The Cedar Cottage Area Network (CCAN) is asking City Council to reject a staff recommendation to “refer” a problematic rezoning application by developer Cressey to Public Hearing. City Council is set to make the decision on April 19 (See “Policy Report” No. 4, CD-1 Rezoning – 3365 Commercial Drive and 1695-1775 East 18th Avenue).
(Lazy) critics may try to write off the citizens as “NIMBYs” or being blindly opposed to “densification.” But anyone who takes the time to look beyond the surface will see many “irregularities,” contradictions, and apparent favoritism in this application, and also realize the local community has presented reasonable expectations, requests, and alternative proposals. They cannot be written off as just being “against” something. You can see also what they stand for positively.
Since the proposal first became known to the public, there has been the sense that “someone” at City Hall is bent on getting this application approved despite its many flaws in terms of urban planning. Who behind the scenes is driving this application forward? If on April 19 City Council refers it to Public Hearing, the elected officials will then probably use that as an excuse to avoid any further communication from citizens until the Hearing. (We shredded that bogus excuse years ago. See “City Council wrongly uses referral to public hearing as a shield to prevent public access to politicians“). CityHallWatch has covered many of the oddities and failures of the preparation process for this application. See further below for links. This application is an excellent case study for the dysfunction and biased processes at City Hall today. It deserves scrutiny. People who believe themselves to be proponents of good consultation and good urban planning should have a look and see if this application and related process stands up to their expectations.
What does CCAN say? They are asking staff and Mayor and Council to remove Policy Report #4 CD-1 Rezoning – 3365 Commercial Drive and 1695 to 1775 East 18th Avenue from the agenda of the April 19, 2016 Council meeting.
The justification for this project greatly hinges on the heritage portion of the project. But ironically, the Vancouver Heritage Commission reviewed this proposal on May 4, 2015 and strongly rejected it on a number of grounds. (Such a rejection is highly unusual.) It requested that several issues in the proposal be addressed and said that it would be willing to consider a revised application. Although the commission’s concerns have not been addressed, staff are saying all is fine and the application is ready for Public Hearing. But if it goes straight to Public Hearing now, the opportunity for respectful consultation is abandoned. CCAN says the application “is an end-run on and misuse of the heritage component of this application.” The Vancouver Heritage Commission said that this heritage proposal lacks merit.
Some Councillors may say any remaining concerns can be addressed at the Public Hearing. But experience over the past 8 years or more shows that no significant changes in a rezoning application ever occur at that point.
Other concerns about this application include the loss of mature tree cover, a contradiction with the City’s policies of protecting trees, a contradiction with the Greenest City Action Plan and ecological protection objectives, excessive profits for the developer, and more.
CCAN says a revised application was submitted to the City of Vancouver by the developer in December 2015, but staff failed to send that application to the Heritage Commission for reevaluation. While the “infill project adjacent” has been slightly reduced in the revised application, CCAN does not believe that this single change adequately addresses the concerns expressed in the initial evaluation of May 4, 2015. The relocation and the condition of the house have not been addressed; the siting has been addressed only minimally. This application should not proceed to Council until the Vancouver Heritage Commission has reviewed the revisions. The evaluation of the Commission is essential information that needs to be provided to Council before a legitimate decision can be made to refer the application to Public Hearing.
Previous coverage on CityHallWatch follows.
Independent analysis suggests City Hall poised to enrich a developer while ignoring Greenest City promise (Cressey project at 18th and Commercial), June 22, 2015. Excerpt: A controversial proposal by developer Cressey for the corner of East 18th Avenue at Commercial Drive would result in the loss of dozens of mature trees while resulting in a much higher than normal profitability according to an independent analysis. The question asked by the community member who did the analysis is, “Why should this developer be permitted this much density with so much profit potential, destroying all these trees, while all the usual development fees and community amenity contributions are waived?”
Open House May 21st: Massive rezoning proposed for Cedar Cottage (18th and Commercial). May 21, 2015.
Engaged citizens from Cedar Cottage publish Position Statement on rezoning proposal for 18th and Commercial. May 11, 2015. Includes: 16 reasons CCAN members oppose this rezoning and what they want instead.
City’s stealthy redefinition of “ground-oriented buildings” at 3365 Commercial could mean bigger buildings in many Vancouver residential areas. June 10, 2015.
CCAN concerned about land assembly, clear-cutting of green oasis for housing proposal (Commercial & 18th – Cedar Cottage), May 6, 2015. Excerpt: A proposed 112-unit development at 18th and Commercial, if approved, would reward speculative land assembly, result in the clear-cutting of dozens of large mature trees on a 33,730 square foot site, and make significant changes to the character of the neighbourhood. Developer Cressey proposes to amalgamate five single-family residential lots at 3365 Commercial Drive and 1695, 1707, 1733 and 1775 East 18th Avenue. One of these is owned by the City. CCAN’s Lesley McLean says, “The proposed development is not compatible with the surrounding small single-family houses in this RS zone. It doesn’t reflect the character of the neighbourhood.”
Urban Forest and Tree Removal Bylaw. What more can be done in Vancouver to save the tree canopy? April 16, 2014. Excerpt: Will a future project literally “take the cedar out of Cedar Cottage?” The property pictured (on East 18th Avenue) contains Cedar trees as well as Cypresses, Douglas Firs and Hemlocks. These might be clear-cut and redeveloped to make room for a 6-storey condo development by Cressey.
Included below are the recommendations and comments from the Urban Design Panel.
————————Recommendations from the Urban Design Panel——-
At the City’s Urban Design Panel (UDP) meeting on June 3, 2015, in general terms the project was approved; 7 members for, 2 members against. But it was approved with the following recommendations from the Panel.
The Chair of the UDP, Jennifer Marshal, recommended for 3365 Commercial and 1695 to 1775 East 18th:
- turn the four storey building into two sets of two storey townhouses because “this four storey building is the neighbour to the neighbourhood and that you really have to have a good look at that”.
- for the height of the six storey building on Commercial Drive, the City should take its cue for the height from Commercial Drive at 16th, 15th and 14th.
- this project is in a transition area, a border position with a very committed neighbourhood and that needs to be respected with the architecture
- that the four and six storey buildings are institutional and out of step with the neighbourhood.
- the setbacks need to be larger
- that the heritage house and infill is way too crowded and that it needs more space and breathing room around it.
Comments from other members of the Urban Design Panel on the Heritage component currently at 3365 Commercial to be moved to 1695 East 18th:
Stefan: Personally I don’t see the heritage value in this. It’s an old house you’re heavily modifying it and you’re adding some stuff that was not previously there. So I question the value of the heritage exercise regarding the massing. It’s very close to the western property line.
Stuart: Setback is not enough and the overlook for the future development would be a problem, the infill. Setbacks should follow existing conditions of Commercial.
Matthew: I question the merits of the structure and its need to be retained. I question the development resources, financial and logical, in that regard. Infill location is not that good of a neighbour for the overlooks. The 9 foot setback is an issue; overlook should be mitigated. Is the project better with the infill not there?
Maghan: The infill could be further apart.
Chris: the heritage is orphaned from the project and not well integrated with the open space. Don’t think the infill is supportive relative to the heritage.
Ken: I won’t comment on repurposing, it’s already been discussed.
Arno: re: infill it’s too large and close to existing heritage house; the grading is an issue. Don’t go through the dramatics of keeping the trees.
Roger: Everyone has said what I wanted to say. The location of the house has to be considered with the infill and grade, because of the issue of retaining wall and how the infill respects the privacy of the west neighbouring properties and liveability. Challenging to save the trees, rather see tree planting for the two streets.
Neil: Moving of the pre-dated building makes sense; heritage rules enforce age, therefore we keep it. If the house were to be kept more central then it would be a more complicated relationship between the new building and the old.
Russell: It’s too much sitting on the site. For me it begins with the heritage building. I have questions as to why you’re keeping the thing, but if you’re going to keep the thing the infill is not successful. It should not be there. The historic building could be where the infill is and facing east. It is not neighbourly to the house to the west. Have some setbacks.