May 18th, 2021 Public Hearing – Local Retail Resurgence Hopes To Fill Vancouver’s Community Hearts

Public Hearing – May 18th, 2021
(Update – May 18th, 2021 – Thanks to the local BIA, we now know the lot at 8655 Granville has been sitting vacant for 30 years)

Over the last couple years, public hearings in Vancouver have gained a reputation for being long, drawn out affairs that often last multiple nights. That said, Hannah and I are pretty confident this one won’t continue that pattern, especially since we noticed its backup date on Thursday has been cancelled. Then again, Item #1 proves some people just like hearing themselves speak, as it’s hard to understand why else city council insists on personally reviewing townhomes along the Cambie Corridor.

Conversely, Item #2 could be one of the last six floor, non-profit social housing buildings they’ll ever examine thanks to a recent baby-step like decision, which came too late for this project. Going forward, these non-profit mid-rise buildings will be allowed to skip the rezoning process, albeit in limited multi-family zoned areas of Vancouver (pg 7). It’s also inspired Councillor Boyle who has put forward a motion which, under the right conditions, could allow some to reach up to 12 floors.

Item #3 shifts to the other side of the spectrum, as this six floor strata mid-rise is located on Grandview-Woodland’s southern edge. That also means it should go unnoticed, not because it’s near the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station, but rather since most opposition is focused on the Safeway “mega-towers.” Ironically, even the highest point envisioned there will be only half the size of the tallest buildings planned at Burnaby’s transit stations, but that’s a subject for a different night.

However, pushing commuters out to the suburbs has consequences, and is literally driving most of the opposition to Items 4 and 5, both of which are in Marpole. They seek to strengthen their respective retail centres on Oak, and Granville, with a mix of new stores, a floor of office space, and some strata homes above. That’s proven a recipe for success in this community, and their combined multi-million dollar amenity contributions should ensure this night also ends quietly.

Backlash Expectations

Item 2 – 1885 East Pender StreetVery Low
This is almost a formality, as the existing rules in this area now allow projects like this one

Item 3 – 1650 East 12th AvenueVery Low
Those opposed to tall buildings have bigger concerns, but city staff have still asked for some cutbacks

Item 4 – 8257-8273 Oak Street & 1025-1035 67th AvenueVery Low
In 2017, only two people opposed the approval of a proposal across the road from this one (pg 49)

Item 5 – 8655 GranvilleVery Low
A project one block to the north of this one drew no speakers when it was approved in 2018 (pg 38)

– (source)

The Second Item – 1885 East Pender Street – Very Low

What is it?:
This is a fairly standard six floor building under the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan (pg 91) that will offer 64 non-profit, social housing apartments, 43% of which will have two or more bedrooms.

Where is it?:
Here, at the former site of the decrepit Aaron Webster Housing Co-op. It’s also across the road from Xpey’ Elementary School, and a block south of a recently approved strata building.

What will it contribute to the community?:
The increase of non-market housing is considered by the city to be a valuable addition in and of itself, though its cash value equivalent hasn’t been listed.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Arguably, city council made the biggest change at last month’s public hearing. From now on, buildings of this scale that offer non-profit social housing in multifamily-zoned area like this one (pg 7), will no longer be required to undergo this costly rezoning process, though a development application is still needed.

What was the open house like?:
Over 2,000 households were notified about this virtual event, but less than 1% (20 people), bothered to send in a comment card (pg 11). In addition to comments of support, others were concerned its height will block neighbour’s views, and sunlight (pg 12). The questions that were asked reflected this divide, and can be viewed here.

What are its strengths?:
These homes will be much safer for residents, as the existing co-op was in such poor condition, it had to be demolished (pg 5). It’s nice to see a design that includes colours other than the usual monochrome tones, and most importantly this project is essentially already allowed by a unanimously approved city policy (pg 9).

What are its weaknesses?:
Given the need for this type of housing, as well as its location near a school, and R5 stop, some would argue this should be allowed to be even taller. In fact, Councillor Boyle has prepared a motion that would allow that very thing, which will be heard the next day.

What is the opposition like?:
Whether they know it or not, they’ve already lost as a recently approved city policy now means this proposal doesn’t actually need to undergo this step in the approval process.

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

The Third Item – 1650 East 12th Avenue – Very Low

What is it?:
As prescribed by the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan (pg 110), this six floor building will include 65 strata homes, and retail stores at the ground level. Notably, the floor space allowed here will remain unchanged from what’s permitted today.

Where is it?:
Here, currently occupied by a strip mall that’s less than a 10 minute walk away from the Commercial- Broadway SkyTrain station, Clark Park, Trout Lake, and the Croatian Cultural Centre.

What will it contribute to the community?:
As there will be no increase to the existing allowable floor space ratio, a community amenity contribution is not required. That said, it will pay ~$1.55 million in levies for city-wide, and utility improvements (pg 11).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
City staff have required it to eliminate some housing space to provide an eight foot setback to the single-family homes to the west. They’ve also suggested moving the emergency exit (pg 17), which could be complicated, as its location was determined by a view cone that restricts this building’s height.

What was the open house like?:
Over 1,700 households were notified about this online event, but only 15 comment forms were submitted (pg 10). You can view the three questions that were asked here, but they generally centered around the impacts to the availability of street parking.

What are its strengths?:
A restaurant, or café will be a huge improvement from the parking lot that currently occupies this corner. Those who feel these designs should be shaped by existing context will be glad this one was essentially molded by the view cones, and community plan.

What are its weaknesses?:
The region’s bustiest transit station is less than three blocks away, but city policy still requires 48 stalls of vehicle parking be included (pg 1). One could debate whether that means more housing should be allowed here too, or if the protected views to the north serve a greater public interest.

What is the opposition like?:
There are some who feel it’s too tall, but the main issue seems to be a worry that this will result in more traffic along the laneway, which will make it unsafe (pg 11).

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

The Fourth Item – 8257-8273 Oak Street & 1025-1035 67th Avenue – Very Low

What is it?:
Envisioned under the Marpole Community Plan (pg 31), this will continue the presence of storefronts along Oak Street, with a floor of local-serving office space, and 62 strata homes above.

Where is it?:
Here, where a small strip mall forms part of a retail node at the intersection of Oak Street, and West 67th Avenue. A more memorable landmark would be the Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre in Oak Park a couple blocks to the north.

What will it contribute to the community?:
Its ~$3.6 million amenity contribution will help fund the rejuvenation of the nearby community centre, and other neighbourhood infrastructure (pg 11). It will also provide ~$1.67 million in fees used for city-wide, and utility improvements (pg 12).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
To ensure people of all ages and abilities are treated with respect, city staff are requiring accessibility improvements to the stairs at the southeast corner, and at the entry to the main lobby. They’ve also enforced the Urban Design Panel’s recommendations to reduce the amount of blank walls, and improve the amenity areas (pg 16 & 17).

What was the open house like?:
Only 10 people of the 700 households notified showed up to this in-person event early last year (pg 35). That made for a quiet night, which also left a friend of ours a little jealous as it meant we had all the McDonald’s burgers, and chicken nuggets we could eat.

What are its strengths?:
The Urban Design Panel appreciated that doctors, dentists, and other professional services would be drawn to the office space, and felt it easily earned some extra density. The design is pretty attractive too, and is a welcome departure from the typical style found on Vancouver’s arterial roads.

What are its weaknesses?:
Considering how frequently the 17 bus runs, some might balk at the idea that city policy requires 69 parking stalls here (pg 4).

What is the opposition like?:
While there are the usual concerns about the height, impacts to the availability of street parking, and worsening traffic on Oak Street, others feel anything taller than two floors is unacceptable. These individuals feel too many people live in the area already, and worry new residents will spread Covid-19 to this single-family neighborhood (1).

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

The Fifth Item – 8655 Granville Street – Very Low

What is it?:
Under the Marpole Community Plan (pg 31), this 11 floor building will offer ground floor retail space, locally serving office needs on level 2, and above that will be 55 strata homes.

Where is it?:
Here, at an empty lot which has sat vacant for over a decade, just south of Marpole’s Safeway, and steps away from the Arbutus Greenway. It will be on the south side of a future mid-block pedestrian connection (pg 7).

What will it contribute to the community?:
Its ~$2 million neighbourhood amenity payment, along with the funding from the previous item, should go a long way to ensuring the renewed Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre becomes a reality. It will also deliver ~$1.6 million in city-wide, and utility improvement fees (pg 45).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
As conditions for approval, city staff are requiring it to provide smaller retail stores, and more loading bays (pg 16), as well as better landscaping to improve the experience for those walking by (pg 18).

What was the open house like?:
Of 1,800 households notified, only 15 people came out to attend this open house last February. Had we known what was to come with the pandemic, we may have ditched our plans that night and joined them. Once again, the biggest concerns were about traffic on Granville Street, and the availability of street parking (pg 9).

What are its strengths?:
After 30 years of sitting empty, it’ll be nice to see a series of new storefronts in Marpole’s retail heart. The design is pretty nice too, as the variation of the balconies provide something interesting to look at.

What are its weaknesses?:
The west side’s plain appearance feels out of place when compared to the rest of the building, and does a poor job of responding to the heat of the evening sun. Then again, the city policy that requires 73 parking stalls for these 55 homes (pg 1) has its own short falls.

What is the opposition like?:
A couple homeowners fear this will blot out the sun, while another thinks the area is overcrowded, and wants buildings on Granville Street capped at four floors (pg 1). Traffic congestion is also an issue, but forcing people to commute from further away won’t solve that.

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

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