Despite A Snap Reduction, Vancouver Rental Homes Remain Dogged By Bad Karme

1837 E 11th Ave and 2631 Victoria Dr – September 25th, 2020 Rezoning Application
This wasn’t an easy Urban Design Panel meeting to recap, as the vote was one of the weirdest I’ve ever seen, included over five recommendations, and this project’s history dates back to the Infinity War. Then again, it’s not often a proponent rescinds city council’s permission (pg 7) to build an 11 floor, 3.59 FSR building that offered a mix of 72 rental and 62 strata homes. Instead, they’ve opted to pursue something the Grandview Woodland Community Plan seems to discourage.

Given the low vacancy rate in Vancouver, I’m not sure why that vision limits 100% rental buildings to roughly half the height, and 20% less density than their mixed-use counterparts (pg 118 – 119). Naturally, as only two homes have been eliminated, the remainder are smaller, meaning this is likely only feasible as the amount of underground parking has been reduced, saving over $60,000 per stall. Unfortunately, the problems of the past resurfaced, and were perhaps made worse by these choices.

Hannah and I may not have attended the former version’s open house in 2017, but we know its biggest challenge was the preservation of the Karme Residence heritage home, rather than community opposition. That element was responsible for the panel requesting re-submission of a previous concept (pg 11), and factored in many of this meeting’s recommendations too. Several panellists seemed surprised council had signed off on that structure’s future location, which remains the same in this iteration too (pg 3).

Their criticism of the tight space this produced was blistering, and one person noted they frankly wouldn’t want to live here due to the lack of sunlight it allowed. This led to a recommendation to review livability of main building suites and heritage suites at the northeast corner with respect to overlook and light access. There was a similar concern about the quiet garden amenity along the lane (pg 6), and the panel felt only drastic action could resolve these difficulties.

Which is why they recommended the applicant explore moving the main building southward to provide relief to heritage building, and improve the aforementioned outdoor amenity space. This would also align with some member’s desire to switch the wheelchair ramp at the southeast corner with the tree shaded outdoor lounge west of the main entrance (pg 6). In contrast, a minority believed it would be better to move the building closer to the laneway to improve the transition to the front yard.

Still, all agreed on a recommendation for design development to allow both buildings appropriate room on site, and improve transition to the heritage building. How the site’s required setbacks would affect this remained unclear, nor was it known whether the city would permit a height relaxation needed to facilitate the recommendation to consider a rooftop amenity. That extra protrusion might help with another recommendation to explore variation to the roof line, or other building elements to breakdown the monolithic appearance.

To alleviate the horizontal style that caused this, they recommended to explore providing vertical relief to long elevations along the front and back. Others specified creating individual entrances to the townhomes on East 11th Avenue, but the applicant cautioned this and the site’s two foot slope could sink these homes into the earth (pg 14). Nonetheless, the panel recommended design development to the massing to counteract the monolithic appearance, and consider application of materials as a further measure to breakdown the mass.

This sounds orderly, yet in reality these instructions underwent three revisions, growing larger each time. Even the voting process was convoluted, as after the motion to support this project narrowly failed 6 – 5, one member quickly switched their vote, leading it to pass by the same margin. That might be because city staff explained this proposal wasn’t likely to return for review at the development permit stage, but it shows one voice can make a difference, so express yours here.

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

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Intracorp Homes
Architects – METRIC Architecture
Landscape Architects – Connect Landscape Architecture

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