Archive for October 2011
5515-5665 Boundary Road, 5448-5666 Ormidale Street,
and 3690 Vanness Avenue
• Treats an East Vancouver neighborhood like a large parcel of undeveloped industrial land
• Blockbusts the Kingsway/Joyce “neighbourhood centre” area with a spot-rezoning megaproject
• Disrespects the Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision of human-scale development
• Breaks scale with existing Collingwood Village and builds on existing “creep” factor
• Sneaks off to last-ditch public hearing before a lame-duck Council
The megaproject to be described below lies so far east in Vancouver that it really belongs to Burnaby. The type and scale of the proposed development manifest a westward seepage of Metrotown.
Son of Metrotown! Sandwiched between Collingwood Village and the Telus building (Brian Canfield Centre at 3777 Kingsway), down a steep hill from Kingsway, this development has been steadily plodding its way toward public hearing.
The rezoning site is in excess of three acres. The majority of the parcels in the block are currently developed with single-family dwellings. (p. 2-3) 
The target area has been cleverly selected, and the process precisely timed to minimize pushback.
From a Norquay perspective, the other side of Renfrew-Collingwood has seemed too far away to attempt any action or coverage — especially since the immediate surrounding community has failed to organize and stand up in any apparent way.
The Crux for Norquay
This massive development proposal would fall within the boundaries of a Kingsway/Joyce neighbourhood centre … which has not even been planned yet! This kind of neighborhood blockbusting has become standard operating procedure with the City of Vancouver: spot rezone ahead of so-called planning, and thus predetermine what can come afterward.
Norquay’s experience so far has been mild by comparison: one 22-storey tower with 8-storey blocks adjacent, crash-landing into an area that had previous experience of nothing over four storeys. Just ahead of the March 2006 initiation of neighbourhood centre planning for Norquay! And more recently a 12-storey block across from Norquay Park. The 2300 Kingsway rezoning also happens to be a Wall Financial project.
Although Norquay feels trampled by five years of contentious “planning,” in retrospect the unwanted and out-of-human-scale towers that planners have forced on the neighborhood may seem small compared with the looming nastiness to be dumped elsewhere. For example, the three towers of 28, 29, and 30 storeys now in the works for up the road toward New Westminster, in an area just west of Boundary Road and north of Kingsway.
Perhaps the years of Norquay struggle that limited future tower heights along Kingsway to 16 storeys at the centre and 14 storeys at either end did achieve something worthwhile. It remains to be seen whether the City of Vancouver will honor its own “planning.” Recent tendencies showing creep are not encouraging. Neither is the earlier history of Collingwood Village that is revealed below.
Neighbourhood Centre Farce
Although “neighbourhood centres” are supposed to be the realization of CityPlan, Vancouver planners have seemed reluctant to undertake a third one since encountering massive and prolonged resistance to the second one in Norquay.
A look at what the Boundary-Ormidale-Vanness rezoning report has to say about neighbourhood centres is instructive. First comes this passing bit of lip service:
“CityPlan: Directions for Vancouver” provides that additional housing should be provided around future neighbourhood centres (Joyce Street and Kingsway). (p. 4) 
“Additional housing” could be anything from a double-wide on cinder blocks on up to a 50-storey block with zero setback. Or less, or more.
Next comes a piece of pure waffle, drenched in the cheapest syrup going.
Other retail services are focused along Kingsway, with the area around Kingsway and Joyce Street identified as a future Neighbourhood Centre in the Community Vision. Staff support the primarily residential approach of the rezoning application, however, large-site developments generally contain a variety of uses in order to provide a more complete community for new residents. … Given the distance to other local-serving retail uses, staff support the inclusion of some commercial use on this site, to be limited in type and scale, minimizing its impact on the primary commercial high streets in the area. (p. 6) 
“Given the distance” (remember that is also up a steep hill) — which makes mockery of the concept of a centre — let’s damage the existing nearby commercial by putting in retail competition … and along the way let’s mouth a few words about “minimizing impact.” How else could planners justify plunking a gated drive-to complex of towers on top of what was a single-family neighborhood?
Toward the end comes the biggest laugh of all.
The site is in the Renfrew Collingwood Community Vision area, just east of a potential Neighbourhood Centre around the Kingsway/Joyce shopping area. The vision document does not identify the site as a “Large Site” with specific Vision directions relating to rezoning or development. (Appendix G, p. 1) 
City planning produced a “vision” that made no provision for this area to consist of anything other than the ground-oriented type of housing that is supposed to surround a centre within a five- to ten-minute walk. But now speculators want an empty field for their megaproject? Bye-bye to that phony “planning.” Meanwhile, the “potential” for the “neighbourhood centre” vanishes.
Developers and planners could care less about what was supposed to be the governing vision for Vancouver, a collection of 23 distinct neighborhoods. When profit has such an opportunity, why not go ahead and crossbreed downtown with Metrotown wherever it seems convenient?
Imagine yourself living in a single-family home in the next overshadowed block, even owning a property whose livability has been severely diminished. The recipe: collateral damage with no compensation — except perhaps a reduced property tax bill brought on by declining property value.
What Is Happening
On 1 November 2011, less than three weeks before City Hall may no longer be able to wink and smirk at every developer-planner proposal that comes along, Wall Financial is slipping this massive project along to public hearing.
The labyrinthine designation for the rezoning — 5515-5665 Boundary Road, 5448-5666 Ormidale Street and 3690 Vanness Avenue — announces that the undertaking is designed not to be understood.
The timing seems superbly fortuitous — a last gasp while all attention is focused on the 2011 Vancouver municipal election, and while incumbents are scurrying about and hoping to retain their seats.
Here is the overwhelming official summary:
To rezone 33 individual parcels in this block from CD-1 (220) and CD-1 (224) to a new CD-1 District for the purpose of developing a project comprised of: three residential towers being 29, 30 and 28 storeys in height on Boundary Road and Vanness Avenue, with a density of 5.50 floor space ratio (FSR); a 6-storey, stepped building on Ormidale Street; 1,114 dwelling units; underground parking for 1,329 vehicles with access from Ormidale Street and Boundary Road; 33,000 square feet of community amenity space; a limited amount of local-serving commercial space; and publicly accessible open space. (p. 1) 
The associated “urban design” criterion is sheer black humor:
To reduce the apparent scale of the tower and podium components
Next Door at Collingwood Village
Anyone who thinks that Collingwood Village is large-scale has seen nothing yet. Even the Urban Design Panel picked up on the dubious disparity:
As well a couple of Panel members thought the massing hadn’t addressed the Collingwood Village in the built form. They felt that the rise in height from the Collingwood residential neighbourhood to twenty nine storeys might be too much. There was also some concern from several Panel members regarding the height and potential oppressiveness of the streetwall podium. 
The Appendix below shows how creep boosted that earlier megaproject upwards from original heights, with sneaky increase by as much as 7 storeys. Now, the 72 meters maximum brought in by that trickery is used to justify going for three towers of 81 to 85 meters.
The higher the developers can place their cocoons, the more profits they make … and the more the new tower dwellers can look down on those whose human-scale neighborhood they violate.
Nothing in this project is about housing people affordably, creating community, or constructing environmentally responsible buildings.
* * *
CD-1 (314) 3400-3600 Vanness, Foster and Euclid Streets: By-law No.7204 (2 Nov 1993)
Table 4 on page 8 shows seven sub-areas with allowable building heights ranging from 48 to 72 meters. Entire area (map as Schedule A on page 3) is bounded (clockwise) by Joyce, Vanness, Ormidale, Foster, Aberdeen, and Euclid.
= = =
POLICY REPORT — Date: February 19, 2001 — Council: March 6, 2001
CD-1 Text Amendment: 3602-3660 Vanness Avenue (Collingwood Village)
Increasing their maximum permitted heights as follows:
• for the tower in Sub-area 7, from 48 m (158 ft.) to 51 m (167 ft.) or from 17 storeys to 18 storeys
• for the tower in Sub-area 8, from 53 m (174 ft.) to 67 m (220 ft.) or from 19 storeys to 24 storeys
• for the west tower in Sub-area 10, from 56 m (184 ft.) to 72 m (236 ft.) or from 19 storeys to 26 storeys
• for the east tower in Sub-area 10, from 20 storeys to 21 storeys
* * *
 Policy Report [ Boundary-Ormidale-Vanness ] (20 Sept 2011)
 Summary and Recommendation [ Boundary-Ormidale-Vanness ] (1 Nov 2011)
 Urban Design Panel Minutes For: Wednesday, June 1, 2011
 Rezoning Application: 5515-5665 Boundary Road, 5448-5666 Ormidale Street and 3690 Vanness Street
 Charlie Smith. “Wall Financial Corporation returns to council for East Vancouver rezoning hearing.” Georgia Straight (26 Oct 2011)
[ Comment posted in response to: Carlito Pablo. COPE’s Tim Louis may vote for Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver. Georgia Straight (28 October 2011) ]
No Vision is what we have had for the past three years, led by Gregor “Son of Sam” Robertson. Since there is no Vision, let’s make that a fact on Council from 2011 forward. After all, we do not want the people and our city to perish. (That’s an allusion.) Watch big lies being told in December 2008 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdpOAPgGHmQ
* * *
[ Comment posted in response to: Carlito Pablo. COPE slate may gain Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver endorsement. Georgia Straight (27 October 2011) ]
This is all about an alternative to the developer-funded Vision-NPA axis. Some of those wolves shake with the left paw, some of those wolves shake with the right paw – but all of those wolves dress up in a sheep costume and bleat the word “neighbourhood”!
* * *
[ Comment posted in response to: Charlie Smith. Wall Financial Corporation returns to council for East Vancouver rezoning hearing. Georgia Straight (26 October 2011) ]
Here is one more massive spot rezoning that takes no real account of the CityPlan mandated “neighbourhood centre” (one of 19) that was supposed to be designed for Kingsway/ Joyce and include all of Kingsway from Rupert to Boundary.
Grab that big parcel of land, rezone the heck out of it, dump on towering density, and hope to keep on keeping on.
The Vision/NPA-developer axis aims to wrap up and deliver this package before the Nov 19 election. Too late and too bad for this opaque done deal out in the boonies of Far East Vancouver.
But not too late to vote for a change in what the speculators and profiteers see as Vancouver’s future.
* * *
On Monday 24 October 2011 both of Vancouver’s free daily newspapers purveyed municipal civic party propaganda from Vision Vancouver. Metro Vancouver proposed that “Vision aims for more livable city,” while 24 Hours touted “Neighbourhood Vision.” Both of the stories retailed a platform plank that Visioneers had hauled out just the day before.
At the Saturday 22 October 2011 “some candidates” meeting at Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House — a venue located just outside the western boundary of Norquay — the Vision component of the panel (Kerry Jang, Andrea Reimer, Geoff Meggs) said nothing about neighborhoods.
Useful and promising comments on the topic did come from the mouths of three of the panelists: Tim Louis (COPE), Bill McCreery (NPA), and Elizabeth Murphy (NSV). Murphy even made explicit reference to the plight of adjacent Norquay.
All of Vision and the rest of the NPA are the developer’s team. McCreery is a lone exception, a person who has spent a lot of time in Norquay and has demonstrated his stand with the neighborhood, despite having an NPA affiliation. The developers who heavily fund the two parties really do not care what individual candidates are voted in, as long as their Vision-NPA axis maintains control over Vancouver City Council.
The two Vision candidates who emphasized their residential proximity to the Cedar Cottage venue, Jang and Reimer, also happened to be the two Councillors that members of Norquay Working Group spent a year communicating with, in an attempt to inform and educate them (and Vision) as the Norquay Plan developed.
In retrospect, all those meetings and conversations and briefs 2009-2010 came to look like an utter waste of time. On 4 November 2010, the Vision bloc disregarded majority community opinion — and at the last minute even went far beyond the Plan with unapproved and never consulted on “considerations”: to wall one mile of Kingsway with a ten-storey base height, and to bury Earles Street and Norquay Park in four-storey apartments.
Why has Vision Vancouver suddenly started to emit blather about livable neighborhoods? Because this issue seems destined to become pivotal in how the vote goes in the 2011 Vancouver municipal election on November 19.
A key factor in the contest for Council seats is the emergence of Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) as an electoral organization that is running five candidates for Mayor and Council. Persons long associated with NSV provided strong and sustained support to members of Norquay Working Group over their many months of struggle with Vancouver city planners.
Here’s hoping that Norquay voters will have no respect for this cynical Vision strategy: Do one thing and then say another. The evidence is clear. Go back to what Gregor Robertson told Norquay and other neighborhoods on 10 December 2008, as Vision Vancouver waltzed into City Hall, propelled by the hopes of many Vancouver neighborhoods desperate for a change from the NPA assault under Sam Sullivan 2005-2008.
Consider what the Visioneers have done to Norquay, not what they have said and are saying about their love for neighborhoods. And remember that their program has only amplified an existing NPA agenda.
More detail on the development proposal outlined below can be found at 4892 Clarendon Street — DE414880. As a resident of Norquay, Jeanette Jones has undertaken to inspect these six files and has not discovered any features that raise concerns.
Transcription of City of Vancouver Notification Postcard:
* * *
DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION NO. DE414880
4892 Clarendon Street (at Kingsway) October 18, 2011
We have received a Development Application from Andrew Cheung Architects Inc. to construct a 5-storey Retail/Residential development at the above-noted address.
The proposal includes:
• a total of 4,103 square feet of Retail, along with two townhouse units, on the ground floor;
• a total of 23 dwelling units on the second to fifth floors;
• two levels of underground parking;
• an approximate height of 56 feet; and
• an overall floor area of 28,514 square feet.
As a neighbour, we welcome your written comments (letter or e-mail) on the above-noted aspects on, or before November 2, 2011.
For more information regarding this proposal, please visit our website at: vancouver.ca/devapps
If you do not have web access, please contact Benny Mah, Project Co-ordinator at 604.873.7717
* * *
On 19 October 2011 the Urban Design Panel (UDP) took a second look at the proposed plans for 2699 Kingsway. There were several significant changes from the previous planning presented on 4 May 2011. Here is a direct link to the UDP minutes for the review.
1 The garbage room formerly located at the rear of the plaza has been moved inside one of the buildings. This was made possible by relocating all of the commercial parking to the inside of the eastern 4-storey low rise building.
2 The amenities space for the development has been moved to the northeast corner of the ground floor of the 12-storey tower, at the rear of the central plaza.
3 The central plaza, which is to function as the gateway to the future Renfrew Ravine Linear Park, has been widened from 40 to 46 feet. In addition, the ground storey of the southeast corner of the 4-storey low rise building east of the central plaza has been cut back. This reduction will provide more obvious connection to the planned pedestrian crosswalk from Norquay Park.
4 The back of the development has been green screened, with terraced planters provided on several storeys of all buildings. A greenhouse has been added to the roof garden on the western 4-storey building.
Panel members concurred that the plan had improved. Their remaining concerns were:
1 There was no detail on how the applicant could achieve LEED Gold status. Several panel members doubted this would be possible for buildings cladded with so much glass.
2 Opening up the back of the plaza will impair its ability to function as an “urban room.” [This plan change was made in response to community input, which questioned the ability of the original plaza design to function as a gateway to the future Renfrew Ravine Linear Park. Since the park does not yet exist, in the short term the space will function primarily as an “urban room.” A possible compromise: erect a temporary wall at the rear of the plaza, to be removed when the greenway opens.]
3 The relationship between the tower (which has a more traditional brick façade) and the two 4-storey buildings on either side (which have a more contemporary feel) needs more work. The tower façade needs to be more interesting, and more work needs to be done on the side of the tower that faces the plaza.
The plan is scheduled to go to the Development Permit Board on 12 December 2011 at 3:00 pm. Members of the community can make submissions at this hearing.
Contributed by Jeanette Jones
Draft plans for two four-storey apartment buildings at 2298 Galt Street went to the Urban Design Panel (UDP) for review on 21 September 2011. The developer of the site seeks rezoning to CD-1 for an irregular RS-1 single-family house lot measuring 46.4 feet frontage x 102.7 deep (west side) / 121.2 deep feet (east side).
An anxious panel began their first of three reviews on that date by reminding the outside observers present that they had no right to make comment in that forum, and also (as can be read on the UDP web site) that
The Panel is strictly an advisory body and makes recommendations only. It does not have the authority to approve or refuse projects or make policy decisions.
In other words, UDP review is one little mostly-meaningless gesture in a ritual where all significant communication occurs between developer and city planning staff. The “public” typically gets two meaningless opportunities for “input,” once to “comment” on a developer-led open house after plans are near final, and once to “speak” to a done-deal public hearing where City Council rubberstamps the rezoning. All of this public ritual could be called farce of democracy through simulacrum of consultation.
Public access to these proceedings was sharply curtailed when UDP gave the presenting architect the option of not having the event videorecorded by a public observer, and she “preferred not to.” Scrutiny is not wanted. This semipublic forum would really prefer to operate in an inaccessible back room.
UDP members look at any proposal from a narrow and formal design perspective that excludes social considerations and community context. Panel focus fixates on the isolated physical character of a proposed development within a specific site. Ensuing comment relies heavily on jargonistic and subjective aesthetic vocabulary.
Within their mandate, most of what the UDP said and concluded would be hard to argue with. One panelist deserved strong applause for calling for more overhang of the rooftop. The Vancouver scandal of building to incur water damage never seems to end. (What proportion of the local construction economy is based on remediation of stupid building practices?) Two other panelists sounded like blinkered agenda pushers when they suggested that the four garage spaces for the four apartment units be designed to encourage other uses. This unfortunate idle theorizing actually became enshrined as one of the three “key aspects needing improvement”!
Consider allowing for flexibility of other uses for the garages
A site visit or a site video would show panelists that there is already harsh and continuous competition for existing street parking on both of the streets that sandwich the site, Galt Street and Kingsway. To wish that people did not use cars is not making them go away, however politically correct “no cars” may be with UDP types and city planners.
Perhaps more interesting than the UDP verbiage was what Vancouver city planners had to say. This particular case was called what in large measure it is: an “orphan lot” — even if artifically orphaned on purpose by the developer! The sad thing is, this rezoning sets a precedent for all other single lots in the Norquay four-storey apartment zone, not just “orphan” lots — something on the order of 300 parcels. Only the extra FSR that comes with land assembly (2.0 rather than 1.19) can incentivize development of the U and H forms (the only thing that planners ever proposed to Norquay Working Group). One land use professional doubts that the differential is sufficient, and city planners seem unlikely to improve the neighborhood by increasing the differential through reducing what is possible on a single lot.
Even while a city planner was saying that three-lot development is “most desirable,” in the next breath he said that this project will “inform what could be done on a single lot”!
The Norquay Plan map that city planning showed to the UDP was not accurate. The four-storey apartment zone was represented only as a boundary area stretching along either side of Kingsway. The last-minute extensions of this zone around Norquay Park and along Earles Street were not shown. That kind of misrepresentation probably does not matter, since UDP looks nowhere beyond the delineation of the site under review, and cares nothing for the implications of setting broad precedent throughout the community.
Two misrepresentations on the part of the building designer:
• The model shown to the UDP had imagined future buildings surrounding the site. Existing physical
context would have made the proposal look far more out-of-scale.
• The land slopes sharply upward to the east, but the model assumed flat land, so even the imagined
future was a serious distortion.
In sum, pervasive disrespect for context.
Ultimately the 2298 Galt Street development proposal is about getting as much as possible crammed onto one lot. Forget the many new residents who already have trouble parking. Forget all the new dwellings just built adjacent to the site by the opportunistic developer. Forget the rest of Norquay, and the potential dog’s breakfast of one-off development on hundreds of single lots.
In a sense, the overall message is to forget planning — stuff that just gets in the way of development.