Beach Towers’ Rezoning *Not Supported* by City’s Advisory Panels (Report of Sept 22 UDP meeting)

[WEN has received this report was obtained from Beach Towers neighbours and passes it on for the community to review.] [Flash: It appears the Vancouver Heritage Commission meeting on Oct 3 has been cancelled, meaning that Beach Towers is now likely to be on the agenda on Oct 24. Agendas are here.]

Beach Towers’ Rezoning *Not Supported* by City’s Advisory Panels

Opponents of the Beach Towers’ rezoning celebrated Thursday (September 22, 2011) as the Urban Design Panel voted to not support Devonshire Properties’ first proposal to rezone Beach Towers. This decision follows the Heritage Commission’s unanimous vote of non-support on June 20.

Effectively sending the applicant back to the drawing board, the Urban Design Panel recommended significant changes to the design to preserve public access to the terraces and retain through-views and open spaces.

The rezoning application sought to add over 100,000 square feet of residential density on the two lots comprising the Beach Towers’ complex, and included: a four-story building along Beach Avenue, a 10-story building at the corner of Harwood St. and Cardero St., a one-story exercise facility at the corner of Cardero St. and Beach Ave., and 11 three-story townhouses circling the base of Columbus House at 1651 Harwood.

Both panels strongly advised against the four-story building proposed for the length of the site along Beach Avenue. While the Urban Design Panel recommended reducing its height to the level of the existing terraces, the Heritage Commission resolved to investigate the heritage value of the terraces that would be demolished to accommodate the new structure.

The 11 townhouses proposed at the base of the Harwood Street tower were also the subject of criticism, and will likely be significantly revised or removed altogether in subsequent submissions.

The fate of the 10-story, 94-unit structure proposed for the corner of Harwood St. and Cardero St remains contentious. Although neither panel approved of the current design, neither appeared to take issue with its scale and density; this building alone would add 70,000 square feet of residential density to 1600 Beach Ave., which is the second most densely populated block in the West End.

At issue for the Urban Design Panel was the placement and shape of the proposed tower—presently a bulky 10-story structure a mere 16 feet from the complex’s Southeast tower. The Panel preferred a taller, slimmer structure in keeping with the existing towers.

If, as recommended, the applicant increases the tower’s height to 11 stories, it will trigger tower separation guidelines that cannot be accommodated by the lot’s size.

Controversially, no panel member recommended achieving a slimmer building by reducing its density. Instead, the Panel recommended that the Planning Department relax tower separation guidelines, noting that at 10 stories the proposed structure is virtually a tower.

Neighbours will recall that an initial enquiry to rezone this property in 2010 was rejected because of its failure to meet tower separation guidelines, which are 400 feet in the West End and 80 feet City wide.

The Heritage Commission is scheduled to revisit this application in late October, but may reschedule considering the rework expected to be undertaken by the applicant.

About Beach Towers

Built in 1965 by the Block Brothers and architects C.B.K. Van Norman and Ojars Kalns, Beach Towers won the prestigious Canadian Housing Design Council’s Centennial Award in 1967. It is currently listed on the City of Vancouver’s post-1940s Heritage Inventory.

Containing 607 apartments housing more than 1000 renters, Beach Towers is the West End’s most populous rental complex. It is located close to Vancouver’s English Bay and spans two lots: 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street.


About the Panels

The Urban Design Panel provides professional advice regarding rezoning applications, while the Heritage Commission provides recommendations to Council for rezoning applications on sites deemed to have heritage merit. Members on both panels are Vancouver-based professionals that volunteer their time to review applications and provide City Council with impartial advice.



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