• Monitors what is happening in the Norquay area of East Vancouver
• Provides a forum for residents to communicate
• Documents how city officials implement CityPlan in Vancouver’s second “neighbourhood centre”
The interests of speculators, a developer-funded City Council, and compromised city planners may go against what renters and homeowners want to see happen in their neighborhood. Bad planning can contribute to damage of organic social fabric, loss of affordable rental housing, needless manufacture of unoccupied investment condos, skyrocketing property taxes, artificially accelerated rates of development, more people crowded into the same unimproved public space, aggravation of problems with parking and vehicle traffic, loss of views, poor quality in design, and severe shadow impacts. What is happening to Norquay calls for continuing independent community-based review. Please keep coming back to Eye on Norquay to stay up to date on news and to share your perspective.
→ See Resources in right sidebar learn more about Norquay and city planning in Vancouver
On 21 February 2014 Fuho Design Ltd. submitted a conditional development application for 5500 Dundee Street (changed from 5522 Dundee).
The application seeks approval
to construct a two-storey plus basement, two-family dwelling and two, two-storey,
one-family dwellings, providing four parking spaces at the rear.
City of Vancouver will receive comments on, or before March 10, 2014 “to be considered as part of the application’s review.”
The site plan for the proposal shows cookie-cutter design being dropped into a location with very unusual configuration. See the site plan for yourself:
It seems clear that this crude approach to layout of development on the site fails to conform to a key specification of the RT-11 zoning approved at public hearing.
The same applicant, Fuho Design Ltd., is responsible for at least three other concurrent applications in Norquay: 2748 E. 40th Ave, 2351 E. 41st Ave, 4517 Nanaimo St. Examination of all four of these plans makes it possible to discover the cookie cutter factor.
Jeanette Jones has prepared and submitted a carefully considered comment on the development application for 5500 Dundee Street.
This application (taken together with a previous application for 5494 Dundee) raises a further question about Norquay public realm. These two properties lie adjacent to City of Vancouver land that is designated as “unopened lane.” It would be appropriate at this point for City of Vancouver to commit to pedestrian-oriented enhancement of these two connectors.
Such a token of good faith in implementation of the Norquay Plan would be welcomed by residents who have seen much development take place, attended by very little of the promised paybacks.
Looks Like a … Fail
On 8 February 2014 the marketing campaign for Westbank’s 2220 Kingsway development project held a “South Tower Release Event.” A 6 by 12 inch glossy marketing announcement was mailed out to the surrounding area. The event was timed to fall in the middle of the surrounding two weeks of Chinese New Year festivities. The card design drew the eye to a coupon-like box that proclaimed:
New Year Special Savings Save Up to $20,000
Here is what the card looked like:
The lead-up to this “event” also featured three full-page advertisements in the Georgia Straight for three weeks running: p. 8 for Jan 23-30, p. 6 for Jan 30-Feb 6, p. 10 for Feb 6-13.
On the Day
The Kensington Gardens sales center has enveloped the old Canadian Tire big box store building on the site. Here is what the event looked like from outside on that sunny day at noon, when the marketing machine hoped to stampede anxious buyers into grabbing a New Year discount:
Parking Lot — Mostly Sales Staff and Dollarama Shoppers?
Around front at the grand entrance, no people are lined up to elbow their way toward lucky bargains. There is nothing but one wistful batch of balloons and a point-the-way signboard:
Not Here, Not Saying Yes
Wait. Maybe this special “event” is like a yard sale, where shoppers in-the-know have shown up ahead of time to snatch the goodies. Let’s check inside:
Cavern of the Walking Dead
The promo advertising for this “South Tower Release Event” boasted
First Release an Overwhelming Success
What was this purported “first release”? On 23 November 2012 marketer George Wong, principal of Magnum Projects, put on what he called a carnival in the display center. Three days in advance, an infomercial appeared in the Vancouver Courier to promise attenders:
a circus performance by Blink Acro, a magician, Miss Chinese pageant girls, musical performances by Famous Players and Kuba Oms, a food truck festival, children’s activities and an appearance by former Vancouver Canuck Kirk McLean. 
The “first release” seemed designed to release good feelings and nothing else. After all, in late November everybody is thinking mainly about the money they need for Christmas. Nowhere in sight was anyone sitting down with buyers to nail down contracts for units that exist only as pied-in-the-sky sketches.
By way of contrast with February 2014, here are four glimpses of the December 2013 faux-release:
Line-Up Outside Main Entrance
“Miss Chinese Pageant Girls” [their words]
George Wong Promoting the Project
If someone puts on a no-cost event with music, entertainment, fun for children, and food trucks (free only until 2:00 pm, many were disappointed to discover), it isn’t surprising if they manage to draw a crowd. To call the attendance 5,000 seems quite a stretch. But to call whatever happened first release looks more like outright prevarication than any kind of stretch.
Contrast with Marketing of 2300 Kingsway
Anyone who was present at the 2010 opening sales day of the Wall project at Kingsway and Nanaimo knows what successful release marketing looks like — people crowding in to sign contracts for units that do not exist, exuding anxiety to buy. Rennie Marketing Systems reposts this Vancouver Sun article about the result.
Phase 1 of the development is comprised of a 22-storey high-rise and a mid rise, and went on sale on May 29. Approximately 95 per cent of those units have been snapped up and demand is also expected to be high for the 96 homes in phase two. 
In this context it is amusing to sneak a peek into a relationship that once existed between marketer Bob Rennie and Westbank principal Ian Gillespie, the developer who stands behind the 2220 Kingsway project:
Gillespie, Cheng, and up-and-coming condo salesman Bob Rennie exploded onto the Vancouver development scene together in the mid-’90s; the three represented development savvy, distinctive architecture, and a new kind of lifestyle marketing. But the great partnership evaporated. Rennie and Gillespie had a famous falling-out six years ago. 
Has Bob Rennie ever decided to put on a carnival? Do Ian Gillespie and his marketer George Wong have any grasp of the location where they seek to plunk down a fortress compound?
Bob Rennie had first-hand acquaintance with the Norquay neighborhood through his mother. This connection showed up in the naming of a part of the project that he marketed.
Phase two has been dubbed Eldorado in honour of the hotel on the site, which was originally oriented primarily toward business travellers. Rennie’s mother worked for years as a waitress in the dining room. 
Gillespie’s concept of a fortress compound at 2220 Kingsway, a form never intended by the Norquay Plan, has made the 2300 Kingway towers look better than they ever did before (despite lack of setback and excessive height).
Holborn bogged down with “The Hills” and then handed its project off to Wall for salvage as 2300 Kingsway. Westbank probably has too much ego invested to even consider a parallel maneuver.
It will be interesting to watch how Westbank copes with the trials of trying to do its upscale thing in the wrong location … location … location.
 Naiobh O’Connor. Developing story: Carnival planned to help sell Kingsway condos. Vancouver Courier (19 Nov 2013)
 Claudia Kwan. Daughter know best, Kingsway buyer reports. Vancouver Sun (17 July 2010)
 Frances Bula. The new skyline: Ian Gillespie’s vision. Vancouver magazine (1 Mar 2014)
Dwelling Unit Increase at 2220 Kingway
Following on a variety of speculations and considerable passage of time, the veil can be raised now on how 404 = 428 in developer math. A thank you to City of Vancouver planning staff who brought this information out of the shadows in response to a tweetfest in early January 2014.
(This Eye on Norquay posting has kept slipping down the priority list as time-critical situations have since popped up with 4730 Duchess Street and 3120-3184 Knight Street.)
When 2220 Kingsway went to public hearing on 9 April 2014, the document  that Vancouver City Council voted on specified
a mixed-use development comprised of a commercial podium and three 14-storey residential towers
containing a total of 404 dwelling units.
When a Vancouver Courier infomercial  hyped an upcoming marketing event for 2220 Kingsway, the story loosed this free-floating factoid:
The development, which will cover one city block and take three years to build, features three
towers with just under 450 residential suites …
That reporting generated wonder at the discrepancy. How did 404 units manage to morph into “just under 450"? Facts show that half of the apparent bloat was nothing but gas emission by the marketing promoter for 2220 Kingsway.
Here’s the deal. What goes before City Council looks all specific and professional and detailed. In reality, too much of that cheque gets left blank for the developer.
Lesson # 1: The number of units specified to Council at public hearing is jello. The jello [FSR aka floor space ratio] is nothing but a blob that the developer still gets to play around with, outside any forum of public accountability.
In this case, the developer went from a public hearing allocation of
1 Bedroom = 151 1 Bedroom Plus = 14 2 Bedroom = 196 3 Bedroom = 43 Total Units = 404
to a development permit application for
1 Bedroom = 211 1 Bedroom Plus = 0 2 Bedroom = 200 3 Bedroom = 17 Total Units = 428
The CD-1 bylaw for 2220 Kingway (By-law No. 10827)  specifies:
Conditions of Use 3. The design and lay-out of at least 25% of the dwelling units must: (a) be suitable for family housing; (b) include two or more bedrooms; and (c) comply with Council's "High Density Housing For Families With Children Guidelines".
This is the only constraint faced by 2220 Kingsway on the size of unit designed. Even with considerable reduction of the specification presented to Council, the developer still substantially exceeds the token requirement.
Whatever planning rationale permits this allocation seems wildly out of step with building a Vancouver that can retain families with children. The space distribution at 2220 Kingsway has snuck considerably further toward the profiteering ghost-city model of investment cocoon.
The presence of this fortress compound would insult the character and history of the surrounding area, and never fit in with the existing community. Pre-sales of units seem unenthusiastic, and this could be one reason why.
Acquaintance with backstory on the change in number of dwelling units opens up a further series of questions.
The first question is: How is the interested public supposed to find out about this kind of change? The answer is, with difficulty. In this case, only through happenstance did news of the increase in dwelling units dribble out through a news story based on developer information.
No updated information is provided online. The web page for Rezoning Application — 2220 Kingsway seems to constitute a dead zone where only fossils can reside.
An avid development monitor might periodically try asking city planners if there have been changes. Up to the point where a development like this receives an occupancy permit, a determined scrutineer can also ask to look at the plans at city hall.
Sidelight: Information on 2220 Kingsway was further obscured by the city planning decision to skip right past the step in the process that offers a last opportunity for public comment — review of application by Development Permit Board.
The second question is: How much can an approved project change before it has to go through further public review process? Unsurprisingly, the answer is fuzzy. It appears that a 5% increase in number of units would not reopen the case, but that a 10% increase probably would.
The third question is: When a developer fiddles around with the specifications that have been approved at public hearing, is it ever the case that enhancement of profit opportunity leads to recalculation of applicable CAC [Community Amenity Contribution]? That question remains unanswered.
 REZONING: 2220 Kingsway – Summary and Recommendation
 Naiobh O’Connor. Developing story: Carnival planned to help sell Kingsway condos. Vancouver Courier (19 Nov 2013)
 2220 Kingsway – By-law No. 10827
Interim Rezoning Policy — Only for East Vancouver?
On 11 February 2014 the City of Vancouver held a second open house about the development proposed for 3120-3184 Knight Street. The history of the application can be viewed on the Rezoning Centre web site.
There it says: This application is being considered under the Interim Rezoning Policy for Increasing Affordable Housing Choices. In other words, a developer is looking to profit from relaxations and incentives (meaning no CAC/DCL to fund increase to local area amenity in step with population increase).
No information is provided on the spaciousness or affordability of the existing three rental apartment buildings that would be replaced by more expensive new construction.
Summary information for revision of the application shows that rental units have been reduced from 54 to 51 while floor area has decreased from 42,609 sq. ft. to 38,325 sq. ft. Floor plans indicate that 19 of these would be two- or three-bedroom units. The basic math [ 38,325 sq. ft. ÷ 51 = 751.47 sq. ft. average] suggests that every unit would be a shoebox.
The main purpose of this posting is to examine the failure of this application to meet one of the conditions of site location. The Interim Rezoning Policy (click on the Details tab) says that location should be
within 500 metres (a five-minute walk) of identified neighbourhood centres
and local shopping areas
In conversation with planner Yan Zeng at the open house event, Eye on Norquay confirmed that city planning regards Commercial Drive retail as the required adjacent shopping area.
Here is the crude City of Vancouver mapping of what are considered arterials and shopping areas for the purposes of the Interim Rezoning Policy:
Direct measurement of sidewalk route with a measuring rod shows that sidewalk distance from center front of site to NW corner of East 13th Avenue at Commercial Drive is around 650 meters. Here’s the route followed, a direct path with good sidewalks for shopping carts, the most level way to pass through an unusually hilly area:
The site fails to meet the distance-to-shopping-area criterion by 150 meters, which is 30% in excess of the maximum. Add to that the laughability of defining of East 13th Avenue at Commercial as shopping area. That terminus only reaches the boundary. Real shopping lies another three blocks or more to the north.
Why would the City of Vancouver so blatantly disregard its own criterion in this instance? One answer may be that it is desperate to find acceptable proposals under the new initiative, to the point of abusing a local community considered unlikely to mount effective defense.
Months after the 3 Oct 2012 adoption of the Interim Rezoning Policy, it appeared that only three provisionally acceptable proposals had been submitted. It seems unlikely that the stated expectation of the Interim Rezoning Policy (under the Progress tab) was ever met: Staff are expected to report back to Council by June 2013.
These are the other two applications that went forward early on:
1729, 1733 and 1735 East 33rd Avenue — [rezoning approved 13 March 2013]
So far, under the Interim Rezoning Policy, it looks like the east side of Vancouver gets treated one way while the west side gets treated differently (and deferently).
Will heedless density dumping continue in already far denser East Vancouver — being allowed in this case to ride roughshod over conditions specified for location while destroying more affordable rental units? Another Eye on Norquay posting has mapped a peculiar tendency of developer-giveaway STIR projects to gang up around the Norquay area of East Vancouver.
Brian Jackson, Vancouver’s General Manager of Planning and Development, looking back on 2013, said his “single toughest decision” was to reject a proposal to redevelop the Stong’s site. Coincidentally, that is the block right next to the Pacific Arbour proposal. (A rezoning application is still posted for 4508-4560 Dunbar Street and 3581 West 30th Avenue.) Perhaps the case of 3120-3184 Knight Street offers Jackson an opportunity to show some balance in his decision-making.
Here’s recent news on Interim Rezoning Policy, straight from Brian Jackson:
One has been approved — a co-housing project on East 33rd Avenue and another, called Beulah Garden, is in the works, Jackson said. The project on East Fourth is for 57 units of affordable seniors housing. “They already have a seniors housing project there, so they’re just expanding across the street,” Jackson said. … Thirteen other projects are in the pre-application, the serious enquiry or the initial inquiry stage, including the second co-housing proposal that’s in the pre-application stage.
Eye on Norquay appreciates the comment that has circulated so far around the development application for 4730 Duchess.
The business/profit side of development too often remains the preserve of would-be profiteers and elements at City Hall who refuse to set much limit to maximum exploitation. That kind of information tends to never see the light of day, nor to be provided as a factor in transparent application assessment. Vancouver residents usually get handed over blindfolded as fresh meat for the wolves of development.
A friend of Norquay has provided a “pro forma” for 4730 Duchess and said to make use of it freely. A pro forma sketches the financials and shows what a developer needs to be allowed to make a reasonable profit. An image of the pro forma spreadsheet itself is included at the end of this posting.
The only detail that receives elaboration in this explanatory paragraph is that the developer should be able to make a 20% profit at an FSR of 0.95. That is a conservative estimate. To permit FSR beyond 0.95 would wreck the neighborhood, only serving to stuff unwarranted extra return into the pockets of the developer. The developer looks for 1.2, which would amount to an additional 25% of FSR and perhaps an additional 25% of profit.
How much influence could you peddle if you were allowed to double your profits with no public accountability?
The first stacked townhouse development application for Norquay (under the widespread RM-7 mass rezoning executed by City of Vancouver 2010-2013) has been filed for 4730 Duchess Street:
Stairways Overhang Front Yard
Careful examination of the Norquay Plan Implementation and the particular development application show that the application should not receive approval in present form, according to the provisions of the policy report etc approved after 9 April 2013 public hearing on 1. REZONING — Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan Implementation — New Zoning District Schedules — RT-11/RT-11N and RM-7/RM-7N
The Norquay Plan Implementation says that new development should retain the basic physical character of the neighbourhood. It seems clear that this proposal would not. There is no significant usable open space around this development. Front yards are consumed by walkways and exterior stairways to upper level units. Back yard space becomes little more than parking spaces, bike lockers, and garbage/recycling containers.
Beyond those failures, this proposal violates several specific guidelines for stacked townhouse zoning: size of unit, width of living space, amount of in-suite storage, provision of natural light.
We urge residents of Norquay and residents across Vancouver to submit their own comment on this new housing type that is about to move from paper to built form for the first time ever.
Deadline for comment is 17 February 2014.
Due consideration of your comment is a requirement explicitly stated in the Norquay Plan Implementation:
If the Director of Planning first considers the intent of this schedule and all applicable Council policies and guidelines, and the submissions of any advisory groups, property owners or tenants, the Director of Planning may permit an increase in floor space ratio. [Appendix B 4.7.2]
The crucial word is “may.” This application meets neither the intent of the district schedule nor many of the guidelines.
It seems likely that this new zoning type is destined to see widespread application across all of Vancouver. Coming soon to your own neighborhood, perhaps even right beside you. Violation of plan implementation must not be allowed to “creep” into the first realization of this new housing type and set precedent.
Stairways & Walks Consume Front Yard
Within the past week Eye on Norquay has called attention to two instances where no online development application could be found to correspond to development application signboards posted on the physical sites where the development would take place: Sixplex regarding 4730 Duchess Street, and Lacuna # 2 regarding 2899 East 41st Avenue.
As of Monday February 3 those two development applications appeared in the listing on the City of Vancouver Development Application Information Web Page.
It seems that current practice actually requires a gap between erection of signboard and posting of information to web site. After posting the signboard, the applicant provides a photograph of the signboard to City of Vancouver, and this communication leads to posting of web site information (and to immediate-vicinity mailed notification). In these two cases, the time gap is said to attribute to developer delay in forwarding the photograph. The period open for comment is the “two weeks” [which may or may not amount to ten working days] following the application’s “publication” through web site and mailing.
If Eye on Norquay has received the correct information on this sequencing, and has understood it correctly, this particular circumstance raises the further question of why City of Vancouver practice could differ so greatly for a rezoning application.
City of Vancouver practice may have its rationales, but they are convoluted to the point of inscrutability. Hapless Vancouver residents, instead of dealing with a system that is transparent and predictable and consistent, are left to wonder what out-of-the-blue development proposal will land right next door, and whether they will find a tiny window in ridiculously tight timelines for considered response.
Open data this is not.