Beach Towers rezoning approved today, but expert said STIR won’t reduce rent prices, actually taxes home/condo buyers

(Updated Feb 27) On February 26, 2013, Vision Vancouver mayor and councillors voted as a block to approve the rezoning to create 133 new rental units at Beach Towers in the West End. NPA and Green councillors were opposed. Local residents have commented that once the yellow rezoning sign goes up, the deal has virtually been done for a project to go ahead, albeit with some changes. This has been the experience all over the city.

Further analysis of that decision will come in future days, but for the moment here is some news coverage on the decision, and further below we refer back to a story by News 1130 of January 28, 2013 about the STIR program (under which Beach Towers was considered). Continue reading

More issues for Beach Towers, architect honesty, impacts of Vancouver demolition-construction – public hearing tonight

Here are some more thoughts about development practices in Vancouver, with the Beach Towers rezoning as a test case. First, the practice of City Hall to discount the negative impacts of demolition and construction on livability. A huge development in a densely populated area in a mature community, with many seniors, home-bound, and work-at-homers will have a huge impact on the quality of life. Today residents can feel the ground shake, smell diesel fumes, and hear the machines working for blocks from the Westbank/ Peterson/Henriquez STIR project at 1401 Comox (1061 Broughton) for a 22-storey tower.

Negative impacts of rezonings, CityHallWatch, 19-Feb-2013

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Images of Beach Towers, public hearing today

Today at 6 pm the Public Hearing on Beach Towers will resume. CBC Radio Early Edition with Rick Cluff at 7:50 am featured the architect from IBI Group, for the Beach Towers (Devonshire Properties) proposed infill rezoning in the West End. He gave a sales pitch for the development, but acknowledged that there is much opposition  in the community. He said the development would “enhance” views. Statements like his are common among planners and architects, so CityHallWatch would like to shine a spotlight on the semantics games of these professions. Here, for comparison with the proponents’ claims, are images of the proposed development, modeled by Digitalmonk. The images here compare current public views versus what the public will see if the project is approved. The large grey objects indicate the proposed massing and form of the building. More details to be added later.

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CityHallWatch asks Urban Development Institute head to clarify ethical stance, balancing industry versus public interests

(Update August 10, 2013 — Still no response from UDI or Ms. McMullin). 

CityHallWatch has written to Anne McMullin, President and CEO of the Urban Development Institute asking for a clarification of the industry lobby organization’s interpretation of its own Code of Ethics. This letter (below) is in response to a letter from McMullin printed in the Vancouver Sun on February 9, 2013, urging elected officials to vote in favour of a controversial in-fill project by Devonshire Properties with architect IBI/HD to construct nearly 100,000 square feet  of residential space at Beach Towers, facing English Bay in the West End.  Continue reading

City web page showing taxes, land assessment values mysteriously disappears

(Updated 18-Feb-2013. A reader gave us the direct links for Property Inquiries, here. We hope that readers will help with the analysis of this question: Is the dramatic escalation in 2013 land assessments isolated to a few lots in the West End, or certain neighbourhoods, or to Vancouver, or to the entire region. See our original post here for details and hypotheses. To be continued…)

A few days ago, CityHallWatch successfully used a Revenue Services web page ( on the City of Vancouver website to study land assessments going back a few years. This is how we discovered what media have not reported — that in just one year, certain sites in the West End have skyrocketed 28% to 38% in price (recent and current rezoning sites for STIR developer incentive projects, as well as bare lots) — and asked if City policies are enriching a few while making land less affordable — completely counter to the City’s stated goals of housing affordability.   Continue reading

Beach Towers rezoning: Vancouver Councillors misleading the public? CityHallWatch asks Mayor Gregor to clarify communication rules

(Update — The letter to Mayor was sent on Feb 15. We will provide an update here if and when we receive even an acknowledgement of receipt. Or even better, an actual response. Nothing yet.) CityHallWatch has learned that at least one elected official at Vancouver City Hall is telling citizens that it is illegal for councillors to communicate with citizens about the subject of a public hearing. CityHallWatch believes such an assertion to be wrong and has written asking Mayor Gregor Robertson to make a public statement clarifying the facts before a public hearing resumes on February 19, 2013 about the proposed rezoning of Beach Towers in the West End. . Many citizens are writing their elected officials to express an opinion. It is possible that they are being snubbed in their efforts to communicate their concerns.  Continue reading

Foreign ownership “the elephant crushing the table” of housing affordability: Brent Toderian, former planning director

ToderianInfo2(This post was originally made on 14-Feb-2013.) When it comes to housing affordability, foreign ownership is not only the elephant in the room, “it’s the elephant crushing the table.” Those are the words of Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s former director of planning at a keynote panel discussion on “Living Affordably in Greater Vancouver” at the February 2013 BUILDEX (convention on designing, building and managing real estate), at the Vancouver Convention Centre West. See further below for details of the panel.

Responding to a question from the audience about limiting foreign ownership, Toderian said it is “something the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability dropped the ball on. The competition between external demand and local demand — that’s the nicest way I can put it — is one of the reasons that, barring a collapse and a crash, we are going to remain a very expensive city to own in.” Continue reading

Vancouver rental market – Increase in vacancy rate induces competition among property owners

Beach Towers RentalCBC yesterday carried a story that may come as a surprise, titled “Vancouver rental market competition heats up: Increase in vacancy rate induces competition among property owners.” (with video)

Main points are:

  • Vacancy rates are edging up, and some landlords are offering incentives to get good tenants. Continue reading

Affordability destroyers: Are STIR policies and spot rezonings inflating land prices? Rezoning sites up 28 to 38% in one year

This graph Are city policies inflating land prices, CityHallWatch-ca, 12-Feb-2013 requires further research regarding a shocking escalation in land assessment prices from 2012 to 2013 based on BC Assessment values. CityHallWatch is calling on everyone to join in the analysis — we need to “crowd-source” this research.

With another controversial public hearing for a rezoning (Beach Towers, West End, STIR developer incentive project) resuming at City Hall on February 19, and as City staff report to Council today about the Vancouver Housing and Homelessness Strategy – 2012 Report Card, Vancouver citizens need to start asking questions. As-yet unnoticed by the public, and unreported in media (as far as we know), we have discovered that some properties in the West End have skyrocketed in price. This raises many questions that should be fully and independently analyzed before Council makes its decision on Beach Towers.

The graph above shows that Westbank/Peterson were enriched (on paper, anyway) by a 38% jump in the BC Assessment assessed value of their bare lot at 1401 Comox (address later changed to 1061 Broughton), Vision Vancouver voted to rezone in June 2012 for a dramatic increase in height and density. For comparison, another vacant lot on Nicola Street, just one block away, jumped by the same 38%. An initial comparison of strata condos in the area showed land prices flat from 2012 to 2013, with a change of only a fraction of a percent.  Continue reading

MEDIA: Locals ask Vision Vancouver to reject controversial rezoning for pricey rentals in English Bay (Beach Towers)

CityHallWatch is passing on two items received. Further below is a press release from Beach Towers Neighbours, relating to a rezoning public hearing on February 5, 2013. Immediately below is an artist’s video submission inspired by the same rezoning application, received from a different source, entitled “The Walled City: Vancouver’s West End” 30 seconds.


MEDIA RELEASE: Locals ask Vision Vancouver to reject controversial rezoning for pricey rentals in English Bay: Developer’s proposal to build 133 rental units at iconic ‘Beach Towers’ site contradicts City’s affordable housing goals.

 (Vancouver, February 1, 2013) On February 5, City Council will hear from the public regarding whether 1600 Beach Ave (“Beach Towers”) should be rezoned from RM5-A to CD-1. Devonshire Properties is seeking approval to add approximately 100,000 square feet of infill to the ‘Beach Towers’ site in the West End, resulting in expensive rental units on one of Vancouver’s most expensive waterfront pieces of land. Continue reading