City Rezoning Open House for 3701-3743 West Broadway (at Alma St.)
February 13, 2020 (Thursday)
5 – 8 pm
St. James Community Square (3214 West 10th Avenue)
(Updated) Intro: The public and professionals in the urban development community have the right to get some clear answers on this proposed project by Westbank Projects Corp. What discussions have gone on behind the scenes? It’s time for some spotlights. The project was initially proposed and public input sought for 6 storeys. Quietly, the proposal later rose to 12 and now stated as 14 storeys. The city’s website currently indicates a height of 172 feet (but the rule of thumb for height is 10 feet per floors, so this is actually equivalent to 17 storeys). When we first made our post, the City’s feedback form and developer’s drawings indicated 220 feet (equivalent to 22 storeys). Upon inquiry, on Feb 10 we got a response that the feedback page was incorrect, and it was later corrected.
[Update 6 – The City replied and corrected the error noted above, but Westbank did not respond.]
[Update 7 – If you arrived here from the apparently-omniscient “CityDuo” mystery writers’ March 2 blog post, please note that they refer repeatedly to the “floor” count in the proposal. This CityHallWatch post has no major problem with the “floor” count but rather with the height count (in storeys and in feet or meters). For further understanding of the crucial points of this post, search for the key words “precedent” and “wiggle” room on this page — how the usual rule-of-thumb in Vancouver is 10 feet per storey. How this application could later morph into more floors and floor space to benefit the developer (as we have seen in reality other developments), and how the precedent could affect several other development sites currently in play and drive speculation in the area. CityDuo misses all of that. They also miss the scenario of many towers being built, but no rail/transit/subway line prospect for many years, if ever. The CityDuo tone and style often seems to pick up the most extreme comments to paint with one brush and belittle community concerns regarding a given rezoning or development application. And one also wonders how they appear to be party to many of the spoken and written comments made at open house events. Hence the term omniscient….]
This rezoning would set a major precedent for the neighbourhood. Is the public consultation going to be adequate in extent and in good faith? Within just a couple blocks sit two major development sites currently sitting empty except for so-called “community gardens,” which are saving the property owners millions of dollars in property taxes. What happens with this Westbank site at Broadway and Alma will likely set a precedent and lock-in developer expectations for those two sites, and many more along a hypothetical transit route. This project could trigger land price escalation in the entire area, driving out small businesses and driving up speculation. Council needs to discuss all of this with eyes wide open and put the long-term public interest first. If the $4.6 billion (likely to dramatically increase) in funding for an Arbutus to UBC SkyTrain never comes due to the many competing transit priorities (federal, provincial, and regional), the local communities could be looking at many new towers, but no major transit improvements.
Does this proposal prove that a development frenzy is the guaranteed outcome of any talk about a Broadway subway? The application is being considered under the “Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program.”
The “Broadway Subway” segment from VCC Clark to Arbutus Street is still many years away. The proposed SkyTrain extension to UBC is estimated now at $4.6 billion but likely to come in at double that amount if it ever gets built. Who pays for all this? Riders and taxpayers.
The proposed rezoning includes (from current data on City website):
- a total of 153 secured rental units (with 20% of the residential floor area assigned to moderate income households);
- commercial uses at grade;
- a total floor space ratio (FSR) of 5.3;
- a total floor area of 11,537.4 sq. m (124,187.5 sq. ft.);
- a maximum height of 52.63 m (172.7 ft.) ; and
- 53 underground parking stalls and 301 bike spaces.
You can read more through the City’s website here:
The application has been made under the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program. You can learn more about the enabling policy online here:
CityHallWatch comment: For the record…One poster at the Feb 13 open house explained this program: “MIRHPP proposals can be considered in a range of zones across the city that currently allow residential development, each with different opportunities for maximum building heights (number of storeys).” We observe here that the City sees building height as equivalent to the number of storeys. As we mention in this article, the City and Westbank claim the building is 14 storeys. However in terms of height, we assert that it is 17 storeys. Further clarification is needed.
City staff and the applicant team will be available to answer questions.
For more information and to submit comments, please contact the rezoning planner.
City Contact: Carly Rosenblat, Rezoning Planner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 604-829-9621
Applicant Contact: Farouk Babul, Westbank Corp., email@example.com, 604-685-8986
CHW comments: For all rezoning application and development applications the applicant and City should ideally state the height in BOTH the number of storeys AND the overall height in feet and meters. Not just one or the other. There have been past cases in Vancouver where the “wiggle room” created by ambiguity creates the opportunity for back room deals after application approval, once the public process has already been completed. The Rize (renamed as The Independent) at Broadway and Main is one example where the building envelope height was retained, but the developer was able to squeeze in more storeys at development permit stage. That means more square footage, and more profits. The same would happen if only storeys are listed. If after the public process and Council approval of an application, direct discussions between the developer and a few City staff could result in each storey having higher ceiling heights, resulting in an increase in the overall building height, a bulkier building, and most likely, greater profits for the applicant.
The public, when being asked for public comment, needs to have useful references on the human scale. Most people would have an easier time envisioning a building height in storeys than in feet and meters. All these numbers (storeys, feet, meters) should be clearly stated on the rezoning notice board displayed on-site, plus all related documents and web pages listing the application specifications. (Note – as a general rule of thumb, the typical one storey is about 10 feet.)
The average person may also find the numbers on application documents to be confusing — on some documents the building height is indicated. On others, the elevation above sea level. In many cases, that difference and its significance might not be obvious to the person untrained in the field of architecture and planning.
Below: Elevations from the proponent’s package are shown below. Useful to count the storeys.
How many storeys is this application really for? Here is one count showing 17 storeys, not 14.