This important topic goes before City Council on November 24, 2020.
West End Neighbours has sent a letter (full text further below) to Vancouver City Council to oppose what planning staff are recommending. Other residents are encouraged to provide their comments to Council about this staff proposal (see our Council contact page, and also use the City’s agenda page).
Kenneth Chan of Daily Hive has written an overview of what staff are proposing: Excerpt –
“Downtown developers could be given option to build rentals instead of social housing,” by Kenneth Chan, 20-Nov-2020 (Click here – https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/vancouver-west-end-burrard-corridor-temporary-flexible-rental-housing). Excerpt: City of Vancouver staff are taking a “glass half full” approach in a bid to move forward stalled major market residential tower redevelopments [note – this means strata condo] in downtown Vancouver’s West End that are currently mandated to include a social housing component. In a report, city staff are recommending city council to permit a temporary policy of considering rezoning applications for 100% secured rental housing ... Financial community amenity contribution (CACs) requirements that would be required for a condominium development project would not apply... Furthermore, the path of a secured market rental project with at least 20% below-market rents could qualify for a waiver of citywide development cost levies…
- Council agenda – https://council.vancouver.ca/20201124/regu20201124ag.htm
- Council report – “Criteria for 100% Secured Rental and Below-Market Housing as an Alternative to Inclusionary Social Housing in the Burrard Corridor of the West End Community Plan” https://council.vancouver.ca/20201124/documents/r5.pdf
- West End Community Plan – https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/west-end-community-plan.pdf
LETTER FROM WEN TO CITY COUNCIL, 23-Nov-2020
Dear Mayor and Council:
It was with some surprise that West End Neighbours learned of Agenda Item 5 to be considered at Council’s meeting of November 24, 2020: “Criteria for 100% Secured Rental and Below-Market Housing as an Alternative to Inclusionary Social Housing in the Burrard Corridor of the West End Community Plan.”
West End Neighbours has been involved with development issues in the West End throughout the consultation process on the West End Community Plan (WECP) and its adoption by Council in the fall of 2013. The proposal to adjust the application of the provisions of the WECP to address requests from the development industry is not something that West End Neighbours supports.
The summary in the staff report makes it clear that “development uptake” on the 30 year term of the WECP has been faster than anticipated. If current economics mean a modest decrease in the current “development rodeo” in the West End then that should be considered a positive situation, not something to be manipulated for the benefit of property purchasers who jumped to participate in a hyper-inflated real estate market.
The proposal as presented includes the substitution of market and below-market rental units for truly-affordable and highly-needed social housing. The proposal is fundamentally flawed, and it is surprising that the concept has made its way to a Council agenda package. Developments approved in the Burrard Corridor, some of which are under construction, will create social housing units that are owned by the city. The current proposal would waive Community Amenity Contributions and allow the creation of privately-owned below market rentals. These types of housing are not interchangeable – they are fundamentally different.
At the time that the WECP was being finalized, staff surprised the community with the designation of the “Burrard Corridor” as a receptacle for density. No maximum floor space ratio (FSR) was declared for this area. Instead, a range of heights from 300 feet to 550 feet was specified (32 to 60 storeys) and maximum tower floorplates were included in the plan provisions as a way to manage these large buildings and to reflect the history of high-rise development in the neighbourhood. As noted in the WECP: To maximize views and sunlight on sidewalks, residential floor plates above the podium level(s) should not exceed 696.8 square metres (7,500 square feet) for the Burrard Corridor area north of Davie Street and 511 square metres (5,500 square feet) for the Burrard Corridor area south of Davie Street.
Recent development approvals in the Burrard Corridor have included densities of up to 24 FSR – higher than any other development ever approved in the city. But even that is not enough? Now the proposal is to further impact the neighbourhood through shadowing and view impacts by allowing an additional 20% density, presumably by ignoring the maximum tower floorplate provision of the WECP, for the convenience of property purchasers who believe they paid too much for their land? This is wrong. And to suggest that the abandonment of promised social housing for the West End is off-set by other developments in other areas of the city is also wrong. The West End, as noted in the staff report, has seen a massive increase in expensive market rental units since 2013. Warping the plan to create more of these units at the expense of providing housing for those most in need is not an acceptable adjustment to the implementation of the plan provisions for the West End.
Please do not approve the proposed changes in the implementation of the West End Community Plan.
West End Neighbours
When Council adopted the West End Community Plan in 2013 and did the rezoning changes a month later, they put no limits on density along the Burrard Corridor.
Meanwhile, the height limit for the Burrard Corridor (between Thurlow and Burrard, south of Georgia) ranges between 300 feet and 550 feet as as shown on page 51 of this pdf version of the WECP:
PDF – https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/west-end-community-plan.pdf
The 550 foot sites have been “expressed” as 60 storeys based on the “Butterfly” project and recently-approved project at 1059-1075 Nelson Street:
The 300 foot sites have been “expressed” as 32 storey towers:
Height limits are also subject to the constraints of the view corridors, and informed by Vancouver’s “Higher Buildings” policy.