West End Plan – City proposes up-zoning to 70 storey towers – Open Houses April 6, 9

(Updated 10 pm) At the April 4 public Open House for the West End community plan, for the first time West End residents had a chance to see what City of Vancouver staff had been preparing. One notable feature is significant increases in permitted building heights along the perimeter “corridors” of the West End. The image below we have modified to indicate the staff-proposed tower heights. Residents are encouraged to attend the next two Open Houses on April 6 or 9, or view the staff presentation online (click on the “Documents” tab). The City is accepting comments until April 23. More details are below.

West End plan, panel 13, 4-April-2013, tower height zones proposedLink for Open House information:

https://westendneighbours.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/reminder-open-houses-west-end-community-plan-directions-april-4-6-9/

REMAINING OPEN HOUSES:

Saturday, April 6, 11 am – 2 pm
West End Community Centre
870 Denman Street

Tuesday, April 9, 4 – 7 pm
Blue Horizon Hotel
1225 Robson Street

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
vancouver.ca/westendplan
westendplan@vancouver.ca

Here are links to the individual panels on display.

Open houses

Note that the City’s official time line is “Policy Development” until May 2013, then “Drafting the Plan” from June to September, then “Plan Approval” from October to December. City Council has promised only two weeks of advance notice for the public to review the final text of the plan before Council votes on it. It is very important for the public to provide input to the City now — in April 2013. 

SOME INITIAL OBSERVATIONS BY WEN – TO BE UPDATED

  • The essence of this plan is to put towers in all along the perimeter — along Thurlow, Georgia, Robson, and Davie Streets. Upzoning in different zones to heights of 10, 18, 20, 35, 40, 60, and “approximately” 70 storeys. People should ask for clarifications — how many feet or meters are being proposed? (Rooms with 10 foot ceilings can mean a much taller building.) Mount Pleasant community has learned that in a community plan, one single adjective can make a difference in a rezoning application being approved or rejected.
  • The plan directions are only showing building heights.  But what intensity of development is proposed?  Are these buildings to be built to densities similar to much of the existing development in the West End, with Floor Space Ratios in the range of 2.2, or are they to be buildings at the recent densities approved at Bidwell and Davie (Maxine’s) or 1401 Comox (St. John’s Church) in the range of 7.0?  The discussion needs to be about more than just building height, as increased FSR’s result in greater bulk with more shadowing and less privacy.
  • Additional development options include all laneways in the West End.
  • Other parts of the West End would see less radical change, according to the staff proposal, though this too needs to be reconfirmed carefully.
  • Do the proposals for new and higher towers support and enhance the West End’s existing character? Or are they part of a change to a different type of neighbourhood?
  • Staff write that the population increase possible from the proposed increase in building height is 7,500 people, but what about the potential increase if the rest of the neighbourhood is built up to the maximum permitted (e.g., currently 6 storeys in centre of West End)?
  • Further analysis is needed of how the City will accommodate the needs of the community, and how the proposed changes would benefit residents. Here is the panel on public benefits. How much more detail, specificity, and commitment from the City should residents expect before supporting the adoption of a new West End plan? Other neighbourhoods have found that density gets increased first, and that promised amenities come much later, and much less than promised, if at all. Our elementary school is already completely full. The library and community centre are at capacity. Can  our elected officials ensure that the density is not radically increased before amenities are improved?
  • People may wish to ask City staff actually make a public presentation, with Q&A, as the Open-House format fails to facilitate community discussion, and ends up with each person having a different perception of what is being proposed.
  • Residents should ask for rationale behind the proposals, and where the ideas and numbers came from. Staff at the Open House were saying that the idea was to go up to the maximum height permitted by “view cone” controls.
  • Ask the City to use an objective and comprehensive system to gauge public support for the staff proposals, so that City Council has a relevant measure of public buy-in to the staff proposals and can vote based on the will of the citizens.
  • If City Council is considering this much construction, can it also consider tightening the Noise Bylaw and other bylaws that govern demolition and construction in this densely-populated community, and increase enforcement? (Noise at 1401 Comox construction site was recorded at over 106 decibels on April 5, far over the permitted 85 decibels.)
  • What can the City do to prevent land speculation, which actually is an enemy of affordable housing? Just by proposing these changes, are speculators drawn in? Land assessments on some lots in the West End skyrocketed by nearly 40% in just the last year.
  • Is this “green” development and how does it help or hinder Vancouver in achieving its “Greenest City” goals?
  • Comments, analysis, and suggestions are also welcome to info@westendneighbours.ca for compilation and reporting.
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