Public Hearing (June 23/Thurs): 450-496 Prior (Strathcona) 19-storey twin towers. Residents’ association has big concerns. Citizen researcher alleges planning staff outright lied in public consultation process.

Above: Image provide by the applicant shows the 19 storey towers and podium, with Strathcona in the foreground.

(Update/Epilogue: Council approved this application, with two votes against (Clrs Hardwick and Swanson, who expressed concerns raised by residents of Strathcona). The applicant and planning staff gave unsatisfactory responses, in our view, simply whitewashing the questions and concerns expressed, but the majority on Council let it all pass.)

A Public Hearing is underway for 450-496 Prior Street, 550 Malkin Avenue and 1002 Station Street tonight for two 19-storey, residential towers including a 5-storey office podium. This is near the future site of St. Paul’s Hospital, on the False Creek Flats, but part of Strathcona neighbourhood.

Here is the Shape Your City consultation page: https://shapeyourcity.ca/456-prior-st
Public Hearing website: https://council.vancouver.ca/20220623/phea20220623ag.htm

The Strathcona Residents Association has submitted a letter signed by 55 residents articulating serious concerns about the application, including excessive building height, massing and density, lack of transition to the existing residential neighbourhood, vague community benefits, and concerns about artist studies. They make recommendations to Council, but in effect the recommendations amount to asking Council to reject this application in favour of a fresh start.

Even more vociferously, local resident Michael Sismey who has spent many months researching the application, will speak tonight in opposition, asking Council to reject the application to allow something more consistent with existing policy. He asserts the applicant and City planning staff have effectively lied to the public and City Council during the public consultation process regarding the height and density permitted on the site. Below are excerpts of his presentation.

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… let me state for the record I support the False Creek Flats Area Plan 100 percent. Love it! Wouldn’t change a thing. So I’m confused as to why this stand-alone project that is the polar opposite of the Plan’s design intent and zoning is being presented as if it were a legitimate proposal to be seriously considered.

Based on my research and understanding the proposed Strand development application for 450-496 Prior Street is not consistent with the Area Plan’s current zoning, which cannot legally be altered [without due process] by this Council or anyone else, nor with the Plan’s intent for the site as a transition between St. Paul’s Hospital and the residential area of Strathcona.

Let me explain. What is being presented before you at this Public Hearing agenda is worlds apart from the Shape Your City version presented to the public for review and discussion. Most of the information we can read here for this meeting (item one) is new to the public.

Item 1. Staff recommendation to council

What we were given to discuss instead  (item two) was a site with one stakeholder, Strand Development, zoned 1-3 Industrial, and that the zoning request  for a 210 ft building with 4.68 FSR is in accordance with the False Creek Flats Area Plan. This is not true.

Above: The application as presented in Shape Your City.

The City’s planning staff reinforced this lie in answers to me at the 456 Prior Street open house last fall. For example (item four) my question asking how a 210 ft tower could be allowed in residential Strathcona was disingenuously answered with a description of all the time and effort and extensive public consultation that went into the Flats Plan creation (item 5).

Yes, it’s an excellent plan and unlike the Broadway Plan enjoys local community support, including myself advocating for it. The problem is that this project bears no relation to the current zoning which calls for a long low Strathcona oriented residential block with a maximum height of 100ft with 3.0 fsr if it includes 1.0 FSR of employment space. The application works very hard to attach itself instead to St Paul’s Hospital and its zoning height and mass with no plausible justification for being part of the hospital complex or its zoning. The hospital zoning has a height and mass that is unopposed because the trade off is it’s providing a public service for the greater good.

The City of Vancouver has a social contract with the public and you as our elected officials have a duty to honor the agreement currently in place.

We already had a public hearing deciding what we would build on this site in September 2017 (item 5) and it passed into law on October 3rd 2017 stating unequivocally how tall and how wide a building could be on this site (item 6).

Item 6. Public hearing content of 2017.
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A response to Dan Fumano article (Vancouver Sun) ‘Eby hopeful new Kitsilano social housing building proceeds, despite pushback’

CityHallWatch has received this contribution from Substack writer pen named Du Ality as a response to an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun by Dan Fumano (16-June-2022). The opinion columnist says that BC housing minister David Eby is hopeful a controversial social housing proposal going to a Public Hearing on June 28, 2022, will succeed despite pushback. This is a well-researched article and we’d like to add one point that has received virtually no public mention so far. Vancouver’s former mayor Gregor Robertson is a principal in Nexii, the company slated to provide the actual structure of the proposed tower.

Above: Massing model of the proposed tower.

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Response to: Dan Fumano: Eby hopeful new Kitsilano social housing building proceeds, despite pushback

CD-1 Rezoning: 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue, and 2091 West 8th Avenue

Like other media and “supposed” community interest groups, this Dan Fumano article omits the co-impact of the other major infrastructure project in this immediate area, the Arbutus terminal subway station and bus loop, and the cunningly undermining language in the Broadway Plan used against the independent St Augustine School [1].

From the deceptive sketches of the supportive housing building, you wouldn’t know that it’s shoehorned into space surrounded by the bus loop, Arbutus Greenway, Delamont Park and St Augustine School.

People in the Arbutus and West 8th area are fed up with governments delivering “done deals” and poorly done ones at that.

The news of the subway station and bus loop was dropped like a bomb in Oct 2019 with no advance neighbourhood consultation. Apparently there had been a City survey to area businesses during the summer when schools were closed and people were on holiday.

TransLink sent a letter to St Augustine School in Newfoundland instead of to the school directly diagonal to the subway location. No picking up and phoning the school, despite there being many years of mutual communication with the City regarding school traffic and construction of the new elementary school, after 17 years of parish and parent fundraising.

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‘The Affordability Puzzle: Who has the Answers?’ Indeed! (Regrettably, it’s not MacPhail or Rennie, and we’re not so sure about Munro and Eby) Vancouver Sun panel 7 pm June 21.

With all due respect, it is with regret that we say Harold Munro Editor-in-Chief at the Vancouver Sun, is getting bad advice from someone. This online event at 7 pm on Tuesday, June 21 (sign up here), asks the question, “The Affordability Puzzle: Who has the Answers?” (https://vancouversun.com/business/real-estate/live-qa-bc-housing-affordability)

It is not entirely clear if Mr. Munro is expecting the four panelists themselves to have the answers. Or is it that he doesn’t expect them to have the answers, but maybe they can introduce someone who does.

Having been observing and involved in civic affairs through three civic election cycles, we can assure you it is not David Eby, Joy MacPhail, or Bob Rennie. Or if they know the answers, they are not telling. Eby, while right on some things since he became housing minister, is probably getting bad advice from the current NDP Chief of Staff Geoff Meggs, who jumped over to Victoria after years with Vision Vancouver on Vancouver City Council, propped up by literally millions of dollars of developer and union donations. Rennie has had far too much air play for far too long as a mouthpiece of the development industry, and is part of the problem in creating the housing affordability problems in the Metro Vancouver region today. And as for MacPhail, presumably she is planning to promote the problematic 2021 report “Opening doors: unlocking housing supply for affordability” (Final report of the Canada-British Columbia Expert Panel on the Future of Housing Supply and Affordability), which seems to be the guide for current NDP policy (and David Eby), decision-makers are clearly listening too much to the wrong people. That report is highly flawed in its selection of experts, data and sources, and verges on being offensive. Co-moderator Dan Fumano, unfortunately, has not been involved in civic affairs reporting for long enough, is often biased in his opinion columns, and lacks the bigger context. We hope that a future panel will provide the public and decision makers with a more balanced choice of speakers. We hope that co-moderator Stu McNish will balance out Fumano’s biases.

Added comment: Here is a recommended Twitter thread on this topic of panelists and alternative panel members.

https://twitter.com/mtnbvan/status/1538885911848423426?s=20&t=7hl-OTxFHrOzP6d5RPz0Rg

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Housing, yes. Affordable? That’s debatable. (Twin 33-storey towers 1065 Harwood & 1332 Thurlow, and 1066-1078 Harwood in West End – Public Hearing June 21/Tues)

Intro: This is a submission received by CityHallWatch. It relates to two 33-storey towers going to Public Hearing on June 21, 2022. What it looks like is that, emboldened by the West End Community Plan, which created a windfall for developers when massive density was added to the plan by Planning staff just weeks before the Plan went to Gregor Robertson/Vision-Vancouver-dominated City Council for approval in 2013, Bosa Properties paid far too much for these properties intending to build luxury strata condos. When the market softened, developers pleaded to change the zoning to rentals, which we recount in our 2020 post, “Vancouver planning staff message to developers: “Heads you win, tails you win” (Planners seek rule changes for towers in Burrard Corridor of the West End Community Plan).” Our current City Council under Mayor Kennedy Stewart approved the request. The existing buildings on these sites had a community of long-term tenants paying affordable rents in older rental buildings. They have largely been evicted and dispersed far and wide as far as we can tell. The current heights and densities in what’s ended up going to the Public Hearing appear to be driven by financing. The developer paid so much for the land, they need to recoup their costs.

Above: Images of the two proposed towers by Bosa Properties and architect Henriquez Partners Architects.

Housing, yes. Affordable? That’s debatable.

Article submitted by Harwood and Thurlow residents

On the heels of the Broadway Plan and the City of Vancouver’s agreement to allow developers access to critical infrastructure, such as sewage and transportation to the Squamish First Nation’s Sen̓áḵw housing development, which will add 6,000 more residential units to the south end of the Burrard Bridge, city staff are preparing to add two more 33-storey high-rise concrete towers, on the other side of the bridge, at quiet 1065 Harwood Street at 1332 Thurlow Street in the West End.

These proposed 33-storey buildings with 279 units are unprecedentedly tall in the neighbourhood, with density completely out of character with existing buildings in the area. The development will mean less light, fewer trees, and long shadows over surrounding buildings for blocks on end.

The two developments, (1) at 1065 Harwood and 1332 Thurlow, and (2) at 1066-1078 Harwood Street, in Vancouver’s West End, go to public hearing, and presumably, a council vote this Tuesday June 21 at 6 p.m.

Rezoning pages:

These developments once again raise important and increasingly ignored questions over what “affordable” housing really means, and which is the right kind of housing for this neighbourhood.

The so-called “abundant housing” lobby in this city relentlessly pursues a line that more rental capacity automatically equals lower rents and more affordable housing. But last year, rental capacity in the city was reported to be at a 21-year-peak – and rents are equally at all-time highs. Is it possible that building more stock isn’t the silver bullet it claims to be?

It is notable that the developers claim the towers will be 100% rental, with fewer than 20% set aside as “below market” rental. Bear in mind that average market rent in the city of Vancouver stands just shy of $3,000 a month. Units in brand-new luxury towers will presumably command far more than this. In this scenario, “below market” hardly equals affordable in the West End a neighbourhood whose renters have already sustained a long, painful period of renovictions and demovictions.

Why isn’t the city planning more inclusionary supported housing in this area? The type of housing so plainly needed in an area a short walk from the Rapid Access Addiction Clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital, safe consumption Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation; where homelessness, vulnerability and mental health challenges are evident, and where residents are used to supporting and welcoming neighbours in need of more help on the road to permanent housing and stability.

The developer, Bosa Properties, isn’t proposing to build on vacant land. It is proposing to tear down long-existing, purpose-built rental units. Not for the people who need it most and can afford it least. But for people who can afford to pay well over $6,000 a month for unobstructed sunset views over English Bay. Dressing it up as rental does not equal affordability.

Not only are these towers physically and aesthetically out of step with the neighbourhood –  they are the wrong housing in the wrong place. Why has the city not insisted on non-profit housing to keep this housing stock for supported housing purposes?

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Addiction and mental health expert says BC Housing proposal wrong model in the wrong place (7th/8th and Arbutus, Public Hearing June 28)

Above: View of the proposed building massing from West 7th Avenue and Arbutus, October 21st 9am. Rendering by CityHallWatch.

The Kitsilano Coalition has issued this media statement regarding a tower proposed for Arbutus Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. This relates to a rezoning proposal to be considered at a Public Hearing by Vancouver City Council on June 28, 2022. CityHallWatch has done a number of posts on this proposal, most recently at this link.

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Dr. Julian Somers: “Congregating people with mental health and addiction issues in a single building does not work.”

Vancouver, B.C. (June 16, 2022):  The BC Housing proposal to build a 13-storey tower for hard-to-house people with addiction and mental health issues at 7th/8th and Arbutus is the “wrong model in the wrong place” according to Simon Fraser University (SFU) Distinguished Professor Dr. Julian Somers, a clinical psychologist and international expert on public policies related to addiction and mental health. 

“The evidence is very clear, BC Housing’s favoured model of congregating homeless people with mental health and addiction issues into so-called supportive housing buildings does not work,” said Dr. Somers.

Congregate housing is the model currently used for SROs and proposals such as the 7th/8th and Arbutus site. Congregate housing entails many individuals afflicted by mental health and addictions living in one building. 

BC Housing has traditionally congregated low income families and seniors in the same building successfully. Children can play in communal courtyards and parents can cook together and support each other. Seniors living together can be excellent company for one another. However, congregate housing for people with mental illnesses and addictions has the opposite effect. It requires residents to be resilient to the erratic behaviour and drug use of others as they try to improve their lives. 

High quality research clearly demonstrates the desirability and effectiveness of providing independent recovery-oriented housing that is scattered throughout neighbourhoods and cities. Independent Recovery Oriented Housing differs from congregate housing,  in that it allows individuals suffering mental health and addictions to live independently as a small percent of building tenants. Support and clinical care is brought to them when they are ready. They choose their location based on options but are not congregated. 

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CityHallWatch celebrates 10 years on October 15. THANK YOU, readers!

On October 15, 2020, CityHallWatch celebrates a decade of serving Vancouver.

Whew, it has been a busy decade, but today, CityHallWatch marks a ten-year milestone with our 3,033rd post. Yes, CityHallWatch just turned ten!

Above all today, we would like to say a heartfelt thank you to our readers. And to the people who have shared tips, information and content with us, people who really care about our City today and its future.

Our first post, on October 15, 2010, started our activities off with a case study looking at a proposed rezoning at 1569 West 6th Avenue in Vancouver. Since then we have covered many community plans, meetings, forums, events, City policies, elections, elected officials, controversies, breakthroughs, problems and solutions, protests, and more.

Over the past ten years, with over 3,000 posts, we’ve had nearly a half million visitors and well over a million page views. We’ve covered stories from the perspective of the community, neighbourhood, individual, and taxpayer. Common themes, always with a focus on our own municipal government, have been accountability, pro-transparency and anti-corruption, regulatory capture, the role of big money. We have tried to shine a light on things. We have made an effort to drive web traffic to other grassroots and community based-blogs and writers like Eye on Norquay and Jak’s View, as well as the websites of neighbourhood groups and associations across Vancouver, and indeed the whole Metro Vancouver region through partner site MetroVanWatch.org. We have tried to see where the dots connect, and to connect them. We’ve tried to deconstruct and understand the processes at City Hall. All of this, from a perspective of being outside the real estate and development industry, and outside of the government. Everything we do has been a volunteer effort — original research, FOI inquiries, getting photos, making illustrations, developing computer models of proposed buildings, etc. Our budget is basically zero.

Some progress has been made in some areas due in part to our efforts and almost always in cooperation with others. We ran a petition to get the Big Money Out of municipal elections, and reforms finally did kick in for the 2018 municipal elections (though still having loopholes). We have seen media, elected officials, and City staff respond to issues and questions we have raised. We hope our content has been helpful for the people of Vancouver.

We lament the loss of many civic reporters and journalists over the years, and even entire newspapers like the Vancouver Courier, and MetroNews / Star, and many local papers around the region. That makes the role of grassroots citizens blogs even more important. Now in 2020 and beyond, the City of Vancouver is engaged in a number of major planning initiatives. It will be important for the public to stay alert and involved, to ensure that community voices are heard and not drowned out by voices backed by big money and influence. There is wisdom in communities.

A city is a living thing, and we are all part of it! The story goes on.

So from CityHallWatch Media Foundation, THANK YOU!

Randy, Steve, Gudrun

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Hot this week of June 27, 2011 (City Council, UDP, Parks Board)

Here are some of the issues citizens may find of interest and concern this week in Vancouver City Council, Urban Design Panel, and Parks Board this week. We have only excerpted selected topics as a service to the public, and bold font is for extra attention. For full agendas and documents please visit the official websites. Vancouver is at http://vancouver.ca/. Continue reading

Metro Vancouver dispute resolution process with Coquitlam on Regional Growth Strategy continues June 29, July 5

New dates for meetings #3 and #4 in the non-binding dispute resolution process between Metro Vancouver and Coquitlam have been announced.
June 29 (Wednesday) 1 to 5 pm
July 5 (Tuesday)  12 noon to 5 pm
Both meetings will be at the Metro Vancouver Board Room, 4330 Kingsway, Burnaby. Closest SkyTrain station is Patterson. These meetings are open to the public. We encourage concerned citizens and groups to attend. Detailed coverage of the issues and video of previous meetings are at www.MetroVanWatch.ca. In essence, the Board of Directors of Metro Vancouver is trying to force Coquitlam and its citizens to accept the RGS, a powerful bylaw that will affect every aspect of land use planning affecting 24 local governments for the next 30 years. Vancouver is the most powerful member of the Board, with six votes, all held by Vision Vancouver. The City of Vancouver  held no public meetings to explain the final text of the RGS for its own citizens. Coquitlam has raised several fundamental reasons to reject the RGS, which should be of concern to all citizens of the region. Metro Vancouver is seeking to force the RGS through with no changes. As an example of  concerns, Vancouver, Surrey, and either Burnaby (or Richmond) could virtually control all future majority votes relating to the RGS, as the three biggest municipalities (in population) have nearly 50% of the votes. This would make it very hard for any of the other municipalities to change any aspect of the RGS, or even to trigger a review of the RGS, for the next thirty years.

Burnaby Council defends its community plans. Why can Vancouver not do this?

CityHallWatch received a tip about an interesting article in the paper. The question that arises is this: Why can Vancouver’s Planning Department and the current City Council not defend current plans and guidelines? Vancouver citizens are getting used to being told in public hearings for major spot rezonings that guidelines are only guidelines, and all must submit to the discretionary powers of the Director of Planning. Summary below, link to full article at bottom.

Safeway’s proposed towers don’t jibe with Burnaby vision (by Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun, 24-June-2011). Summary by CityHallWatch.

  • Canada Safeway is marketing its land using images suggesting seven highrise buildings could be built on its prime 17-hectare Burnaby property. Safeway suggests there is a potential to develop up to 1,500 residential units on the property. The site, bordered by 11th and 14th Avenues, and 15th and 18th Streets, was formerly Safeway’s distribution centre.
  • Burnaby City says it has received many inquiries based on Safeway’s marketing materials.
  • In response, Burnaby council has issued a statement. Excerpt: “To clarify, this Safeway vision is not consistent with the city’s adopted plan for the area, and was not shared with city council or staff prior to its release.”
  • The site is currently zoned industrial and the city’s council-adopted community plan for the Edmonds Town Centre designates it for low-rise multi-family residential redevelopment. Under the community plan, all buildings would be no higher than three or four storeys, says Burnaby’s director of planning and building.

Full article here:
http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Safeway+proposed+towers+jibe+with+Burnaby+vision/4997250/story.html

Vancouver Parks Board’s 5-Year Strategy Plan consultations are on NOW

CityHallWatch has received this information and encourages citizens to study the issues and provide input into this important process. Public meetings (June 22, 23, 28, 29) are planned and people may also provide input online. The Park Board’s website says that the “Strategic Plan is a valuable tool that serves as a road map for the delivery of parks and recreation services and programs, helps frame policies, and links the work plans of our many business units.”  More information is here:
http://vancouver.ca/parks/info/strategy/strategicplan/index.htm

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