Archive for May 2016

3365 Commercial PH

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Letters of Joseph Jones and Jeanette Jones
To Mayor and Council on 20 May 2016

The following two letters respond to a proposal to approve rezoning of 3365 Commercial Drive and 1695-1775 East 18th Avenue at public hearing on 24 May 2016. Part of Norquay falls within the boundaries of Kensington-Cedar Cottage, the affected Vancouver neighborhood. Beyond this fact, the proposal would set unacceptable precedent for all of the City of Vancouver.

Joseph Jones at 3:33 pm
Public Hearing  —  24 May 2016
3. REZONING: 3365 Commercial Drive and 1695-1775 East 18th Avenue

I Joseph Jones OPPOSE the Cressey proposal to develop the northwest corner of Commercial Drive at East 18th Avenue for the following reasons:

1.  The various appeals to a grab-bag of supposedly applicable policies fail to stand up to scrutiny. One immediate piece of evidence for the shaky policy foundation is how the development site has been carved up into kludgy and dodgy subareas.

When I speak to Council at the public hearing, I will focus on outlining the dubious history of the Interim Rezoning Policy (effective 4 Oct 2012 | amended 2 Dec 2013 and 19 Apr 2016). A mapping of 2012-2016 IRP sites is provided as appendix to this letter.

2.  The off-arterial extension of non-ground-oriented housing form, into the area along East 18th Avenue, fails to respect the Interim Rezoning Policy requirement to provide

Ground-oriented forms up to a maximum of 3½ storeys, which is generally sufficient height to include small house/duplexes, traditional row houses, stacked townhouses and courtyard row houses (p. 2 of Appendix A: Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning Policy

A simulacrum end-run that proposes design “to emulate the rhythm and width of town homes” (p. 9) violates the Interim Rezoning Policy and is not acceptable. This aspect would set precedent for the entire City of Vancouver. A “3½-storey rental block” (p. 10) clearly is not a ground-oriented form.

3.  There is almost no local area support for the use of heritage bonusing in this proposal. To this significant degree of non-support add the fact that the limited assessment from the Vancouver Heritage Commission has been unusually negative. Planners have tellingly avoided taking the insufficient revision of the unacceptable proposal back to the Commission. This willful misuse of “heritage” provision amounts to scam.

4.  Discussion with the project arborist at an open house made it clear that keeping the “significant stand of five mature Lawson Cypress trees at the corner of the site” (p. 8) would be an empty gesture. With proposed development, the remaining trees would experience a serious 30% loss of root structure. The trees need more room, and the adjacent Lawson Cypress trees in the grove need to be retained. Unless the trees are given more space, a major existing green amenity will be eradicated (both immediately and by rapid death) from the neighborhood by this development proposal.

5.  The City of Vancouver proposes to hand over to big Vision-Vancouver-donor Cressey a piece of public land owned since 1939 — “nine percent of the total subject site area” (p. 16). To allow this would amount to extraction of value from the local area with no payback. This has become a depressing and regular pattern for how the City of Vancouver deals with East Vancouver.

Perhaps that money would be applied to the $55 million purchase price for the Arbutus corridor on the favored side of town? Despite already owning most of the land needed to deliver a Renfrew Ravine linear park (connecting Norquay Park with Renfrew Ravine), the City of Vancouver continues to fail to provide any part whatsoever of the amenity package specified under the 2010 Norquay Plan. A large area of East Vancouver is undergoing massive and rapid redevelopment with none of the promised corresponding improvement to public realm.

6.  The lengthy process for the site at Commercial and East 18th Avenue has seemed dominated by back room collusion between developer Cressey and the City of Vancouver. Despite extensive efforts made by local area residents to provide input, the end result has incorporated nothing significant from community feedback.

The City of Vancouver insulted a committed group of people with a stealth posting of 3 December 2015 “revisions to the application” — providing no notification to participants. In light of the foregoing comments, consider how little difference the following minor tweaks have made to address severe policy problems:

Revisions to the Application

December 3, 2015: Revised drawings were submitted on December 3, 2015 to address concerns raised by staff and the community. The overall density was reduced from 2.55 FSR to 2.40 FSR with a corresponding reduction in unit count from 118 residential units to 114 residential units. Increased setback and massing changes are proposed to the rental building, a reduction to the size of the proposed infill building on the heritage site, and the location of the underground parking ramp has been moved closer to Commercial Drive. In addition, the Transportation Study has been updated.

Appendix: Mapping of the Six Proposals under Interim Rezoning Policy 2012-2016


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Jeanette Jones at 4:49 pm
Re: May 24 Public Hearing Item 3. Rezoning: 3365 Commercial Drive and 1695-1775 East 18th Avenue

I am opposed to the Rezoning Application for 3365 Commercial Drive and 1695-1775 East 18th Avenue for two main reasons.

1.  The 3.5-storey apartment building on East 18th Avenue does not meet the Form of Development/Location criteria set out in the Interim Rezoning Policy.

Within approximately 100 metres of an arterial street (i.e. 1.5 blocks), ground-oriented forms up to a maximum of 3.5 storeys, which is generally sufficient height to include small house/duplexes, traditional row houses, stacked townhouses and courtyard row houses  [Appendix A]

The phrase “ground-oriented forms” is commonly understood to mean the housing types listed above. The list does not include low-rise apartment buildings. In the case of this application, the City of Vancouver is implying that the presence of a few units with ground-level entries makes the entire 23-unit, 3.5-storey apartment building a “ground-oriented building form.” This is contrary to accepted usage and to the Interim Rezoning Policy.

Appendix A of the IRP also states:

The intent of this Interim Rezoning Policy is to encourage innovation and enable real examples of ground-oriented affordable housing types to be tested for potential wider application that will provide on-going housing opportunities.

Building anything other than small house/duplexes, traditional row houses, stacked townhouses or courtyard row houses on East 18th Avenue would defeat the clearly stated intent of the Interim Rezoning Policy. This application is the first under the IRP to include an area off the arterial street. It will set a precedent for future IRP applications across the City of Vancouver.

2.  The heritage component of this application does not have the support of the Heritage Commission or of the community.

The Vancouver Heritage Commission at its meeting on May 4, 2015 stated:

THAT the Vancouver Heritage Commission does not support the application to relocate and rehabilitate 3365 Commercial Drive due to the relocation of the house, its new siting and its condition;

FURTHER THAT the Commission is willing to consider a revised application that would address the position of the heritage house on the site with a reduced, more compatible infill project adjacent.

The expectation of the community (and very likely, of the Heritage Commission itself) has been that a revised application would go back to the Commission for further review.

However, staff failed to send the revised application, submitted by the developer in December 2015, to the Heritage Commission for reevaluation. The Staff Report states that “staff have concluded that the revised proposal addresses the Commission’s concerns … ” (p. 11) But the only revisions that have been made to the heritage component of the application are that the massing of the “infill project adjacent” has been slightly reduced and the infill project has been moved a little further toward the back of the site. I do not believe that these small changes adequately address the concerns expressed in the Commission’s initial evaluation of May 4, 2015. Only minimal changes have been made to its new siting. The condition of the house remains very poor. The current treed “semi-rural” location of the “heritage house” is responsible for most of the 26 points it was given in the Statement of Significance, barely enough to assure a place on the “C” list. Moving the house will destroy most of its heritage value.

The community does not believe that the applicant should be given any additional density for moving and rehabilitating this house. The true heritage component of this site is the grove of large trees on the corner of Commercial and East 18th Avenue. These trees remain under threat because the proposed building envelope encroaches on the space needed by their rootballs if the trees are to survive.

I ask that you DO NOT APPROVE this application for the reasons given above.

Jeanette Jones


Written by eyeonnorquay

20 May 2016 at 10:13 pm

2719 Ward

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Comment on Development Application DE420070 under RM-7 Zoning


16 May 2016

This project, consisting of 16 units in 2 buildings, would set precedent in the RM-7 zone. Therefore the application deserves careful consideration.


1.  Each unit is a corner unit, allowing good access to natural light and ventilation. This design also makes it easier to achieve wider living spaces.

2.  The enhanced side yard between the buildings is well designed and encourages interaction between the residents.

3.  Bike and storage lockers are located under the decks, making good use of that space. It looks as if this is possible because the decks project into the front yard for a full 6 ft., in line with the new guidelines passed in March 2016.


1.  The entries of the eight back units do not front on the street. Four of these units have entries on the centrally located enhanced sideyard, which is a good alternative. But entries to the four units near the back corners of the site are tucked away close to the rear of the building, next to the fence. Residents of these units will tend to feel peripheral to the community life of the development.

2.  The eight back units face the back lane. The living room windows of the lower units would look out on bare fences, on the parking spaces for this development and on the neighbours’ garages. The lower back unit in the northeast corner of the site would have a direct view of the concrete block wall that partially obscures the garbage area. The evergreen clematis on the trellises over the parking spaces could improve the view somewhat, but not enough.

3.  A new RM-7 guideline passed in March 2016 specifies that a majority of units should be 1200 sq. ft. in area. All units in this development are smaller than 1200 sq. ft., although a majority of them have 3 bedrooms.

4.  The upper units appear to have an adequate amount of private open space in the form of balconies and decks. The lower back units have additional private ground level open space. But deck areas for the lower front units are much more restricted, especially considering that they function in part as entries to the units.

5.  Too much of the site is covered by concrete. Especially objectionable is the 6.5 ft. wide concrete walkway along the inside of the fence across the front of the property. Impermeable material covers 82% of the site, considerably more than the 70-75% allowed.

6.  The location of the access walkways to the bike and storage lockers makes the front and back yards useless for any other purpose. Stepping stones set into grass are a poor choice for walkways in multi-family developments because they are far too difficult to maintain and pose a tripping hazard. Where they are used to access lockers, as they are in this instance, the grass surrounding them will soon be worn away by residents moving bikes and other items in and out of the lockers.

7.  Several areas of lawn, especially along the outer walkways and in the enhanced sideyard, are too small. They are not functional and would be hard to take care of. It is not clear what material covers the space under the stairways. Grass would not be appropriate in
that location.


1.  Many of these concerns could be addressed if the open space in the front and back yards were designed differently. Tiny areas of lawn are difficult to maintain and not very functional. They become even less desirable when one considers the presence of chafer beetles across Vancouver. Several RM-7 projects have eliminated the use of grass altogether (see landscape plans for 5005 Clarendon St. and 2679 Horley Street), or at least in the back yards (see landscape plans for 2115 E. 33rd Avenue, 4740 Duchess St., and 5055/69 Earles St.) In these projects, on-site open space is covered with a combination of paving stones and planting beds, and the use of grass is mostly confined to boulevards. We favour this approach.

If paving stones are used in the front and back yards, they should be different from those used in the enhanced sideyard so that each area is clearly defined. The configuration of the paved areas should allow access to the entry stairways and the lockers and still leave as much space as possible for plantings, especially along the inside of the front and back fences. If there is not room for a planting area at least 2.5 ft. wide inside the front fence, consider eliminating the fence.

2.  If pavers are considered to be impermeable, using them in the front and back yards would result in an even higher percentage of the site being covered by impermeable material. Changing the surface of the parking spaces from asphalt to a permeable material would help to meet the permeability requirement.

We do not have specific suggestions for addressing the other concerns we have raised, but we believe that they are equally important.

Jeanette and Joseph Jones

Written by eyeonnorquay

16 May 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in RM-7 Comment

Big Hit from Rental 100

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A consolidation of 5 parcels with a frontage of 231 feet has occurred on the northwest corner of Kingsway at Gladstone Street, cater-corner from the massive full-block development now underway at 2220 Kingsway.

The letter reproduced below has been received by local area residents, announcing a developer’s pre-application open house:

        Gladstone Secondary School
        4105 Gladstone Street
        Thursday  —  19 May 2016  —  5 pm to 8 pm

The developer seeks to build approximately 100 units of so-called affordable rental housing in a building of six storeys at an FSR of 3.3. The City of Vancouver “Rental 100” program offers developers massive no-fee gifts (with no honest rental-rate accountability) simply to build rental housing units.

Primary concerns at this point relate to three aspects:

Kingsway and Gladstone sidewalk setbacks. Gladstone Street marks the western boundary for the Norquay Plan. For a development of this scale, the Norquay Plan requires a setback of 25 feet. Does it make sense for the block right beside Norquay to suffer a downgraded “transition” status because that next block has not been “planned”? The stretch of Kingsway between Victoria Drive and Gladstone Street is already more attractive than any comparable segment of Kingsway that falls within the one-mile boundaries of “Norquay.”

Articulation along a 230 foot streetwall. Without good design, the existing building variety could be lost to a deadscape that deactivates current street life. This development needs to look like at least five different buildings.

Amenity delivery failure for Norquay so far. A new massive no-payback development will exacerbate the population pressures already concentrating at the western edge of Norquay. After enduring a great deal of construction activity, and seeing a CAC of $3 million immediately sequestered, Norquay residents have enjoyed none of the major public realm improvements specified by the Norquay Plan. So far that brand-new “neighbourhood centre” to the east — where the City of Vancouver owns three acres of land at 2400 Kingsway — remains a truck-route wasteland despite all the planning. Meanwhile, developers exploit the edge.

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Developer’s Letter



2153-2199 Kingsway as Shown on VanMap


The Five Existing Parcels on Kingsway

     2153 Kingsway

     2163 Kingsway

     2169 Kingsway

     2185 Kingsway

     2199 Kingsway


Two Big Wins from Any Redevelopment


     Elimination of Pattison’s Lighted, Noisy Non-Conforming Billboard

     Disappearance of the City of Vancouver Sponsored DUMP

However ugly we get treated in the heart of East Vancouver, sometimes there’s unintended upside!
Call it collateral repair?

Written by eyeonnorquay

13 May 2016 at 5:33 pm

5005 Clarendon Street

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Comment on Development Application DE418727 under RM-7 Zoning


2 May 2016

[ Note:  An almost identical application has been posted for 2384 East 34th Avenue ]

We are concerned about the size of the units in this development. A “key parameter” of a typical stacked townhouse in the RM-7 zone is an area of 1200 sq. ft. (Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan Implementation Report accompanying the RM-7 zoning regulations adopted by Council April 9, 2013, p. 11)

The Guideline adopted by Council on March 8, 2016 for unit density in the RM-7 zone makes this requirement explicit:

New Section:
4.18 Dwelling Unit Density
The maximum number of dwelling units that may be considered in any development is based on the provision in section 4.18 of the RM-7 District Schedule. This maximum may not necessarily be achievable due to considerations of livability and the preference for larger dwelling units that are suitable for families. Typically, the location of the main living spaces (ie. living rooms) should be located at or above grade and a majority of the dwelling units should be large, 3-bedroom units approximately 1,200 ft2 in size.

Of the nine units in this development, only one unit — a very large unit measuring 1655 sq. ft. — meets this requirement. There are five units measuring 900-950 sq. ft., and three units measuring 1030-1040 sq. ft. This makes the mean average size of the units 1045 sq. ft., and the median average size only 935 sq. ft. One very large unit is no substitute for “a majority of units … approximately 1200 sq. ft. in size.” Most of these units are too small to be suitable for families.

The units should be reconfigured to meet the requirement of Guideline 4.18 before this application is approved.

Jeanette and Joseph Jones

Written by eyeonnorquay

2 May 2016 at 12:00 pm

Posted in RM-7 Comment