Decision day is coming up very soon for the Arbutus Ridge Plaza. A proposal to put a 52 unit condo development with ground floor retail at 2118 West 15th Avenue (3113 Arbutus) will be considered by the Development Permit Board on Tuesday, October 9th. This meeting will begin at 3pm at City Hall (Town Hall Meeting Room) and it is expected to go well into the night. Residents opposing the development have collected 10,000 signatures in a petition. A decision to approve or reject this proposal will be made at the meeting. Those wishing to speak in person at the meeting can register by calling (604) 873-7469 or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Some of the local residents first meet at the Bowling Centre at 1:30pm and then walk over to City Hall from there. Please see our earlier articles here and here for more information on the proposal, and the city’s website as well as the staff report. The potential loss of both the Ridge Theatre and the Bowling Centre is seen as a loss of amenities to the local community. A number of small shops would be lost and replaced by a single large grocery store on the ground floor (with 4 storeys of condo units on levels 2-5). The staff report acknowledges that “the Ridge Theatre is listed on the Recent Landmarks Inventory of post 1940s buildings”; however, while it does have potential for a heritage protection, the building is not listed in the Vancouver Heritage Register. Perhaps because it’s era and character, the Ridge Theatre was used as a filming location for movies such as The Twilight Saga New Moon (see clip here) and also for other productions (as was the Bowling Centre). The only element of the entire plaza that might be salvaged is the original RIDGE sign, the 56 foot tall development would contain also contain three levels of underground parking and require the demolition of the current Arbutus Ridge plaza (additional photos are further below).
Have the proponents jumped the gun by displaying large signs claiming that the development is ‘coming soon’? Even if this is not the intention, people walking by will think it is approved. The white Development Permit Signs (DE415745) are not much more helpful as the date for the review is not listed for the public to see. Across the street on Arbutus it appears that a future sales office is already being constructed. Is this due process? The proponent is asking for the sale of a portion of city-owned land (from report: “a 7’ by 220’ portion of Arbutus Street lying directly adjacent the site”). This sale agreement would be subject to council approval, but city staff only want to do this after a successful development board approval. Why shouldn’t the entire application then be subject to council approval considering the vast number of points that the proposal does not meet the intent of current zoning bylaws or if it does not fit in with the context? Current land use can be found in the District Schedule for C-2 zoning and the C-2 Guidelines (this zoning is used along sections of Dunbar Street, West 4th Avenue and Commercial Drive). Do the conditions exist to allow for the relaxations sought by the applicant, to go from a 45′ maximum to 55′ in height? (or the 56′ as per the applicant’s drawings)? Are there issues with the density coverage calculations (floor space ratio)? Are there precedents for 5-storey buildings in C-2 zoned land in the city, or is there is a reason why 4-storeys appears to be generally the highest form of development under this zoning?
None of the conditions listed in the section 4.3e of the C-2 Guidelines that might possibly justify a relaxation of the current 13.8m (45′) maximum height limit to 16.8 (55′) are met. The adjacent lots across from the back lane are zoned for one-family and two-family dwellings (RS-5 or RT-7). The impact of any extra height would be exasperated by the significant grade change between the Arbutus side of the proposal and the laneway. The map above shows the 1m contour interval from the City’s own VanMap viewer (orange lines show current property lines).
During the Urban Design Panel review the proponent’s design team spoke of planting ‘legacy trees’ that would live for 300-400 years. While this is an unrealistic claim for any urban streetscape in our climate, it is doubly so due to the water main and easement going under ‘legacy trees’ as per the landscape drawing (annotated section above, tree species was not specified). Won’t a water main ever need to be dug up and serviced?