Public Hearing July 13 (Monday): REZONING of 1754-1772 Pendrell Street for 21-storey rental tower

1754 Pendrell model shown to UDP, April 2015

1754 Pendrell model shown to UDP, April 2015

(Epilogue: After about 18 speakers, this item was completed. City Council will hear responses from City staff and vote on this application during the next regular Council meeting, starting 9:30 am, on July 21, 2015.)

The fourth item on the agenda of the next Public Hearing is a major rezoning for a 21-storey rental tower at 1754-1722 Pendrell (just off Denman Street). This particular story goes back many years.

The proposal is by Westbank Projects Corp, with Henriquez Partners Architects.

WEN encourages anyone concerned about this rezoning to write or speak to City Council to share your opinions. (The City website above provides instructions.) Below is our short summary of information.

(Update: Please note that a News1130 story posted on July 12 has now been corrected. The title was “West End Neighbours saying ‘no’ to tower,” but WEN as an organization has not taken a position for or against this project. Our goal here is to encourage the community to be involved, and for City Council to listen. We encourage anyone with concerns to direct them to City Council — tell them whether you support or oppose, and why.)1754-1772 Pendrell mapbig

BASIC DETAILS

This is a revised rezoning application, under the new owner Westbank, to rezone the site from RM-5A (Multiple Dwelling) District to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development) District:

  • 21 storey tower, with a maximum height of 58 meters (190 ft) — versus current RM-5A outright height of 18.3 meters (about 6 storeys), and conditional height of 58 meters.
  • 171 rental units, including 43 studios, 51 One-Bedroom, 72 Two-Bedroom, and 3 Three-Bedroom units
  • A proposed density of 6.55 FSR — versus current zoned density of 2.20 FSR.

You can review some of the correspondence already submitted to the Public Hearing on the agenda page.

People opposed appear concerned about height, density, loss of views, shadows, and character of neighbourhood, among other things. Updated: One resident wrote us  that the Alexandra (Millennium project, 21 storeys, architect Henriquez, at Bidwell and Davie) took away a picturesque water and Maritime Museum beach view. The Lauren “block of concrete” (Westbank project, 22 storeys, architect Henriquez, at Nelson and Comox) took away light and views of the distance. This project at 1754 Pendrell will take away the view of the centre of English Bay (fireworks). All of these things the person cherished and were part of the reason to live there, but are being steadily eroded. We also received a comment about design errors by Henriquez at the Lauren, hoping they will not be repeated here (see bottom).

People in favour appear to like new buildings, the mix of units, the 26 units at rent 20% below market price, “secure market rental,” new design, car share, landscaping, public art, and potential funding (Gordon Neighbourhood House hopes to get a share of the $250,000 Community Amenity Contribution).  (There appears to have been some organized effort to solicit “support” letters.)

WEN has provided additional information here (history, chronology) and here (open house) and here (Urban Design Panel).

Beyond the specifics of this application, it is interesting to notice some major milestones in its evolution.

1754-1772 Pendrell yellow sign, in 2010

1754-1772 Pendrell yellow sign, in 2010

2008: An application for a 19-storey condo tower to replace a three-story walkup and coach house jolted the community awake. Outrage brought about 500 people turning out at a town hall meeting at the Coast Plaza Hotel, organized by the West End Residents Association. With the 2008 civic election in mind,  Councillor Tim Stevenson (with Vision Vancouver, then in minority on Council), told the audience, “What it’s going to take is all of us together, all of us together, letting [then mayor] Sam Sullivan and the NPA know that we’re not going any further down the road that they’ve been going and that developers are not going to make the West End into another Yaletown.”

(Based on promises like these, Vision Vancouver gained its first majority on Vancouver City Council in 2011. Co-host WERA director Jasper later later left WERA when elected with Vision Vancouver for Park Board Commissioner in 2011. WERA president ran with Vision in the 2014 election, but did not get elected. WERA closed its doors in 2015.)

2010: DTKH Pendrell Developments, with architect W.T. Leung Architects, came back with a proposal for a 21-storey tower (two storeys higher), this time with 26 rental units in the podium, and the rest as condos. On May 5, 2010, the City’s advisory body, the Urban Design Panel, opposed the proposal, “noting that the density has a negative effect on the overall bulk, quality of amenities and open space and maybe too large for the site….They felt the proposal broke form with other towers in the West End and thought there was little benefit to the community.” The entire application was set aside for a few years.

2012-2013: In response to community concern about uncontrolled development, the City carried out the West End Community Plan process, which led to a new community plan in November 2013.

Some time along the way, Westbank Projects Corp., with Henriquez Partners Architects as architect, took over the project, with many of the details of the application “grandfathered” in.

2015: A 21-storey rental tower is proposed, with a density of 6.96. This time, the Urban Design Panel loved the project.

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BAD DESIGN EXAMPLE AT THE LAUREN, CAN BE RECTIFIED HERE?

A resident wrote us that the architects of The Lauren (1401 Comox – 1061 Broughton — former site of St. John’s Church. Same architect and same developer as for 1754 Pendrell.) made a serious underestimation of the space and height needed for trucks to load and unload cargo in the bay at the rear of the building. The Urban Design Panel missed it and so did the city planners. It has been an ongoing aggravation for neighbours of the building.

It came to light almost immediately. As a perk for renting at The Lauren, new residents were offered free moving services. However, the truck from the moving company they hired is too tall to drive into the bay. “Since September 2014, when people started moving in, the truck has parked illegally in the back alley at all times of the day and evening. Loud and pouring out fumes. People complained but basically it is impossible for extra tall trucks to drive into the bay.”

How did the architect make such a mistake? It seems pretty fundamental — service vehicles need to be able to deliver goods, etc. into buildings, without intruding into public space (and irritate and inconvenience residents in the surrounding area).

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