Downtown neighbourhood calls for citizen power as City Hall races to re-approve 1099 Richards (Apr 7), 508 Helmcken (Apr 14)

508HelmckenThe Community Association of New Yaletown (CANY) is appealing for public support in dealing with an intransigent and oppressive Vancouver City Hall.

Having lost the first round of a B.C. Supreme Court legal action, City Hall under Mayor Gregor Robertson is racing ahead to patch up its trail of procedural errors while failing to rectify problems of fairness.

“Caught breaking the law, the City’s response is to change the law and remove the need for public input.” CANY web post

In the process, City Council has redefined the meaning of “social housing” and is now planning two meetings to clear the way for two tower developments to resume — 1099 Richards and 508 Helmcken. On these cases, City Hall is a $1.3 billion taxpayer-funded juggernaut paying rising legal bills to fight off challenges from its own citizens. But at the risk of citizen fatigue, we encourage people to make this effort to pressure our local government have more integrity. Implications are citywide and long term.

CANY rightly knows that the implications of this process will eventually have implications for all Vancouver neighbourhoods. For action, CANY is asking people to do these things:

Below we cut and paste from CANY’s website and e-mails.

City of Vancouver Pushing 508 Helmcken and 1099 Richards Developments Through Before Appeal
(excerpts of

Say NO to the 1099 Richards development permit and the 508 Helmcken rezoning as proposed, and ask the City to set a meeting with the neighbourhood to start looking for real solutions.

… It’s shameful and downright arrogant that on the same day that Mayor Robertson admitted he had failed on his promise to end homelessness, the City of Vancouver was hosting a Public Hearing on proposed changes to the Downtown Official Development Plan (DODP) that dismantled the very concept of social housing, a change that risks increasing homelessness in Vancouver and reducing affordability in Vancouver.

On March 26, 2015, [against opposition from the others] Vision Vancouver Councillors all voted in favour of changing the definition of social housing to be rental housing “in which at least 30% of the dwelling units are occupied by households with incomes below housing income limits”, increasing the lowest category of rent to $912 a month as set out by BC Housing.  This change hinders social housing development and allows for abuse of this broad definition.  More concerning is that regardless of the remaining rents of 70% of all other units, all units will count as social housing.  To break that down, if we have 100 units in which 30 is social housing and 70 is market rate, then the building is said to contain 100 social housing units. [Some people might consider this an outright lie. And in fact the new definition is already being applied to describe a current development application in the West End. We ask media/reporters, if they cover any development in the future, do NOT fall in to the trap of misleading the public. Instead state the true numbers for market-priced units versus non-market.]

In the now infamous case of Jubilee House at 508 Helmcken, the neighbourhood was told the density was to allow for more social housing to be built at 1099 Richards, when in fact, it was only replacing the existing 87 units.  The other 75 units are low end of market rate.  Meanwhile, the developer was granted a bonus density for an additional 488 market unitsOf the 650 units in this land-swap project, only 87 will be social housing.  This is a clear example of how these changes fail social housing and allows for abuse. [Again, we ask media/reporters not to fall into the trap — please avoid use of the City’s terminology, or at least always provide parenthetical clarification — lest you become a tool for spreading misinformation.]

The City argues that the 30% in the definition is an incentive to build social housing.  Section 3.1 already allowed the Development Permit Board (DPB) to permit an increase in floor space ratio (FSR) up to the allowable maximum if the building has 30% social housing.  There is no need to have it in the actual definition of social housing, as it serves only to falsely count market rental units as social housing.  More concerning,  Section 3.13 goes on to allow the DPB to permit an unlimited increase in density beyond allowable maximum FSR, thus bypassing the rezoning process and eliminating the requirement for an Open House, a Public Hearing and any other opportunity for public input.  [This trick] places sole discretion for the allowable density in the hands of unelected officials.

[Alert: CityHallWatch believe this step now creates “moral hazard” and even opens the threat of corruption — decisions enabling millions to billions of dollars of private profits will now be made by just three employees at City Hall — with most of the proceedings of these meetings off the public record and unavailable for later public scrutiny.]

Caught breaking the law, the City’s response is to change the law and remove the need for public input.  Residents have received their notices regarding the separate 1099 Richards DPB meeting on April 7, 2015 and the 508 Helmcken rezoning Public Hearing on April 14, 2015.  The City is rushing to push these through before the appeal court dates.  Please email the Mayor and City Council and demand that they respect citizens’ rights to be heard and considered.

1099 Richards DPB meeting – April 7, 2015

508 Helmcken Rezoning Public Hearing – April 14, 2015

Please sign opposing the 1099 Richards development permit and 508 Helmcken rezoning as proposed.

Here are the reasons the proposed developments do not work:

1099 Richards

  • The proposed building is also too big and too dense for the site, and would be a non-conforming third tower on the block.
  • It exceeds the FSR 5.0 limit set out by the Downtown Official Development Plan (DODP) for social housing in our neighbourhood.

508 Helmcken

  • The proposed 36 storey tower is too tall and too dense for the site, and it violates numerous provisions of the Downtown Official Development Plan (DODP)

The combined impact of these two buildings is a way too large for the neighbourhood and must be considered together as per the court ruling.  Any leniency granted because they are “social housing” should be the absolute minimum as they don’t add true social housing as defined by CMHC and accepted Canada-wide.

We ask that the City keep its promise and duty to fair public consultation and work the community to find a solution that works for neighbours and keeps the Jubilee House residents in their neighbourhood.  Vote NO to the 1099 Richards development permit and the 508 Helmcken rezoning, and set a meeting with the neighbourhood to start looking for real solutions.



Development Permit Board: Click here for agenda and full staff report for the Tuesday April 7, 2015, DPB meeting.

NOTE: We encourage citizens who attend to record audio and video, as DPB meetings are not webcast. Nor, apparently does the City record audio or video. And minutes of DPB meetings are quite perfunctory. Yet they ARE public meetings, so any attempts by city employees or members of the DPB to restrict recording should be vehemently opposed and challenged.



Background and Details
On March 26, 2015, the Vision majority on Vancouver City Council voted to redefine the meaning of “Social Housing” downtown. This new definition:
  • Removed the requirement to house our city’s neediest residents in true Low Cost Housing
  • Increased the minimum rent to $912/month for a 350sq.ft. studio apartment
  • Redefined Social Housing to falsely plump the numbers: a 100-unit building containing 30 social housing units and now counts as 100 new social housing units
  • Removes all density limits on developments that contain just 30% Social Housing.
  • Removes the requirement to rezone developments that exceed the neighbourhood’s density limits
  • Takes away the public’s right to speak at public hearings for developments that exceed density limits
The City is now proposing to rush approval for two developments that BC Supreme Court had previously halted, using this new faulty definition of Social Housing to bypass zoning bylaws.
If approved, 508 Helmcken will replace a 3-storey building containing 87 social housing units with:
  • 488 units of market rate housing, in
  • a 36 storey tower with 10 levels of underground parking
  • 4.5 times as tall and
  • over 5.5 times as dense as allowed in the neighbourhood, creating
  • the densest residential building in Vancouver
  • right on the corner of Emery Barnes Park
If approved, 1099 Richards will contain:
  • 87 units of social housing, and
  • 75 units of rental housing at the “low end” of market rates, and
  • zero units of low cost housing,
  • which Vision Vancouver falsely counts as 162 units of new “Social Housing / Low Cost Housing” yielding
  • no net increase of true social housing.

2 thoughts on “Downtown neighbourhood calls for citizen power as City Hall races to re-approve 1099 Richards (Apr 7), 508 Helmcken (Apr 14)

  1. The other issue that immigrant Chinese from HK, China & Taiwan must live in this area with paying more in taxes, the other is a bylaw that foreigners cannot own property in the City of Vancouver who are not citizens of Canada, also these dual citizenships must be terminated must choose one or the other, the Queen did not know she made mistake when she allowed this, I guess nobody told her

  2. Units in this project must be re-arranged so a 1 bedroom must no less than 900 sq ft must include 1.5 bathrooms, with tub in one and shower in the other, washer and dryer must be standard for any unit in the city of Vancouver, for rent, for sale or for affordable housing it Is not a big expense for the developers most are just plain greedy, take it from one who was licensed to sell investments in these properties and a licensed investment adviser

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