November 16th, 2021 Public Hearing – Abcellera Hopes To Pause Vancouver’s Rezoning Quarantine

Public Hearing – November 16th 2021
(Update – November 19th, 2021 – Despite relatively few speakers, city council only finished Items #1 & #2, meaning you still have time to comment on the rest, which will be heard on November 25th, 2021.

While the last public hearing offered some unique stories, including one person’s recollection of working as a developer with Councillor Hardwick’s late father, this one should be more straightforward. After all, whether you support or oppose the updates to the Secured Rental Policy, no one enjoys five days of multi-hour meetings, which likely won’t end until shortly before this event starts. That’s not to say this one won’t be important, given the global implications of Items #1 and #2.

Together, they will transform a block in the Mount Pleasant Industrial Lands into the new headquarters of AbCellera, a locally grown bio-tech firm that’s leading efforts to end the pandemic. Yet some would rather they take their plan to create over 1,000 jobs somewhere else, rather than permit an eleven floor building in this area. It seems no matter the benefit, some will oppose any change, even if they’ve previously indicated they would welcome it.

That’s the case for Item #3, which in an odd twist is seeking approval to go from 11 floors of mixed strata and rental housing, to a six floor building comprised only of the latter. While opponents had previously demanded that, some are now insisting it should be further cut back to four floors. That would defeat the entire purpose of shifting to a wood frame building, as these heights are what’s needed to facilitate that tenure of housing.

There’s always the exception to the rule, like Item #4, a five floor rental building. It hasn’t drawn much interest, aside from one person who fears it will create too much choice for people looking to rent. Hannah and I know that sentiment may anger some, so it’s fortunate this agenda ends with a series of standard Cambie Corridor Townhome applications. With these more substantial items scheduled first, it should be far easier to make your voice heard.

Backlash Expectations

Item #1 & #2 – 110 W 4th Ave & 150 W 4th Ave – Very Low
There’s not many who would oppose the expansion of a company leading efforts to end the pandemic.

Item #3 – 1837-1863 E 11th Ave & 2631-2685 Victoria Ave – Very Low
The previous application met little resistance, and this shorter building should see even less.

Item #4 – 2735 E 41st Ave – Very Low
There hasn’t been much interest, aside from a solitary landlord who fears more competition.

The First Item 110 W 4th Ave & Second Item 150 W 4th Ave – Very Low

What is it?:
When combined, these two eleven, and seven floor buildings will form the focal point of a “state-of-the-art” campus for AbCellera, a local bio-tech company that developed the world’s first studied treatment for Covid-19, and recently secured $175 million in federal funding (pg c4).

Where is it?:
Here, in the Mount Pleasant Industrial Area, comprising a city block that’s a ~10 minute walk from the Olympic Village and Broadway-City Hall Canada Line Stations (pg a8). It’s also only about five minutes from Jonathan Rogers, as well as Hinge Park, the 4th and 2nd best in the neighbourhood.

What will it contribute to the community?:
This firm’s global impact is why city council voted to consider these two proposals that will facilitate the creation of 1,000 local jobs within seven years (pg c4). It will also pay a combined total of ~$8.4 million to improve city infrastructure, fund neighbourhood amenities, and add public art (pg a35, & b35).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
In order to be approved city staff are requiring improvement to the public realm (pg b17), as well as the inclusion of a cafe in the eastern building (pg a14). Unsurprisingly, the pre-pandemic plans were less ambitious, with four floors of warehouse and office space approved on the western property.

What was the open house like?:
These events were held online due to the very virus this company is trying to treat, and drew out an average of 135 attendees, who submitted about 20 questions (pg a30 & b28), that can be viewed here and here. Many welcomed these new jobs, but others felt they weren’t worth the impact of taller buildings.

What are its strengths?:
A locally-grown company, with increasing global importance wants to build a headquarters capable of creating over 1,000 new job in our city. If that’s not enough, at the street level it should be a lot more friendly than the parking lot that used to occupy the western portion of the block.

What are its weaknesses?:
While this process was expedited due to our health crisis, it wasn’t quick enough to prevent a pause in construction of the western site, which has reached its previously approved limit.

What is the opposition like?:
They may be a little turned around, as they feel these buildings will shadow Jonathan Roger’s Park, located a few blocks to the south. Either way, they want the height reduced (pg a32 & b29).

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

The Third Item – 1837-1863 E 11th Ave & 2631-2685 Victoria Ave – Very Low

What is it?:
This six floor building will offer 136 rental homes, protect the Karem Reisdence heritage home, and is five floors shorter than the structure already allowed here.

Where is it?:
Here, roughly a five minute walk away from the Commercial-Broadway Transit Hub, and an equally short journey to Trout Lake.

What will it contribute to the community?:
It will pay ~$2.3 million in fees to improve infrastructure, like sewer pipes, across the city (pg 15), and the retention, and restoration of the Karme Residence has been valued at ~$700,000 (pg 16).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
The previously approved application was for a roughly 50/50 mix of strata, and rental housing. It was first submitted in 2017, and underwent numerous changes in response to several Urban Design Panel reviews, and a Vancouver Heritage Commission discusion.

What was the open house like?:
Only 6% of 3,300 households notified about this virtual event bothered to view it, and of those just two questions, of technical nature, were submitted (pg 47), which you can view here.

What are its strengths?:
It may not be welcome news to prospective homeowners, but the switch to 100% rental housing will be appreciated by those trying to find somewhere to live other than a basement suite.

What are its weaknesses?:
To achieve the height reduction needed for this wood frame construction, it’s had to bulk out, meaning there’s less open space, and the proximity due the heritage home is far tighter. While its conditions of approval might address this, it will come at the expense of even more living space (pg 16).

What is the opposition like?:
A few years ago, those opposed claimed they would settle for a 6 floor building, but now they’re insisting it be reduced further to four floors.

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

The Fourth Item – 2735 E 41st Ave – Very Low

What is it?:
This five floor building has retail stores on the ground floor, and half of the rental homes above will have two or more bedrooms.

Where is it?:
Here, replacing a local credit union branch, a block from Earles Park, and about a five-minute walk south of Norquay Park, which was ranked best in the community.

What will it contribute to the community?:
It will pay ~$430,000 in development cost levies to improve city infrastructure (pg 47), and looks to extend a sidewalk north up Rhodes Street.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
For it to be approved, it will have to satisfy conditions that require it to provide more privacy for the single-family homes to the north (pg 17), and more sunlight for the resident’s outdoor amenity (pg 18).

What was the open house like?:
Of the 1,500 household notified about this event, only one person had a question (pg 35), which was why more parking hadn’t been provided. You can view it, and the answer, here.

What are its strengths?:
It’s rare to see so many family-sized homes in a proposal, and this is a great spot for it. While the new retail stores respond well to East 41st Avenue, it is nice to see the trees on Rhodes Street have been preserved.

What are its weaknesses?:
If city council votes to approve the updates to the Secured Rental Policy earlier in the day, this five floor building will be shorter than the six floors allowed along this Rapid Bus route.

What is the opposition like?:
Of the two people opposed (pg 35), it seems like one is just a landlord who’s worried that this will provide renters too much freedom (pg 37).

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

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