Citizen input to 8495 Granville (Marpole Safeway) rezoning

[Update May 11, 2011] The public hearing on rezoning of 8495 Granville, proposed by Westbank Projects Corp. and Henriquez Partners Architects, was held over two nights, on April 21 and May 3, 2011. The final decision will be made by Council on May 17 (Tuesday). Below are some comments from presenters (more will be added as received to citizenYVR@gmail.com). It seems the majority of local speakers were against the rezoning, saying they wanted a community plan first. Some liked the design, and local businesses seemed to be in favor. The video of the meeting is now online here:  http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20110421/phea20110421ag.htm. At the meeting, people were reportedly told that they are still welcome to write their comments to Mayor and Council at mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca.

  • Citizens presented a petition signed by over 300 people (to be confirmed), stating this: We, the undersigned residents of this neighbourhood, DO NOT want a building of more than 4 stories built in the Lots A5 & 6, Block DL 325 Plan 4061: 8405 – 8435 Granville St.

Below are summaries of comments made to council and others received later by CityHallWatch.

Download PDF: Helten, rezoning 8495 Granville, hearing, 3-May-2011. Simply hover your mouse over the image to reveal controls (stop, rewind, forward). Sorry, speed cannot be adjusted otherwise.

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These are quite representative of many of the speakers’ comments:

CITIZEN 3

  • The Safeway arrogance has already been nasty for Vancouver. Marpole should target theirs for a boycott. Targeting all Safeways would be impossible; but locals could focus on a single location. Let them feel the voice of the community.

CITIZEN 1

  • This is a very large project that will dramatically change the character of the neighbourhood.
  • Proposed tower is vastly out of scale with the surrounding buildings. Such a change should not be made without proper consideration of the needs and desires of the community.
  • This proper consideration can not occur in the absence of a recent community plan.
  • Note that the neighbourhood in question is WEST Marpole. The southern part of the Cambie corridor, which is also called Marpole, feels like an adjacent neighborhood two major roads to the east
  • The neighbourhood is under-served in terms of public community space. The library is very small for the size of population. Other community spaces are the “Marpole Place” at Hudson and 70th and the (private) Scottish Cultural Centre on Hudson.
  • The neighborhood is also under-served in terms of parks.
  • The neighborhood already has heavy traffic.
  • Three major truck routes converge here – 70th, Marine Drive and Granville. Marine Drive wasn’t always a   truck route and an arterial and this change occurred against the wishes of the neighborhood.
  • Transit service has declined now that all transit patrons are forced to transfer to the Canada line 2 km away for most trips that formerly had direct service. The main service is the #10 local bus. The transit priority measures on Granville (diamond lanes) have recently been removed.
  • This is not the only active proposal that will have an impact us. Others include Shannon Mews (57th at Granville), a condo development at 52th  & Granville, Fraser Arms and Milltown Marina (Richmond Island), HQ (1336 SW Marine) as well as the large Coast Hotel redevelopment with residential units
  • The City, on behalf of citizens, has the obligation of keeping track of cumulative impacts of all these applications.
  • The proposed tower is taller than Airport Square building – the only other building above 4 storeys within  kilometers.
  • This excessive height is not necessary for density or provision of rental housing.
  • Just across the street, south of 70th there is appropriate urban density in the form of townhouse-style cooperative housing units.
  • The proposed rezoning is not without some merit. Current Safeway configuration, with large setback and parking lot is due for renewal. More housing, especially affordable rental housing, would be a benefit to the neighborhood.
  • A public hearing and the staff report simply do not provide enough background to answer these questions. Even if for this reason alone, this application should be rejected.
  • If the proposal is a good, viable, idea, it will still be so in a few years, after a proper (and long-overdue) planning process has occurred.

CITIZEN 2

Re:  Marpole Safeway (8495 Granville) Report and Rezoning

  • I want to touch on a couple of specific aspects of the proposed development that have had no, or inadequate attention.  The impact on pedestrians, and the City’s surrender  to Safeway’s demand that nothing be built above their store.  This latter point has a major impact on the resulting building heights on the balance of the site, as explicitly recognised in the report.

First, the pedestrian aspect: 

  • The report talks about ‘improving the pedestrian experience’ ( second paragraph on page 6 of the March 1 report, marked P 2).
  •  As a very frequent pedestrian in the area let me tell you that this development will worsen the pedestrian experience for me and most others.
  •  For those of us southwest of the development the amount of walking necessary to get to Safeway or other merchants east of the development will become longer.
  •  Currently it is easy to walk through the Safeway parking lot from the corner of Cornish and 70th, saving time and effort.  If built, that ability will be lost.  It will be necessary to walk to the corner of 70th and Granville to access either Safeway or any other Granville merchants and the Library.
  •  Currently the Safeway building is recessed into the lot and is significantly lower than Granville St.  The result of this is that it is now possible to see over top of the lot, really only limited by the distant tree line.  A realtor might describe this as ‘ocean glimpses’, but in any event there is an essentially unobstructed view of the sky.  Some may say – ‘so what’, but that sense of openness is an important characteristic for many of us.  And one which will be destroyed if the project goes ahead.   It is part of what makes Vancouver’s outer neighbourhood areas distinctly different from downtown.  If we had wanted to be in the canyons of the downtown area we would have chosen to live there.
  •  Just as a period of silence can be important to a piece of music, so can the absence of a structure be to a neighbourhood environment.  An absence that no amount of fiddling with ‘built form’ or ‘high quality finishes’ can compensate for.
  •  Likewise, and more important, is the impact that the proposed structures would have on light on Granville.  This is missed by the woefully inadequate shadow studies that have been displayed from time to time.
  •  Until now, from both sides of Granville in the winter, as sunset nears, a beam of golden sunlight suffuses the area.  On the east side of Granville the shops, pedestrians and shoppers take on a golden glow that provides crucial light and warmth.  It is a magical time that makes shopping and walking there an exceptional experience.
  •  Of course the developer and planners appear insensitive to, and certainly don’t comment on this, but for ‘locals’, its certain loss, if the development goes ahead, is a matter of sorrow.  If the developer and City are unaware of this, it shows that they really have not done their homework on the development’s impact on the neighbourhood.
  •  Loss of a ‘sunlight corridor’ to the neighbourhood is not a trivial matter.
  •  The only ‘improvement’ for pedestrians that I can see is the installation of a controlled pedestrian crosswalk in the middle of the block north of 70th.   However that could equally be installed by the City, without the Safeway development, for very little cost.
  •  So tell me, as a frequent pedestrian, how my life will be better as the result of this development.  The truth is, it won’t.  My life as a pedestrian will be worse.  And the same will be true for many of my neighbours.

About surrendering to Safeway’s demand to not use the space above their store:

  •  The genesis of this is detailed at the top of page 6 of the March 1, 2011 report from the Director of Planning, marked in the package as P 2.
  •  It seems to me outrageous to me that this City-admitted undesirable approach would be foisted upon the residents of Marpole as an ‘experiment’.  The experience in Marpole to be assessed before another similar development is permitted in any other location in the City.
  •  Wonderful.  Despite the acknowledged lack of attention given Marpole by the City over more than twenty years, we now get to be the subjects of a mode of development that no other area would want or likely permit.
  •  It is this bizarre concession by the City that drives the much-opposed height of the development on the rest of the site.   And Safeway’s stated reason for their demand is to ‘reserve the right to develop the space above the store in the future’.  Outrageous!
  •  A totally different ‘built form’ (to use the jargon) could provide equivalent density if the space above the store was available to use.  And of course Safeway will use this concession, at the very least in dealings with future City Councils.  And in all likelihood successfully.  For it need not ‘win’ on any technical basis, but just on the reality of the Planning Department and City Council caving in to their demand.
  •  This situation is reminiscent of a number of regulatory agencies, both in Canada and the United States, which forgot who their real clients are and instead bent over backwards to satisfy the companies and industries that they were supposed to regulate.  A sorry situation that leaves the individual and community effectively at the mercy of those who they should be protected from.
  •  Rejecting this concession would open up a new realm of possibilities where both the community and architect could well come up with a mutually agreeable form of development for this site.
  •  I request and urge you to take that approach.

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