Urban Design Panel Urges City Staff To Make Room For Little Mountain’s Sprouts To Grow

5098 James Street – DP-2020-00442 – (Little Mountain – Building EB)
In a weird way, I was relieved to hear the volunteers on the Urban Design Panel admit these weekly meetings were starting to feel relentless, and were leaving them fatigued. Hannah and I have certainly shared that sentiment, but the current public safety measures made it hard to tell if others did as well. Of course, that exhaustion pales in comparison to that of the former residents of Little Mountain who remain emotionally invested in their former home.

Still, I was confused when city staff explained this 6 floor building needed this review because it was located in a highly concerned neighbourhood of single family homes. That struck me as odd, since projects in the surrounding area have generated little interest, and the rezoning application for this 15.2 acre site was approved back in 2016. That said, a couple panellists were concerned whether a key tenant of that vision had been violated.

This issue wasn’t connected to the development application in front of them, but rather the preservation of a nearby cluster of trees. The original intent was to retain them, but city staff revealed that further research determined they had to be removed in order to provide the various infrastructure needed to serve this growing neighbourhood. Some on the panel understood that rational, but were apparently ignored, as the panel recommended retaining all existing trees per the design guidelines (pg 3).

The panel believed the applicant should somehow push for this, but admitted they had no idea how they could “hold the city’s feet to the fire.” In contrast, like the edible planting, the landscaping on this site itself was complemented for being plentiful, lush, and soft. A few members were concerned that it was too successful, as it over-shielded the private patios from the general public, while another worried it didn’t fit well with this highly polished facade.

The majority felt differently, and praised this architectural expression as organic, playful, and really attractive. However, they were worried that the size of the indoor and outdoor amenity spaces meant there wasn’t enough room for residents to enjoy themselves. The applicant explained there were two indoor spaces with a general room located off the lobby, and an exercise room near the parking garage entrance. This puzzled the panel, as they questioned why the children’s play area was located along the later.

Not only did they recommend it be relocated, they suggested the city examine whether it should be included at all. While previous panels have recognized the value these spaces provide to families, this group thought it would be better to create one large playground in Wedge Park (pg 17), rather than require each building have their own small space. It was felt this would help achieve their recommendation to enlarge the amenity spaces, and promote a more neighbourly community.

City Council’s recent decision to approve the final permit for a building that will deliver a 69 space daycare, neighbourhood house, and 48 non-market homes here should help achieve that, but it didn’t factor into this decision. Instead, a motion of support was passed by a vote of 7 – 3. Those opposed expressed their love for this project, but felt Vancouver’s engineering department should be taken to task for their decision to remove the aforementioned trees.

This was not the first time that organization has been the cause of the panel’s frustration, as it’s come up several times this year, but the applicants don’t have the power to overrule them. After all, this community will need sidewalks, power-lines, and sewers, since a sales centre has been recently proposed, and two (1, 2) other non-market housing projects have already been approved.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to make your thoughts heard, as we assume you have until October 7th, 2020 (roughly a month after this meeting) to send them to project facilitator, Jennifer Catarino at jennifer.catarino@vancouver.ca or 604-871-6023.

You can view more photos from this meeting here on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Partnership Holborn Holdings Ltd.
Architects – Arno Matis Architecture Inc
Landscape ArchitectsPFS Studio

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: