Granville Bridge Connector staff report expected to go to Council in September

The City’s Granville Bridge Connector group is active again. It appears that this project is set to go to Council in September. In a previous post, we looked at the topic of the possibility of “prevention means” fencing on the proposed upgrades to the bridge (please see “Are Burrard Bridge fenced views coming to the Granville Bridge soon?” (CityHallWatch, June 29, 2020).

The full Phase 3 “engagement summary” on the Granvill Bridge Connector please visit this page:
(https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/granville-bridge-connector-phase-3-consultation-summary.pdf)

Here’s the reply from the City to a recent inquiry about the status of the Granville Street Bridge Connector:

Apologies for delayed response.

Thank you for your continued interest and participation in the Granville Bridge Connector project.  We apologize for the delay since our last update as we have been busy adjusting to the on-going pandemic.  The update below highlights the results from our third and final round of engagement and outlines next steps.

Phase 3 Engagement Results

Phase 3 public and stakeholder engagement was completed in early 2020:

  • Over 700 people participated in Phase 3 open houses and workshops, and approximately 1,700 surveys were received.
    • In total, through all phases of engagement, there were over 3,000 attendees at 9 open houses and 11 workshops, and over 9,300 surveys received.
  • There was strong support for the recommended West+ design from both stakeholders and the public, with nearly 75% of survey respondents ‘liking’ or ‘really liking’ the design, and less than 20% expressing a negative sentiment.
  • There was strong overall support for maintaining views, and creating safe and comfortable paths with places to rest along the way and good separation between people walking, cycling, and driving.
  • Lighting upgrades were frequently identified as an important element for safety, personal security, and ambiance, as well as an opportunity for public art.
  • Many people were excited about the opportunity to create a unique and special experience, whereas others were concerned about overall costs and more interested in simply establishing functional accessible connections.
  • There continues to be considerable excitement over a potential elevator and staircase connection with Granville Island, and a more direct connection between the Connector and the Seawall.
  • Those opposed to the project expressed:
    • General concerns about City projects that reallocate road space away from motor vehicle traffic
    • Concern about potential traffic congestion and/or neighbourhood shortcutting
    • A belief that the project is unnecessary, and that safety and accessibility concerns for people using other modes besides driving are overstated

More detail is available in the Phase 3 engagement summary, which is now available online.
(https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/granville-bridge-connector-phase-3-consultation-summary.pdf)

Next Steps

Staff are planning to bring recommendations to Council later this year, likely in September. Staff anticipate that the report will include a recommendation to endorse a long-term design concept that reflects feedback from all rounds of engagement, as well as a request for approval to proceed with the first phase of implementation in coordination with related projects.

We will share the Council date when confirmed and publish the report online. Given that, there will be opportunities to speak to Council. We encourage you to stay involved in the project by signing up for the project newsletter on our website at vancouver.ca/granville-connector.

Thank you again for your interest in the project.

Best regards,

Granville Bridge Connector Team

granvilleconnector@vancouver.ca

Case study: Rental rates at City-owned property at 228 E 7th Avenue (Jan 2016 – Feb 2020)

As a case study, we’ll examine the rental rates at the City-owned property at 228 East 7th Avenue. The reason for this scrutiny is that public funds were used to purchase the land and build the building. This particular development goes back nearly twenty years, under several different regimes at City Hall. How has it worked out for renters and for the City? We do much of the analysis below, but leave it to readers to ponder conclusions.

This rental building is also known as the Residences on Seventh. There are a total of 98 rental units in the 10-storey section of the Mount Pleasant Community Centre, on floors 2 through 10. The units are above the branch of the Vancouver Public Library which takes up the main floor.

By way of background, we quote from the Administrative Report dated June 19, 2009: “In September 2001, Council approved the purchase of the property at 1 Kingsway for a joint use civic centre. On July 19, 2005 Council approved a budget for the new civic centre, to include a market rental housing component funded by the Property Endowment Fund (PEF). The inclusion of market rental housing component, maximized development efficiencies by building to the maximum permitted site density and minimizing the land costs to the civic component to an acceptable level. The market rental housing component of 1 Kingsway is a purpose built 98 unit residential high-rise tower (the “Building”) which will be managed by Real Estate Services (RES) as a PEF owned asset.”

The City of Vancouver has posted a PDF file of the results of a Freedom of Information request for a month by month breakdown of rents, unit types and unit sizes for a period between January 2016 and February 2020. We’ve extracted the data into a spreadsheet format from the PDF file.

In February 2020, the cheapest rental was $1,487 for a 1 bedroom, 676 sq. ft. unit on the second floor. This unit had rented for $1,327 in January of 2016.

The most expensive rental unit in February 2020 was $2,562 for a 2 bedroom, 803 sq. ft. unit on the 8th floor. This same unit went for $2,039 back in January of 2016.

In terms of the ‘best value’ for the area of rental, this was a 926 sq. ft. rental that went for $1,773 in February 2020. At the same time, the most expensive rental for area was a 594 sq. ft. unit that rented for $1,758.

The average rents for the three designations of units in February 2020 were as follows:

Designation Average rent Average size sq. ft. Average size (m2)
1 bedroom $1,625.00 612.0 56.9
1 bedroom + den $1,756.20 760.8 70.7
2 bedroom $2,176.53 908.9 84.4

The overall expected rental income for the building in February of 2016 was $151,359. This had increased to $179,523 in February of 2020. This building might not be pet friendly (at least based on this advertisement to take over a lease). As this is a City property, could there be a policy to have 20% of the units available at under market rental rates?

There’s plenty of additional information that can be gleaned from this data, and we’ve made the extracted spreadsheet available as a download. Some information about increases over time can be deduced. For example, in February 2016 the average rents were as follows:

Designation Feb-16 average rent Average size sq. ft. Average size m2
1 bedroom $1,361.17 612.0 56.9
1 bedroom + den $1,508.90 760.8 70.7
2 bedroom $1,830.22 908.9 84.4

Here’s a comparison for the average monthly rental rates between February of 2016 and 2020. How have wages fared in the same time period?

Designation Feb-16 Feb-20 Increase ($) Increase (%)
1 bedroom $1,361.17 $1,625.00 $263.83 19.38%
1 bedroom + den $1,508.90 $1,756.20 $247.30 16.39%
2 bedroom $1,830.22 $2,176.53 $346.31 18.92%

Resources

CityHallWatch extracted spreadsheet data: rental_rates_2016_to_2020

Original FOI release:

Click to access 2020-101-release.pdf

City’s choice of an operator (RFEOI)

Click to access a9.pdf

Recent rezoning 2735 East Hastings (see rental rates page 9, reproduced below):https://council.vancouver.ca/20200723/documents/phea2presentation.pdf

Here’s a slightly more compact version of the spreadsheet file: data2016to2020

The data shows that there is usually a single annual increase (for one unit the annual increases starting in 2016 were 2.87%, 3.67%, 4.0%, 2.5%). There are also a number of jumps in the rental rates, which are likely the result of a new tenant. Here are a few examples:

16.24% (Aug 2018 increase from $1,441 to $1,675 for unit 702)
26.92% (May 2019 increase from $1,497 to $1,900 for unit 208)
18.11% (Oct 2018 increase from $2,032 to $2,400 for unit 808)
17.94% (April 2018 increase from $1,399 to $1,650 for unit 202)

The information in the spreadsheet can be read into a database or a computer program for easier processing. Here’s an example to read the data into a Python script and do a simple search for the largest rent increase (here’s a document file with correct indentation for this source code):

#!/usr/bin/env python
import os, csv
Continue reading

Arbutus Ridge development: Promises vs. delivery (Arbutus and 16th Avenue)

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(Updated with some “un-disappeared” media coverage from 2012, see bottom) One development permit application that generated much controversy in the past decade was a project at 2118 West 15th Avenue (practically speaking, this is the corner of 16th and Arbutus).

This project by developer Cressey replaced the Ridge Theatre, a bowling alley and a number of small shops and services (two restaurants, grocery market, hardware store, yoga, dry cleaner) with condo units and a single large supermarket. The complex practically served as a local community centre, as a social gathering place, creating many memories over the decades. When the project went before the City’s four-person Development Pemit Board, a petition to save the bowling alley was signed by 10,000 people. Despite the intense public opposition, the DPB approved the project. The theatre and bowling alley were demolished (slides here). CityHallWatch had supported the local community to spread the word. The controversy was intense. A local businessperson reported to us about having suffered a loss of business, perceived to be reverse pressure as punishment for opposing the development.

Years later, how has the project turned out? We’ve included a number of slides of the completed development (above) as well documents of the DPB meeting, model and the renderings.

The ‘plaza’ is on City land in front of the project. It was proposed to have long benches around an outdoor seating area near 16th Avenue. This was never realized. Today in 2020 there is a large, stark, empty concrete area in front of the main entrance to the supermarket. In good weather, one or two people might be spotted sitting on the metal benches.

Three future ‘heritage trees’ (as claimed by the City and applicant) were not planted in a large grassy area facing Arbutus. Rather, has become a thin grass median. The future ‘heritage trees’ don’t appear to be doing very well. The designed landscape planting that was supposed to happen in the northern section of the public space beside Arbutus (towards West 15th Avenue) was not planted as the proponent illustrated. In reality, only patches of lawn with a few small trees and benches were installed.

On the laneway (west) side of the project, much of the interface is stark, and there are large truck docks here. Continue reading

No swimming at Sunset Beach. Water quality deemed unsuitable for swimming.

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Sunset beach has been closed to swimmers. Water quality readings on August 7th measured levels between 479 coliforms / 100ml and 1374 coliforms / 100ml. Beaches are closed when the readings exceed 200 coliforms / 100ml. [Update Aug 11: Trout Lake has also been closed to swimmers]

There are a number of beaches and bodies of water around Metro Vancouver that are tested on a weekly basis. While there is no swimming in False Creek, the most recent readings exceeded 24,196 coliforms / 100ml, or over 120 times the allowed maximum level. The contamination is likely from raw sewage entering False Creek from storm sewers and/or boats. Vancouver still has a large number of combined storm and wastewater sewers.

Beach at Trout Lake was open while resampling was in progress (closed on Aug 11)

At Trout Lake there is a resampling protocol in progress as there were recent samples that exceeded 400 coliforms / 100ml. The beach remains open until a determination is made from the results of the resampled measurements. [Update: the resampled measurements have resulted in the closure of Trout Lake on Aug 11]

The latest water quality readings are available on the website of Vancouver Coastal Health:

http://www.vch.ca/public-health/environmental-health-inspections/pools-beaches/beach-water-quality-reports

The measurements for Trout Lake from Aug 10th were: 1700 E. coli/100mL (single sample)
216 E. coli /100mL (geometric mean)

Temporary Community Gardens

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Temporary Community Gardens and temporary off-leash dog parks can be found on a number of development sites across Vancouver. We’ve included a few pictures in the slideshow above. An open question is the City’s approach to these temporary sites. Should these temporary uses result in tax breaks, or should the provision of a temporary community garden, off leash dog park, or other similar use be expected as part of the application process?

Lilian To Park at Yukon and W17th Avenue created from a street closure and single lot

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Back in 2015, Park Board approved the creation of a park at Yukon Street and West 17th Avenue. The park, now named as Lilian To Park, is documented in the photos (above). This is a look back and at a small park that was created from a street closure combined with a single residential lot. Lilian To Park is situated between a laneway on the north side, West 17th Avenue to the south, and it has a bikeway going through it on the western side of the property.

Larger parks in the area include Mount Pleasant Park to the east; Heather Park and Douglas Park are to the west. The area around Yukon and West 17th Avenue is a park deficient neighbourhood. The creation of the park was a move to correct some of the deficiency in public park space in the area. Should Park Board consider continuing to make small parks similar to Lilian To Park in the near future?

Resources

New Park at Yukon and West 17th Avenue approved. Size doubled with street closure, bikeway retained (CityHallWatch, January 20, 2015 Continue reading

Plaza of Nations massive project goes to August 4th virtual meeting of Development Permit Board

A virtual meeting of the Development Permit Board (DPB) has been scheduled to start at 3 pm on Tuesday, August 4th, 2020. The one and only item on the agenda is the enormous redevelopment proposed for the Plaza of Nations (1,950,000 square feet). Three large, terraced buildings are proposed to be built in three phases. An ice rink is included as part of the design.

The views of the mountains from the Cambie Bridge would be impacted by the design. (Note: The renderings by the architect don’t show mountains). In the documents included with the proposal, there are amendments proposed for the existing CD-1 zoning for the site. In other words, the Development Permit Board will be considering a project that still requires Council to modify the zoning at a future Public Hearing. One might ask, is the City getting this process sequence backwards?

All Development Permit Board meetings are open to the public. The City’s website (link) provides information about the DPB, its meetings, and how the public can provide input. The Board consists of four senior City staff members, three of whom vote. The chair may vote to break a tie.

Photos of the site, current views from the Cambie Bridge and a couple of the renderings from the applicant:

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Continue reading

Encampment takes over Strathcona Park

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The ongoing encampment has taken over Strathcona Park. This encampment was created on the same day that the campers were evicted from the Port Authority Lands beside Crab Park, on June 16th, 2020. The gear from the previous encampment was relocated in U-Haul trucks and food and other supplies were dropped off along the perimeter on Malkin Street.

At first, the encampment was limited to one of the tennis courts and around the running track in the southeast portion of the park. At the end of June, the encampment organizers hosted a barbecue and block party and invited neighbours. The spokesperson mentioned “shared land use” and said that “people can co-exist together” (see the full CTV report from June 27 here). Since that time, the number of campers has steadily grown, and now have also pitched tents along Prior Street to the north as well as Hawks Avenue on the west.

Apart from the campers, the park is empty. The playground isn’t in use, neither are the sports fields or skateboard park. Residents can’t even go near the park without getting chased away by one of the encampment’s patrols. Parks staff, City of Vancouver employees and social workers are not allowed to enter the park. Is Strathcona Park turning into an autonomous zone?

It’s worth noting that there are a number of smaller clusters of homeless living in other parks and spaces in the City. Homeless individuals can co-exist and peacefully pitch a tent in a park for a few days and move on, or even stay permanently, without issue. Generally, campers want to be left alone in peace. Why is the Strathcona Park encampment different?

Resources
Strathcona Park encampment hosts neighbourhood barbecue, hoping to ease residents’ concerns (CTV News, Ben Miljure, June 27, 2002)
Strathcona Park new site of encampment. Campers relocated from Port Authority Lands beside Crab Park (CityHallWatch, June 16, 2020)

Union, Venables Street Railway Crossings. Delays and more delays.

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Railway traffic along the CN Line to the Centerm Terminal has seen significant increases over the past few years. While the City has approved an underpass at Prior Street just west of Glen Drive, it doesn’t appear that there’s been much movement on this item.

Cyclists on Union Street and motorists along Prior Street now have to wait at the crossing or find an alternate route whenever a train travels to or from the ports along this route. This problem can be traced back to a lack of planning and execution in a timely manner. The plans to increase railway traffic on this route have been in the works for well over 10 years.

Rezoning applications snapshot 1-Aug-2020

Above: Example of a Rezoning Application notice board

For an explanation of the CityHallWatch monthly snapshots please visit this page: https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/city-hall/snapshots-rezoning-development-applications/

As a free public service CityHallWatch takes a monthly snapshot of the Rezoning Applications listed on the City of Vancouver website on the first day of every month. The list contains valuable information on each application, and indicates scheduled “open houses” and Public Hearings. Please spread the word to anyone who might be affected or interested. Our archive goes back years and is not available anywhere else.

A tech-savvy citizen is voluntarily producing two handy online maps regularly updated (click bottom right to switch between rezoning and development applications): https://vancouverapps-fa328.firebaseapp.com/

Download the full list of rezoning applications as of the first of this month, which we created in PDF format:
CoV rezoning applications snapshot 1 Aug 2020

For the most up-to-date and official list of applications on the City website, please click: vancouver.ca/rezapps/. Please take special note of the Public Hearings and virtual open houses scheduled.

Below is the City’s list as of 1-Aug-2020. Continue reading