404 = 428

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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 [1] 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 [2] 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) [3] 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.

[1]  REZONING: 2220 Kingsway – Summary and Recommendation

[2]  Naiobh O’Connor. Developing story: Carnival planned to help sell Kingsway condos. Vancouver Courier (19 Nov 2013)

[3]  2220 Kingsway – By-law No. 10827


Written by eyeonnorquay

17 February 2014 at 2:47 pm

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