(Update: RECONVENING on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. with applicant presentation, public speakers, council debate + decision)
This major rezoning application went to a virtual Public Hearing on Thursday, June 25, 2020, and will reconvene on June 30 at 9:30 a.m. (On June 25 there was only time for the staff presentation.)
If you have any concerns as a West End resident, we encourage you to write or speak to Council on this major rezoning for a 60-storey tower mid-block on the north side of Nelson Street, between Thurlow and Burrard Streets. Instructions on how to do so are on the official Public Hearing web page.
City Council is currently in the midst of a big rush of public hearings (May 12, 26, 28, June 23, 25, 30, July 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, plus possible reserve dates) before the summer hiatus. The City assumes these electronic meeting (with audio only, and all Councillors joining remotely) are legal under provincial emergency legislation during the COVID-19 pandemic (but could be challenged).
Below are some images and points about the rezoning, plus comments and web links. There is quite a history to this site. The value of the site was unlocked by the West End Community Plan adopted in 2013 under Vision Vancouver, which left the permitted density (and profits) on sites in this corridor virtually unlimited as a huge favour to developers. The location was the subject of dramatic speculation and profit-taking by prominent Vancouver developers, resulting in the current developer, Henson Developments, bringing this proposal forward now.
Public hearing agendas and documents (general info):
Virtual (electronic) Public Hearing June 25, 2020 (6 pm start). This application is 4th on the agenda (1059-1075 Nelson Street):
Rezoning application page:
There will be many opinions about such a massive development. Skyscraper and density lovers will support it. The developer has included some green features. Social housing and market rentals are in the proposal. Development Cost Levies and Community Amenity Contributions will bring funds into City coffers. Tenants renovicted from the existing affordable rental units on the site will be anxious to get into the new building once completed. Some housing activists who support any construction anywhere will support this.
But there has been little public discussion about the negative livability, environmental, shadowing, and affordability impacts of such a major development. It is an expensive, huge and bulky building on such a small site, at nearly 25 FSR for density and 585.5 feet in height.
Here are some points worthy of attention:
- It is a small site for this kind of density and extreme height, especially given the towers already on that block (and under construction).
- The proposed Floor Space Ratio of 24.94 may well have the highest density of any building ever approved in Vancouver, and could well be the highest density building ever built on the North American continent. This level of density will have major impacts.
- It will shade Nelson Park, which is precious and heavily used park space. This is a densely-populated urban community. For mental and physical health, and general livability of the community, bright park space is a must-have. But the proposed tower, combined with others existing and under construction, will cast shadows for many blocks in many directions. The proponent’s shadow studies show that Nelson Park can kiss good-bye to morning sunlight for much of the year. That includes also the children at Lord Nelson Elementary Annex.
- Despite the “passive house” standards, the amount of energy consumed in demolition, excavation, and construction will be enormous. Digging a hole 100 feet deep for nine levels of underground parking is one example.
- Under a COVID-19 world, will skyscraper living dependent on elevators for every departure and return ever be the same?
- There are many discrepancies with provisions of the West End Community Plan for this area.
- Pages 11 and 12 of the staff Referral Report (April 14, 2020, Gil Kelley, General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability) merit a close look, particularly regarding floor plate size. During West End Plan consultations in 2012 and 2013, the size of floor plates was a key topic. Since the adoption of the plan, proposals have included endless rationalizations of “averaging” and “exclusions” to justify bulky buildings like the one proposed. Proponents and City staff use these as a strategy to over-ride the objectives of the Plan in order to create more luxury real estate at $3,000 a square foot. We hope that Mayor and Council will query staff in detail on this point. How can West Enders be confident that the West End Community Plan will be followed?
- The proponent and City staff are also proposing a “zero setback” from Nelson Street for levels 4 through 60 (see Page 12 of the report).
- Is the creation of hundreds more luxury condos the best way to advance housing opportunities in Vancouver? Who is the target for sales of these condos? Whose needs are being served?