(Update: The DPB approved this application on July 25, with many conditions imposed. We will follow up with a post when details are made public.)
The redevelopment of the Safeway site at 1661 Davie Street (and Cardero) with a new Safeway and two towers goes before the Development Permit Board for final approval on July 25, 2016.
Development Permit Board
Regarding 1661 DAVIE STREET (DE419982) ZONE C-5A
Monday, July 25, 2016, starting at 3:00 p.m.
Town Hall Meeting Room, City Hall
Applicants: Henriquez Partners Architects, Westbank Project Corp, and Crombie REIT
This may be the largest development application going through the approval process since the West End Community Plan was adopted in November 2013, and for that reason, deserves close scrutiny. Does it comply with the Community Plan? And is the entire review process respectful of residents and the community? We see some problems, and they are worth noting not only for the West End but for all neighbourhoods in the City, especially those now in planning processes.
West End Neighbours has analyzed the application, comparing the promises of the West End Community Plan with the details proposed by the applicants:
Redevelopment of 1661 Davie Street (existing Safeway site): Does it fulfill Community Plan objectives? (West End Neighbours, 1-May-2016)
Our analysis shows concerns and gaps between the application and West End Community Plan, in terms of…
- Site Layout
- Size of Floorplates
- Streetscape and Building Finishes
- Lane Frontage
- Public Realm
- Construction Management
The application diverges from the West End Plan in several important ways, but the DPB has the power to put things on track — they can reject or approve the application, or require changes. Public input is important.
To provide your input to the Development Permit Board, you can speak in person, or write to the Meeting Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) requesting the message to be distributed. You may also wish to share comments with City Council on the broader issue of change in the West End (email@example.com).
As shown in the analysis (see link above), WEN has some concerns about the failure of the applicants to properly respond to many of the guidelines and goals of the West End Community Plan.
The staff report was published only today, July 20, so it will take some time to review it and determine if staff have addressed any key flaws.
But in crucial places, the staff write: “The application is generally in line with the West End Community Plan…” “The application generally meets the intents and regulations of the C-5A zoning, except for height and the areas noted below.” “This application has generally addressed the applicable policies…”
“Generally” is an ambiguous word. It could be interpreted as meaning “not” or “does not.” So a detailed review of this entire report is required.
Does the application comply with the West End Community Plan or not? In many areas, it does not. How did the application get this far in the process? What is the message to:
- Residents of the West End, who participated in the community planning process in good faith and need to know that the consultation processes have integrity?
- City staff, who are expected to review future development applications? If specific guidelines and objectives are relaxed on this project, what is the precedent and message for staff reviewing future applications?
- Developers, who may get the impression that community plans do not require respect?
- Other neighbourhoods, which are invited by the City to participate in community planning consultations, and participate in good faith?
We also wonder about irregular behaviour of the Urban Design Panel, which “supported” this application on March 19, 2016. This is an advisory body for City Council and its support is a crucial factor in any major development application. It has 13 members, and five were absent that day. The minutes show that the UDP experts had failed to address many of the issues that we have pointed out in our May 1 post. On top of that though eight members were present, only five voted, and all five voted to “support” the application. But three members did not vote, and there is no public explanation why. In effect, only five of 13 members (38%) actually supported the application, but the way it turns out, the UDP could claim the application had “unanimous” support. What is the back story here, and what does this say about the integrity of the UDP?
The DPB meeting was originally scheduled for May 16, but that meeting was abruptly cancelled, with no reason provided publicly. (The next four DPB meetings were also cancelled.) Some citizens had complained that the March 19 UDP meeting report had not yet been published before the May 16 meeting, putting the public at a disadvantage in preparing their comments to the DPB.
Will the DPB address the many contradictions between the application and the West End Community Plan? Will it require the applicants to make changes? The community’s trust in the community planning process could be at stake.
When City Council does a community planning process and “pre-zones” huge tracts of land, eliminating further need for rezoning public hearings, it is important that the implementation of the community plan through the Development Permit Board has integrity.
The City appears to be providing many design relaxations in consideration that this project will create “secured market rental” units. But how many urban design values can be written off for that purpose? And some developers circumvent rent increase controls using fixed-term leases, with the result that rents in the new buildings quickly rise as high as the market will bear, after the first year.
Will the DPB consider imposing a prohibition on the use of fixed term leases now that that tactic has been exposed? See a recent article (Business in Vancouver) about how new rental towers use “controversial fixed-term lease agreements” to increase the rents after just one year.