Public Hearing – December 2nd, 2020 – A Pleasant Hope Shines Through East Van’s Trees, While Rental Homes Look For A Safeway Through Vancouver’s Asphalt Transformation

Public Hearing – December 2nd, 2020
Update 12/03/20 – The public hearing has recessed, and will resume on December 10th at 6pm. As such, one can still send in correspondence or sign up to speak on Items 6 & 7.

Considering the difficulties we’ve all experienced this year, Hannah and I are grateful Vancouver’s second last public hearing in 2020 should be a low-key affair. That’s despite the fact that many of these rental and social housing proposals are actually a partnership, or at least feel like they are. For instance, the first item, a six floor rental building on Kingsway, is literally next door to a similar application by the same architects that was approved earlier this year.

Item #2 already has a partner, as this six floor building is proposed to replace a storage yard for a local auto dealership. Items 3 & 4, a set of townhomes and another six floor building, are already linked too, as they will replace a vacated Safeway, and the parking lot that served it. That has driven concerns from a few neighbours that street parking will become hard to find, and those opposed to the next proposal share their pain.

Thankfully, Item #5 is the last six floor building of the night, and given the time and costs involved, we can’t help but wonder why city council feels this drawn-out process is needed for each one. Even social housing buildings like this face these difficulties, which might be why some mistakenly believed it would also cause displacement. The resulting protests have since died down, but these homes now face the challenge of responding to the Urban Design Panel’s advice.

Brightside Community Homes Foundation, the non-profit behind these homes, is facing a long night, as they’re also connected to the evenings final two items. These differ from their predecessors as together they’ll permit the construction of a 12 floor non-market housing building in Mount Pleasant. As this replaces an existing strata building, there’s no concerns about displacement either, but there has been sizable opposition from neighbours concerned about the impact to their private views.

Backlash Expectations

Item #1 – 1265-1281 KingswayVery Low
Expect a similar turnout to the adjacent application that was approved in September

Item #2 – 4745 -4795 Main StVery Low
This storage lot is overflowing, with nearly 30 letters in support of there rental homes

Items #3 & 4 – 7280 Fraser St & 724 E 56th AveVery Low
The plan to replace this old Safeway, and its surface parking lot, hasn’t draw many comments

Item #5 – 2924 Venables StLow
Protests against displacement have faded in light of the care given to existing residents

Items #6 & 7 – 349 E 6th AveModerate
To quote a neighbour “Hard one to oppose given the social housing, but just can’t support 12 storeys”

The First Item – 1265-1281 Kingsway – Very Low

What is it?:
This six floor building will include 43 rental homes, with retail on the ground level.

Where is it?:
Here, next to a fire damaged building, and near the Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood Pub. Ironically, applications for a similar concept have been approved by city council for both of those properties (1 & 2).

What will it contribute to the community?:
It will contribute ~$500,000 in city-wide development cost levies (pg 62).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Its condition of approval requires it increase the visual interest of the Kingsway face, the residential “arrival experience,” and mitigate the affects of the parking ramp on the neighbouring properties (pg 23).

What was the open house like?:
This virtual open house had 89 unique visitors, with 42 that went on to view the information it offered (pg 40). There were also 9 questions that were asked, and you can view them here.

What are its strengths?:
It’s a pretty standard building that fits well into the area.

What are its weaknesses?:
The green roof is nice, but a rooftop amenity would have been even better. There will be some displacement, as 6 renters currently live here, though one moved in after this proposal was filed. The rest will be compensated with 5 months worth of rent (pg 61).

What is the opposition like?:
There’s not much, but one person felt this area needed more services than the “Noodles and Nails” that it’s apparently known for.

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak in person or better yet by phone here.

The Second Item – 4745 -4795 Main St – Very Low

What is it?:
This typical six floor building will provide 89 rental homes, with retail space at the ground level.

Where is it?:
Here, at an overflow storage lot for a nearby car dealership. It’s located roughly between Riley Park, and General Brock Elementary.

What will it contribute to the community?:
There will be ~$2 million dollars paid in city-wide development cost levies (pg 63).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Following the recommendations of the Urban Design Panel, city staff have attached conditions requiring design changes to respond to the “fine-grain” nature and unique character of Main Street (pg 21).

What was the open house like?:
Out of the 1,200 people notified, only 33 attended this event at the nearby Phoenix Gymnastics, with just a third leaving their comments. Hannah and I weren’t among them, as she was enjoying a Christmas Party, while I suffered through the Urban Design Panel.

What are its strengths?:
The only thing being displaced is an asphalt parking lot, which will only add to the variety of Main Street’s colourful businesses.

What are its weaknesses?:
80 spaces of vehicle parking seems overkill given the frequent transit, bikeways, plus the diversity of nearby restaurants, parks and others things to do.

What is the opposition like?:
Some are concerned about the impacts to the availability of street parking due to the proximity of Nat Bailey Stadium and the Hillcrest Recreation Centre. Ironically, other’s feel there’s not enough amenities in the area to support more homes (pg 5).

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak in person or better yet by phone here.

Revised Design -(Source)

The Third & Fourth Items – 7280 Fraser St & 724 E 56th Ave – Very Low

What are they?:
Though technically two different applications, the fates of this six floor building and 12 townhomes are linked together. Both will achieve a passive house level of sustainability, but the former will include 95 rental homes, retail space at the ground level, and the parking for both buildings.

Where are they?:
Here, a couple blocks away from the Sunset Community Centre & Walter Moberly Elementary. They’ll be replacing a former Safeway store, and the parking lot that served it.

What will they contribute to the community?:
The mid-rise application will offer ~$915,000 in development cost levies (pg 51A), while the 12 townhomes will pay a total of ~$161,000 or roughly $13,500 each (Pg 37B).

What has changed since they were first proposed?
Based on the Urban Design Panel’s advice, the prominence of the mid-rise building’s fire wall has been nearly eliminated, and city staff have also required additional entrances for the stores along Fraser Street (pg 22A). The townhomes will also be required to add more windows, a stronger individual expression, and create a more inviting courtyard (Pg 19B).

What was the open house like?:
These project’s hosted a joint pre-application event that drew in 25 people, but we weren’t aware of it at the time. Oddly enough, there were 249 unique visitors at the townhome’s virtual open house (pg 32B), which exceeded the attendance of the mid-rise by 16 (pg 43A). You can view the former’s event here, and the latter’s here.

What are their strengths?:
The new retail stores are badly needed at this intersection, and the only displacement will be the cars people store here. Passive house sustainability is not only better for the climate, but makes these homes more comfortable too.

What are their weaknesses?:
It would have been wonderful to see a plaza link these properties, but that was ruled out by the city’s engineering department.

What is the opposition like?:
Only three people have opposed this six floor building (pg 43A), and two of them have also expressed opposition against the townhome application (pg 32B). The biggest concern seems to be that they won’t be able to use this parking lot for their own purposes anymore (pg 1C).

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak in person or better yet by phone here.

The Fifth Item – 2924 Venables St – Low

What is it?:
This proposal will renew, and increase the amount of non-market homes provided by the existing Alice Saunders House.

Where is it?:
Here, across the road from Notre Dam Region Sr School, and a 10 minute walk from the R5 rapid-bus stop at the PNE. It’s also a block away from a rental building that had a floor eliminated due to neighbourhood opposition. On a personal note, Hannah tried on dresses at the nearby Action Bridal Liquidators earlier this year, and we found the food at Whisky Six BBQ absolutely delicious.

What will it contribute to the community?:
145 social housing apartments will be secured for either 60 years, or the life of the building, whichever is longer (pg 55). 20% of these will rent at “deep subsidy” rate, 50% will be set the at the Housing Income Limit rate, and the remainder will be offered at affordable market rents (pg 11).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Following the advice of the Urban Design Panel, city staff have required cutbacks to the portion of the building near the surrounding single family homes, some of which has been retained and shifted closer to traffic on Renfrew Street (pg 21).

What was the open house like?:
The pre-application event was marked by protests against that died down after realizing the substantial plan to protect the existing tenants during construction. The city-led virtual open house drew 496 unique visitors to its website, and the majority of correspondence supported this project (pg 43). You can view all the questions that were asked at that event here.

What are its strengths?:
The existing building lacks elevators, so that will be a huge upgrade for these older residents. It also offers more non-market homes, and some will now be available for families too. The courtyard looks like a nice spot to mingle, and it will be kept cool on hot summer days by the preservation of the existing large trees.

What are its weaknesses?:
The steep slope of this means some of the homes along Renfrew might suffer from a lack of daylight, and it’s hard to believe the city insisted the homes at the upper floors be located even closer to this arterial street.

What is the opposition like?:
Now that concerns about displacement have been addressed, the main issue seems to be the impact on the surrounding single-family neighbourhood, including the effect of street parking availability.

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak in person or better yet by phone here.

The Sixth & Seventh Items349 E 6th Ave – Moderate

What is it?:
The sixth item is a procedural motion necessary for council to consider the seventh item. That application will provide 82 family and seniors-sized social housing apartments in a 12 floor building.

Where is it?:
Here, replacing the Landmark House strata building. It’s steps away from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, the Mount Pleasant Community Centre, two future Broadway Subway stations, and most importantly Cartems Doughnuts.

What will it contribute to the community?:
These 82 homes will be secured as social housing for either 60 years, or the life of the building, whichever is longer. Over half (pg 20) will be rented at BC Housing Income Limit rates.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Based on feedback from the Urban Design Panel, city staff are requiring some refinement of the mechanical screening on the roof, and improved wayfinding on the ground level (pg 26).

What was the open house like?:
There was a heart-touching moment at the applicant-led event when an older couple beamed that these homes would give their disabled child a chance to live on their own. The city’s virtual open house attracted 406 unique visitors, and a slight majority of the 89 comments were opposed (pg 46). You can see the questions that were asked here.

What are its strengths?:
It’s narrow form provides a sizable green space for residents, and the greater community to interact. As this is replacing a strata building, there was no displacement, rather the for-profit development partner will take over their old land after the residents move into these new homes.

What are its weaknesses?:
The Urban Design Panel had some minor suggestions, but other than that neither Hannah nor I can think of anything.

What is the opposition like?:
It’s a tale as old as time, while many letters claim to support the principal of social housing, they would rather there be less homes, or for them to be located somewhere else.

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak in person or better yet by phone here.

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