Eye on Norquay

Looking Out for East Vancouver

      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

[ Eye on Norquay complements the coverage of 2007-2008 provided by predecessor Norquay Neighbours ]

Written by eyeonnorquay

14 February 2011 at 11:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Not All Tape Is Red

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A current hot topic is the amount of time that the City of Vancouver takes to approve and permit a development project, sparked by by this inflammatory Globe and Mail headline: Vancouver city hall backlog delays crucial developments

Some delays are undoubtedly too long, and more efficiencies are always possible. But in our Norquay experience, the time that staff takes to approve a project is often well spent.

Consider as modest counterexample the following “before and after” pictures of a stacked townhouse development in Norquay located at 5011 Slocan Street at East 34th Avenue.

 
Before
 

 

 
Before
 

 

 
After
 

 

 
The completed project shows an improved and simplified design as a result of staff work. The roof line is simpler, fewer materials have been used, and the style of windows is more consistent. These changes respond to resident comment on the application.

We need to discriminate between delay which is essential to ensure a good project and delay which is unnecessary. Hasty pudding can make for a long awful aftertaste.

Factors other than City of Vancouver “red tape” often cause the delay in completion of a project. Eye on Norquay has analyzed these in an open letter of 18 June 2020:

On Regulation Redesign and Pre-Zoning
 
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

17 February 2021 at 11:50 am

Posted in News, Statements

Public Forum

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Public Hearing Is Not Public Forum
Thoughts Arising from 1766 Frances Street

 

     from:  Jeanette Jones
       to:  Bligh, Rebecca; Boyle, Christine; Carr, Adriane;
            De Genova, Melissa; Dominato, Lisa; Fry, Pete;
            Hardwick, Colleen; Kirby-Yung, Sarah; Stewart, Kennedy;
            Swanson, Jean; Wiebe, Michael
            Gil Kelley – Manager, Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability
            Theresa O'Donnell – Deputy Director, Current Planning
            Susan Haid – Deputy Director, Long-Range and Strategic Planning
            Neil Hrushowy – Assistant Director, Community Planning
            Lara Honrado – ACCS, Assistant Director, Vancouver Plan
       cc:  Joseph Jones
     date:  Feb 13, 2021, 4:36 PM
  subject:  Public Hearing Is Not Public Forum

 
 
On 11 February 2021 Council approved a rezoning application for a social housing project at 1766 Frances Street. Planners say that this application is consistent with the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan. Many residents say that it is not. Where does the truth lie?

Does the 1766 Frances Street application follow the specifications of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan?

The GW Plan specifies that 1766 Frances Street lies within an area designated for 6-storey apartments. This application asks for 9 storeys – a 50% increase. The GW Plan allows a density of 2.4 FSR in this area. This application asks for a density of 4.06 FSR. However, the GW Plan has a provision to “consider modest increases in height and density for the delivery of non-market housing to assist with project viability, subject to fit with neighbourhood context” [Section 7.1.3]. This is the section of the Plan that planners have used to substantiate their statement that they are following the GW Plan.

But is 50% a “modest increase”? Planners themselves have defined that term in the Below-Market Rental Policy for Rezoning approved 25 November 2019. This reads:

 
        In areas of the city where existing plans and policies already enable redevelopment to apartment forms,
        allow modest increases in height and density for projects which include 100% of the residential floor area
        as secured rental housing and at least 20% of the residential floor area that is counted in the calculation
        of the floor space ratio as below-market rental housing …. Additional height and commensurate density
        will be considered up to:

        1.1 Two additional storeys for projects 8 – 11 storeys enabled under existing plans or policies; or
        1.2 Three additional storeys for projects 12 storeys or more enabled under existing plans or policies.

 
Projects located where an existing plan specifies less than 8 storeys in height are not even mentioned as eligible for these “modest increases.” Therefore, the application for 1766 Frances Street is not consistent with either the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan or the Below-Market Rental Policy for Rezoning.

Should this project be approved even though it does not follow the specifications of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan?

Planners, residents and councillors agree that the proposed project at 1766 Frances Street has much to commend it. The development provides housing for aboriginal residents, as well as other amenities such as a sweat lodge and child care. It is to be 100% social housing, with rents in all units geared to income. It contains 30 family-sized units, with 6 relatively rare 3-bedroom units and 10 even more rare 4-bedroom units. The design is attractive. The upper 3 storeys are set back from the street to make the building appear less massive. Construction meets passive house standards. In many respects, the proposal presented an exemplary project.

Do these benefits compensate for the additional height and density? Can trade-offs or changed priorities justify the override of an existing active Plan? If so, under what circumstances? How is that decision presented? Who makes that decision?

These questions are exactly what we should be discussing in the current “public engagement” phase of the Vancouver Plan. The report titled A City-wide Plan for Vancouver: Report back on General Planning and Engagement Process (approved by Council on 9 July 2019) promised that one element of the Vancouver Plan would be a Strategic Policy Framework where

 
        Participants will engage in deep discussions on priorities and trade-offs, related to policy areas such
        as city and neighbourhood liveability, mobility and accessibility, affordable living … social well-being
        and how we can advance overall equity and reconciliation.
[p. 8]

 
Where are these “deep discussions” happening?

All that we see is planners and developer interests and affected residents showing up to public hearings with different “truths.” Every speaker tries to persuade council. And one group – almost always the concerned/opposed Vancouver residents – goes away feeling that they have not been heard.

Relegating comment opportunities to short-timelined adversarial presentations at public hearings only increases misunderstanding and distrust. A forum for forthright, considered, genuine public exchange would serve us far better.

 
Jeanette and Joseph Jones
 
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

13 February 2021 at 7:37 pm

1780 East Broadway

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1780 East Broadway at Commercial

Say NO to Westbank Safeway MegaTowers

https://shapeyourcity.ca/1780-e-broadway

 

 
[Image Credit: nosafewaymegatowers]
 

 
[Letter Emailed to Friends of Norquay on 10 February 2021 at 3:30 PM]

 
Dear Friends of Norquay,

 
It has been a long time since we have written to you. In some ways, this is good news. It means that there have been no recent overwhelming, urgent issues as the Norquay Plan is being implemented.

But this is not true everywhere in the City of Vancouver.

This letter comes to alert you to a rezoning proposal for the nearby Safeway site at Broadway and Commercial. This proposed project would violate the 2016 Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.

In many ways, the developer Westbank is amplifying their Norquay project on the Canadian Tire site at Kingsway and Gladstone. This new proposal amounts to putting 2220 Kingsway / Kensington Gardens on steroids. Here are some comparisons:

 
A podium covers almost the entire site. In both developments, 3 towers sit on top of a large podium. Almost all open space is moved to the interior of the site, above ground level. Landscaping is privatized and made accessible only to residents.

 
The “plaza” is not really a plaza. At Kensington Gardens, the so-called plaza is a concrete space in front of the grocery store entrance, with a few benches and no landscaping. (The bit of park space at the corner of Gladstone and East 30th Avenue is supposed to make up for not getting a real plaza.) At the Safeway site, the proposed plaza consists of a corridor beside the SkyTrain between Broadway and East 10th Avenue.

 
Underground parking and restaurants vent into public space. At Kensington Gardens, the underground parking and ground-level restaurant vent into the public spaces. The resulting odours and noise mean that the public space is less used because unpleasant. The underground parking at the Safeway site may vent into the plaza.

 
The proposed project at the Safeway site is far higher than the Grandview-Woodland Plan allows. The towers at Kensington Gardens are the height allowed by the Norquay Plan – 14 storeys. But the towers at the Safeway site would be 30, 29 and 25 storeys high on top of a “retail plinth” – a total of 39, 34 and 30 storeys. The Grandview-Woodland Plan calls for several towers of varying heights between 12 and 24 storeys.

 
See more information on the project and suggestions on how you can make your voice heard (including easy-write easy-mail letter):

https://nosafewaymegatowers.ca/

Let’s tell the City of Vancouver to respect active community plans!

 
Jeanette and Joseph Jones
 
Eye on Norquay – https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/
 
 
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

10 February 2021 at 4:19 pm

5131 Clarendon Street

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Comment on Development Application DP-2020-00832
under RM-7 Zoning

 
https://shapeyourcity.ca/5131-clarendon-st
 

 

 

10 November 2020
 

 
This application needs to go back to the drawing board. The design fails in multiple respects.

 
       1 –  The roof consists of too many separate elements. The requirement of unifying “main roof”
               has been disrespected.  [RM-7 Guidelines, Section 5.1.1]

 
       2 –  The main entrance to the rear unit is on one side of the building. The side yard setback
               on this side of the building is required to be 8 ft. rather than 4 ft., at least for the portion
               between the front property line and the entrance.  [RM-7 Guidelines, Section 2.3(c)]

 
       3 –  The doors and windows on the front of the building fail to meet conventional expectations
               in terms of both proportion and placement.

 
       4 –  The main exterior finish on the building is listed as “Hardi Board siding.” However, the
               drawings seem to show Hardi Board panels. While large Hardi Board panels may be suitable
               for apartment buildings, such panels are not appropriate for smaller buildings. If Hardi Board
               is used. the exterior finish should look like siding.

 
This project presents its best face to the back yard. The hind end of an animal does not usually look better than the front end.

 
Jeanette and Joseph Jones
 
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

1 February 2021 at 11:10 am

Posted in RM-7 Comment

2735 East 41st Avenue

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A rezoning application at 2735 East 41st Avenue proposes a five-storey mixed-use building. The development would include 32 secured market rental units and commercial space at grade. Proposed height is 14.8 m (48.6 ft.) with a Floor Space Ratio of 2.48. The proposed zoning change is from C-1 (Commercial) to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development).

The site is on the northwest corner of Rhodes Street and East 41st Avenue, across the street from a four-storey mixed use building. The building currently on the site is occupied by G & F Financial Group.

For details of the application see

https://shapeyourcity.ca/2735-e-41-ave

A Virtual Open House will be held February 1 – February 21. Check the web site at that time to ask questions or to submit a comment.

 
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

28 January 2021 at 10:33 am

Burrard Corridor Pilot

 
New Concessions to Developers

 
 
An important pilot project is on Vancouver City Council agenda for Tuesday 24 November 2020.

Planning staff report that five rezoning applications under the West End Community Plan in the Burrard Corridor have been delayed. Because of softening market conditions, applicants seek to change their application from strata with inclusionary social housing to 100% rental with a below-market component. (This new approach resembles MIRHPP – the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program). The proposed pilot program would at this point be restricted to a few blocks along the west side of Burrard Street. If judged successful, the precedent would be applied to other areas in the future.

We support a shift away from luxury condos to market rental housing. The rental housing will not produce the Community Amenity Contributions that fund social housing units. Far more concerning, the proposed below-market housing units fail to equate with the originally proposed social housing units. If this change is approved to bail out midstream development applications, Council and staff must find another way to finance social housing. And that social housing must meet reasonable existing standards for unit mix and liveability.

The following letter was sent individually to the mayor and to each of the councillors two days ahead of the meeting date.

 
 

     from:  Jeanette Jones
       to:  Bligh, Rebecca; Boyle, Christine; Carr, Adriane;
            De Genova, Melissa; Dominato, Lisa; Fry, Pete;
            Hardwick, Colleen; Kirby-Yung, Sarah; Stewart, Kennedy;
            Swanson, Jean; Wiebe, Michael
       cc:  Joseph Jones
     date:  November 22, 2020, 3:16 PM
  subject:  Criteria for 100% Secured Rental and Below-Market Housing

 
Re:  Criteria for 100% Secured Rental and Below-Market Housing in the Burrard Corridor
     (Report #5 on Council Agenda for November 24, 2020)

 
The change from a 20% inclusionary social housing requirement to a 20% secured below-market rental housing requirement calls for rigorous scrutiny.

 
The Policy Report states:​

        Accepting below-market rental in lieu of social housing in the Burrard Corridor would mean
        that the city forgoes some turnkey social housing as an asset under VAHEF. Instead,
        the secured rental housing would remain in private ownership.

 
This status would establish a significant disadvantage. Changing conditions over time seem likely to challenge the willingness and/or ability of the owner to continue to provide the same kind of affordability in the future.

 
Other immediate impacts would arise from shifting away from social housing toward ​MIRHPP-like below-market housing. Especially affected would be specifications for Family Housing.

 
Projects would include fewer family sized units – particularly 3-bedroom units. The unit mix requirement for social housing calls for 30% 2-bedroom units and 20% 3-bedroom units. The unit mix requirement for rental housing (including for below-market rental units) calls for 35% family housing, with no breakdown between 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom units. At present most MIRHPP projects are providing approximately 25% 2-bedroom and 10% 3-bedroom units, but this mix is only “encouraged” – not required.

 
The below-market MIRHPP-like units would be less affordable. The size of the unit assigned to social housing residents is determined by household size, and rents are generally set at 30% of household income. By contrast, below-market MIRHPP units require an average household income of $64,00 for a 2-bedroom unit and $80,000 for a 3-bedroom unit.

 
Furthermore, many of the below-market units would be less livable. Design guidelines for social housing are based on the BC Housing Design Guidelines. Minimum sizes are specified both for units and for rooms. The City of Vancouver has no specific minimum size requirements for any other type of housing, including below-market housing. MIRHPP family housing units are often too small for a family with more than one child.

 
Young families are leaving the City of Vancouver for the suburbs at an ever-increasing rate. Unless Vancouver can provide enough family housing that is both affordable and livable, parents who work in low-income service jobs in the city will swell the exodus. Then they will commute until they can find a suitable job closer to where they live. Traffic congestion will increase and Vancouver businesses will continue to struggle to find competent workers.

 
We ask you to consider with great care all of these implications before allowing this “pilot” project to set a very serious new direction.

 
Jeanette and Joseph Jones
 
 
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

23 November 2020 at 1:59 pm