June 15th, 29th, & 30th, 2021 Public Hearing – 1,500 New Jobs Enrage Downtown Hermits, While Hundreds Protest An Extra Floor Of Homes In Coal Harbour

Public Hearing – June 15th, 2021

Updated: June 30th, 2021 – After a second meeting on June 29th, city council has approved the first four items, and heard 41 of 78 speakers on Item #5. They will return on June 30th, 2021 at 6pm to attempt to hear the rest. That said, there is still time to express your thoughts on it by either calling in, or emailing your remarks.

To say the last year and a half has been challenging would be an understatement, and frankly it’s hard to believe it’s been that long since Hannah and last attended any civic event in person. Maybe that’s partially why the opposition to many of this night’s items have caught us off guard. After all, who would have expected that proposals for new office buildings, cultural centres, and schools in Downtown Vancouver would draw a torrent of opposition.

Yet, we’re confidant Item #1, a six floor building on Kingsway, won’t draw any attention, even though it’s been slightly expanded since we first encountered it in 2018. We’re also confidant Item #2 will see a fair amount of support, as the existing residents of MacLeod Manor are eager to return to their renewed homes. This expansion has generated some angst from neighbours only willing to support three floors here, despite that this proposal no longer needs city councils approval.

Its opponents may not have a prayer, but at the other end of the city, Item #3 will provide Vancouver’s Isamli community a new place for reflection and gathering. Those services will occupy the podium of this 27 floor 39 floor building, and the rest will be turned over to a non-profit to provide homes for seniors, and others in need. This should balance the new nearby strata and market rental buildings, which some feel have pushed Yaletown to its population limit.

To see letters calling for young people to be forced out of Vancouver is shocking, and the outcry over Item #4’s plan to replace a surface parking lot with space for 1,500 jobs has also caught us off guard. Considering the other buildings on West Georgia, one would have thought the neighbours would have expected this change, but then again literally hundreds of comments have opposed Item #5, a one floor addition to the recently approved Coal Harbour Elementary School.

Backlash Expectations

Item #1 – 602-644 KingswayVery Low
Proposals on Kingsway rarely see any opposition

Item #2 – 8725 French StVery Low
While a few are opposed to anything more than three floors, city policy now allows this form outright

Item #3 – 1317 Richards St & 508 Drake StModerate
Some fear non-profit housing, but most don’t want any more neighbours regardless of their income

Item #4 – 450 West Georgia St & 712-732 Richards StModerate
There are some very upset homeowners in the neighbouring L’hermitage

Item #5 – 480 Broughton StHigh
One extra floor of housing has triggered hundreds of angry Coal Harbour voices


The First Item – 602-644 Kingsway – Very Low

What is it?:
This curved six floor building will offer 80 rental homes, ground level retail space, and a new public plaza.

Where is it?:
Here, across the road from Robson Park (The fifth best in Mount Pleasant), and the thriving restaurant hot spot that exists at Kingway and Fraser.

What will it contribute to the community?:
In addition to providing a modest plaza, which will replace a small tail-end section of East 15th Avenue, it will pay ~$2.2 million in city-wide development cost fees (pg 64).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Quite a lot has changed since the original 2018 concept. It has been expanded to include the western corner lot, and now sports a darker, more industrial theme. There’s also a new, large rooftop amenity.

What was the open house like?:
Despite over 1,400 notice cards being sent out, only 21 people bothered to send in their comments (pg 43). Those who did were pretty split between support and opposition. The questions, which you can view here, focused on traffic issues, and when construction would start.

What are its strengths?:
The aforementioned rooftop amenity looks like it will be a wonderful space for residents, and the plaza should provide some relief for the general public on Kingsway. Hannah was fond of the old look, but I think this one relates better to the old brick building next door.

What are its weaknesses?:
Like the Urban Design Panel, Hannah was hoping to see more colour here, and staff have included this desire as a condition of its approval (pg 23). Also, since the plaza will fall under the Park Board’s jurisdiction, it probably won’t be opening anytime soon.

What is the opposition like?:
There isn’t much, but some are concerned that this could worsen traffic on Kingsway, and negatively impact The Toast Collective. There’s also the typical fear of change, as one person (wrongly) claimed the area hasn’t seen any in 100 years (pg 45).

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


The Second Item – 8725 French St – Very Low

What is it?:
A renewal of MacLeod Manor that will offer 100 non-profit, social housing apartments, which is nearly twice the amount in the existing building. Current residents will be able to return at the same rents as today, and will get their long desired second elevator too.

Where is it?:
Here, right near Marpole’s retail heart. It’s a block east of an 11 floor strata building that was approved last month (pg 10), and about a block south of Marpole’s unique looking Safeway.

What will it contribute to the community?:
There’s a clear value in allowing this non-profit to offer more housing for young families, seniors, and those who have different levels of mental and physical ability (pg 42).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
To provide more space to the apartment building to the south, city staff are requiring this one to be shifted to the north by several feet (pg 19). That said, the biggest change came last month when city council voted to allow proposals like this in limited multi-family zoned areas to skip the rezoning process in the future.

What was the open house like?:
The applicant-led event Hannah attended last March drew out many of the buildings residents, who were eager to design their new homes. Afterwards, the city notified 2,700 households about a virtual meeting, though less than 1% responded (pg 34). You can view the questions they asked here, which mostly centred on street parking.

What are its strengths?:
One cannot underscore how important it is that all of the current residents will be able to return at their existing rent. I’m sure they’ll also welcome the additional, as well as expanded amenities and elevators.

What are its weaknesses?:
Considering the site across the lane allows for 6 floors of strata housing under the Marpole Community Plan, one could ask whether a taller building should have been allowed here. Councillor Boyle certainly seemed to think so, but a majority of our elected officials refused to consider it.

What is the opposition like?:
Partially driven by a mistaken fear of tenant displacement. Others are worried this will jeopardize their safety, and availability of permit free parking (pg 36). There’s also those who understand this is needed, like one 21-year long neighbour (pg 1), but want it capped at three floors.

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


The Third Item – 1317 Richards St & 508 Drake St – Moderate

What is it?:
This 27 floor 39 floor tower will provide space for new culture services, a renewed place of worship for Vancouver’s Ismali community, and 193 non-profit social housing apartments.

Where is it?:
Here, at the site of the old Ismaili Community Centre and Jamatkhana. It’s roughly halfway between Emery Barnes Park, and George Wainborn Park (Vancouver’s 65th, and 95th best respectively). Across the road is the 43 story Peter Wall – Yaletown building, which finished construction in 2017.

What will it contribute to the community?:
The value of this community serving space, place of worship, and 193 non-profit social housing apartments is so high that a cash contribution isn’t needed.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
The original concept would have allowed nearly twice as many homes here, but was slashed in half to protect View Cone B 1. The Urban Design Panel’s comments lead to the elimination of five more to try and improve the remaining homes’ living space, and each one will also have a Juliet balcony.

What was the open house like?:
The virtual applicant-led meeting in November wasn’t particularly memorable, so it’s not surprising only about 0.5% of the 12,000 household notified about the city-led event submitted comments (pg 49). There was a mixed reception, as some desired even more housing here, others believe already too many people are able to call Yaletown home (pg 50 – 51). You can view all the questions that were asked here.

What are its strengths?:
One doesn’t have to be religious to recognize the benefits of expanding places that offer cultural and emotional support in these tough times. That community focus can be shown with how the podium has been sculpted to mitigate any impacts to the neighbours in Kindred Place.

What are its weaknesses?:
Its location has been determined by city policy, but the elevator core has caused problems in the public realm, and with the livability for many of these homes.

What is the opposition like?:
Pretty entitled, as evidenced by one person who’s sent in multiple letters, and previously suggested young people should be relocated to the countryside. While living in high-rises themselves, these individuals want this site limited to six floors or better yet, park space, or a surface parking lot.

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

The Fourth Item – 450 West Georgia St & 712-732 Richards St – Moderate

What is it?:
With space for 1,500 new jobs, this 23 floor office building, with retail at the ground level, should help fuel Vancouver’s recovery, and the publicly accessible plaza space is a thoughtful addition too.

Where is it?:
Here, in the heart of Downtown Vancouver, this surface parking lot is a block away from the Canada Line’s City Centre Station, and Expo’s Granville station.

What will it contribute to the community?:
In addition to the publicly open, but privately owned plaza, it will pay ~$7.5 million in city-wide improvement fees. There’s also a ~$3.1 million commercial linkage contribution to fund new daycare spaces, and social housing in the Metro Core. Lastly, it will commission on-site public art worth ~$720,000 or pay ~$580,000 for an off-site piece (pg 12).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Though it already exceeds the separation required, to assuage the angry neighbours, city staff have instructed the applicant reshape its southern end, which will likely result in some cutbacks (pg 16). At the ground level, they’ve also requested improving the interaction between the lobby and plaza (pg 17).

What was the open house like?:
7,200 notice cards were sent out, and out of the 40 people who submitted comments, it seems most own homes in the L’hermitage hotel/strata building next door. Based on their questions, which you can view here, it seems they had assumed buildings similar to their own would not be allowed nearby.

What are its strengths?:
Hannah feels this calm design offers a nice respite from the unique architecture on West Georgia, and who can argue against creating space for 1,500 new jobs in Downtown.

What are its weaknesses?:
Unlike Hannah, my opinion is that this design is far too boring to fit in with the other designs on West Georgia, like VPL’s Central Branch, the Deloitte Summit, and the Telus Gardens.

What is the opposition like?:
It really seems to be coming from just one building, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of it. Aside from that, some would have liked to see a better response to the new Richards Bikeway (pg 38 & 39).

Want to speak up?:

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

The Fifth Item – 480 Broughton St – High

What is it?:
This one floor addition to the approved Coal Harbour Elementary School reflects a change in the way height has been measured in the last 20 years. If approved, it will allow for a further 20 city-owned social housing apartments in addition to the 40 in this already permitted 10 floor building.

Where is it?:
Here, on an empty parking lot, next to the Coal Harbour Community Centre.

What will it contribute to the community?:
It helps fulfill the city’s commitment to ensure that at least 20% of Coal Harbour’s housing is affordable for households that earn modest incomes.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
The most significant is that in March the Development Permit Broad approved the 10 floor concept that the existing zoning allows here. However, since this plan was conceived in 1997, it’s impossible to chronicle all the updates, some of which were captured in its recent Urban Design Panel review.

What was the open house like?:
Many of the questions, which you can view here, came from those eager to see this school built, and to have a chance to live here. Behind the scenes, over 250 comments (pg 22) reflected anger over potential impacts to property values, private views, and fears about traffic congestion (pg 24-26).

What are its strengths?:
As this reflects how the city measures height, rather than any significant increase, it will barely effect its neighbour’s private views.

What are its weaknesses?:
The challenges, and needs of our city have evolved a lot over the last 20 years, so one could ask whether this is enough to meet them.

What is the opposition like?:
Whether it’s false comments about the expected traffic volumes, what the community plan laid out, or a desire to see less children (pg 4), there’s a lot of ignorance and anger on display. Still, like one UBC professor highlighted (pg 1), most are troubled by anything that could impact the views from their retirement and/or investment property.

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

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