Controversy: Public Hearing 27-Oct-2020 (Tues) for 172 foot Westbank tower at 3701-3743 West Broadway (corner of Broadway & Alma)

Artist’s impression of 14 storey tower proposed for 3701-3743 West Broadway at Alma, Westbank Projects Corp. Note – promotional image, not to scale, and at 172 feet, equivalent to a typical 17 storeys, Oct 2020

As we’ve noted previously a controversial tower goes to a Public Hearing as Item 7 of a packed agenda on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. This is yet another precedent-setting blockbuster proposal by Westbank Projects Corp (CEO Ian Gillespie). Due to the packed agenda, this item may be pushed to a reserve date, likely to be during the daytime on a weekday.

Public Hearing page, with instructions on how to write or speak to City Council and listen to the (virtual) meeting: 
https://council.vancouver.ca/20201027/phea20201027ag.htm

City’s Rezoning page, with full set of rezoning papers:
https://rezoning.vancouver.ca/applications/3701-3743wbroadway/

The West Point Grey Residents Association (WPGRA) has followed this application as it evolved over the past few years, and here is their latest letter to City Council for this Public Hearing opposing the project. It is extensively researched and raise many key issues. Link: https://wpgra.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/wpgra-broadway-alma-hearing-oct.19-2020-v1.pdf

The group has been collecting signatures on a petition, now over 3,400 opposed to the rezoning, and they welcome more. The petition makes many valid points. Link: https://www.change.org/p/city-of-vancouver-officials-no-tower-alma-broadway-8a0720b9-c539-4a06-9f05-012b581f259d

Its main point is as follows: “This petition requests that the City of Vancouver does not approve a tower for this site and
instead keeps development within human scale, below the tree canopy and within the character of the existing local community. This commercial mixed-use site should remain within existing zoning of 4 storeys, or at the most, not go higher than the 6 storeys as an incentive for 100% rentals that the developer originally proposed.” 

The current rezoning application of 172 feet would have 14 storeys, a floor space ratio (FSR) of 5.3, and provide 153 secured rental units. We note that the general rule for towers is about 10 feet per floor, so this 172 feet is actually what people would usually recognize as the equivalent of seventeen (17) storeys in height.

Westbank’s image for six-storeys at Broadway and Alma, from the 2015 rezoning application, currently on hold

If City Council rejects this application due to its controversy and strong public opposition, the privately-owned Westbank might make less profit, but CEO Ian Gillespie could easily revive his original rezoning application for six storeys (image on right and below), which was already well underway in 2015 before the Vision Vancouver-dominated City Council introduced the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program (MIRHPP) program which provides attractive incentives to developers, after which Gillespie put that application on hold to aim for a much taller (nearly three times the height) and much more profitable building. The 2015 design would provide 94 units of secured rental housing (versus 153 in the current proposal). It appears that for a difference of 59 units, the six-storey option would be much less disruptive and much more palatable for the community. It is the task of our elected officials to judge the tradeoffs. 

Here is a summary of some of the many issues articulated by WPGRA:

  • It doesn’t meet MIRHPP requirements for neighbourhood context or policy direction.
  • It is a “grossly oversized building form” too large in height and FSR.
  • 161 is too many units without enough parking at only 27 spaces.
  • Poor design that is out of context with neighbourhood character.
  • The proposal in conflict with the West Point Grey Community Vision.
  • It sets a huge precedent.
  • Other adjacent planning is in process such as the Jericho Lands and during the Interim Rezoning Policy for WPG and Kitsilano.
  • No meaningful public consultation on a major precedent for the area of WPG and Kitsilano.
  • Public feedback has not been adequately reflected, with only minor revisions made.
  • The developer will make windfall profits.
  • The previous 6 storey rental application was a better fit for the site and neighbourhood.

There has been significant criticism of the MIRHPP pilot program for giving far too much to developers and resulting in controversial, blockbuster development proposals. It is a pilot program under the previous developer-funded regime at City Hall and should be put on hold and reviewed. The current Council cannot be fettered by the decisions of previous Councils.

Here again is the image from the original 2015 proposal by Westbank was for 6 storeys, which WPGR finds acceptable. At this less-imposing design, it would provide 94 secured market rental units. The City of Vancouver has pulled all the details of this on-hold application from the City’s website, but anyone interested might contact WPGRA for details.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Controversy: Public Hearing 27-Oct-2020 (Tues) for 172 foot Westbank tower at 3701-3743 West Broadway (corner of Broadway & Alma)

  1. Pingback: Interim Rezoning Policy for Kitsilano and West Point Grey (WPG) and how they apply to a major current proposal at Broadway and Alma | CityHallWatch: Tools to engage in Vancouver city decisions

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