The Broadway Plan was approved on June 22, 2022, and went into effect on September 1. Reliance Properties wasted no time and was the first out the gate with a proposal for a 20-storey tower at 1540 W Broadway. Reliance Properties President Jon Stovell quickly publicized the proposal by tweeting links on September 3rd and 9th to pieces in UrbanYVR and DailyHive. The tower design was created by omb (office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers).
Here we look at the proposal versus the Broadway Plan, upon which it is purportedly based. The application by Reliance is in violation with the Plan on multiple counts.
As the first application coming forward, it is significant as a case study. Vancouver residents and voters need to know that the response by planning staff merits scrutiny, because unless there is a significant change on Council with the October 15 election, the provincial government will be angling to eliminate public hearings in Vancouver, effectively cutting out Council and public oversight of rezonings and leaving the planning department as the sole remaining check on rezonings. Applications would effectively go straight from the developer to the City’s director of planning for approval.
A total of 98 rental units are proposed on the site. A floor space ratio of 6.5 is requested. Four levels of underground parking would include the provision of 35 spots (to fulfill a covenant for the current parking lot on the site). The proposal was submitted as letter of enquiry to the City, which is generally done prior to a developer making a formal rezoning application.
The proposal already violates the Broadway Plan on multiple counts. For example, the building height for residential towers is non-compliant, as the proposed design exceeds the maximum floor-to-floor height 10 ft. (3.0m). Second, the tower volume lies within the “solar priority protection area” for the public green space at the Vancouver School Board building located on the other side of W10th Avenue. There’s no 4-storey podium on the site to make it consistent with the Broadway Plan; it’s only a tower proposed. The site frontage at 125 ft falls under the usual 150 ft minimum tower site frontage requirement, which means that it can proceed only at the discretion of the Director of Planning (for relaxation). This relaxation is eligible only when ‘the project satisfies the [Broadway] Plan’s built form and site design principles.’ (Clearly, that condition if not met, due to shading of protected public open space and exceeding maximum floor-to-floor heights).
This proposed design may well end up being a prototype for many future proposals, that is if the Broadway Plan stays in effect and the City management and Council composition doesn’t change. There’s further analysis along this line of thought in City Conversion 78: What’s at stake in Fairview (CC#78: our Broadway Plan models, called ‘just plain wrong,’ become ‘pretty much right’) by Brian Palmquist.
What would it say about the current state of planning in Vancouver if the first proposed tower under the Broadway Plan is allowed to sail through even though it is not in compliance with the Plan? What does this say about the intellectual honesty on the part of planning staff? Should staff be allowed to say, yes, something follows the Broadway Plan, because they say so, and that’s the end of story? What about checks and balances in planning-related decisions? What part of “Proposed new development should not create new shadow impact on parks and public school yards from the spring to fall equinoxes between 10AM and 4PM” do staff not understand?
City staff may wish to consult their own solar access diagram to see if the tower falls within a protected area (enlarged inset reproduced below).
It’s certainly possible to put a significant amount housing on the parking lot site at 1540 W 10th Avenue, at around 8-storeys in height, while still maintaining the solar access policy of the Broadway Plan. However, a 20-storey tower does not maintain protected solar access to green space.
The site was assessed at $8,482,000 in 2022. Here’s an open question: has the Broadway Plan become a license to print money?
11.1.12 Generally, residential floor-to-floor heights of 3.0 m (10 ft.) are supported, office floor-to-floor heights of 3.65 m (12 ft.) are supported, and industrial floor-to-floor heights of 6.1 m (20 ft.) are supported.
11.4.1 A consistent 4-storey podium should be provided in residential areas to create a consistent street wall that is compatible with existing neighbourhood character and preserves solar access across the street.
p. 70 Privately-Initiated Rezonings: “In all instances, the overall height, density, and form of development should be sensitive to the surrounding context. This would include consideration of street character, views, shadowing, topography, access and circulation, and privacy.”
“Tower site frontage requirements: The Policy Area summary tables in Chapters 8-10 typically have a minimum site frontage requirement for tower forms. For areas where the minimum site frontage is 36.6 m (120 ft.) to 45.7 m (150 ft.), development proposals with lesser frontage may be considered at the discretion of the Director of Planning, where the proposal meets the following criteria:
» Sites have a minimum frontage of 30.2 metres (99 ft.);
» The project satisfies the Plan’s built form and site design principles; and,
» The applicant demonstrates that the development reasonably mitigates development limitations on adjacent properties.
Shadow limits p. 288 “Proposed new development should not create new shadow impact on parks and public school yards from the spring to fall equinoxes between 10AM and 4PM.“