation and would like your input and feedback:

“Starting on Tuesday, October 13, TransLink is inviting customers and neighbours across the region to have their say on potential changes to the transit network across Metro Vancouver.” More than 85 changes are proposed. Translink says its aims are to:

• Deliver on our plans
• Integrate bus service to better connect to the Evergreen Extension
• Decrease travel time on busy routes
• Extend service to areas with high commuter demand
• Take advantage of road and infrastructure changes
• Make our system more efficient


More about the Transit Network Consultation: http://www.translink.ca/tnc

More on the Transit Plans: http://www.translink.ca/en/Plans-and-Projects/Area-Transit-Plans.aspx

Letter from Translink about the survey: Click here.

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