Archive for February 2014
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.
Comment on Development Application DE417599 under RT-11 Zoning
26 February 2014
I. Enhanced Sideyard
The zoning guidelines state that enhanced sideyards in the RT-11 zone
should be designed (i) as a focus of development and an organizing element, not as ‘leftover’ space; (ii) as a primary outlook and entrance for units in the middle and rear sections of a site (iii) to provide sufficient distance, screening, landscape, and outlook considerations for the mutual comfort of dwellings overlooking the space. (Appendix I, 7.2)
The proposed sideyard does not meet these conditions. It is obviously space left over after the applicant has mechanically inserted a variation of his standard infill design (see other Fuho applications for 2748 East 40th Avenue and 4517 Nanaimo Street). The front entrances of neither Building B nor Building C face the sideyard. Placing the “utilities area” (aka garbage and yard waste bins) in the centre of the sideyard certainly does not make it more attractive or usable for anyone.
The application for 2899 East 41st Avenue provides a model for how to deal with garbage in the RT-11 zone. Each unit has a built-in storage area (with doors) for garbage and yard waste bins. This should be required of all RT-11 developments with more than three units.
The peculiar shape of this site creates some challenges for the architect. More work is required to meet those challenges.
II. Unopened Lanes
At present a 10 ft. wide unopened lane exists between 5494 (changed from 5482) Dundee Street and 5550 (changed from 5522) Dundee Street. This lane lines up with an existing paved lane between 5505 and 5511 Killarney Street. Across the street, there is a similar lane between 5495 and 5511 Dundee Street. This lane lines up with an existing paved lane between 5494 and 5514 Earles Street. Both unopened lanes are covered in untended meadow and not usable. The current development applications for both 5494 Dundee Street and 5550 Dundee Street provide an impetus to consider the future of these laneways.
One of the goals of the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan is to make our community more walkable (Section 5.0-5.1, p. 61-62). In some parts of Norquay, very long blocks often discourage residents from walking. The unopened lanes on Dundee Street are located in such an area. During the planning process, city staff cited the opening of these lanes as an example of the kind of benefit that would come to Norquay as a result of more dense development.
These laneways could easily be enhanced to serve as pedestrian connectors. At only 10 ft. wide, they are too narrow for two cars to pass. There is little advantage to be gained by making the laneways accessible to cars, since Dundee Street ends at 40th Avenue and does not connect to 41st Avenue. Turning the unopened lanes into a pathway edged by some low maintenance plantings would improve the community’s public realm in an attractive and functional way..
Three development applications under the new RT-11 zoning have been submitted so far in the immediate neighbourhood of these lanes (5494 Dundee, 5550 Dundee and 2899 East 41st), and others can be expected. Here is an opportunity to provide an inexpensive “amenity” to a part of Norquay that is unlikely to see any other benefit from development for some time to come.
• • • • • •
Supplementary Comment on 5500 Dundee Street
(with Attention Also Given to 5494 Dundee Street Redevelopment)
4 March 2014
Since submitting my original comment on the development application for 5500 Dundee Street, I have become aware that regulation 4.11.1 of the RT-11 District Schedule reads as follows:
Dedication of Land for Lane Purposes
Where a site does not abut a lane, or abuts a lane which is less than 6.1 m in width, a portion of the site, as determined by the City Engineer, to a maximum of 3.1 m, shall be dedicated for lane purposes.
There is a 10 ft. wide unopened lane between these two properties. I believe that no land was dedicated for lane purposes when the development application for 5494 Dundee Street was approved recently.
As I stated in my original comment, my personal preference is for the unopened lane allowance between these two properties (together with a similar unopened lane allowance opposite, on the west side of Dundee Street) to become a pedestrian connector. This could be done without widening the lane. This continues to be my personal preference.
However, I am commenting as a Norquay resident concerned about implementation of the Norquay plan and the resulting zoning regulations. I do not live in the immediate vicinity of these properties. If immediate neighbours express a clear preference for widening and paving the lane allowance between 5500 Dundee Street and 5494 Dundee Street, I believe that the City of Vancouver is required to dedicate land for this purpose.
In any case, leaving the unopened lane allowance in its current undeveloped state is not an option.
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?
Comment on Development Application DE417377 under RT-11 Zoning
11 February 2014
I would like to commend the applicant on:
1. Providing considerable detail in the application, especially in the design rationale.
2. Matching the form of development to the location of the site. The site is across the lane from a park and next to a busy arterial. If the applicant can acquire the two neighbouring properties, the site will be next to a school. The only close neighbours would be across the street on Killarney Street. This is much better than locating a duplex/small house development in the middle of a block of single family houses.
3. Limiting the number of units to eight rather than a possible nine.
My two concerns are:
1. The dead-end lane cannot be used for garbage pick-up. On collection day, up to 24 bins would be set out along Killarney Street immediately north of 41st Avenue. This is a scenario both dysfunctional (in terms of traffic flow) and unsightly. Small houses on shared lots should also have shared garbage/recycling containers, especially where the alternative is setting the containers out on the street for collection.
2. There is a very attractive grove of trees on the southwest corner of the site. It would be good if at least some of these trees could be saved. (I have not seen the arborist’s report.)