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)
Continue reading

Candidate nominations for the October civic election are closed. What happens now?

Who’s running for office in the October 15 Vancouver municipal election in 2022? The City’s website has a list of all of the candidates who submitted their paperwork by the deadline on Friday, September 9th. However, this list is subject to change because candidates can withdraw from running for office before 4 pm on Friday, September 16th. As well, candidates could be dropped if there’s a successful challenge against them (for example, if they are not eligible for running for office, or if there were issues with their paperwork).

The nomination papers and the financial disclosure statements for all candidates are available online in a redacted form for public review. The full unredacted paperwork can be viewed in person at Vancouver City Hall (City Clerk’s office on the third floor) during normal office hours. The City Clerk can also make the list of Vancouver electors (voter’s list) available. The paperwork for the local political parties (‘Elector Organizations’) has also been filed that includes the candidates who have been endorsed by the parties. Other information on the Elector Organizations include the financial agents and party presidents.

Each of the nominated candidates must be endorsed by at least 25 ‘electors’ (people who are eligible to vote in the Vancouver Civic election: Canadian citizen, reside in Vancouver or own property in the city, etc.). The rules for running for office are set forth in the Vancouver Charter (Division 6, from Section 41 onward).

The nomination papers usually contain at least several additional signatures as a precautionary measure beyond the required 25 (many candidates have somewhere between 33 and 40 signatures). This is to guard against a scenario where some of the candidate nominators are not eligible to vote (for example, if 26 people nominated a candidate, and two of the nominators were not Canadian citizens, then the minimum requirements for a candidate would not be met). However, a candidate’s eligibility to run would need further action. An eligible Vancouver voter (and the chief election officer) can challenge a candidate’s eligibility to run in provincial court by filing by 4 pm on Tuesday, September 13th. Reasons for a challenge can include false information (incorrect address, inaccurate paperwork, etc., set out in the Vancouver Charter section 45.2).

The City’s website currently shows the number of candidates running as follows:

  • 15 running for Mayor
  • 60 running for City Councillor (10 seats)
  • 32 running for Park Board (7 seats)
  • 31 running for School Board (9 seats)

The nomination papers also provide clues to some of the workings of the local political parties. Some of the nominators signing the papers are known in community and industry circles. The financial disclosure statements can also provide clues about the background of the candidates. It’s always interesting to find incumbent candidates who have preached for a ‘greenest city’ and at the same time own shares in oil, gas and mining companies.

The Vancouver Civic election will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2022. The candidate profiles will be posted during the week of September 20th. Advance voting days are October 1, 5, 8, 11, and 13.

There will also be three plebiscite questions asking voters whether they authorize the City to take on more debt. A total of $735 million in new borrowing by the City of Vancouver is being considered to pay for part of the proposed 2023-2026 Capital Plan. This works out to $1,109.86 per resident (2021 Census) in new debt. A total of $3.5 billion in capital investment is being contemplated. The City expects development contributions to make up $862 million of this total.

Continue reading

Development applications snapshot 1-Sept-2022

Example of a development application information sign

As a free public service CityHallWatch has for many years been taking a monthly snapshot of rezoning and development applications from the City of Vancouver website and making them available on our website.

The City has stopped updating its rezoning (vancouver.ca/rezapps) and development application (vancouver.ca/devapps) web pages and shifted to a very different format called “Shape Your City.” Some changes may make it more user friendly, but some have reduced transparency and accessibility. On Shape Your City, you only see the applications the City wants you to see right now, in the way they want you to see it, and the rest of the information disappears. No handy lists, no archives prior to 2020.

If you see any items of concern, please spread the word to anyone who might be affected or interested. Our archive goes back years and is not available anywhere else. Even the City does not provide this information.

The City has also stopped publicly providing a map showing applications, so we continue to fill in the gap by creating our own static snapshot version using Google Maps. Click HERE to see the current map. If you feel the City should modify how it presents development and rezoning applications, feel free to write Mayor and Council, or director of planning.

Here’s a comment regarding our post in March 2022:

The way the City now provides for expressing your opinions about developments and making your comments via “Shape Your City” is very unsatisfying as well. What they do with your well-thought-out comments is to summarize and anonymize them before they are forwarded to the decision-makers. You never see how your comments are summarized. It’s really very disempowering.

Listed below (generated by CityHallWatch)

The following DP applications are new and were posted last month:

Here’s the complete list of DP applications: Continue reading

Rezoning applications snapshot, 1-Sept-2022

Example of a rezoning application information sign

As a free public service CityHallWatch has for many years been taking a monthly snapshot of rezoning and development applications from the City of Vancouver website and making them available on our website.

The lists contain valuable information on each application (all now being done online during the era of COVID). If you see any of concern, please spread the word to anyone who might be affected or interested. Our archive goes back years and is not available anywhere else. Even the City does not provide this information.

The City has stopped updating its rezoning (vancouver.ca/rezapps) and development application (vancouver.ca/devapps) web pages and shifted to a very different format called “Shape Your City.” Some changes may make it more user friendly, but some have reduced transparency and accessibility. On Shape Your City, you only see the applications the City wants you to see right now, in the way they want you to see it, and the rest of the information disappears. No handy lists, no archives prior to 2020.

We’ve created our own static snapshot version map using Google Maps. Click to see the current map for September 2022. New rezoning applications include the following:

Below is our list of rezoning applications created as of 1-Sept-2022.

Proposed rezonings

Continue reading

Development applications snapshot 1-Aug-2022

Example of a development application information sign

As a free public service CityHallWatch has for many years been taking a monthly snapshot of rezoning and development applications from the City of Vancouver website and making them available on our website.

The City has stopped updating its rezoning (vancouver.ca/rezapps) and development application (vancouver.ca/devapps) web pages and shifted to a very different format called “Shape Your City.” Some changes may make it more user friendly, but some have reduced transparency and accessibility. On Shape Your City, you only see the applications the City wants you to see right now, in the way they want you to see it, and the rest of the information disappears. No handy lists, no archives prior to 2020.

If you see any items of concern, please spread the word to anyone who might be affected or interested. Our archive goes back years and is not available anywhere else. Even the City does not provide this information.

The City has also stopped publicly providing a map showing applications, so we continue to fill in the gap by creating our own static snapshot version using Google Maps. Click HERE to see the current map. If you feel the City should modify how it presents development and rezoning applications, feel free to write Mayor and Council, or director of planning.

Here’s a comment regarding our post in March 2022:

The way the City now provides for expressing your opinions about developments and making your comments via “Shape Your City” is very unsatisfying as well. What they do with your well-thought-out comments is to summarize and anonymize them before they are forwarded to the decision-makers. You never see how your comments are summarized. It’s really very disempowering.

Listed below (generated by CityHallWatch)

The following DP applications are new and were posted last month:

Here’s the complete list of DP applications: Continue reading

Rezoning applications snapshot, 1-Aug-2022

Example of a rezoning application information sign

As a free public service CityHallWatch has for many years been taking a monthly snapshot of rezoning and development applications from the City of Vancouver website and making them available on our website.

The lists contain valuable information on each application (all now being done online during the era of COVID). If you see any of concern, please spread the word to anyone who might be affected or interested. Our archive goes back years and is not available anywhere else. Even the City does not provide this information.

The City has stopped updating its rezoning (vancouver.ca/rezapps) and development application (vancouver.ca/devapps) web pages and shifted to a very different format called “Shape Your City.” Some changes may make it more user friendly, but some have reduced transparency and accessibility. On Shape Your City, you only see the applications the City wants you to see right now, in the way they want you to see it, and the rest of the information disappears. No handy lists, no archives prior to 2020.

We’ve created our own static snapshot version map using Google Maps. Click to see the current map for August 2022. New rezoning applications include the following:

817-837 W 28th Avenue and 4375 Willow Street (RM-8A, 1.2 FSR)

Below is our list of rezoning applications created as of 1-Aug-2022.

Proposed rezonings

Continue reading

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority: Active Vessel Traffic Management Program survey + July 27th webinar

For general information, we’re passing along details about a survey and webinar related to vessel traffic management. There’s an opportunity to sign up for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority webinar on July 27 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. and take their online survey by Aug 31. More details below.

Active Vessel Traffic Management Program

Public engagement updates

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority invites you to learn about our work to develop a better active vessel traffic management system and share your ideas.

This summer, we’re sharing information about how vessel traffic and anchorages are managed today. Between July 11 and August 31, 2022, we invite you to learn more about:

  • How ship traffic and anchorages are currently managed
  • Roles of the port authority, Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard
  • How increased efficiency will help better manage effects of anchorages on Southern Gulf Island communities
  • What initiatives are underway to improve efficiency
  • Upcoming opportunities to participate in the active vessel traffic management system design

Share your ideas through the online survey.

We will consider this input as we continue planning the new system. In fall 2022, we’ll invite input and feedback on potential solutions for:

  • How anchorages are assigned
  • Minimizing noise and light effects
  • Understanding environmental impacts
  • Enhancing port efficiency and vessel safety
  • Information sharing and complaint resolution

How to participate

Continue reading

I’m done with the Vancouver Plan’s false math! (CC #65: correcting the omissions in city staff’s math.) by Brian Palmquist

(City Conversation #65 was first published 19-July-2022)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatch, please visit this page.) The Council Committee on the subject of the Vancouver Plan continues on Friday, July 22.

*********

July 19, 2022—I’m tired of city staff ignoring my numbers at the city’s peril, so gloves off.

“One speaker (Brian Palmquist) said there’s enough zoning applications in our pipeline for 250,000 homes; enough to satisfy the need?”—question from a Councillor to staff

“No. There are approximately 51,000 units in the current pipeline that are projected to be constructed by 2031.”—Answer by city staff.

Actually I said 250,000 people, not homes, but I won’t quibble.

The above sentences are from the proposed amendments and answers to questions by Councillors leading up to the final discussions before Council votes on the Vancouver Plan on July 22nd. I may have the dubious distinction of being the only questioner named before having my concerns dismissed.

Some of you will know that in the absence of data from city staff, I have compiled a Homes for Whom database covering all of the spot rezonings I am aware of that have arisen during the current Council’s term. To do this I had to visit more than 380 individual Shape Your City city websites, one for each rezoning project. The phrase hiding in plain sight comes to mind. It’s worth noting that I undertook this thankless task because for the past two years city staff have refused to provide such statistics to Councillors, let alone the great unwashed public taxpayers.

I also had to visit a separate city building permit website in order to see which of these projects have received building permits. Today’s special number: 8,641 is the number of spot rezoned homes approved by this Council for which building permits have been issued. To be clear, other permits may have been issued for projects started before this Council, and this number does not include the permits for homes that did not require rezoning, so it’s a conservative number, but useful.

As for the rest? I am tired of having my numbers ignored or set aside with no contrary evidence, so today you get the lot. There are disclaimers, of course:

  1. The city does not tell anyone when they update their Shape Your City websites—they tell you on the site but nowhere else. So there may be some numbers in (minor) error;
  2. Similarly, the city’s building permit website does not advise when a permit is issued, so my 8,641 number may be shy—but I have the list of everything I am aware of that had been permitted at the time I visited their site;
  3. I know I have missed some entire sites. I rely on publicly available updates and individual readers telling me about what’s happening in their neighbourhood, which I then investigate and add to my database if I’ve not already caught it.

So much for disclaimers. Hopefully you’ll agree the effect of these is to dampen, not expand, the numbers which follow.

The Big Hitters

Of course the city’s 51,000 number probably does not include the following:

  • Broadway Plan—30,000 homes
  • Jericho Lands—10,000
  • Making Home—10,000. Note, I’m using the Mayor’s number here
  • Total—50,000 homes

The Quiet Projects

Unless you live in the immediate neighbourhood, you are forgiven for forgetting the following projects that appear to be done deals:

  • Langara Gardens—2,100 homes
  • Little Mountain—1,573 still to come
  • Northeast False Creek—3,400 still to come
  • Senakw’—6,000 in latest proposal
  • Skeena Terrace—1,700 hot off the press
  • East Fraser Lands—8,800 estimated (the planning team ignored my data requests so I looked at the ODP)
  • Total—23,573 homes

The Inevitable Projects

These are the projects that creep up over time—I have run their numbers out to 2050 based on data from the city:

  • Duplexing—4,500 additional homes by 2050 at current build rates
  • Laneways—12,000
  • Streamlining rental—4,700 from city staff estimates
  • Total—21,200 homes

For those not paying attention, we are up to 94,773 homes so far. But we’ve forgotten two chunks, one controversial, the other on the record:

Controversial numbers

The Broadway Plan and Jericho Lands words and numbers don’t match. We’ve shown the math in several articles, but as a reminder:

  • Jericho Lands—the plans illustrate 8,000 more homes than the planning words say, meaning 65 towers is not what they say it is—they’re shy about 8,000 homes;
  • Broadway Plan—this is even more egregious than Jericho. There are 3 sections to the Plan, which by the words could accommodate 49,000 more homes than the 30,000 I’ve noted above
  • Total—57,000 homes

The Nitty Gritty numbers

There’s no easy way to do this without being called a liar, so hereafter is the list of 350+ spot rezoned projects along with the number of units they include. Where the number is zero, it means there was no available city information on the quantity of homes proposed when I reviewed the Shape Your City website. This is the city’s approach in much of the Cambie Corridor and more recently, in the areas covered by their Streamlining Rental initiative which is generating many proposal already. Note that the list is in address numerical order, which is the way the city does it. After each address is a hyphen (-), then the number of homes of whatever type. Again, my apologies at the length of this list:

Continue reading

Scot Hein: My top 10 reasons why I support New Vancouver Specials

With permission, we are reproducing a letter from Scot Hein in support of the New Vancouver Specials motion on notice up at Council today (Enabling the Next Generation of Vancouver Specials).

I strongly support Councillor Wiebe’s motion before Council today.  The affordability potential of this idea is substantive because:

1. Land assembly is not required

2. Opportunity to “zero out” on site parking towards higher unit count with more affordable tenure

3. Has prospect for contextual fit through thoughtful design of form and scale (“architectural character” is absolutely achievable without emphasizing over regulated expression and style)

4. Allows homeowners an opportunity to unlock “unearned” land equity towards the greater good

5. Will introduce much needed family oriented housing near schools

6. Introduces potential for small scale, on-site, community making including inter-generational support systems

7. Can be delivered without non-value added soft costs such as project marketing and land assembly speculation

8. Will liberate new small scale tenure arrangements including formal/in-formal co-housing

9. Supports local shopping with more intensive, proximic/walkable, residential land use

10. Potential for innovation with creative designers and industry groups, such as Small Housing BC, towards related quick approvals turnaround of pre-approved catalogue designs (let’s aim for 2 weeks from submission to building permit in hand)

Thank-you in advance for supporting.

Scot Hein
Retired MAIBC
Licensed Architect, USA
Urban Design Professor, UBC
Lecturer, SFU City Programme
Founding Board Member, Urbanarium
Board Member, Small Housing BC
RAIC Architectural Advocacy Award Recipient

Council and Park Board Preview July 18-22: Vancouver Plan, 2030 Olympic bid update, Skeena Terrace, Stanley Park mobility study and more

There are four meetings of City Council between Tuesday, July 19th and Friday, July 22nd. The final Park Board Meeting of the summer will take place on Monday, July 18th. This will be the final meeting of Park Board before the civic election. The Stanley Park Mobility study item will likely draw a fair deal of interest. Park Board is also looking at adopting an updated Code of Conduct Policy similar to the one adopted by City Council. However, should this be an item better suited for the incoming Park Board later this year?

The Regular Council Meeting on Tuesday, July 19th includes a total of 66 items to be enacted as bylaws. The Skeena Terrace policy statement seeks to support BC Housing in the redevelopment of the 10.8 acre site with three tall towers (up to 36-storeys) and with buildings in the range of 6 to 16 storeys. The site is bounded by Skeena, E 5th Avenue, Cassiar and Lougheed. The Skeena Terrace currently provides housing for around 600 residents.

Many development fee increases are recommended for approval in the agenda item 2023 Fee Increases for Rezoning, Development, Building, and Other Related Permits. The approval of the form of development for the enormous Lululemon HQ at 1980 Foley Street (at Great Northern Way) is on the agenda (see our previous post on this item here).

The Council Committee Meeting on Wednesday, July 20th includes an update on the 2030 Olympic bid. Staff raise a number of concerns about the bid, including the issue of current lack of federal or provincial government involvement to support and indemnify the City of Vancouver (for example, in the case of cost overruns).

The Public Hearing for Thursday, July 21st will look at item 6. CD-1 Rezoning: 906-982 West 18th Avenue and 907-969 West 19th Avenue. This Public Hearing is the continuation of the July 5th hearing. Council lost quorum when hearing from speakers on item #5 (2009-2037 Stainsbury Avenue), so that item has been rescheduled for another Public Hearing date on Thursday, July 28th.

The reconvened Council Committee Meeting on Friday, July 22nd will include debate and decision on the Vancouver Plan. Speakers were previously heard on this item on July 6th.

For reference, the meeting agendas have been reproduced below: Continue reading