1640-1650 Alberni Street (43 storeys): Public Hearing tonight (Thurs, 9-Dec-2021)

Rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni proposal

Public Hearing item for Thursday, 9-Dec-2021

CD-1 Rezoning at 1640-1650 Alberni Street (West End)

Public hearing agenda and instructions on how to write or speak to Council: https://council.vancouver.ca/20211209/phea20211209ag.htm

  • 66 secure replacement market rental housing units to replace the 66 rental housing units currently on the site
  • 198 market strata units
  • Floor area of 24,060 sq. m (258,987 sq. ft.)
  • Building height of 118.5 m (385 ft.)
  • Floor space ratio (FSR) of 14.97
  • 268 vehicle parking spaces and 535 bicycle parking spaces

The application is enabled by the West End Community Plan.

Rezoning information (Shape Your City): https://shapeyourcity.ca/1640-1650-alberni-st

Referral report by City staff (59 pages): https://council.vancouver.ca/20211116/documents/rr9.pdf

Summary: To rezone from RM-5C (Residential) to CD-1 for a 43-storey residential building with 198 strata titled and 66 secured market rental units (that is, at the top rate that can be gained on the market), of which 20% (that is, about 13 units) are to be below market, with height 117.3 metres or 385 feet and FSR 14.97.

Comment: This application is the second rezoning application for this site since implementation of the West End Community Plan adopted in 2013. In 2016, previous owners (Hollyburn) submitted a proposal to demolish the current rental tower and commercial low-rise. Their plan was to construct a new purpose-built rental building of 385 feet height and 276 secured market rental units of which 40% would have been family units. The application was subsequently withdrawn by the owner in 2018. Based on media reports at the time (see references below), the reason seemed that such a proposal for this site was not deemed economically viable within the requirements of the West End Community Plan.

The property was then sold to Landa Global (www.landaglobal.com) in 2018 and the current application was submitted in early summer 2020. (Landa Global also has properties at 1400 Alberni and 1818 Alberni)

The current application documentation is not complete: (1) There are no site plans included in the application that is posted online. Why is this information not provided to the public? (2) Several conditions concerning the design of the building, public realm, and the landscaping have not been satisfied and have been deferred to the Development permit phase. These should be considered at the Public Hearing. (3) The transportation study relies on 2016 data and does not consider the current or future impact of current construction and proposed new developments in the vicinity. (4) Are proposed public realm and public amenities adequate?

Implementation of the WECP should be reviewed to determine whether it has met affordable housing and community benefit goals via increased density and luxury strata developments along the corridors. The current proposal represents another example of this approach, which does not appear to be meeting these important goals and, instead, is having the effect of increasing property values and housing costs.

A major issue with this proposal (and others along the Alberni-Georgia corridor) is that it reflects an unsuccessful approach to increasing housing affordability in Vancouver and the West End. In fact, increased density of primarily market strata towers has had the opposite effect on affordability. Bear in mind that one of the top selling points for the West End Community Plan was to “deepen” housing affordability in the West End.

Furthermore, the total number of secure market rental units built thus far is below 10% of the overall number promised within 10 years. Why are applications such as this one still being submitted by developers and accepted by the City? This approach is not working.

A second issue is that this proposal is offering only a one-for-one replacement of the rental units that would be demolished. Beyond replacement of existing rental units, there will be no additional rental units created by this project. This is all that the city requires. Only 20% (13 units) in the proposed tower will be at below market rental. It is very likely that the other new units will be more costly than the current rental units. Thus, the proposal will not result in an increase in the type of housing that is needed the most in the West End. On top of that, current renters will be evicted, displaced, and have to resettle.

In terms of the climate emergency and “Greenest City” goals, should the City be encouraging the demolition of existing rental housing, with all the implications for waste and emissions?

The applicant has offered a cash community amenity contribution of $32,700,000. Staff recommend that the offer be accepted and that the amount be allocated to support delivery of the West End Community Plan Public Benefits Strategy. (See WEN post on that topic: Now online: ‘West End Public Benefits Strategy Implementation’ – Progress Update’). Some good scrutiny is needed about how and when this money will actually benefit the West End community.

This application comes on the heels of one just approved nearby at 49 storeys (1450 West Georgia at Nicola), on October 12, 2021 (see https://westendneighbours.wordpress.com/2021/09/20/referral-reports-1157-burrard-1450-west-georgia/). It too involves the demolition of existing rental housing and replacement, in this case 162 units.


276 rental homes in downtown Vancouver cancelled over City fees (Kenneth Chan, 24-Aug-2018):

Hollyburn proposes new Coal Harbour rental apartment tower (Peter Meiszner, UrbanYVR,
June 16, 2016): https://www.urbanyvr.com/hollyburn-proposes-new-coal-harbour-rental-apartment-tower/

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