(Update: This rezoning was approved by City Council with virtually no council discussion, and with no changes to the content. After the Public Hearing, two letters from residents opposed were posted on the City website. Both show the considerable amount of effort required to respond to a rezoning proposal. We carry the first one below. The second one goes into considerable detail, with photos and images, to show how this rezoning is in violation of what the community expected from the community plan.)
Public Hearing starts tonight at 6 pm. Item 4 on the agenda is a rezoning for a six-storey condo building at 526-548 West King Edward Ave., by Romses Architects on behalf of Tianco Investment Group Inc (subsidiary of Tianqing Group (甘肃天庆房地产集团), the “largest real estate company in Gansu Province”).
As of this moment, 60 minutes before the public hearing, not a single item of public correspondence has been posted on the City website. Here we will post excerpts of a letter we received from a resident affected by the development, as many elements are similar to other comments we often hear regarding rezonings around Vancouver. Note the amount of detail and effort required to respond to the application, and what appear to be City staff “bending” of policy for the proponent. This case is representative of many we have seen around Vancouver, and does the reputation that Vancouver City Council will approve anything lead to further speculation and housing inaffordability?
- A family decision to live in a specific location based on research and information from realtors.
- They make considerable personal investment and develop an attachment to that home.
- Suddenly a rezoning or development application comes forward significantly different from what should be permitted, with negative impacts on the family’s enjoyment and use of their home.
- The scale of the development is significantly more than one would have expected based on existing zoning policy and guidelines. In fact, the staff and proponents even seem to “stretch the boundaries”of what is actually permitted.
- A considerable amount of time and study is required in order for the average citizen to be able to provide valid comments to City staff or City Council.
- Staff and proponent make minor changes to the application, and City Council rams through the approval. (Note that the Council decision on this application is still pending.)
- The actions and decisions of City Hall create winners and losers.
(As an interesting aside, the proponent’s website says this: “In September of 2013, Tianqing Group’s chairman was invited by the government of British Columbia to attend a private real estate investment function.” We think it would be interesting for the public to know more about these kinds of events, funded obviously by taxpayers. In the context of the current discussion about the role of offshore money pouring into local real estate and escalating prices, an important part of the narrative is exactly what the B.C. provincial government has been doing and offering in order to promote real estate purchases. That is a fair question.)
Public input summarized in the staff report says this: Concerns with respect to the application focused on height, massing and density. Specifically the comments expressed concern that the six-storey portion of the building extends beyond two lots from Cambie Street, and that overall the building should be limited to four storeys. Others expressed concern regarding the overall mass of the building and that the rooftop amenity area will cause overlook and a loss of privacy to the existing one-family dwellings to the south of the lane.
How did the staff and proponents do in order to respond to the concerns?
Public Hearing agenda and documents: http://council.vancouver.ca/20160405/phea20160405ag.htm
Rezoning information page: http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/rezoning/applications/526-548wkinged/index.htm
Excerpts of letter dated today to City Council from local resident follow. First the cover letter to CityHallWatch. We have applied bold text for emphasis….
FYI, the following are my comments to mayor and council regarding the rezoning application of 526-548 West King Edward Ave. being heard by council this evening.
As always, it is very frustrating that citizens have to continually march down to city hall to speak or write in trying to make the majority Vision council hold developers to the guidelines or rules regarding their developments, specifically in this case the Cambie Corridor Plan. Although I don’t hold out much hope that my pointing out some glaring issues of the developer going over what is allowed in the plan will result in any change to the development application, I still want to bring it up because the continual ramming through of developments by this council is egregious.
Dear mayor and council,
We will be directly impacted by this rezoning at 526-548 West King Edward Ave.
… We purchased our home in 2005 and completed a major renovation in 2008 that centers fully on the wonderful outlook north of our home. Given that the RPSC Community Vision had only recently been adopted by council in 2005, it seemed a reasonable assumption that we could rely on built forms contained within that document where a maximum of 3 storey townhouses would have been the greatest of our concerns, should development occur. The RPSC Vision took the Canada Line train station into account and it was a document that normally would be expected to inform decisions for 20 or more years. We would have been fine with the 3 storey townhouse form contained in the Community Vision, but due to the approval of Cambie Corridor Plan in 2011 our new reality was a 4-6 storey mid-rise apartment building form directly across the lane from us.
In this email, we are sharing with you some of our concerns regarding this rezoning application. We sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read them:
Reduce the length of the primary building fronting King Edward – 163 feet is too long
The Cambie Corridor Plan describes a maximum building length as 150 ft. for the following reasons: “Buildings should be limited in length, both real and perceived, to allow for sunlight, views, and a general feeling of openness”.
In addition to section 5.1.4 of the Plan, the “Cambie Corridor Design Principles” 2012 bulletin states that “connecting elements should be avoided”- see “figure 3 not acceptable” on page 3 of the bulletin.
This proposed rezoning contains a connecting element, intended to create “openness” as we heard at the Open House held Sept 21, 2015. The connecting element looks a lot like “figure 3 – not acceptable” on page 3 of the Design Principles bulletin. We don’t find that it creates a sense of openness. It appears it will be more like a dark, uninviting tunnel through a building. If openness is the goal, breaking the building into 2 separate buildings would achieve that, and the maximum length rule would then not be an issue. We don’t believe the “bridge element” achieves what it hopes to and regardless it is not recommended as per the Design Principles bulletin.
We encourage using this opportunity to create actual openness by reducing the length of the building. If the developer wants to maximize the development on lots 1 & 2, allowed at 6 storeys, this would mean additional and much welcome openness at lot 3’s west property line. This will be of benefit to ALL in the surrounding community. Openness in this development will complement the nearby “hobbit house” heritage home, as well as reflect the openness of the boulevards on King Edward and Cambie. More light will stream onto King Edward Avenue. With the available open space, the development may want to consider an inviting garden at grade as an amenity for their new residents. Think garden, meandering path, benches and a waterfall feature. Benches at the north end of the garden would provide lovely views of the “hobbit house” and mountains in the background.
In summary, in this area, where Cambie and King Edward intersect, the intensity of development is high. Seizing an opportunity for openness when it presents itself is the right thing to do. A “wall” of 4 and 6 storeys is quickly evolving from a plan on paper into reality. A wall that surrounds and shuts our community of single family homes out of the most appealing feature of Vancouver – it’s natural beauty. Choosing “openness” now will be a benefit to current and future residents in this neighbourhood.
Eliminate the 2160 sq. foot Roof Top Patio on top of the 4th storey
“There is a [roof top] lounge with outdoor dining to allow the opportunity to take in views”- the applicant’s comments at UPD Sept 23 2015.
All of the units already have private outdoor space, be it patio or balcony. Additionally, there is a 3000 sq. ft. communal garden located on top of another roof and an indoor amenity room on the main floor. The proposed 4th floor roof patio’s plans indicate “3.5 ft. guardrails on top of concrete curbs” and “6 ft. privacy screens”. What additional appurtenances will be placed on this roof patio when the strata owners collectively decide to improve its liveability? Permanent shade structures such as pergolas, gazebos, tents, and/or umbrellas? In essence a 5th storey will exist on top of the 4th storey. Whereas the “Design Principles” state that there is “no support in the Plan for additional storeys”, this rezoning wants to create an outdoor 5th storey on lot 3, where 4 storeys is THE maximum.
The proposed 4th floor roof top patio is huge, and unnecessary. It will result in overlook and privacy issues for the existing neighbourhood. We would like to see it eliminated or at the very least significantly reduced in size and located in only the north east quadrant of the roof to minimize the overlook and privacy issues. This would be instead of using 6 foot privacy screens, or tall plantings used as a privacy screens, which would just serve to create more massing on a de facto 5th floor.
Ensure setback to 558 W King Edward’s property line is a minimum of 12 feet
At the open house on September 21 2015, the planner described the setback from the adjacent single family neighbour’s property line to the east as 12 feet. According to the rezoning plans we looked at online prior to the Open House, it is only 10 feet. Perhaps what is shown in the plans is not correct or has not been updated, but we want to ensure that the minimum setback to 558 W King Edward is at least 12 feet. This is the case in other approved developments along the Cambie Corridor and the amount needed to be able to achieve the minimum distance between development buildings of 24 feet, as described in the Cambia Corridor plan. An even greater setback is better and achievable if a commitment to a maximum 150 foot building frontage is taken seriously.
Additionally, there appears to be a roof structure above the driveway that leads to underground parking that goes right to the property line. While possibly the driveway itself is allowed to be right to the property line, we were surprised by the roof structure above it. Is there not a setback requirement for any structure to be 12 feet back from the property line?
Eliminate the “creep” – encroachment of 5 & 6 storey development into lot 3
The 5th and 6th storeys encroach across the property plane into the 3rd lot (548 W King Ed) in this rezoning. This is a significant issue in our minds. There can be no disagreement that the 3rd lot in this assembly is ONLY allowed at 4 storeys. No overhang, no staircase, no patio privacy screens, no encroachment period should be permitted beyond the first 2 lots. We have reviewed the current plans and the 5th and 6th storeys “creep” across the plane by at least 7 feet of building / living space, possibly more. If you include the patio privacy screens shown on the drawings it is a significantly greater encroachment. At just 7 feet, it amounts to a 12% encroachment, and is multipled by 2 floors… not an insignificant amount. As much as the development would like to creep across and into the 3rd lot, we would like the development to not only confine the 5th and 6th storeys to lots 1 & 2, but to also step these floors back from the 3rd lot’s east property line like they would have been required to do if the development didn’t include the third property. It is unlikely the developer will want to do that, so the only fair solution is to adhere to the Cambie Corridor Plan and make sure the 5th and 6th storeys stop at exactly the property line of the 3rd lot and eliminate any current encroachment across that plane. The approved development right across the street on the north side of King Edward as well as other developments have adhered to this rule, so to be equitable with all developers, the rule should be enforced here too. There appears to be zero “grey area” with this rule so we are not sure how this even got this far along in the process.
In closing, we want to reiterate that we will be directly impacted by this rezoning. As always, we submit our comments with the hope and intent of improving the livability for ALL – current and future residents in this neighbourhood.