Public Hearing 25-June-2020 (6 pm): Major citywide omnibus rezoning amendments, 60-storey 25 FSR tower in West End, more

Despite the COVD-19 pandemic and many concerns expressed about City Hall going ahead with a glitchy system and voice only for electronic meetings, Vancouver City Council is moving ahead with a very busy schedule of EIGHT Public Hearings before the summer hiatus (June 23, June 25, June 30, July 7, July 9, July 16, July 21, July 23). Some of the rezonings and bylaw changes going forward are very significant. Letters have been written opposing this aggressive schedule, and even the B.C. Ombudsperson has found the use of emergency powers has been in violation of legislation (see B.C. Ombudsperson issues report on ‘Extraordinary Measures’).

Since the Public Hearings are going ahead, it is important that citizens and community groups make an effort to let Mayor and Council know what they think about any items that concern them. You can do this by writing to Mayor and Council and/or signing up to speak (via online or telephone). Each meeting agenda on the City website provides the official means of reaching Mayor and Council to get on the public record.  

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) generally writes Council on major citywide topics, and their letters may provide a starting point for your analysis.  You can also review other correspondence submitted in support and opposed to each agenda item, posted on the agenda page in the last few days before each Public Hearing. With the virtual meeting system, more than ever it is important for people with concerns to speak or write Mayor and Council as that is the only way for them to gauge public concern and become aware of issues not covered adequately by staff reports. 

For June 25, 2020. the official agenda can be found at this link.
https://council.vancouver.ca/20200625/phea20200625ag.htm

The agenda topics are as follows: 

1. TEXT AMENDMENTS: Regulation Redesign – Amendments to Zoning & Development and Parking By-laws. CityHallWatch note: This is a significant omnibus rezoning with major changes to zoning and bylaws. CVN has written to Council opposed. Link here: http://coalitionvan.org/posts/25-june-2020-ph-opposing-omnibus-rezoning/. See more below.

2. REZONING: 486 West 26th Avenue
[To rezone from RS-1 (One-Family Dwelling) District to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development) District, to permit a six-storey residential building. A building height of 19.9 metres (65 feet) and a floor space ratio (FSR) of 2.51 are proposed.] 

3. REZONING and HERITAGE DESIGNATION: 6825 West Boulevard
[To rezone from RS-5 (One-Family Dwelling) District to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development) District, to permit the development of infill residential buildings and the protection, rehabilitation and conservation of the existing heritage building. A maximum building height of 12.4 metres (41 feet) is proposed and an overall density of 0.60 FSR is
maintained.]

4. REZONING: 1059-1075 Nelson Street (West End)
CityHallwatch note: This is a significant application for a 60 storey tower with some rental but mostly luxury condos, and at nearly 25 FSR what could be unprecedented density for any building in North America. It is also in violation of many of the guidelines of the West End Community Plan adopted in 2013. The majority of letters supporting this rezoning happen to be former renters who were renovicted and simply want to be able to move into the new building.  

Further below, for convenience, we provide a copy of the official agenda as of June 17. Plus some comments and links on selected items. More may be added after we publish this post.

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COMMENTARY

Regarding item 1, the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has written Mayor and Council opposed (link here). Here is an excerpt. 

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) opposes this omnibus rezoning. While the intention of streamlining and improving the permitting process is a good one, this report goes much further than simply improving processes by suggesting alterations to many sections of the Zoning Bylaw. This is a very controversial rezoning that should especially not be going to a virtual Public Hearing during a pandemic.

Among our concerns:

  • The city is combining a large number of amendments on unrelated issues as an omnibus change to the Zoning and Development By-law for various zoning schedules, for various Official Development Plans, for the Parking By-Law and other land use documents.
  • The changes to various different zoning types (C, I, RS, RT, RM etc.), By-laws or Plans are too complex to be all in one report and should be separated into multiple reports that could provide detailed information and explanation on the impacts of the various changes.
  • Although there now are ‘red-line’ documents provided to show what is changed in context with the original by-law, there still is no detailed explanation of what each amendment means in practical terms to the built forms or development process. This lack of transparency makes it difficult for Council and the public to really know what is changing.
  • Suggested changes are substantive alterations to zoning and regulations, with a variety of impacts, not just minor text amendments, which simplify the language or streamline the process.
  • There are substantive new powers proposed for the Director of Planning to vary zoning bylaws without going through the Board of Variance. The current Council should maintain checks and balances on the powers of the Director of Planning, and know it has a big responsibility to future-term Councils to ensure good governance.
  • There was no substantive public consultation which dealt with the specifics of the many changes to various sections of the Bylaws. Public Hearings are not a substitute for full, public engagement. They are one tool in a bag of many that together complete a proper engagement process. It is typical for the public to provide input prior to the staff’s recommendation for referral to a Public Hearing.

This rezoning, without adequate detailed explanations, all lumped together in one report, is very difficult to understand. It needs those relevant documents and more details to be included, or at least referenced with links, and further clarifications as to its effects, divided into related zoning types in separate reports, with separate presentations at Public Hearings.

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On this same item, Jeanette Jones of Eye on Norquay has written an insightful letter to City Hall on “On Regulation Redesign and Pre-Zoning.” Excerpts: We recognize that both streamlining regulations and increasing pre-zoning will to some extent reduce the time necessary to complete projects. In principle, we support this work if it is carefully done. However, we know that the length of time that passes between application for a project and its completion is influenced by many other factors as well.” Based on experience in the Norquay neighbourhood over the past ten years, the letter goes on to enumerate significant other factors that contribute to the failure to complete projects in a timely manner: poor project design, inexperienced builders, delays in receiving permits or inspections, shortage of tradespeople, and unforeseen financing problems. The letter concludes, “Streamlining regulations and increasing pre-zoning seem unlikely to increase the supply of more affordable housing in Vancouver as quickly as suggestedUltimately, the problem of housing affordability in Vancouver will not addressed to any significant degree unless more public assets are directed toward subsidized housing, with involvement by all levels of government.”

 

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OFFICIAL AGENDA AS OF JUNE 17, 2020.

https://council.vancouver.ca/20200625/phea20200625ag.htm

PUBLIC HEARING
June 25, 2020  Revised: June 17, 2020
Date and location: Tuesday, June 25, 2020, 6 pm
Council Chamber, Third Floor, City Hall

Please note:

  • This Public Hearing is to be convened by electronic means as authorized by Ministerial Order No. M192, “Local Government Meetings and Bylaw Process (COVID-19) Order No. 3 ”.
  • Members of the public may attend at the Council Chamber in City Hall to hear and watch the meeting proceeding, but are strongly urged to listen and watch the proceedings via the City’s website or follow Twitter @VanCityClerk.
  • Due to COVID-19, it is recommended that speakers participate by telephone or provide written submissions; however, limited space will be made available at City Hall to accommodate those who are unable to participate by telephone.
  • To participate in the public hearing process, you can register to speak in person or by telephone at the Public Hearing:
  • by going to the Council meeting page on the City’s website and selecting the meeting date, meeting type and agenda item(s) and specifying whether you will participate in person or by telephone; or
  • by calling 604.829.4238 and specifying which meeting date, meeting type and agenda item(s) you wish to speak to and whether you will address Council by telephone or in person.
  • If you want to participate by telephone then you must have access to a telephone, provide a telephone number that can be used to contact you, and an email address where instructions on when and how to call into the public hearing can be provided to you.
  • You can also register by telephone, on the day of the public hearing, between 5:30 pm and 6 pm, or 30 minutes before the hearing starts, at City Hall. For more information, visit vancouver.ca/publichearings
  • Send your comments to Council at https://vancouver.ca/your-government/contact-council-public-hearing.aspx.
  • Get live updates on the meeting at http:vancouver.ca/speaker-wait-times or follow Twitter @VanCityClerk.
  • Watch the meeting live here

Get involved and stay informed

 Tip: Send your comments by the day before the meeting so Council has time to review them.

Send comments to Council

Sign up to speak about an agenda item:

  • Register by phone at 604-829-4238 between 5:30pm and 6pm on the day of the public hearing, or 30 minutes before the hearing starts at City Hall. Find out more
  • Online by 5:00pm on the day of meeting
  • In-person from 5:30pm to 6:00pm on the day of the meeting

If you miss the deadline, listen to the livestream of the meeting and follow the Chairs phone in instructions, or attend in person, and raise your hand, when the meeting Chair calls three times for any other speakers after all registered speakers are heard.

Request to speak

Watch the live broadcast  Get updates on Twitter

Questions about this agenda?

ROLL CALL

1. TEXT AMENDMENTS: Regulation Redesign – Amendments to Zoning & Development and Parking By-laws

2. REZONING: 486 West 26th Avenue

3. REZONING and HERITAGE DESIGNATION: 6825 West Boulevard

4. REZONING: 1059-1075 Nelson Street

CityHallWatch comment: This rezoning is very problematic. It is a huge and bulky building at nearly 25 FSR for density and 555.5 ft in height with 585.5 max for mechanical screening. It is a small site for this kind of density and extreme height, especially given the towers already on that block (and under construction).

West End Neighbours: Public Hearing June 25, 2020 (6 pm): 60-storey tower (25 FSR) at 1059-1075 Nelson Street. Inconsistencies with West End Plan, morning shadows for West End.
https://westendneighbours.wordpress.com/2020/06/25/hearing-1059-1075-nelson/

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For 1059-1075 Nelson Street, the proposed Floor Space Ratio of 24.94 (note inconsistency – 24.94 FSR on City website vs 24.7 on notification for Public Hearing) is probably the highest density project ever approved in Vancouver, and could well be among the highest density building ever built on the continent. This level of density will have major impacts. It will shade Nelson Park, which is precious and heavily used park space for the West End community. It will cast shadows for many blocks in many directions. It will loom over other existing and proposed buildings. This building is being promoted as “green,” despite its significant environmental impacts, including everything involved with digging a 100 foot deep hole to accommodate nine levels of underground parking. City Council should have a close look at the provisions of the West End Community Plan for this area. Will the creation of yet another set of luxury condos the best way to advance housing opportunities in Vancouver. Pages 11 and 12 of the staff report merit a close look, particularly regarding floor plate size. During West End Plan consultations in 2012 and 2013, the size of floor plates was a key topic. Since the adoption of the plan, proposals have included endless rationalizations of “averaging” and “exclusions” to justify bulky buildings like the one proposed. Proponents and City staff use these as a strategy to over-ride the objectives of the Plan in order to create more luxury real estate at $3,000 a square foot. Adopted under Vision Vancouver, the West End Plan did not set any FSR limits for this area. This was left completely open-ended as a huge favour to developers. The public should at least have some confidence that City Council will now ensure that the West End Plan’s floor plate guidelines will be respected. The proponent and City staff are also proposing a “zero setback” from Nelson Street for levels 4 through 60 (see Page 12 of the report). This does not comply with the West End Plan. They are trying to place too much density on this small site.

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