Letter: Where Is The Missing Land Title For Marine Gardens? (And All That is Wrong with City Planning)

Affordable Housing at Marine GardensReproduced below is a letter by Jillian Skeet.

The land title that would show the City of Vancouver’s acquisition of the property on which Marine Gardens is located, is missing from the BC Land Title Registry.  This is significant given that residents have been told that the land was originally donated to the City as a park (Delta View Park) with the stipulation that the trees never be cut.  The City plans to demolish the townhouse community, and all its trees, to erect more skyscrapers.

Six years ago, I attended the first of many Open Houses and Public Consultations over the 34 story Marine Gateway project currently being built across from Marine Gardens at Cambie and Marine Drive.

Like most who attended, I was not opposed to development in Marpole, but I wanted it to enhance the best features of our neighbourhood as one of the “more” affordable, family-oriented areas of the city.  Most of us felt that the 34 story Marine Gateway project was too tall and completely out of scale with our neighbourhood.

At meeting after meeting, planners trotted out the same project assuring us that we had been heard and that the skyscrapers had been moved back a few centimetres to reduce the shadowing on the local school playground.

It was a textbook example of all that is wrong with the planning and public consultation process under Vision Vancouver.  It was a waste of time with our comments ignored while Vision boasted about its unprecedented level of (meaningless) consultation.

It was at one of these first Open Houses that the City brought a model of my neighbourhood with clear plastic skyscrapers overlaying many of the existing structures – including my townhouse community-  Marine Gardens.

I advised City planners at the time that I had been told that Marine Gardens was built on land that was donated to the City as a park and that the trees were never to be cut.  The development they were proposing would necessitate the complete removal of virtually every tree on the site.

I also advised them that Marine Gardens became a showcase for the United Nations Habitat for Humanity Conference, held in Vancouver in the mid-1970s, and was built as a model community.  It became the prototype for many of the co-ops that followed.

I went down to the Vancouver Archives and amongst the sketchy records, was able to verify that Marine Gardens had indeed once been “Delta View Park,” and that in the early 1970s, City Council had stipulated that it must be used for “garden apartments.” Continue reading

Urban Design mistakes and shortcomings

Marpole Safeway frontage on Granville Street
It’s worth reflecting on some of the Urban Design mistakes made in Vancouver over the recent years. Perhaps the same mistakes won’t be made over and over again. Pictured above is the recently completed Safeway on Granville and West 70th Avenue. This is a very bleak and stark building face. We can do better.

The Telus Garden Telus Garden overhangoffice building on West Georgia has two boxes overhanging the streets on either side (Richards and Seymour). The street end views along both of these streets are significantly impacted.

This intervention into air space above downtown streets is criticized by a past planning director in the following letter: “Is anyone else concerned?” message circulating from Ray Spaxman, esteemed former Director of Planning, Vancouver.

Another major Urban Design blunder was to approve a new tower and podium at 1305 Burrard Street,  at the site of the former Commercial Electronics store. The marketing for the site blacked out the context. Amacon’s 17-storey tower and 8-storey “podium” is surrounded by highrises. There’s only a small gap between the tower to the west and the “podium”:

Tower separation at 1305 Burrard

Several photos of these three examples are included below: Continue reading

Another highrise is being reclad in Downtown Vancouver. More buildings to undergo extensive renovations soon?

Reclad building near False CreekA highrise at 1625 Hornby is being reclad. This highrise is located on the seaside bike route along Seabreeze Walk it and was built in 1987. It is otherwise known as the “Seawalk North” building and it contains 66 strata units and a few shops and services.

It’s a mere block away from the tower we featured in our previous post: Tower at 907 Beach Avenue is being reclad. Only 20 years old. Sign of the times? An open question is will other highrises in Downtown Vancouver of a similar vintage require extensive building envelope renovations in the near future? As we previously noted, the repairs can average around $50,000 per standard sized unit, depending on the nature of the repairs that are needed.

Several photos of the building and area are included in the following slideshow; the Seawalk North building can also be seen from the Burrard Bridge.

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Public Hearing June 18th – 1396 Richards, 3030 Broadway, 807 Powell and more

Five items are up for review at a Public Hearing scheduled at City Hall on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 starting at 6pm. The full agenda of the meeting and links to staff reports can be found on the city’s website.

The final item on the agenda is a rezoning for a 42-storey tower at 1396 Richards Street. This tower is on the same block as the 43-storey tower recently approved at 1300-1320 Richards Street on May 15th, 2013 by a 10-1 vote. The proposal at 1396 Richards has a density of 8.6 FSR. The same density for a residential development [can] be achieved at a substantially lower height. For further details, please refer to our earlier article the rest of 1300 block Richards (east) goes to Public Hearing June 18.

The proposed rezoning of 3030 East Broadway from Industrial (I-2) to CD-1 has been in the pipeline for a few years. The original proposal was submitted on December 16, 2010. B+H Bunting Coady Architects seeks to have approval for 5 buildings to be used as office space with a total area of 962,287 sq. ft or 89,399 m2 (FSR of 3.0).

3030 Broadway site (industrial zoning) 3030 Broadway rezoning sign

Continue reading

Public Hearing May 15th – 3002 West Broadway, 1300 Richards, 1107 Seymour

3002-3036 West BroadwayA Public Hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday May 15th, starting at 6pm at City Hall.

The first item on the agenda is a 5-storey building on the Toybox store half block site at 3002-3036 West Broadway. The proposal requests a 60.7′ (18.5m) high building with a FSR of 3.37, the site is currently zoned as C-2C. A total of 83 market rental units are requested under the ‘Son-of-STIR’ Rental 100 policy. The ground floor would have commercial uses. Further information on the project can be found on the city’s website. The Open House held last fall was well attended and it’s expected that Kitsilano residents will turn up in good numbers to voice their opinions about this rezoning.

1300-1320 Richards StreetA 43-storey tower is proposed for 1300-13200 Richards Street that is being reviewed as the second item at the Public Hearing. This project submitted by Dialog on behalf of Wall Financial Corporation would have an overall density of 12.32 FSR, contain 258 units, 258 parking spaces and have retail uses at grade. With a total height of 415′ (126.5m) there will be a impact on public views of the North Shore. The height is just below the maximum allowed under the viewcone from QE Park. Current Downtown District zoning allows for maximum height of 300′ and a density of 3.0FSR. The proposed building is 13-17 storeys taller than the existing tall buildings near the site. Further information on this proposal is available on the city’s website. There is another rezoning application on the same block for a 42-storey tower by Onni at 1396 Richards Street with a floor space ratio of 8.6.

The third and final item at the Public Hearing is a rezoning for a 15-storey building at 1107 Seymour Street. A 165′ (50.3m) building would have a FSR of 9.22, and increase from the 5.0 FSR currently allowed. A total of 81 social housing units are proposed on a 9,000 sq ft (836 sqm) site. Further information is available on the planning department rezoning centre website here. Continue reading

Photos and observations of Feb 21st Open House for Westbank’s 52-storey tower proposal

Brent Toderian pictured 'getting into the model'
An Open House was held on February 21st to show a proposal that includes a 52-storey tower at the north end of the Granville bridge. The photographs here are included as a record of the event. For a more detailed analysis and a list of serious policy concerns, please see our previous article on the proposal at 1412-1460 Howe Street. The city’s website contains a subset of the materials shown at the event and a questionnaire.

Aside from neighbouring residents, members the development industry were also out in full force. Attendees included architects, former planners, development consultants and lobbyists. There were complaints by neighbours that the location was inconvenient for them, and that it was held too early (a previous Open House was held April 4, 2013 at 1379 Howe 5-8pm).

East Tower Rendering Granville Bridge

One of the noticeable details was the way that other tall buildings that do not even exist as rezoning applications were shown in both the model and on renderings. For example, a tower only a few storeys lower than the proposal was shown in a symmetrical site east of the Granville Bridge (above), on publicly-owned land. Continue reading

Open House for 42-storey tower at 1396 Richards on Oct 25th

An Open House has been scheduled to gather public feedback on a proposal to build a 42-storey tower and a 9-storey building at 1396 Richards and Pacific. The event will be held on Thursday, October 25th, between 5-8pm in a drop-in format at 181 Roundhouse Mews (Community Centre at Davie & Pacific).
The proposed development would contain 269 residential units, of which 129 units are rentals that are separately contained in the lower 9-storey building. While the development has a density of 8.6 FSR, the 42-storey tower component has a small floorplate with only 3 or 4 units per level. Rearranging the massing of the building in a lower form could lessen the impact on views of the 410 ft (125m) tower component. There are 15 units of rental per floor; the market rentals include a number of decently sized units. The design also contains a 37 space daycare at grade along with commercial uses at ground level. Further details are on the city’s website. The applicant is Onni Group, and it appears the architect is DialogContinue reading

UDP Aug 1 – 5501 Boundary, 4949 Cambie, 5688 Heather St & 2218 West 15th

The ambitious agenda for the Urban Design Panel meeting on August 1st lists four major projects for review. 5501 Boundary is an 1100+ unit project by Wall Financial that is coming back to the panel for another review in the Development Permit stage; a previous review on June 6th received a vote of non-support (1-7). Three towers at 29, 31, and 32-storeys are planned on the site; photos of the model shown at the last review are included below:

The rezoning of 4949-5109 Cambie Street will be reviewed by the UDP for the first time. 161 market units are planned in this Cambie Corridor project with a three 6-storey buildings and a total density of 2.43 FSR.

The proposal for 2118 West 15th Avenue is returning to the UDP after an earlier 1-8 vote of non-support on June 6, 2012 (pictured below). This 5-storey, mixed use development with 52 residential units was originally penciled in for a Development Permit Board review on July 30th; however, this meeting was cancelled due to non-support from the UDP. This demonstrates that contrary to the officially stated role of the UDP as a mere advisory panel, this panel in fact plays a more significant part in Development Permit Board and Council decisions. However, virtually all designs pass a second review at the UDP. There appears to be an ‘unwritten rule’ by the Urban Design Panel members that regardless of the magnitude deficiencies in any design proposal, if it is turned down in the initial review, the design will be passed the second time around.

The fourth item for review is a 6-storey residential condo and STIR rental project at 41st Avenue and Heather Street. A density of 3.1FSR is requested. This is the second review of the proposal after a 0-6 vote of non-support by the UDP on March 7th, 2012. The meeting will start at 4pm on August 1 at City Hall (Town Hall Meeting room).  Members of the public are welcome to observe the meeting but they may not address the panel.
[Aug 1 – Update] All four projects received support from the UDP. Further analysis to follow.

Open House for 320 Granville Thursday, July 12th – density FSR 25.5

(Update 10-Sept-2012 — Minutes are not yet posted online, but Novae Res Urbis reports that the Urban Design Panel did NOT support this tower at its Aug 29 meeting. Details pending.) If approved, the proposed 32-storey tower at 320 Granville Street with a Floor Space Ratio of 25.5 would have one of the highest densities in the entire downtown peninsula.
Further details will be presented at an Open House on Thursday, July 12th, between 5-8pm at 375 Water St. Information on the proposal is available on the City’s website, and online comments can be made at this link. Via Architecture is making the application for an undisclosed client. (Update July 20, 2012: Application documents appear to provide no name of the property owner, and even the City’s Rezoning Center staff at the open house didn’t know who owned the property. But we learned from the architect at the open house that the owner is Carrera Management Corporation, http://www.carreramc.com/. Though the company website provides no ownership information, further research suggests that the president may be Nevin Sangha, who also appears to be a director of Galaxy Capital Corp (GXY/P:Venture) and president of Brachman Developments. It turns out that Mr. Sangha and Carrera were involved in a recent renoviction of a building that housed persons with cerebral palsy, and a person by the same name was involved in dealings covered in media in the past — Developer took advantage of me when I was sick, Canada.com, 8-Feb-2008.) There is speculation that Greg Kerfoot, one of the principal owners of the Vancouver Whitecaps professional soccer team, is the actual owner of this property. One wonders why another firm is fronting for this application and even rezoning staff at the public open house claimed not to know who owned the property.

The current zoning for the Downtown District states: “the total density for all permitted uses must not exceed a floor space ratio of 9.00” for the part of the downtown that includes 320 Granville. Is an increase in density from 9FSR to 25.5FSR too much of an upzone? Can the existing infrastructure and utilities properly service this site? Would such a large upzone be fair to other property owners? Can a 25.5FSR rezoning set a precedent for other properties in the Downtown District? Is there enough of an amenity to justify the requested density? Should such a high density development be considered under any circumstance?

The site at 320 Granville is across the street from Waterfront Station and currently contains a parking garage. A 384′ (117m) tall tower on this site would shade Waterfront Station and the square south of the Vancouver Sun and Province Building.

633 Main Street Open House on June 14th

An Open House for a 16-storey tower proposal at 633 Main Street will be held on June 14th, 5-8pm at the Chinese Cultural Centre on 50 East Pender Street. A floor space ratio (FSR) of 9.29 is proposed, a density that might be more typically found in the downtown district. The Historic Area Height Review (HAHR) approved last year puts no upper limit on permitted density in Chinatown. The rezoning notice reveals that a total of 151 residential units are proposed with 158 parking spaces. Commercial uses would be found on the ground level.

This 150′ tower proposal is on the same block as the ongoing rezoning application for another 150′ tower at 611 Main Street. A number of developments in the DTES have been recently approved, including a 10-storey tower at 189 Keefer and the highly controversial Sequel 138 project on the 100 block on East Hastings. The maximum height permitted under the HAHR is 150 feet (45.7m). However, it should be noted that a 150ft tall tower at 633 Main would intrude upon protected viewcone 22 (at Main and 6th), and hence is higher than what is permitted under policy. The proposal at 611 Main also similarly intrudes into protected public viewcone 22. Further information on the application and the upcoming Open House can be found on the city’s website here. Continue reading