MEDIA: Locals ask Vision Vancouver to reject controversial rezoning for pricey rentals in English Bay (Beach Towers)

West End Neighbours is passing on a press release from Beach Towers Neighbours, relating to the public hearing on February 5, 2013. For more information about the rezoning application and how to address City Council, please visit our web page here.

MEDIA RELEASE: Locals ask Vision Vancouver to reject controversial rezoning for pricey rentals in English Bay: Developer’s proposal to build 133 rental units at iconic ‘Beach Towers’ site contradicts City’s affordable housing goals.

(Vancouver, February 1, 2013) On February 5, City Council will hear from the public regarding whether 1600 Beach Ave (“Beach Towers”) should be rezoned from RM5-A to CD-1. Devonshire Properties is seeking approval to add approximately 100,000 square feet of infill to the ‘Beach Towers’ site in the West End, resulting in expensive rental units on one of Vancouver’s most expensive waterfront pieces of land.

West End residents are questioning how the proposal for above-market rental units answers the city’s need for more affordable rental housing.

The average Vancouver renter will not be able to afford units in the proposed new buildings. A recent City of Vancouver staff report states that the average income of Vancouver renters is $34,000. ‘Affordable rent’ is normally defined as 30% of one’s income, or $850 per month. According to Devonshire Properties’ application, units in the new buildings will rent for $1,125 to $2,270 per month. The uniqueness of this site (downtown, waterfront, heritage) means that it is ill-suited for “affordable market rental housing” when in reality these newly-constructed, waterfront units with dishwasher and in-suite laundry will rent for much more.

More than 13,000 people have already signed a petition calling on City Hall to stop spot rezonings in the West End and to develop a comprehensive plan. A community planning process is now under way in the West End but the spot rezonings continue with projects such as Maxine’s and St. John’s Church being demolished in 2011 and 2012. Development applications submitted after December 2011 must wait for the West End Community Plan to be completed.

Built in the 1960s, English Bay’s Beach Towers (three towers at 1600 Beach Avenue and an adjoining tower at 1651 Harwood Street) have been listed as Category A in the Post-1940s Heritage Register. At 607 apartments, it is currently the second most densely populated residential block in Vancouver’s West End. With the proposed infill, the design of the Beach Towers will be severely impacted, and there will be significant negative impacts on public views and the character of the neighbourhood.

The media and the public are urged to attend the Public Hearing, which takes place at City Hall starting at 6 pm on Tuesday, February 5, 2013.

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