Staff Report Problems

The Staff Report to Council has incorrect facts and lacks clarity on several issues, including:

  • Failure to substantiate its claim that “extensive” revisions have been made to the project in its three different versions; in fact, for example, tower height and proposed FSR have remained essentially unchanged
  • The fact that the previously-offered 3,500 square foot community space has been removed from the proposal calls into question comments by some members of the public (and members of those two groups who were expecting to benefit from the space) that supported the application on the basis of the proposed community space
  • The failure to document the differences in support between residents of the West End (those most directly affected by the development) and those from outside the community
  • The fact that 970 residents submitted comment cards and, although City staff confirmed that this input would be recorded as part of the input to the project, these comments are not reflected in the report’s summary of public input
  • The lack of detail on the six proposed “SAFER” units and the fact that these units are limited to a five year period
  • The basis on which the proposed market rental units have been defined as “affordable” is questionable, based on WEN’s previously-expressed concerns regarding the City Manager’s authority to define the affordability of rental units
  • The proposed rent levels are at odds with other new rentals currently being offered in the West End.
  •  The West End’s RM5 Guidelines were adopted by City Council in 1989 and with the exception of the tower spacing component of the guidelines are only mentioned in passing in the report.

In general, the report reads more as a justification of the proposed development, rather than an objective analysis of the impacts and benefits of the proposal. The building’s lack of compliance with the RM5 guidelines will result in damage to the livability of the neighbourhood and the developer should have been sent back to the drawing board to produce a building that reflects Council’s existing guidelines for development in the West End.

The report is accessible here.

Information on public record about a rezoning or development application going to a public hearing must be balanced, objective and accurate. This staff report fails to meet those three tests, and fails to justify the large density bonus sought by the applicant. Over 12,000 people have signed a petition requesting that there be no rezonings in the West End without a comprehensive plan – a plan that can guide the future of the neighbourhood in a rational, predictable manner and that will protect the quality of life and unique character which West End residents cherish.

There is a great deal that the City and neighbourhood do NOT know about the impacts of these types of projects, and will not know until it is too late to address. What we DO know is that allowing the development industry to plan our neighbourhoods is certain to result in land use patterns that maximize developer profits at the expense of neighbourhood character and livability. The Planning Department needs to undertake work on planning for the  West End and not simply endorse unreasonable requests for increases in density and height from developers.

A good summary of the value of this type of planning approach is found in an article Councillor Jang wrote two years ago in Dream City:

“The development of each of Vancouver’s neighborhoods is the result of over a century of history, a century of hopes and dreams. My dream city is one that recognizes and empowers each of its distinct neighborhoods to address common issues in a way that suits each neighborhood’s values and needs. In short, it is not just about community visioning but citizen engagement where residents in each neighborhood play a real role in its own future.”

Many neighbours feel that the proposed increase in floor area is creating a bulky building that results in the negative impacts associated with the project – shading, over-viewing, “loss of the sky”, and lack of on – site greenspace.  Most feel the increase in floorspace is an unreasonable density bonus for the proposed “community benefit” of market rental housing.

Finally, the residents in the West End are not opposed to change in our neighbourhood, but they request that the interests and concerns of residents be taken into account. The change at 1401 Comox site should be reasonable, oriented toward serving the needs of the community, and protect and enhance the livability of the neighbourhood.

We look forward to the City and the developer consulting with neighbouring owners and renters in a meaningful way to ensure that concerns and objectives are incorporated into development planning for the site, and we look forward to being advised of a revised development proposal for this site that takes into account the concerns identified to date.

References

West End Discussion on Community Needs and Affordable Housing, City of Vancouver, June 2010

West End Community Visioning Forum, West End Residents Association, March 2010

City of Vancouver Statistics Census Data 2006, City of Vancouver, 2006

Vancouver Condominium Rental Study prepared for the City of Vancouver, December 2009

RM-5 Zoning Schedule, Section 4.3.1.

West End Discussions on Community Needs and Affordable Housing 

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