First proposal already violates the just-approved Broadway Plan on multiple counts (20-storey tower at 1540 West 10th Ave)

Above: Rendering detail from the architect’s materials. Note the height of the proposed tower compared to the surrounding buildings (street in foreground is West 10th Avenue between Fir and Granville)

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).

Above: Spring equinox (March 20, 10am). A quick shadow study with a rough massing model (in orange, at bottom left) shows significant impacts on the VSB green space site, which is identified for protected solar access under the Broadway Plan.

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).

Above: Solar access diagram from Broadway Plan (enlarged) shows that proposed 20-storey tower site falls within park and public school yards solar priority area. Full solar access plan is reproduced at the end.
Solar access to the public greenspace at West 10th and Fir (VSB) is protected under the Broadway Plan

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.

Above: Spring equinox (March 20, 10:35am) shadow comparison between a rough massing of 20-storey tower (left) and the existing condition (right).
Above: Site and context (1540 W10th Avenue is located between Granville and Fir Street)
Above: Massing diagram from architect showing site and potential future development sites. Note the Vancouver School Board open greenspace is shown as having a potential for 6-storeys (Click to enlarge diagram)
Above: For clarity, here’s a cropped and annotated part of the Architect’s massing diagram showing the site and potential future development sites, along with a couple of photos of the greenspace that’s shown as having a potential for 6-storeys (Click to enlarge diagram)
Above: Architect’s plan for the site. The tower footprint is approximately 70ft by 84ft (click to enlarge)

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?

Below are a few excerpts of the Broadway Plan. The full 500 page document is available here.

Building Height

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.

Above: A detail from the architect’s materials, a two-point perspective rendering. Notice how the vertical lines remain straight; thus the rendering is not a three-point perspective that would be captured in a camera or seen (doesn’t match standard human vision).
Above: A detail from the architect’s materials, another two-point perspective rendering (looking up at the top of the tower, lower floors not shown, bottom of the rendering starts around the sixth floor). Note the large percentage of glazing in the renderings and the similar elevations all around. Does this mean the design is not responding to climate, and relying on the mandatory a/c that’s now required?
Above: Solar Access Map (inset) from the Broadway Plan. Full map reproduced below:
Spring equinox, 10:35am (shadow study using a rough massing model)
Above: Site context (LIDAR point cloud data, 2018 CoV OpenData)

One thought on “First proposal already violates the just-approved Broadway Plan on multiple counts (20-storey tower at 1540 West 10th Ave)

  1. This site, presently a parking lot (no tenants displaced) should be developed for rental housing, including a component of affordable rental, under existing rental policy incentives that allow for density and height relaxations. A back-of-envelope massing analysis shows that the proposed 6.5 FSR density can be readily achieved in an alternative “L”- shaped building, with a longer N/S leg of 11-storeys +/- massed to the east portion of the site and a westerly portion of the leg fronting on W.10th Ave. stepping down to 6-7 storeys. This alternative massing would significantly reduce shadow impact on the School Board park to an acceptable level while still delivering the proposed floor area. More fundamentally, it illustrates that the Broadway Plan is NOT NEEDED to deliver a viable rental development on this particular “vacant” site. Of course, the developer understandably prefers the proposed 20 storey “Tower-in-the-Park” for marketing reasons. It will be interesting to see how this proposal works its way through the application process.

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