Urbanist Ned Jacobs called the use of “density” to give bonuses to developers a “convoluted shell game.” During the public hearing and council discussion on 1569 West 6th, it was stated orally that Westbank had received 300,000 square feet from the Woodwards development in Vancouver, and that it still holds 100,000 square feet of that for future use. The calculation for density transferred to this site is described in the staff report to Council, albeit in difficult-to-understand terms, as even the Director of Planning admitted in the meeting.
We were able to obtain this additional calculation from the rezoning officer in the Planning Department, copied here verbatim:
Density Transfer (10% allowance) = 2476 sf @ $114/sf = $282,264
Balance of Density Transfer = 6124 sf @ $85/sf = $520,540
Total Density Transferred: 8,600 sf
Total Value: $802,804
There, does that clear it up? For those for whom it still is not completely clear, actually, what we’d like to do is investigate this further and find out in the maximum possible detail how the 300,000 square feet figure at Woodwards was arrived at and how it is all accounted for, and do our best to come up with an explanation that makes sense to the layperson. Anyone willing to help with this little research project, please send in an e-mail. The density bonus program of the City is one of the pillars of our City’s land use planning program. It would serve us all well to understand it better. Also, Council passed a motion on 8-July-2010 about transparency in density bonuses, so what we see in this rezoning SHOULD now represent best practice. Transparency in these density calculations will serve us all better and ensure fairness, including not only for the public and communities, but also ALL major land owners and developers, who deserve an equal playing field. Better clarity and public oversight will also make it easier for City staff and elected Councillors to do their jobs better, in the public interest. Stay tuned for more. This is another critical topic that will NOT go away.