601 Beach Crescent rezoning (55 storey tower at Granville northeast bridgehead): Public Hearing 17-Sep-2020 (Thurs)

[Update: The Public Hearing will reconvene on September 30th at 3pm for debate and decision.]

A rezoning for a 55-storey tower beside the north end of the Granville Bridge is set to go to Public Hearing at 6pm on Thursday, September 17th, 2020. This tower would have a height of 535 feet or 163 metres, a floor space ratio (FSR) of 7.95, and a total floor area of 521,225 sq. ft (48,423 sq. m). There are 455 parking spaces proposed along with commercial space at grade. A total of 303 market strata units (condos) are proposed, along with 152 rental units, of which about a third would be “social housing” (at the HILs rate).

We point out that whatever were the steps leading up to this point, our elected officials are in no way “fettered” or obligated to support this or any application when it reaches the Public Hearing. They are, in principle and in law, absolutely free to vote oppose, support, or abstain, based on what they hear from the public.

There are a number of red flags with this proposal. The proponent received a sweet deal on the terms for the land, sold by the City. There are significant view impacts, exacerbated by the height being in excess of the maximum 425 feet stated what we assert was already a very flawed Vancouver Views / Higher Buildings policy. At 535 feet tall, it is even taller than the 509 foot Vancouver House on the other side of the Granville Bridge. And the proposed design marks a return of the ‘poor doors’ design policy, which creates separate entrances for social housing and for market strata units.

A local group going by the name of “Beach District Neighbourhood Commitee” has created a very detailed critique of the rezoning proposal, at www.liveabilityfirst.ca. Some of their core concerns are impacts of this proposal on livability, the absence of nearby schools for the additional population, the disconnect between the luxury units & the social housing, and traffic/congestion.

See our previous post and analysis here: “Open house for 54-storey ‘Granville Gateway’ highrise (601 Beach Crescent) to straddle north end of bridge with ‘twisty tower’ Vancouver House (26-Nov-2018). This tower if approved will have a significant impact on one’s experience when approaching the gateway to downtown Vancouver.

One citizen has pointed out, “This land was given to the city, by Concord, for social housing. Now the city has sold it. It was supposed to be 17 storeys but has now morphed into 55 storeys with separate entrances.” We also know that many neighbours now living in the community chose to live there knowing and accepting the idea that a medium-sized social housing development would be coming. As we have witnessed with other dramatic rezonings that have come forward in the past several years, this change to 55 storeys seriously erodes trust in the integrity of this city’s planners and planning processes.

From the CityHallWatch perspective, one big question is this: Is our municipal government getting good value for its citizens through this project on what was public land?

The site had been zoned for 185 feet before the changes made in 2011 to the Higher Buildings policy to allow for 425 feet. It’s more than possible to achieve an FSR of 7.95 while keeping to 425 feet with a different tower and podium floorplate.

It’s worth noting that the social housing component was already part of the requirements of this site and it was promised a very long time ago. Only about 30% of 152 so-called “social housing” units are at HILS rate, which leaves the remainder as rental. The City would also receive $12.1 million for supported housing in terms of Community Amenity Contributions (CACs). The rezoning includes a number of changes to the North East False Creek Official Development Plan (NEFC ODP).

The ‘poor doors’ appear to be coming back for new towers in Vancouver, after a public backlash against the concept in 2015. This unpopular idea has separate entrances for market condo units and for social housing (rental) units. The drawings clearly show a “market lobby” and a “social lobby” with separate sets of elevators for access to the tower and to the podium, respectively.

It’s also worth noting there are two play areas in the drawings submitted as part of the rezoning, with one of the playgrounds on the 8th floor and the other on the 3rd floor. This design received the support of the Urban Design Panel, an advisory body for City Council.  However, staff are recommending as a condition for approval in the CD-1 text to “provide a larger outdoor play area that is shared by both market and social housing.” But the staff recommendation isn’t reflected in the drawings. Here’s an open question: How did this idea of having segregated playgrounds get this far?

Some details of the sale of this formerly City-owned land (i.e., owned by the citizens of Vancouver) are contained in the following document that was released under an FOI inquiry in 2018:

Click to access 601beachcressalefoi.pdf

The staff presentation on the Vancouver Views Study indicates 425 feet as the maximum height for the parcel of land at 601 Beach Crescent (meeting date 2010.12.16):

Click to access penv3presentation-ImplementationofVancouverViewsandOpportunitiesforHigherBuildingsintheDownt.pdf

Tall buildings close to False Creek create big impacts on Skyline. This can be seen by the impact of the recently-completed Vancouver House from Westbank Projects Corp (CEO Ian Gillespie) that is 509 feet tall. Additional towers of the same height or taller will continue to build ‘the wall’ of skyscrapers that will block views of the mountains from the south. Below is a comparison of a massing model showing the Vancouver House (from the time of that Public Hearing) and the full height of the tower (the current 601 Beach tower is not included):

Vancouver House is on the other side of the Granville bridge. The sequence of images shows an independently-produced massing model shown at the Public Hearing, a photo of the tower under construction, and an overlay of the two images

We close by pointing out that this tower, and a number of others approved by Vancouver City Council in the past 15 years or so, are in clear violation of the Bridgehead Guidelines, which are intended to protect views for people approaching bridges. See our past post, “Behold! Vancouver’s Bridgehead Guidelines – Guidelines for Siting and Massing Buildings Adjacent to Downtown Vancouver Bridgeheads” (CityHallWatch, 18-Feb-2013)



https://council.vancouver.ca/20200917/phea20200917ag.htm (Public Hearing)

https://rezoning.vancouver.ca/applications/601beach/index.htm  (Rezoning Application Page)

https://council.vancouver.ca/20101216/penv20101216ag.htm  (Vancouver Views meeting)

https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2018/11/26/open-house-601-beach-cr/  (Open House)

Social housing to have separate entrance to Vancouver high-rise (CBC, May 5, 2020)

City of Vancouver selling 1.42 acres once slated for non-profit housing, beside Granville Bridge. Future 500-foot-plus tower? (CityHallWatch, June 16, 2016)

Previous posts on CityHallWatch also examine other tall towers with large impacts on Skyline, including the Burrard Gateway, Nelson & Burrard and the Vancouver House.

Lights out at Vancouver House. Is anyone home? Who are we building for? (March 16, 2020)

An earlier revision of the proposal also had two separate play areas:

Several sections of the Staff Policy Report are quoted below:

“If approved, the rezoning would contribute on-site 152 turnkey social housing units towards achieving the City’s affordable housing goals as identified in the Housing and Homelessness Strategy and the Housing Vancouver Strategy. In addition, a $12.1 million cash CAC is offered for off-site social housing in the vicinity of the rezoning site.”

“Affordability – At a minimum, 30% of the social housing units must rent to households with incomes at or below Housing Income Limits (HILs) established by BC Housing, at rental rates of no more than 30% of household income. These units would target households with incomes in the range of $15,000 to $68,000 per year. The inclusion of Low End of Market units would target non-family households with annual incomes of up to a maximum of $71,810 and families with annual incomes of up to a maximum of $107,000, incomes that are in line with BC Housing’s low and moderate income limits for 2019. Staff intend to work with senior levels of government and non-profit partners to deepen affordability.” (pp. 17-18)

“Social Housing – The applicant has offered turnkey delivery of 152 units of social housing to the City, of which 55 units are to be suitable for families. This in-kind contribution is valued at approximately $66 million.

In addition to in-kind delivery of social housing, a cash contribution of $12.1 million is offered by the applicant, to be directed to provide further delivery of social housing in the vicinity of the rezoning site.” (pp. 22-23)

“As the rezoning site is in the area of the False Creek North ODP, this site is not subject to DCLs.

If the rezoning application is approved, the applicant will be required to provide new public art on-site with an estimated value of $692,527, or make a cash contribution to the City for off-site public art.” (p. 23)

Please note the conditions of approval regarding combining the two separate playground areas into one (page 38, although the design included with the rezoning has not been updated):

“1.34 As per recent direction from Council (July 2018), design development to provide a larger outdoor play area that is shared by both market and social housing, may be accessed by all residents (i.e. from market and social housing), and is commensurate in size to the number of family units in the entire development.” (p. 38)

Click to access rr6.pdf

The meeting agenda is reproduced below:


Public Hearing
September 17, 2020

Updated: September 15, 2020

Date and location Thursday, September 17, 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 City Hall to hear and watch the meeting proceedings, 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
  • Watch the meeting live here

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Questions about this agenda?


1. CD-1 Rezoning: 601 Beach Crescent


Distribution Date
Septmeber 15, 2020 (up to 9:31 AM)

* * * * *

One thought on “601 Beach Crescent rezoning (55 storey tower at Granville northeast bridgehead): Public Hearing 17-Sep-2020 (Thurs)

  1. > How did this idea of having segregated playgrounds get this far?

    There was some talk of this during the rezoning for another property in the West End. Intracorp/Strand’s development on Harwood maybe? I seem to recall that segregated playgrounds were actually a requirement of the City because that would form part of the air space parcel owned by the city. That got changed at rezone. Not sure why that wouldn’t have been addressed in this proposal, but this is something that’s easily remedied as a condition of rezoning and taken care of at the DP board.

    As far as the poor door goes, you know very well why they exist. It’s not because anyone wants to segregate the condo from the rental. It’s all due to the ownership structure of each air space parcel and on-going costs associated with each. It’s why in single ownership buildings with below market units like any of the MIRHPP projects there’s no poor door.

    Ask any non-profit housing operator if they’d rather have their own lobby/elevator/common area (indoor, that is), or would they rather also share the costs with the market strata (and only have a minority vote), guess which option they want?

    As far as this development goes, I enjoy the fact that it’s taller than Westbank’s building. It’s such a nice fuck you to Gillespie and his ego.

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