Public Hearing – March 11th, 2021 – Times Takes Its Toll As Langara Grows Up, The Granville Strip Fills Out, And The River District Review Turns Green

*Update* – March 12th, 2021 – City Council has approved Item #1, and has finished hearing speakers on Item #2. That said, one can still submit comments, or speak on Items #3 & #4, which will be heard at the Public Hearing reserve date on April 1st, 2021.

Public Hearing – March 11th, 2021
By nature, public hearings have long lasting impacts, as they literally determine how many businesses and people are permitted to call Vancouver home. This one takes that a step further, as every item is designed to facilitate future proposals, and Item #1 will even lay out how many students are allowed to receive an education in our city. This Langara College’s Master Plan doesn’t call for any new housing, and some fear Item #2 may see far less being constructed.

At first glance, a requirement to replace any rental homes lost when a building along an arterial road is redeveloped sounds perfect (pg 40). Yet it’s left smaller property owners fearful (pg 42 & 43) that only large firms will be able to obtain financing to create four floor strata buildings, with a handful of separately managed rental homes. This was all a moot point until city council let policies that enabled six floor 100% rental buildings in these locations to lapse, and delayed new programs (pg 10).

Ultimately, this is a really nuanced issue, which Hannah and I don’t feel we can fully capture in a few short lines. It’s actually surprising this hasn’t received the attention that has been lavished on Item #3, which is a straightforward plan to allow more rental, and social housing along two blocks of Granville Street, between Drake and Helmcken. This doesn’t jeopardize the aspirations for the Entertainment District to the north, but some worry it will effect their safety.

In contrast, the residents of East and West Fraser Lands are probably more worried that enduring yet another public hearing will leave them closer to realizing the amenities they’ve been long promised. Item #4 won’t solve everything, but it will deliver badly needed parks, non-market homes, and daycare spaces. Most in the community continue to welcome new neighbours, which is fortunate as this 10 year review includes adding more housing of all types as well.

Backlash Expectations

Item #1 –  100 West 49th Avenue (Langara College)Very Low
Most of this campus is bordered by a golf course, and park space

Item #3 – Amendment to Downtown ODP – Area K3 (Granville Street)Moderate
There’s been plenty of online debate, but not many people have bothered to submit comments

Item #4 – East Fraser Lands ODP & Public Amenity Financial Plan & Strategy ReviewVery Low
The community continues to be very welcoming, they just want their promised amenities


The First Item –  100 West 49th Avenue (Langara College) – Very Low

What is it?:
This Master Plan outlines the future growth of Langara College, which will include a trio of six floor buildings, a four floor structure, and indigenous meeting house, as well as improved landscaping.

Where is it?:
Here, nearly surrounded by the Langara Golf Course. Many students arrive using either the Ontario Greenway, or the nearby Langara-49th Avenue Canada Line station.

What will it contribute to the community?:
Aside from training the next generation of journalists, nurses, and many other professions? Well, it will pay ~$22.1 million in dcl fees for city-wide improvements, put ~$2.17 million toward public art, and provides a 12 space daycare expansion valued at ~$1.9 million (pg 99).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
By nature, post secondary institutions have to adapt with the times, and this one has continued to evolve since this process began in 2004. As for the current proposal, city staff are requiring changes to improve the movement of all types of travel (pg 19), preserve more trees (pg 21), and encourage a green roof (pg 22).

What was the open house like?:
We imagine a good number of students knew about this event, but like the majority of the 2,200 households notified, most failed to show up. That said, local MLA Michael Lee was one the 57 people in attendance (pg 93), and we’re sure he heard many of the same supportive comments we did.

What are its strengths?:
As the existing buildings are seismically unsafe, new structures of any kind are a vast improvement. They will also create new opportunities to learn about First Nation’s culture, which will now be better reflected in the campus.

What are its weaknesses?:
Understanding that most students currently commute to Langara, it would have been nice to see some student housing envisioned here in the years to come.

What is the opposition like?:
There isn’t a lot, aside from some concerns about traffic congestion, and pedestrian volumes (pg 94). One person is particularly upset that those attending school here take up the residents’ only street parking, leave litter, and worries that our city is failing its future generations by allowing buildings like this (pg 1).

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

The Third Item – Amendment to Downtown ODP – Area K3 (Granville Street) – Moderate

What is it?:
This is an amendment to the Downtown Official Development Plan that will increase the allowable FSR for market rental, and social housing from 3.5 (pg 14) to 5 FSR in a limited area of Downtown.

Where is it?:
Here, in Downtown’s Area K3 (pg 10), better known to everyone as the two blocks of Granville Street, between Drake and Helmcken. Neither the four currently occupied, pre-1930s rental buildings on these two blocks, nor the 2012 approved rental building at 1142 Granville Street are included under this update (pg 6).

What will it contribute to the community?:
Allowing vacant building’s the density needed to make rental or social housing economically viable is a pretty big improvement by any standard.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Based on feedback heard before, and during this event, city staff will have proposed moving ahead with a process to develop an updated vision for the Granville Strip (pg 9).

What was the open house like?:
Over 13,000 notifications were sent out about this virtual event, but just 23 questions, and 33 comments were submitted (pg 10). Nearly half supported the height and density proposed, which contrasts with the five concerned about how it would affect the neighbourhood’s safety.

What are its strengths?:
It incentivizes the use of mass timber in future construction (pg 11), as it’s clear something new has to be tested here. Compared to Vancouver House to the south, either form of housing here will be far more obtainable.

What are its weaknesses?:
This is actually less profitable than it is to build strata housing that’s allowed here today, so we can’t help but wonder if it’ll actually have any effect (pg 11).

What is the opposition like?:
There’s been a lot of editorials about how this could hinder the planned rejuvenation of the Granville Strip, and that concern has been echoed by the Downtown BIA. Some also feel it would worsen their safety, now that the health crisis has made Vancouver’s homeless more visible.

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

Fourth Item – East Fraser Lands ODP & Public Amenity Financial Plan & Strategy Review – Very Low

What is it?:
This plan’s 10 year review will allow for an additional 1,000 strata, 500 rental, and 350 non-market homes, as well as 20 more daycare spaces, and two more acres of park space in the East Fraser Lands.

Where is it?:
Here, in the East Fraser Lands, otherwise known as the River District, though most of the changes are proposed east of Jack Uppal Street, in Areas 1 and 3 (pg 8).

What will it contribute to the community?:
The two acres of park space, and 20 new daycare spaces are sure to be well received, and those who need them will appreciate the new non-market housing too.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
There’s been several interim measures during this 10 year review, which you can read about here on pages 79 – 87.

What was the open house like?:
We’re only human, so we can barely remember, let alone summarize, the four open houses (pg 18), and four public hearings (pg 11) that have taken place over the last four years.

What are its strengths?:
In an area rich with young families, the extra daycare spaces are sure to be a hit, and so will be the two new acres of park space. That has been created not by deleting any housing, but by shifting it to the CD-1 567 zone as four additional floors of height. The review process itself is commendable, as it ensures the community’s voice is heard, and can adjust to the needs of the future.

What are its weaknesses?:
To say this review has gone on for a long time is an understatement, and it would be nice to see a more concrete commitment to the other promised amenities.

What is the opposition like?:
As only half of this neighbourhood will be completed by 2025 (pg 8), it might be surprising to learn some of the ~1,500 people now living here oppose any additional construction (pg 1), or impacts to their view (pg 4).

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

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