Shadow analysis of proposed towers on Fairview Slopes. 1395 West Broadway tower open house runs until November 7th

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Slideshow: The shadow diagrams were rendered at the stated times on the slides for select dates (Oct 21, June 21, March 21, Dec 21, Nov 26), renderings by Stephen Bohus, BLA. A photo of the rezoning information sign is also included in the slides (photo taken on October 25, 2021).

While there was supposed to be a rezoning ban on tower applications during the Broadway Plan public consultation process, developers are exploiting loopholes, and evidence shows that the City of Vancouver is actively encouraging and accepting applications. A number of blockbuster towers are already working their way through City Hall. One aspect of towers is their impacts on shadows, especially when towers are being proposed at a high point over a declining slope to the north, as we see in the case of the Fairview Slopes, which are home to thousands of residents and businesses. Is access to the sky important? Are shadow impacts important? Some may argue saying no, but we say yes. So the next step is to look at how the City actually deals with shadow analysis in preparing for public input and the final decision by our elected officials.

There’s a rezoning application in progress for a 24-storey office tower at 1395 West Broadway. The site is the current Toyota dealership site at the northeast corner of Hemlock and West Broadway. Despite the rezoning ban during the Broadway Plan, the City is advancing this application for Yuanheng BH Developments Limited (CEO Grant Lin). City staff are holding a Virtual Open House event that apparently began on October 18th and runs until November 7, 2021 (for more information shapeyourcity.ca/1395-w-broadway). Regarding the Virtual Open House rezoning at 1395 West Broadway, the City has not yet posted this information on the rezoning information signs (photos from October 25th).

In order to look at the cumulative shadow impacts in Fairview, we’ve included renderings that have three concurrent tower proposals. The renderings can be created interactively in real time at any time of the year, time of day and vantage point using the software package Unreal Engine (more on the model later).

Meanwhile, not far away, the rezoning application for a 39-storey tower at 1477 West Broadway will have a Virtual Open House run from November 15 to December 05, 2021 (details at https://shapeyourcity.ca/1477-w-broadway).

The 28-storey tower proposal at 2538 Birch Street is in the development permit stage and going to the Development Permit Board on November 15, 2021 (details at https://shapeyourcity.ca/2538-birch-st).

The shadow analysis by the applicant at 1395 West Broadway could be more nuanced, as our 3D model demonstrates. Included below is a snapshot of one of the shadow diagrams from the applicant’s submission (left), with the same time for a shadow rendering (our version on right).

The shadow diagrams in the application booklet (shadow diagram pages 34-37) used the following times: 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, 2:30 pm and 4:30 pm on June 21 (summer solstice) and March 21 (equinox). In our slideshow we’ve included the 2:30 pm times for comparison, and have also created a shadow rendering for December 21, as that wasn’t provided in the package (for December 21 the shadow at 2:30 pm stretches all the way to Granville Island). We have provided additional renderings in our slideshow with other dates and times.

Applicant’s Massing Model for 1395 West Broadway (left) and our massing model (right) made from plans in the rezoning application booklet (for floorplans please see the FSR overlays section, pp. 75-82 and p. 18 for the applicant’s Google Earth massing model)

The massing model of 1395 West Broadway was constructed based on the plans in the application booklet; the City does not have a model available. In the applicant’s booklet there are some minor inconsistencies between some of the drawings, renderings, and photos of the physical model (which most people won’t notice unless they try to build a model), but the information is sufficient in this case for a massing model. The measurements in the submission were in Imperial units, so a conversion to metric was done during the modelling stage.

Shadow rendering of proposed tower at 1395 West Broadway, on October 25 at 4 pm.

It’s interesting to explore the shadow simulation at various times of the year and day. The City only looks at summer solstice and fall/spring equinox at a few select times (usually 10 am, noon, 2 pm and occasionally 4 pm as the standard, but some architects do more). There’s a really big difference going through October and to mid-November. In a situation where there’s a downward slope facing north, the shadow impacts are compounded. There’s a lot of discussion that could occur around the issue of solar access during the shoulder season. While it might be simple to dismiss the winter solstice as an extreme case (it’s commonly not included). Perhaps that’s true, but there’s a lot of time between the winter solstice and the spring/fall equinox, more precisely, half a year. Thus, the analysis and response could be far more nuanced. The City has specific guidelines set in place for the Fairview slopes because planning staff at one point looked in more detail at solar access. There’s also a difference in the impacts of tall buildings on the north side of West Broadway compared to ones on the south side, with the north side (which have greater impacts of the buildings are of the same height).

The 3D model we used for the shadow diagrams runs in real time. A user can navigate to any location, enter any date and time, and instantly see the shadows (or interactively scroll through times and see shadows update).

The software package used to create the renders was Unreal Engine 4.27 which can be downloaded for free here. The context data for the buildings and terrain was released by the City of Vancouver via FOI and used as a base. Additional modelling was done to create the proposed buildings and to supplement the City’s model (fill in missing buildings). Some other of the other datasets used in the 3D model came from the City’s Open Data portal (including aerial photography, property lines, LiDAR points).

Shadow diagram pages in application booklet (for full shadow diagram please see pages 34-37 of application booklet pdf)

References: Burrard Slopes C-3A Guidelines https://guidelines.vancouver.ca/guidelines-burrard-slopes-c-3a.pdf (last updated September 15, 2020)

shapeyourcity.ca/1395-w-broadway Virtual Open House October 18 → November 07, 2021

Rezoning information sign. Photo taken on October 25, 2021 at 5 p.m. Note that the Virtual Open House information (Oct 18 – Nov 8) is still not posted on the sign. That is a big problem. The public is denied access to the process by the failure of public notification. It appears to be a systemic problem. Who at the City is responsible to oversee and ensure proper public notifications are being made? They’re not doing their job.

False Creek South redevelopment proposal: Vancouver’s real estate department has built a detailed 3D model, but it’s only showing a bird’s-eye view.


A static and distant bird’s-eye view is the only vantage point used by Vancouver’s real estate department in their report to Council on the future of False Creek South. Where are the ground level views and close ups of this 3D model? How does this proposal overlay onto the existing buildings? This isn’t shown. What do the details look like? What exactly are City staff proposing around the streetcar tracks? Clearly a fair amount of time and effort has gone into the staff presentation and report.

This was all paid for by taxpayers, but the real estate department is actually holding back this information from mayor and Council, and from the public. To demonstrate that it is acting in good faith, the real estate department should show much more than one helicopter view without delay, now, while discussions are in progress.

With modern software, City staff can easily produce additional renderings from many different vantage points before the continuation of the False Creek South item on Tuesday, October 26th starting at 3pm (with speaker 48 of 171 up at that time). They could demonstrate various views in real time on the screen during public consultations and the current Council meetings covering the proposal — with the ability to zoom in and zoom out, look at things from different angles, consider the impacts from many different perspectives. The technology and skills exist and are probably already being used in private discussions with developers. It would be be hard for staff to justify not letting Council and the public have this. Alternately, the City could post the 3D model on its website and then stakeholders could generate views and do the analysis for themselves. (The 3D model could be shared in a few common formats to make it accessible, for example, in FBX, kmz/Google Earth, DXF/DWG and Alembic file formats.)

This is not the first time City staff have kept our elected officials and the public in the dark. Leading up to the adoption of the West End Community Plan in November 2013, residents were kept busy with street painting and a photo competitions, while internally, planning staff had developed a detailed 3D model of what was being proposed, with up-zoning for towers up to 60 storeys. It took a citizen’s FOI request and repeated pressure on staff to obtain the data, and even then it was released only after City Council had approved the WECP and bylaw changes for mass rezoning. The West End case also provides a hopeful precedent. The City did release the 3D data. See West End Neighbours posts from 2014 “Secret 3D images of future West End: World premiere from WEN. Images withheld by City Hall” which mentions that “Only one view was shown to the public, for a few scant moments of the ‘helicopter view’ at the ‘learning sessions’ in November 2013,” and “View changes from bottom of Davie Street, extracted from secret City files.”

The work by staff was done with public funds. Releasing the 3D model would considerably aid in public discourse and discussion. Should City Council be expected to make a decision, and the public expected to comment, based on a single bird’s eye view rendering of the proposal? It’s 2021, after all.

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Council and Park Board Preview: South False Creek, Strategic Plan for Bloedel and VanDusen, Overdose Crisis update and more

Agenda item at Council Committee Meeting: 2. The Future of False Creek South: Advancing a Conceptual Development Plan and Addressing Lease Expiries

Park Board will review the final strategic plan for the VanDusen Botanical Garden and Bloedel Conservatory at a meeting on Monday, October 18th, 2021. Park Board will also receive a General Manager’s Report and have look at the Park Ranger Service Model.

Vancouver City Council has two scheduled meetings this week, just the Regular Council and Committee meetings. Public Hearings were held last week. At the Regular Council meeting set for Tuesday, October 19th, two items from a previous Public Hearing will be debated. These are the applications for 1157 Burrard Street (480 foot tower at Davie) and Zoning and Development By-law Amendments to Allow Patios for Liquor Manufacturers. The continuation of Veterans’ Parking Exemptions will be examined. A total of 14 items are set to be referred to Public Hearing.

The Council Committee meeting on Thursday, October 21st includes a report on the future of South False Creek. Interested speakers have until 8:30am on Thursday to sign up. There is a substantial staff report on the item 2. The Future of False Creek South: Advancing a Conceptual Development Plan and Addressing Lease Expiries.

Council will be updated on the Overdose Crisis and receive a presentation by Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health.

Meeting agendas are reproduced below for reference. Continue reading

Heritage brick roadway

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There are a few remnants of brick streets in Vancouver. Included in the slideshow (above) are photos of Victoria Drive and of Frances Street in Grandview-Woodland. These two streets also happen to be former streetcar routes. What other parts of Vancouver still have brick streets? There is of course Gastown; however, it’s worth noting that a fair amount of the brick work in Gastown is the result of urban renewal in the early 1970s. In any event, the brick streets in Vancouver are one of the quirks that provide variety in the City’s urban fabric.

Links
Take a look down, Vancouver’s streets and sidewalks still tell a story (Vancouver Sun, John Mackie
August 12, 2020)
Brick Streets – Vancouver, BC – Signs of History (Waymarking.com)
Our City Streets Were Once Paved With These Little Wooden Blocks (Scout Magazine, Christine Hagemoen,
Jan 16, 2017)
Gastown’s famous cobblestone and tile streets literally falling apart (Global News, Peter Meiszner, November 27, 2013)
Consultations underway for changes and repairs to iconic Gastown neighbourhood (News 1130, May 26, 2019)

Virtual Open Houses until Oct 17 (Sun): 855-865 West 10th Avenue (12-storeys office) and 456 Prior St (two 19-storey towers)

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Above: Virtual open houses for two significant rezonings proposals are currently in progress, ending soon. See bottom of article for a selected list of major upcoming open houses for rezonings.

There’s a large-scale development proposed at 456-496 Prior Street for two 19-storey residential towers along with a 5-storey podium on a parcel of land that’s currently zoned as light industrial. In terms of scale, this project would loom over the established residential blocks on the north side of Prior in Strathcona. A total of 262 rental units are proposed, a 5-storey office podium along with commercial uses at ground level. A maximum building height of 64 m (210 ft.) and a FSR of 4.68 is requested. The design includes 516 parking spaces. The total floor area would be 45,483 sq. m (489,574 sq. ft.)

The other ongoing Virtual Public Hearing is for a 12-storey office tower at 855-865 W 10th Avenue. Although there’s a freeze on new rezoning applications during the Broadway Planning process, staff are looking at granting an exemption to this site since they claim that inquiries about this site had been made beforehand. A tower of 47.6 m (156.3 ft.) with a FSR of 6.12 is proposed. A total of 82 parking spaces would be included. Commercial uses would be included on this proposal across from VGH.

Perhaps it is also worth noting that staff are continuing with Virtual Open Houses at least for some rezoning applications. There has been no return to in-person Open Houses. Many residents prefer the in-person format, which provides an opportunity for better communication in real time, and to meet other residents and discuss their observations and concerns.

Here is a selection of significant upcoming Virtual Open Houses:

2062-2092 E Broadway  (6-storey residential) October 18 → November 07, 2021
131-163 W 49th Ave (4-storeys) October 25 → November 14, 2021
396 SW Marine Dr (10-storey and 19-storey towers above 3-storey podium) November 01 → November 21, 2021
2086-2098 W 7th Ave & 2091 W 8th Ave (revised to 13 storeys, social housing) November 01 → November 21, 2021
1477 W Broadway (410 ft tower and 110 ft podium)  November 15 → December 05, 2021

Links to current virtual Open houses are listed below:

456-496 Prior St (two 19-storey towers and 5-storey podium) open until October 17
855-865 W 10th Ave (12-storey office tower) open until October 17

Alcohol in Parks Pilot ended on October 11th. How did the pilot go?

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A pilot project to allow for alcohol consumption in 22 designated parks throughout Vancouver ended on Monday, October 11th. The pilot began on July 12, 2021 and it allowed for drinking between 11am and 9pm in designated areas in the selected 22 parks. How did it go? Do we need it? Should the pilot continue next year? Should it be expanded? Or should it be discontinued?

A fair amount of time and effort went into making the pilot project happen, from the time spent by elected Commissioners debating the motion to time spent by staff, as well as effort expended at the legislature to legalize alcohol consumption in Vancouver Parks. In any event, now that the pilot is complete, it can be reviewed to determine if this was a one-off effort, or if it should continue in the future. A number of other municipalities in Metro Vancouver also held similar alcohol in parks initiatives and it could be an opportunity to compare notes and evaluate the effectiveness of these projects. Continue reading

Public Hearing Preview October 12, 14: 1157 Burrard Street (480 ft tower), 1450 West Georgia, 4575 Granville, Patios for Liquor Manufacturers and more

Rezoning information sign for a 480 ft. tower at 1157 Burrard Street. Public Hearing on Tuesday, October 12, 2021

City Council has scheduled two nights for Public Hearings in the upcoming week on Tuesday, October 12 and on Thursday, October 14th. Both Public Hearings start at 6pm. There are no other meetings of Council this week. We introduce some of them briefly below (not in actual order).

Item #3 on the agenda for Tuesday night (Oct 12) is located on a tower development site in the downtown, the current community garden beside St. Paul’s Hospital, at Davie and 1157 Burrard.

This site was designated by City Staffer Kevin McNaney and former Director of Planning Brent Toderian as one of the select locations to allow for a tower displaying “architectural excellence” to intrude into the QE View Cone, with a maximum height of 375 feet (114.3 metres). This change was passed in 2011 by the Vision majority on Council. The higher building policy was subsequently revised a few times, with the most recent version dated July 11, 2018. However, the maximum height for this site in this policy is shown as “375′ General Height of the Higher Building”.  Here’s a commented and cropped version of the map and legend in the policy:

The final version of the rezoning proposal for 1157 Burrard Street has a total height of 480 feet (146.3m). The design includes 289 condo units along with commercial uses at grade. The additional height will create longer shadows along Davie Street and in nearby parts of the West End in the morning. The proposal for a floor space ratio of 13.37 (289,014 sq. ft. / 26,850 sq. m). A 37-space childcare facility, a cultural amenity space and $10.6 million in cash CAC is being offered as part of the package. The night of October 13th has been designated backup date for Council in case the first Public Hearing doesn’t finish and needs to be reconvened.

Item #4 (Tuesday, Oct 12) is a proposed zoning change which would allow patios for Liquor Manufacturers . This would allow a temporary allowance for outdoor patios on private property from October 31, 2021 to March 31, 2022.

Item #1 (Tuesday, Oct 12) is a proposed zoning change for 3380 Maquinna Drive in Champlain Heights. The amendments would increase the number of permitted local serving uses to include a child care facility.

Item #2 (Tuesday, Oct 12) is a 49-storey tower proposal for 1450 West Georgia Street (at Nicola Street). The applicant is requesting the approval of a 149.9 m (492 ft.) tower with a FSR of 14.14 (total area 286,363 sq. ft. / 26,604 sq. m). The design includes a total of 193 condo units, 162 market rental units and commercial uses at grade. A total of 299 parking spaces would be provided. A cash CAC of $8.9 million is proposed. It’s perhaps worth noting that a number of high towers in the immediate area have either been recently improved or are in the process of nearing completion. What kind of impacts are expected due to excessive shade on the experience of pedestrians and cyclists at street level?

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The SECOND public hearing of the week (Thursday night, October 14, 2021) includes 3 building proposals and a regulatory change to support commercial renovations.

Item #1: The rezoning of 328-360 West 2nd Avenue would change the base zoning of a parcel from a height of 60 ft. (18.3m) to 152.5 ft. (46.5m) while doubling the FSR from 3.0 to 6.0 (area 112,632 sq. ft.). No building design proposal has been submitted for this mixed industrial and commercial site. Back in January of 2021, Council approved a zoning change for a I-1C district schedule that would allow for much higher buildings with a greater density in the Industrial Zone on the north side of 2nd Avenue.

Item #2: The rezoning proposal for 427-477 West 49th Avenue is the second agenda item and it calls for the development of a 14-storey tower with a FSR of 3.99. A tower height of 178ft. (54.3m) is proposed along with a 4-storey podium that includes retail uses. The dimensional height of the tower is greater than what would normally be expected for 14-storeys, as the floor heights are more than typical heights. This can be seen in the section below showing 21’0″ for the retail on West 49th Avenue and 10’0″ for residential floor heights. Also worth noting is the fact that the City of Vancouver is still accepting drawings in Imperial measurements; there are no metric equivalents on the section drawing by GBL Architects. If you want the metric measurements, you’ll need to do the conversion yourself (hint: multiply by 0.3048).

This proposal calls for the development of 128 condo units and it would include 130 parking spaces. A City-owned childcare facility would be provided as in-kind CAC of $5.425 million. A cash CAC of $5.825 million is also proposed.

4575 Granville (revised proposal)

Item #3: A revised townhouse proposal for 4575 Granville Street is back at Council for review. On June 25, 2019, the majority on City Council voted against an earlier version of this proposal. A number of concerns raised by the neighbours and by the adjacent hospice have been incorporated into the redesign. There’s is now a single townhouse building with 21 rental units (previously there were two separate buildings) This proposal has a greater separation from the neighbouring hospice to the south. A FSR of 1.23 and a height of 39 ft. (11.9m) is recommended by staff for this rezoning in Shaughnessy.

Item #4: Piloting Regulatory Changes to Support Commercial Renovations and Small Business. Please see meeting documents for details.

For reference, the Public Hearing agendas are reproduced below: Continue reading

Designated Floodplain

Screenshot of the Designated Floodplain dataset. Source: the OpenData.Vancouver.ca website

There are a number of datasets on the City’s OpenData web portal. One of the datasets is a map of the City’s designated floodplain. It might be worth noting the fact that new developments are going up in floodplains, which include parts of South East False Creek, the False Creek Flats, and the East Fraserlands.

New developments in the East Fraserlands. Part of this area is designated as floodplain.

For further reading.

Canadians are unknowingly buying homes in climate change danger zones, report finds:
Climate change could boost damage costs by billions; more risk disclosure needed for adaptation

CBC, Emily Chung, 4-Oct-2021: https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/climate-risks-1.6196450

Former City Manager Sadhu Johnston still earned $54,851 in 2021. Retired from CoV at the end of 2020

Outgoing City Manager Sadhu Johnston earned more in two days in 2021 than some Vancouver residents earn in a year.

In response to a FOI request filed back in June, the City revealed the following:

“The final aggregate dollar amount paid for Sadhu Johnston’s banked time is $54,851.46 gross. This amount is comprised of two days’ worth of wages and the payout of all remaining employee bank balances.”

“Request: Records regarding the amount of monies and other compensation paid out in 2021 to former City Manager Sadhu Johnston. Date Range: January 1, 2021 – June 11, 2021.”

So while Mr. Johnston didn’t receive a golden parachute on his way out, he still benefited from a payout of $54,851 this year. According to a memo from Mr. Johnston, the median household income in the City of Vancouver from the 2016 Census income data was $65,327.

Click to access 2017-09-29-city-of-vancouver-2016-census-income-data-release.pdf

Temporary Modular Housing proposed for 323 Alexander Street

The City of Vancouver is considering adding Temporary Modular Housing (TMH) on a property at 323 Alexander Street. This property is located a block south of the Ports and it is a few blocks away from another TMH building at Powell and Jackson Street. The Atira Development Society is the applicant. This location is also close to Crab Park, a site of a homeless camp. The City’s information page about this rezoning states that “2,000 people across the city are experiencing homelessness” and notes that TMH is “typically on site for a period up to 10 years”.

As with the recent project at 1580 Vernon Drive, the City is looking to make a change in the Regional Context Statement to allow for residential uses on a temporary basis in protected industrial land. There’s also another ongoing rezoning where the same change in designation for protected industrial land is sought for 1325-1333 E. Georgia (just a bit east of Clark Drive in Grandview-Woodland).

The information about the proposal is scant as there are no details on the number or types of units or of the building form. The contact information for staff and the applicant is available on the City’s ShapeYourCity site: 323 Alexander Street (Rezoning Planner Marcel Gelein marcel.gelein@vancouver.ca 604-829-9616).

With these additional two sites, the map below shows the distribution of TMH sites in Vancouver. It’s worth noting that no TMH has been built or proposed west of Oak Street. If the City approves these two additional sites for TMH, then there will be 15 sites in total in Vancouver. All of these sites are of course, east of Oak Street. Do City staff really expect the public to believe that this is just a coincidence? Is putting TMH on industrial land, just south of a busy port and a railway corridor, the most ideal location for such a project? Or can we do better as a City and a society as a whole?


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