Shadow analysis of proposed towers on Fairview Slopes. 1395 West Broadway tower open house runs until November 7th

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Slideshow: The shadow diagrams were rendered at the stated times on the slides for select dates (Oct 21, June 21, March 21, Dec 21, Nov 26), renderings by Stephen Bohus, BLA. A photo of the rezoning information sign is also included in the slides (photo taken on October 25, 2021).

While there was supposed to be a rezoning ban on tower applications during the Broadway Plan public consultation process, developers are exploiting loopholes, and evidence shows that the City of Vancouver is actively encouraging and accepting applications. A number of blockbuster towers are already working their way through City Hall. One aspect of towers is their impacts on shadows, especially when towers are being proposed at a high point over a declining slope to the north, as we see in the case of the Fairview Slopes, which are home to thousands of residents and businesses. Is access to the sky important? Are shadow impacts important? Some may argue saying no, but we say yes. So the next step is to look at how the City actually deals with shadow analysis in preparing for public input and the final decision by our elected officials.

There’s a rezoning application in progress for a 24-storey office tower at 1395 West Broadway. The site is the current Toyota dealership site at the northeast corner of Hemlock and West Broadway. Despite the rezoning ban during the Broadway Plan, the City is advancing this application for Yuanheng BH Developments Limited (CEO Grant Lin). City staff are holding a Virtual Open House event that apparently began on October 18th and runs until November 7, 2021 (for more information shapeyourcity.ca/1395-w-broadway). Regarding the Virtual Open House rezoning at 1395 West Broadway, the City has not yet posted this information on the rezoning information signs (photos from October 25th).

In order to look at the cumulative shadow impacts in Fairview, we’ve included renderings that have three concurrent tower proposals. The renderings can be created interactively in real time at any time of the year, time of day and vantage point using the software package Unreal Engine (more on the model later).

Meanwhile, not far away, the rezoning application for a 39-storey tower at 1477 West Broadway will have a Virtual Open House run from November 15 to December 05, 2021 (details at https://shapeyourcity.ca/1477-w-broadway).

The 28-storey tower proposal at 2538 Birch Street is in the development permit stage and going to the Development Permit Board on November 15, 2021 (details at https://shapeyourcity.ca/2538-birch-st).

The shadow analysis by the applicant at 1395 West Broadway could be more nuanced, as our 3D model demonstrates. Included below is a snapshot of one of the shadow diagrams from the applicant’s submission (left), with the same time for a shadow rendering (our version on right).

The shadow diagrams in the application booklet (shadow diagram pages 34-37) used the following times: 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, 2:30 pm and 4:30 pm on June 21 (summer solstice) and March 21 (equinox). In our slideshow we’ve included the 2:30 pm times for comparison, and have also created a shadow rendering for December 21, as that wasn’t provided in the package (for December 21 the shadow at 2:30 pm stretches all the way to Granville Island). We have provided additional renderings in our slideshow with other dates and times.

Applicant’s Massing Model for 1395 West Broadway (left) and our massing model (right) made from plans in the rezoning application booklet (for floorplans please see the FSR overlays section, pp. 75-82 and p. 18 for the applicant’s Google Earth massing model)

The massing model of 1395 West Broadway was constructed based on the plans in the application booklet; the City does not have a model available. In the applicant’s booklet there are some minor inconsistencies between some of the drawings, renderings, and photos of the physical model (which most people won’t notice unless they try to build a model), but the information is sufficient in this case for a massing model. The measurements in the submission were in Imperial units, so a conversion to metric was done during the modelling stage.

Shadow rendering of proposed tower at 1395 West Broadway, on October 25 at 4 pm.

It’s interesting to explore the shadow simulation at various times of the year and day. The City only looks at summer solstice and fall/spring equinox at a few select times (usually 10 am, noon, 2 pm and occasionally 4 pm as the standard, but some architects do more). There’s a really big difference going through October and to mid-November. In a situation where there’s a downward slope facing north, the shadow impacts are compounded. There’s a lot of discussion that could occur around the issue of solar access during the shoulder season. While it might be simple to dismiss the winter solstice as an extreme case (it’s commonly not included). Perhaps that’s true, but there’s a lot of time between the winter solstice and the spring/fall equinox, more precisely, half a year. Thus, the analysis and response could be far more nuanced. The City has specific guidelines set in place for the Fairview slopes because planning staff at one point looked in more detail at solar access. There’s also a difference in the impacts of tall buildings on the north side of West Broadway compared to ones on the south side, with the north side (which have greater impacts of the buildings are of the same height).

The 3D model we used for the shadow diagrams runs in real time. A user can navigate to any location, enter any date and time, and instantly see the shadows (or interactively scroll through times and see shadows update).

The software package used to create the renders was Unreal Engine 4.27 which can be downloaded for free here. The context data for the buildings and terrain was released by the City of Vancouver via FOI and used as a base. Additional modelling was done to create the proposed buildings and to supplement the City’s model (fill in missing buildings). Some other of the other datasets used in the 3D model came from the City’s Open Data portal (including aerial photography, property lines, LiDAR points).

Shadow diagram pages in application booklet (for full shadow diagram please see pages 34-37 of application booklet pdf)

References: Burrard Slopes C-3A Guidelines https://guidelines.vancouver.ca/guidelines-burrard-slopes-c-3a.pdf (last updated September 15, 2020)

shapeyourcity.ca/1395-w-broadway Virtual Open House October 18 → November 07, 2021

Rezoning information sign. Photo taken on October 25, 2021 at 5 p.m. Note that the Virtual Open House information (Oct 18 – Nov 8) is still not posted on the sign. That is a big problem. The public is denied access to the process by the failure of public notification. It appears to be a systemic problem. Who at the City is responsible to oversee and ensure proper public notifications are being made? They’re not doing their job.

Rezoning information sign. Photo taken on October 26, 2021 at 1 p.m. Note that the Virtual Open House information (Oct 18 – Nov 8) is still not posted on the sign. The sign simply states: ‘Open House: Information to come’

All About Affordability, Part 3 (City Conversations No One Else is Having #6, Brian Palmquist)

Brian is a guest writer for CityHallWatch. An architect whose career in Vancouver has spanned four decades, with projects ranging from first proposing the laneway-housing concept to serving as the managing architect on major multi-building development plans, personally designing more than 1,000 social and co-op housing units, and consulting on thousands more. Please visit this page for a list of all his articles, including this 2021 series “City Conversations No One Else is Having.” This one is Part 3 of his “All About Affordability” series, featuring his affordability triage analysis.

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“I think I have the beginnings of some solutions.” I smiled at my son as we ate our Granville Island breakfast before our regular bike ride. “But I had to turn things on their head a bit.”

He looked puzzled. “Okay, I’ll bite, how did you invert what we talked about last ride?”

“I’m glad you challenged me to explain how to implement my six Ideas to tackle affordability,” I continued. “In terms of “bang for the buck,” it was immediately clear to me that I had the simplest ideas, what folks like to call the “low hanging fruit,” at the bottom of my list, when they really should be at the top.” I turned my notebook so it faced him, with the table that’s at the top of this post. “After our ride, I’ll explain why it’s more logical to start with Build easier than Build higher.

He gave me one of those Whatever, Dad looks and pushed off on his bike.

I used my bike time to organize my thoughts. I was more than a little intimidated—not so much by my son, although his Millennial generation is a tough sell for any idea from us Baby Boomers. I was unsure because lots of folks much brighter than I have been looking for their single solution to affordability—and I know many of those solutions have some value.

By proposing a suite of a half dozen Ideas with a hierarchy of value, most-to-least effective, I was opening myself to arguments about order of effectiveness, about what’s possible, about “Who are you to say…” Perhaps most challenging, I was taking on a social media communications paradigm that thinks in Tweets, at most bullet points, all competing as the Idea where at least six are the reality.

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False Creek South redevelopment proposal: Vancouver’s real estate department has built a detailed 3D model, but it’s only showing a bird’s-eye view.


A static and distant bird’s-eye view is the only vantage point used by Vancouver’s real estate department in their report to Council on the future of False Creek South. Where are the ground level views and close ups of this 3D model? How does this proposal overlay onto the existing buildings? This isn’t shown. What do the details look like? What exactly are City staff proposing around the streetcar tracks? Clearly a fair amount of time and effort has gone into the staff presentation and report.

This was all paid for by taxpayers, but the real estate department is actually holding back this information from mayor and Council, and from the public. To demonstrate that it is acting in good faith, the real estate department should show much more than one helicopter view without delay, now, while discussions are in progress.

With modern software, City staff can easily produce additional renderings from many different vantage points before the continuation of the False Creek South item on Tuesday, October 26th starting at 3pm (with speaker 48 of 171 up at that time). They could demonstrate various views in real time on the screen during public consultations and the current Council meetings covering the proposal — with the ability to zoom in and zoom out, look at things from different angles, consider the impacts from many different perspectives. The technology and skills exist and are probably already being used in private discussions with developers. It would be be hard for staff to justify not letting Council and the public have this. Alternately, the City could post the 3D model on its website and then stakeholders could generate views and do the analysis for themselves. (The 3D model could be shared in a few common formats to make it accessible, for example, in FBX, kmz/Google Earth, DXF/DWG and Alembic file formats.)

This is not the first time City staff have kept our elected officials and the public in the dark. Leading up to the adoption of the West End Community Plan in November 2013, residents were kept busy with street painting and a photo competitions, while internally, planning staff had developed a detailed 3D model of what was being proposed, with up-zoning for towers up to 60 storeys. It took a citizen’s FOI request and repeated pressure on staff to obtain the data, and even then it was released only after City Council had approved the WECP and bylaw changes for mass rezoning. The West End case also provides a hopeful precedent. The City did release the 3D data. See West End Neighbours posts from 2014 “Secret 3D images of future West End: World premiere from WEN. Images withheld by City Hall” which mentions that “Only one view was shown to the public, for a few scant moments of the ‘helicopter view’ at the ‘learning sessions’ in November 2013,” and “View changes from bottom of Davie Street, extracted from secret City files.”

The work by staff was done with public funds. Releasing the 3D model would considerably aid in public discourse and discussion. Should City Council be expected to make a decision, and the public expected to comment, based on a single bird’s eye view rendering of the proposal? It’s 2021, after all.

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A Setting Lost to the City, Part 3 (City Conversations No One Else is Having #9, Brian Palmquist)

Brian is a guest writer for CityHallWatch. An architect whose career in Vancouver has spanned four decades, with projects ranging from first proposing the laneway-housing concept to serving as the managing architect on major multi-building development plans, personally designing more than 1,000 social and co-op housing units, and consulting on thousands more. Please visit this page for a list of all his articles, including this 2021 series “City Conversations No One Else is Having.”

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City Conversations No One Else is Having, #9
A Setting Lost to the City? Part 3
By Brian Palmquist (first published 16-May-2021)

This much earlier City Conversation is being reposted in the week leading up to City Council’s consideration of a proposal by city staff that will destroy False Creek South—I will be speaking against the report on October 21st and my remarks will be published as Part 2 of an earlier Conversation about False Creek South. Meanwhile…

Brian is an architect whose Vancouver projects range from first proposing the laneway housing concept to managing the community planning design team for the North Shore of False Creek. He lives in Vancouver and sadly, has never had a mountain, city or water view from his home.

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Part 1 of this article reviewed the role that view cones or corridors played in the evolution of Vancouver’s downtown and False Creek areas. Part 2 looked at what we will lose if they are violated or disarmed at the east end of False Creek, as proposed by city staff and the development community, what I fear will be “a setting lost to the city.”

Part 3 focuses on the impacts of potential False Creek South development on the views from Fairview Slopes.

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The next day after my view cone walkabout along the south shore of False Creek, described in Part 2,  it was time to move to higher view cone elevations—specifically, Fairview Slopes and Choklit Park.

View “F” is the official view cone from Choklit Park at 7th and Spruce. I expect it was on the city’s original 1989 list of views to be preserved because it’s one of the few open spaces in the Fairview Slopes neighbourhood, so is a good proxy for the hundreds of view condominiums that tumble down the slopes from 8th north to the southern rim of False Creek South. In fact, pretty much the entire genesis of Fairview Slopes involved careful planning and positioning of buildings to maximize views of and over False Creek to the city and mountains beyond.

Regardless of that logic, the actual mountain views to be preserved from Choklit Park, labeled “F1.1, 1.2 and 1.3,” are actually quite narrow, presumably because much development preceded their establishment:

What’s of greater consequence is illustrated by the two diagonal lines labeled “6” and “12.” These identify where the approximate tops of future 6 or 12-storey buildings set in False Creek South might rise to. By comparison, the sloping red roofs centre right are about five storeys to their peak.

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A Setting Lost to the City, Part 2 (City Conversations No One Else is Having #9, Brian Palmquist)

Brian is a guest writer for CityHallWatch. An architect whose career in Vancouver has spanned four decades, with projects ranging from first proposing the laneway-housing concept to serving as the managing architect on major multi-building development plans, personally designing more than 1,000 social and co-op housing units, and consulting on thousands more. Please visit this page for a list of all his articles, including this 2021 series “City Conversations No One Else is Having.”

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City Conversations No One Else is Having, #9
A Setting Lost to the City? Part 2

By Brian Palmquist (first published 14-May-2021)

This much earlier City Conversation is being reposted in the lead-up to City Council’s consideration of a proposal by city staff that will destroy False Creek South—I will be speaking against the report on October 21st and my remarks will be published as Part 2 of an earlier Conversation about False Creek South. Meanwhile…

Brian is an architect whose Vancouver projects range from first proposing the laneway housing concept to managing the community planning design team for the North Shore of False Creek. He lives in Vancouver and sadly, has never had a mountain, city or water view from his home.

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Part 1 of this article reviewed the role that view cones or corridors played in the evolution of Vancouver’s downtown and False Creek areas. Parts 2 and 3 look at what we will lose if they are removed, as proposed by city staff and the development community, what I fear will be “a setting lost to the city.”

“I’m beginning to understand what this view cone thing is, why it’s a now issue and how serious it is!” I had just walked the length of the False Creek South sea wall with my wife, from Granville Island to Olympic Village, stopping to take photographs at each of the seven official view cone locations along the way. We were sipping happy hour drinks at the Tap & Barrel before retracing our steps on an unseasonably warm day for April in Vancouver—no complaints!

I told her that the existing view cones have done a pretty good job preserving views through the downtown peninsula, but much of the views east of the Cambie Bridge and west of the Burrard Bridge are toast, based on what’s been published. “And don’t even ask me about False Creek South and Fairview Slopes!” At a gut level I knew this was a fair statement, but I needed to do a bit more work before writing about it.

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Council and Park Board Preview: South False Creek, Strategic Plan for Bloedel and VanDusen, Overdose Crisis update and more

Agenda item at Council Committee Meeting: 2. The Future of False Creek South: Advancing a Conceptual Development Plan and Addressing Lease Expiries

Park Board will review the final strategic plan for the VanDusen Botanical Garden and Bloedel Conservatory at a meeting on Monday, October 18th, 2021. Park Board will also receive a General Manager’s Report and have look at the Park Ranger Service Model.

Vancouver City Council has two scheduled meetings this week, just the Regular Council and Committee meetings. Public Hearings were held last week. At the Regular Council meeting set for Tuesday, October 19th, two items from a previous Public Hearing will be debated. These are the applications for 1157 Burrard Street (480 foot tower at Davie) and Zoning and Development By-law Amendments to Allow Patios for Liquor Manufacturers. The continuation of Veterans’ Parking Exemptions will be examined. A total of 14 items are set to be referred to Public Hearing.

The Council Committee meeting on Thursday, October 21st includes a report on the future of South False Creek. Interested speakers have until 8:30am on Thursday to sign up. There is a substantial staff report on the item 2. The Future of False Creek South: Advancing a Conceptual Development Plan and Addressing Lease Expiries.

Council will be updated on the Overdose Crisis and receive a presentation by Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health.

Meeting agendas are reproduced below for reference. Continue reading

A Setting Lost to the City, Part 1 (City Conversations No One Else is Having #9, Brian Palmquist)

Brian is a guest writer for CityHallWatch. An architect whose career in Vancouver has spanned four decades, with projects ranging from first proposing the laneway-housing concept to serving as the managing architect on major multi-building development plans, personally designing more than 1,000 social and co-op housing units, and consulting on thousands more. Please visit this page for a list of all his articles, including this 2021 series “City Conversations No One Else is Having.”

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City Conversations No One Else is Having, #9
A Setting Lost to the City? Part 1
By Brian Palmquist (first published 13-Mar-2021)

This much earlier City Conversation is being reposted in the week leading up to City Council’s consideration of a proposal by city staff that will destroy False Creek South—I will be speaking against the report on October 21st and my remarks will be published as Part 2 of an earlier Conversation about False Creek South. Meanwhile…

When we arrived in Vancouver in the mid-1970s, anything was possible for an architect. Pundits disparaged the city, calling it “a setting in search of a city.” I only saw a profusion of architecture, mountains and water. This is the first of a series of articles describing how we have reached a crossroads—if we choose the wrong road we will become instead “a setting lost to the city.”

“We lost because of the waterfront walkway,” mused my late mentor, Rein Raimet, one of the partners at Bain Burroughs Hanson Raimet Architects (BBHR), my first Vancouver employer. I had moved to Vancouver too late to work on their second place entry for the competition to design a community on the south shore of False Creek. Not bitter, rather contemplative, he continued:

“There was lots of waterfront access in our scheme, but TBP’s scheme had a continuous waterfront walkway. We didn’t realize how key that was.” TBP was local shorthand for Thompson Berwick Pratt & Partners, at the time the largest firm on Canada’s west coast and the winners of the city-sponsored competition.

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Heritage brick roadway

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There are a few remnants of brick streets in Vancouver. Included in the slideshow (above) are photos of Victoria Drive and of Frances Street in Grandview-Woodland. These two streets also happen to be former streetcar routes. What other parts of Vancouver still have brick streets? There is of course Gastown; however, it’s worth noting that a fair amount of the brick work in Gastown is the result of urban renewal in the early 1970s. In any event, the brick streets in Vancouver are one of the quirks that provide variety in the City’s urban fabric.

Links
Take a look down, Vancouver’s streets and sidewalks still tell a story (Vancouver Sun, John Mackie
August 12, 2020)
Brick Streets – Vancouver, BC – Signs of History (Waymarking.com)
Our City Streets Were Once Paved With These Little Wooden Blocks (Scout Magazine, Christine Hagemoen,
Jan 16, 2017)
Gastown’s famous cobblestone and tile streets literally falling apart (Global News, Peter Meiszner, November 27, 2013)
Consultations underway for changes and repairs to iconic Gastown neighbourhood (News 1130, May 26, 2019)

Mayor and Council: Do you really understand the City’s odd approach to developer profits in justifying tower developments?

When it comes to big tower developments, it’s all about the money. People need to ask Mayor and Council: “Can you personally explain why you are voting in favour of projects when your staff clearly don’t understand the financial aspects of the proposal?”

A CityHallWatch correspondent shared with us the outcome of a formal Freedom of Information request that was recently submitted to the City of Vancouver. Our correspondent has seen the City describe development profitability in a number of different ways in different municipal settings, and thought it would be important to understand how the City calculates “return on cost” given how it figured prominently in a City webpage concerning “streamlining rental housing” (a proposed citywide rezoning policy that goes to Public Hearing on November 2):

The FOI request was worded to ask for…

The following records in reference to page 4 of the “Shape Your City” document “Streamlining Rental Making it Easier to Build Secure Rental Housing in More Neighbourhoods”: Explain how the City of Vancouver calculates “Return on Cost” as used in the document; in particular, identify all items included in revenues, expenses, and project/construction costs.

(Note: The website cited is Shape Your City – https://shapeyourcity.ca/rental-rz)

After the request was made, what happened? Initially, the FOI Office showed some resistance and requested a clarification of the question. The FOI Office ultimately did respond – with these remarkable words:

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Virtual Open Houses until Oct 17 (Sun): 855-865 West 10th Avenue (12-storeys office) and 456 Prior St (two 19-storey towers)

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Above: Virtual open houses for two significant rezonings proposals are currently in progress, ending soon. See bottom of article for a selected list of major upcoming open houses for rezonings.

There’s a large-scale development proposed at 456-496 Prior Street for two 19-storey residential towers along with a 5-storey podium on a parcel of land that’s currently zoned as light industrial. In terms of scale, this project would loom over the established residential blocks on the north side of Prior in Strathcona. A total of 262 rental units are proposed, a 5-storey office podium along with commercial uses at ground level. A maximum building height of 64 m (210 ft.) and a FSR of 4.68 is requested. The design includes 516 parking spaces. The total floor area would be 45,483 sq. m (489,574 sq. ft.)

The other ongoing Virtual Public Hearing is for a 12-storey office tower at 855-865 W 10th Avenue. Although there’s a freeze on new rezoning applications during the Broadway Planning process, staff are looking at granting an exemption to this site since they claim that inquiries about this site had been made beforehand. A tower of 47.6 m (156.3 ft.) with a FSR of 6.12 is proposed. A total of 82 parking spaces would be included. Commercial uses would be included on this proposal across from VGH.

Perhaps it is also worth noting that staff are continuing with Virtual Open Houses at least for some rezoning applications. There has been no return to in-person Open Houses. Many residents prefer the in-person format, which provides an opportunity for better communication in real time, and to meet other residents and discuss their observations and concerns.

Here is a selection of significant upcoming Virtual Open Houses:

2062-2092 E Broadway  (6-storey residential) October 18 → November 07, 2021
131-163 W 49th Ave (4-storeys) October 25 → November 14, 2021
396 SW Marine Dr (10-storey and 19-storey towers above 3-storey podium) November 01 → November 21, 2021
2086-2098 W 7th Ave & 2091 W 8th Ave (revised to 13 storeys, social housing) November 01 → November 21, 2021
1477 W Broadway (410 ft tower and 110 ft podium)  November 15 → December 05, 2021

Links to current virtual Open houses are listed below:

456-496 Prior St (two 19-storey towers and 5-storey podium) open until October 17
855-865 W 10th Ave (12-storey office tower) open until October 17