Analysis of 132 unit, 100% market rental housing at 95 West Hastings. Holborn proposal for DTES: Public Hearing Tuesday March 13, 2018

Holborn, the developer behind the Trump Tower in Vancouver and the Little Mountain Housing site, is seeking approval of a rezoning to construct a 10-storey, all market rental housing building at 95 West Hastings Street.

Here we look at the rezoning that City Council is being asked to approve, and the public is asked to comment on — tonight. This proposal is enabled by City of Vancouver policies, but from the public interest perspective, how does this proposal measure up? Does it serve the needs of its host neighbourhood, the Downtown Eastside (DTES)? The public is able to write or speak to Council with comments.

The Public Hearing on Tuesday, March 13th will review this proposal after 6pm. 95 West Hastings is the third item on the agenda:

Full details on the rezoning are available on the City’s webpage.

David Paterson, is the City’s rezoning planner responsible for this project ( and the applicant contact is Gair Williamson, Gair Williamson Architect Inc.

The proposal calls for commercial uses at grade, with market rental housing on floors 2 to 10. A full waiver of community amenity contributions (CACs) is also proposed. An interesting note about the floor area is that at 99,073 sq ft, it is just below the 100,000 sq ft threshold, which means there’s no public art contribution. Otherwise there would be $1.98 / sq. ft. public art contribution (or approx $2 million).

95 West Hastings Holborn proposed site, hearing 13-Mar-2018

The 10-storey, 105′ tall development proposal at 95 West Hastings does not include a single unit of social housing. In this respect, Vision Vancouver City Councillor Andrea Reimer had a significant role to play, specifically affecting this proposal, to the benefit of Holborn. Her last-minute amendments on March 15, 2014 changed the definition of “social housing” and added “secured market rental housing” to the DTES Local Area Plan. (See further below for more about her amendments.)

We note that the City of Vancouver has taken the heat this month when media showed that rental rates the City deems to be “affordable” when giving developers major regulatory relaxations and incentives are actually very expensive (see “City of Vancouver now defines $3,702 rent as ‘affordable’ housing,” Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight, 1-Mar-2018).  The City thereupon went into damage control and publicly admitted that its official “affordable rental rates” are “significantly higher than most residents can afford.”

The main entrance is off Abbott Street rather than West Hastings, and directly across from the Woodward’s Building. Judging by the amenities and design, these rental units will be targeted for high end users. The bachelor units are quite small (~341 sq ft.), although the proposal includes two-bedroom units as well. The taller ceilings (9′, with 9’8′ floor to floor height), storage lockers, ~84 parking spaces, a hot tub on the roof, multipurpose court & fitness rooms, etc. all suggest higher end users (or well-off students, with Vancouver Film School, SFU, BCIT all nearby).

Given that City Hall recently rezoned 58 West Hastings across the street, is this rezoning pushing ‘downtown’ further east into the traditional core of the DTES and further gentrifying the area?

The staff reports do not appear to show any rental rates that are proposed for this project. Should it be assumed that rental rates in this building will be whatever the market will bear, so not even the City’s definition of “affordable” rentals will apply?

A few comments about the integrity of the images being presented to City Council and the public…

The single street level rendering (above, left) provided by the proponent’s architect for this rezoning is accurate. However, the rendering uses a wide angle lens and it is strategically chosen and cropped to obscure the apparent height and mass (the lower floors are almost a zero lot line extrusion, FSR is 7.62), which understates the impact of the building on the streetscape. If City Council and staff wanted a better indication of the height and scale of the proposal, they would want to see additional street level renderings from Abbott Street and West Hastings. The comparison (above, right) is with a wide angle photograph we took from almost the same position as the rendering (photo 28mm lens equivalent). You can compare features of the left and right images to get a better sense of the real impact of the proposed building.


Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan

Minutes of the meeting of March 14-15, 2014 regarding the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan included the following changes brought forward by Councillor Andrea Reimer:

F. THAT the General Manager of Planning and Development Services be instructed to make application to amend the Downtown Official Development Plan, generally in accordance with Appendix D of the Policy Report dated
February 24, 2014, entitled “Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan”, with the following amendments:

  1. i)  Amend the definition of “social housing” as set out in E above;
  2. ii)  Strike the definition of “low – cost” housing;
  3. iii)  Add the definitions of “secured market rental housing” and “micro dwelling unit”;
  4. iv)  Increase ground floor commercial ceiling heights, and provide height and density incentives for social and secured market rental housing in Victory Square at the discretion of the Director of Planning or the Development Permit Board;
  5. v)  Amend section 3 and 4 to change to the authority of the Development Permit Board;

J. THAT the General Manager of Planning and Development Services be instructed to make application to amend the Zoning and Development Bylaw to amend the definition of “social housing” as in E above, and to permit, at the discretion of the Director of Planning, consideration of micro dwelling units that are new, self-contained and secured rental in the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District, HA-1 and HA-1A (Chinatown), HA-2 (Gastown), Downtown District C-2 (Victory Square), FC-1 (North of National Avenue), RT-3, and areas C, D and E in the Rezoning Policy for the Downtown Eastside and generally in accordance with Appendix G, of the above-noted Policy Report;

Further details are in a previous post:


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