Marine Gardens (445 SW Marine) rezoning going to Public Hearing? Resident asks City Council to stop now, citing City misrepresentation, conflict of interest, irregularities, etc.

Marine Gardens 2014 scene, 1

Marine Gardens scene today

Towers proposed at Marine Gardens, policy report, 4-Feb-2015

Towers proposed by Concord Pacific at Marine Gardens site, 27 and 21 storeys

(Updated: More comments at bottom) City of Vancouver planning staff will be recommending that Vancouver City Council on Tuesday, February 3, 2015, refer an application for a major development at Marine Gardens (445 Southwest Marine Drive) to the next stage — a Public Hearing.

Proponent Concord Pacific is requesting that the City rezone the site to permit a 582 residential dwelling units in residential two towers (27 and 21 storeys), a seven-storey building (market rental housing), and a childcare facility. 

Jillian Skeet, long time resident and member of the Marine Gardens’ Residents’ Association has provided CityHallWatch with a copy of her letter to Mayor and Council, asking City Council not go go ahead with the rezoning process.

She cites many serious concerns, including …

  • inappropriate response to affordable housing crisis,
  • misrepresentation of facts,
  • violation of legal/democratic process (City in conflict of interest),
  • lack of meaningful public consultation,
  • need to protect wildlife corridor,
  • missing land title,
  • traffic concerns, and
  • schools already at capacity.

With such serious concerns being posed, would the City of Vancouver be acting in good faith and the public interest if it accepted as-is the staff report (by Brian Jackson, General Manager of Planning and Development Services), and decide on Feb. 3 to move ahead to the Public Hearing phase? Perhaps City staff should address all of the concerns, on record in the Council Chambers, before our elected officials even consider sending this onward to a Public Hearing, lest the B.C. Supreme Court have to intervene in yet another expensive conflict between citizens and City Hall.

Below is a copy of the letter by Jillian Skeet, plus supporting documents. For information about the proponent, see our previous story: “Concord Pacific: Corporate social responsibility, integrity and governance.”

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LETTER FROM JILLIAN SKEET (30-JAN-2015) TO CITY OF VANCOUVER MAYOR AND COUNCIL ASKING THEM NOT TO PROCEED WITH REZONING OF MARINE GARDENS
Dear Mayor and Council,
 
I am asking that you decline moving ahead with the rezoning application for Marine Gardens for the following reasons:
 
1) The Affordable Housing Crisis: Vancouver is the second most expensive city in the world for housing, and you have long acknowledged that we have an affordable housing crisis.  The first step in addressing the crisis should be to protect the affordable housing stock Vancouver currently has, while working on ways to expand and/or replace it.   Affordable, replacement units should be built BEFORE existing units are demolished, not after.
 
2) Misrepresentation: The Marine Gardens redevelopment project has been misrepresented on the City’s website for more than a year as including 70 units of ‘affordable’ housing to replace our units.  Concord Pacific has always been clear with us that they are ‘market’ rentals and we have the documentation stating this.  A 3 bedroom apartment  (much smaller than a 3 bedroom townhouse) will rent for $2,100.  Residents get a 20% discount but that does not make it affordable and yearly increases at RTA levels will be applied as soon as the rezoning application is approved, although completion will be years away.
 
3) Violation of the Legal/Democratic Process: Concord Pacific VPs advised Marine Gardens residents at three separate meetings that the City had pressured them to buy Marine Gardens. I believe this is true – I saw the skyscrapers over Marine Gardens on a city model long before Concord Pacific purchased Marine Gardens. The fact that Marine Gardens sold for $12.5 million in 2007 and was purchased by Concord at almost double that price $23.73 million four years later, lends credence to this.
 
This situation has placed the City in a conflict of interest on the project.

 As a result, Brian Jackson, the head of Planning, sent us a letter more than a year ago stating that saving Marine Gardens was not an option (see below). Article 566 of the Vancouver Charter is very clear that a rezoning application is to be treated as an ‘application’ until after it has been before Council and a public hearing (see below).  Anything short of that is a legal violation of the democratic process.  The Cambie Corridor Plan does not over-ride the legal  process outlined for rezoning applications.
 
4) Lack of Meaningful Public Consultation: There has been no meaningful consultation on the developments in our neighbourhood.  Over the last six years, I have personally spent hours and hours talking to City Planners. I walked through Marine Gardens with Jim Bailey [senior City planner] many years ago (prior to Concord’s ownership) talking about options like rebuilding Marine Gardens strip by strip and double-stacking townhouses to increase density.  Nothing we, or residents of Marpole, have said for six years regarding the developments in our immediate neighbourhood has received any meaningful consideration.  It was clear to all of us that the plans were made long before our input was sought, and nothing we said was going to change the outcome in any significant way.
 
5) Wildlife Corridor: Marine Gardens is in the ‘Wildlife Corridor’ and remains the most substantial green space left when you look at a satellite image of the neighbourhood.  Marine and Cambie is one of the most congested intersections – and will be much more so once all the people and cars move into the skyscrapers currently under development.  There is a garbage transfer station two blocks away.  We are the only substantial lungs left in the area.
 
6) Missing land title:  Marine Gardens was once Delta View Park.  We were told that the land was donated to the City as a park with a stipulation that trees never be cut.  The relevant land title that would show the transfer of the land to the City is missing from the BC Land Titles Registry (a point confirmed by Matt Meehan of Concord Pacific at one of our meetings). This means that the land title and any covenants are in question.
 
7) Traffic: All the current developments at the Cambie and Marine intersection are going to create a traffic nightmare as all of these developments will exit into one of the busiest intersections in the city.  There has been no significant plan made to handle all of this additional traffic.
 
8) Canada Line Congestion: The Canada Line is already at capacity at peak hours and all the new developments are not yet occupied.
 
9) Schools at Capacity: The local schools are already at or near capacity.  We’ve had kids at Marine Gardens who could not go to Churchill because it was at capacity.
 
Solutions:
 
Empty lots exist on the south side of Marine Drive.  There is a huge car lot directly across from Marine Gardens and the abandoned Wal-mart site is just down the road.  Concord Pacific’s development could be located on vacant or almost vacant land where they don’t uproot a community, destroy affordable housing and cut down a grove of majestic trees.  Although the southside of Marine is zoned as industrial, so was the Marine Gateway.
 
Saving affordable housing and a community, should be a compelling reason to rezone a parcel of land.  This would also help to stagger all the traffic that will be feeding directly into the Cambie and Marine intersection.
 
The City could use some of the millions it is acquiring in CACs from all the projects already under development in Marpole, to make a deal with Concord to purchase Marine Gardens as a co-op, making funds available to beautify the property and do the maintenance and repairs that have been ignored throughout this long process.
 
I have attached the letter from Brian Jackson and Article 566 of the Vancouver Charter, along with photos of Marine Gardens.
 
Sincere regards,
 
Jillian Skeet
Resident at Marine Gardens
[Please contact CityHallWatch (citizenYVR@gmail.com) if you’d like to make contact with Jillian]
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TEXT OF LETTER FROM BRIAN JACKSON (General Manager, Planning and Development Services) to Jillian Skeet

December 20, 2013
Jillian Skeet, Marine Gardens’ Residents’ Association

Dear Ms. Skeet:

RE: Demolition of Marine Gardens Townhouse Community

Thank you for your letter to Mayor Robertson regarding Marine Gardens and the proposed redevelopment. I understand staff have been in contact with you regarding the latest development proposal for the site.

We recognize that Marine Gardens has provided valuable and affordable rental housing in the city since its development in the 1970’s, as well as in its current important function of providing lower-cost rental housing within the Marpole community.

Council has not made any decisions regarding the rezoning for Marine Gardens. However, staff have been very forthcoming about the City’s goals to densify near transit stations, as set out in the Cambie Corridor Plan and as was re-iterated at the two rezoning open houses held by staff. Council’s goal is also to provide a range of housing options for all incomes, which is why staff included the clause of replacing the rental housing on a one-to-one basis in 2011 when we approved the Cambie Corridor Plan. Staff are continuing their discussions with the developer (Concord Pacific) to review the potential rents for the 70 units of rental housing, including any options to make the units as affordable as possible.

Staff are also committed to working with the residents and the developer to come up with a tenant relocation plan satisfactory to the residents of Marine Gardens. While saving the townhouses as requested in your letter would not be considered an option, staff will work with your association to develop a relocation plan that considers the needs of the residents.

Thank you for your input. I hope that you will continue to provide feedback on how we can ensure that our existing communities can remain vibrant, and you remain involved in the process moving forward.

For further information or any questions, please contact Kent Munro, Assistant Director of Current Planning, at 604-873-7135 or kent.munro@vancouver.ca.
Brian Jackson, MCIP
General Manager, Planning and Development Services

cc: Mayor Gregor Robertson, Mayor’s Office
Mike Magee, Chief of Staff, Mayor’s Office
Ken Munro, Assistant Director, Current Planning

***************

VANCOUVER CHARTER [SBC 1953] CHAPTER 55

Part XXVII — Planning and Development

Amendment or repeal of zoning by-law

  1. (1) The Council shall not make, amend, or repeal a zoning by-law until it has held a public hearing thereon, and an application for rezoning shall be treated as an application to amend a zoning by-law.

(2) Council may by by-law require every person applying for an amendment to the zoning by-law to accompany the application with a fee to be prescribed by by-law.

(2.1) A fee under subsection (2) may vary depending on the size of the area covered by the proposed rezoning, and the by-law establishing the fee may provide for a reduction of the fee depending upon the complexity or scope of the proposed amendment.

(2.2) A fee under subsection (2) must not exceed the average costs of processing, inspection, advertising and administration that are usually related to a zoning by-law amendment of the kind to which the fee relates.

(3) Notice of the hearing, stating

(a) the time and place of the hearing, and

(b) the place where and the times when a copy of the proposed by-law may be inspected,

shall be published in accordance with section 3, with the last publication appearing at least 7 days and not more than 14 days before the date of the hearing.

(4) At the hearing all persons who deem themselves affected by the proposed by-law shall be afforded an opportunity to be heard in matters contained in the proposed by-law, and the hearing may be adjourned from time to time.

(5) After the conclusion of the public hearing, the Council may pass the proposed by-law in its original form or as altered to give effect to such representations made at the hearing as the Council deems fit.

(5.1) A member of the Council who

(a) is entitled to vote on a proposed by-law that was the subject of a public hearing, and

(b) was not present at the public hearing

may vote on the passing of the proposed by-law if an oral or written report of the public hearing has been given to the member by the Director of Planning or another official of the city.

(6) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, where any street or part thereof has been stopped up under the provisions of any Act and the ownership thereof is transferred to the owner of an adjoining parcel of land, then the land formerly comprising the street or part thereof so stopped up shall be deemed to be zoned for the same purpose for which the parcel of which it has become a part is already zoned unless the Council by resolution shall otherwise direct.

(7) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, where any land zoned pursuant to this Part has been transferred to the city for street purposes, whether such street is established or opened up by the city or not, such land shall be deemed not to be zoned unless the Council by resolution shall otherwise direct.

1959-107-20; 1962-82-16; 1992-57-15; 1999-38-65; 2008-42-139; 2010-6-136.

***************

ADDITIONAL ANALYSIS

A layperson’s observations of the policy statement:

1) The City seems to think larger, affordable townhouses with their own door to an outside courtyard are comparable to tiny little apartments, at double the price, in a 7 story building with elevators and hallways. This is comparing apples and oranges. The wording (in the policy report, copied below below) is vague but the only similarity is that they are rentals. To call them a ‘similar unit type’ is beyond a stretch.

From the policy document:
“The Cambie Plan requires that any redevelopment of this site must deliver replacement rental units of a similar unit type,

2) Some people may say that the City hasn’t violated Article 566 with Brian Jackson’s letter because of the Cambie Plan. The vague references in the Cambie Plan in no way supercede the Vancouver Charter and the requirements for a rezoning application.

From the policy document:
“While the Cambie Plan does not give specific guidance on form of development for the site, it does call for any proposal to transition from the adjacent site to the west.”

3) What’s with the $10,000,000 in the CACs for off-site? Why were the 70 units not at least made affordable?

From the policy document:
“$10,000,000 to the Affordable Housing Reserve, for use off site to increase the City’s affordable housing supply.”

4) The main vehicular entrance in and out of the new development is on Marine Drive half-way between Cambie and Yukon. Could this be a recipe for traffic chaos?

From the policy document:
“A secondary entry to the site is being proposed (by the developers) from Yukon Street. While staff are encouraging the applicant to eliminate this entry and have all parking accessed from Marine Drive”

5) The policy report is only allowing for 0.4 cars per unit yet this is supposed to provide housing for families. Any family that has $2,100 per month for a tiny 920 sq. ft. 3 bedroom apartment is likely going to have a car. But on the other hand, parents with kids might have to be desperate to pay $2,100 for 920 sq. ft. cut up into three bedrooms.

From the policy document: (re MG replacement units)
“Replicating the preexisting mix of two-and three-bedroom units will allow this site to continue to accommodate families in units built to current standards for safety and liveability…”

Question: How is it going to be for families living in tiny apartments with elevators and hallways and no cars?

6) As far back as we are aware the City has misrepresented the project as containing 70 affordable units – screen-shots from the City website can prove it. Despite it being pointed out, the information was never corrected.

From the policy document:
“The City of Vancouver Rezoning Centre webpage included notification and information about the application, as well as an online comment form. Notification signs were also posted on the site”

7) Many people believe Marine Gardens should be declared a heritage site. One such suggestion was sent in to City Hall, but it disappeared into a black hole.

From the policy document:
“Heritage Density — On September 25, 2013, City Council approved amendments to the Transfer of Density Policy and Procedure to allow for the transfer of heritage amenity to be considered in rezonings on a city-wide basis. The applicant has offered to purchase heritage amenity density with a value of $3,249,870 — equivalent to approximately 49,998 sq. ft. of floor area. The purchase would support city-wide heritage conservation efforts.” (The proponent even has to provide a guarantee of this before the rezoning goes to a public hearing as one of two preconditions.)

8) The policy document says that current rents are low because of age and condition of the Marine Garden townhouses. But in fact, they are low because the townhouse community was build as a model of affordable, family-oriented, community living.  (That is why it became a showcase for Habitat and a model for the co-ops that followed). It was not built for profit.

The policy document says:

“Given the current age and condition of this 40-year-old development, existing market rents for these units are generally at or below average market rents seen elsewhere in the Marpole community…

9) It was in 2011 (May?) that Concord bought Marine Gardens. The previous owners were not interested in redeveloping it.

The policy documents says:
“The Policy for this area is the Cambie Corridor Plan which was adopted by Council in May 2011. At the time there wasn’t any information on Marine Gardens as it wasn’t being considered for redevelopment but staff did indicate that they would look at a rezoning for the site.”

***************

(When word of redevelopment first started circulating, Jillian Skeet wrote to Mayor Gregor Robertson. This below is an excerpt from one of the four letters to him that the Mayor never acknowledged or answered…. So much for an “Engaged City.” The citizens are engaged and trying to communicate. The City is not engaged. Not listening. Not responding.)

June 7th, 2010

Mayor Gregor Robertson

Re: Marine Gateway Project

I am devastated to learn that my 70 unit townhouse unit, Marine Gardens, has been slated for demolition – to be replaced by a hi-rise as part of the Marine Gateway Project.

At the recent Open House on June 5th, I was provided with a comment form that seemed to focus solely on whether this project would provide more bike lanes and alternative transportation, with no questions whatsoever about affordable accommodation, family-oriented residential development or providing a healthy environment for children.

While I support efforts to be more eco-friendly, this cannot be the sole factor in determining new development in our neighbourhood or the City as a whole. I wish to draw your attention to a number of factors that, in my discussions with City Planners, appear to be either unknown or ignored. Some of these are specific to my townhouse, many relate to the larger issue of creating a healthy and sustainable society. ….

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