Development application DE417292 at 1333 Jervis Street – issues with proposal details and City consultation processes

1333 Jervis Street, siteAt 1333 Jervis Street (lane corner, on slope below Harwood, above Pacific) a developer proposes to increase the density on the property, eliminate physical parking spaces, and alter viewscapes by increasing the building height and bulk. This is an interesting case for many reasons, and an example of the amount of time and effort needed by the public if citizens actually want to have an effect on City decisions that affect the neighbourhood and community.

Download notification letter, but note that based on strong request, the opportunity for public input has been extended to January 23, 2014CoV DE417292, 1333 Jervis Street, notification letter 19-Dec-2013.

Link to application: http://former.vancouver.ca/devapps/pc1333jervis/index.htm (note that the site appeared to be having some problems)

Applicant: Stuart Howard Architects, Inc.1333 Jervis Street, southwest elevations
Owner: Not indicated
Proposal is to “perform interior/exterior alterations, add 15 new rental dwelling units to this existing multiple family rental building, providing 2 car-share parking spaces at the rear, having vehicular access from the lane…Under the site’s existing RM-5A zoning, the application is “conditional” so it may be permitted; however, it requires the decison of the Director of Planning. In reviewing this application, we are seeking your comments on the following aspects: any specific impact to your property….As a neighbour, we welcome your written comments … on the above-noted aspects, on or before January 17, 2014, to be considered as part of the application’s review. Written comments will be accepted from interested parties up to the date of decision.

By chance, at the end of December, a sharp West Ender happened to walk by the notice board about a development application at 1333 Jervis Street. She found that the City of Vancouver had not sent a written notification to all affected neighbours, including herself, and further, that staff were planning to make an internal decision on the application on January 16, the day before the cutoff date for public comment. She feels that the development overall is quite acceptable, but takes issue with several things, such as lack of off-street parking, the purchasing of Heritage Density to reduce the FSR to the approved limit, and some presumptions made by the developer about affordable housing.1333 Jervis Street, credit Google Maps

WEN carries this story here for others who may be interested. It is an interesting example and case of how residents may wish to examine a specific application and communicate with the City. We also need to ask some questions: How often are decisions made before public input is received and considered, as was about to happen in this case? How often is information not properly provided to all affected residents? How often should promises and claims be further questioned by the public and the City? Are reasons used to justify approvals really producing the benefits promised?For example, when “affordable housing” is promised, is it really being delivered? We will follow up to see the outcome of this case.

Contact: Darren Lee, Project Coordinator, darren.lee@vancouver.ca, 604.871.6703

This case may be more significant than it appears at first, as this type of application could multiply in the West End. Also, this case show how important it is for community members to be observant and involved, in order to ensure that the City follows fair and due process. The outcome will be a more livable and affordable neighbourhood, we hope.

The neighbour has the opinion that the developer suggests the proposed physical and character alterations of the streetscape are warranted because the development will increase affordable housing in the West End, but provides no data to support this assertion. She has asked the City not to approve the permit application as submitted and require the developer to improve several key aspects of the development.

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Comments from a neighbour to the City, January 13, 2014:

The comments follow the order of the information provided in the Design Rationale (which has no date and no page numbers) signed by Neil Robertson, Stuart Howard Architects Inc.

1. Proposal: The Design Rationale argues that the proposal will increase “badly needed affordable rental stock in the Westend (sic)”. However, the Design Rationale provides no data to back up this statement. To determine if this statement is accurate, the size and rental cost of the existing units, and the size and rental cost of the proposed units would need to be known. The City must also consider that reducing the size of a living space and charging less for that living space does not necessarily mean affordability. An increased number of smaller units at a lesser rental cost than larger unit rental cost does not reflect affordability. Although maintaining the number of 2‐bedroom units in this development appears to be a reasonable way to encourage families to live here, the size of the 2‐bedroom units is critical to livability for many families. Indeed, this development proposal
may result in fewer families choosing to live in the West End because the reduced size of the 2‐bedroom units available may not be conducive to raising a family.

  • The City must ensure the veracity of this statement made by the developer if it is to be considered with respect to the adverse aspects of the overall proposal (e.g., increased density, increased building bulk, decreased viewscapes, and lack of off street parking).

2. Density: The developer is proposing to purchase heritage density and transfer this density to the Jervis Street property to reduce the FSR from an actual FSR of 2.41 to a purchased FSR of 2.20. The amount to be purchased is unclear; it is either 2254.77 ft2 (209.47 m2) as found on page 3, or 199.5 m2 (2147.4 ft2) as found on page 6. The proposed design will increase the size and bulk of the building by adding one floor each on the upslope (north side) and down slope (south side) of the structure. This increase of height will impede existing viewsheds of a number of [neighbours]. We ask the Planning and Development Services Department to consider if it is the
intent of the Heritage Density Transfer to allow an increase in density along with an increase in overall bulk of the building.

  • The City should require the developer to consider a design which does not increase the overall height of the building, e.g., an increased storey on the south side only. In this way, the developer could achieve their goal of increased number of units, and the existing neighbours would be subjected to a smaller increase in the overall size/bulk/feel of the structure than is presented in the application.

3. Views: The Design Rationale states the proposed addition does not represent “a significant reduction of views for the surrounding properties”. During a telephone conversation with N. Robertson…, he described this as a subjective statement based on his opinion after walking around the structure and viewing the development from street level. There was no analysis to support this statement beyond the subjective observations made at street level. Without anything other than subjective data, it is difficult to comment on whether the proposed addition will represent a significant reduction in views for the surrounding properties. However, in our case, we estimate that [neighbours’] water views will be reduced by approximately 20%. We maintain that a change of 20% is significant.

  • The City should require the developer to determine an analysis of viewsheds that is not based solely on subjective, street level criteria. To be able to do this, the developer must consider potential effects beyond half a block from the development and above the street level.

4. Height: The Design Rationale states that the additions “represent a nominal increase in height for the property”. The increase in height is one story, or approximately 10 feet on the north and south sides of the building. According to Mr Robertson…, on the south side, the development will increase at grade from approximately 32 feet to approximately 42 feet, or 31%; on the north side the height will increase at grade from approximately 18 feet to approximately 28 feet, or 55%. This is not nominal, but a substantial increase in height.

  •  When reviewing this application, the Planning and Development Services Department needs to consider the increased height in conjunction with the actual increase in FSR, reduced views, increased bulk of the building and lack of off street parking within the context of the West End.

5. Off Street Parking: Currently the parking requirement for this property is 15 parking spaces and the property has 4. The proposed redevelopment will require 17 parking spaces. The developer is proposing to lease 2 of the existing parking spaces to private interests for their car share vehicles, and remove the remaining two parking spaces completely, resulting in a decrease of two physical parking spots, not taking into account the City’s calculations regarding car share spots. This proposed development results in no off‐street parking spaces reserved for building tenants. According to Statistics Canada (cited from CMHC Comparing Neighbourhoods ‐ Vancouver, found at http://www.cmhc‐schl.gc.ca/en/co/buho/sune/sune_007.cfm and accessed December 30, 2013), the estimated average number of vehicles owned by each household in the central Vancouver area, e.g., the West End, is one. Regardless of how the City crunches the parking space numbers, based on the estimated average vehicle ownership cited by CMHC, the reality is the City can expect 15 additional vehicles looking for on street parking as a result of this proposal. The West End Community Plan acknowledges there is already a high demand for street parking in the West End. If the application is approved as submitted, the City will be neglecting to acknowledge the reality of car ownership and the current difficulty finding a parking space in the West End. By permitting this development to remain severely out of compliance with the existing parking requirements, the City will allow an existing bad situation to be exacerbated. Although the provision of 2 privately leased car share parking spots is positive, the City must also consider this development proposal in context of reality.

  • The City must provide conditions on the development that will improve situations for residents and neighbours rather than making already bad situations worse. To better meet the City’s existing requirement of 17 off street parking spaces, the City must require the developer to further improve the off street parking and provide additional single parking spaces rather than only leasing 2 parking spots to private enterprise for their car share business.

6. Other Comments:

  • Roof Top Deck: We would like to know what design elements the developer proposes to ensure there will not be unwanted noise from the proposed roof top deck. The City must ensure that the design of this proposed deck protects neighbouring residents from unwanted noise from the rooftop deck.
  • Timeline for Development: We would request that the City place a reasonable timeline on the construction phase of this proposal to reduce the time nearby residents will endure the construction‐related noise and activity.

All of the above points are relevant to consider prior to making a decision on this development permit application. Taken as a whole, the developer proposes to increase the density on the property, eliminate physical parking spaces available to residents with private vehicles resulting in increased on‐street parking where there are limited existing spaces, and alter the viewscape of nearby residents by increasing the building height and bulk. The developer suggests these physical and character alterations of the streetscape are warranted because the development will increase affordable housing in the West End, but provides absolutely no data to support this assertation.

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In communication with the City’s Planning Department, the neighbour also made the following suggestions for process improvements:

  • provide notification of proposed developments to residents that can reasonably be expected to be affected by the proposal, rather than leaving the notification radius to individual and subjective criteria;
  • provide alternate contacts for permit applications when there is a reasonable expectation that the primary contact will be unavailable to respond to queries; and
  • ensure that decisions on development permit applications are not made prior to the public comment deadline.

TIP: Anyone wondering about a development application in Vancouver can always check this web page at the City of Vancouver: http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/find-a-development-application-or-permit.aspx

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