June 14th, 2022 Public Hearing – Off With Their Heads! Vancouver’s Most Vulnerable Get The Royal Treatment

Public Hearing – June 14th, 2022
With less than eight weeks to go before city council stops meeting until after the election, Hannah and I expected this would be a busy time. However, we never would have guessed seven public hearings would be scheduled within the next month, especially since they’ll draw literally hundreds of public speakers. These agendas will include rezoning applications for the Broadway/Commercial Safeway, the Balfour Block, and most controversial of all, a Passive House, social housing building proposed near the Arbutus Station.

With nearly a thousand letters opposed (pg 52), the level of backlash it’s facing is unprecedented, and goes to show that sometimes location is everything. After all, Item #4 is essentially its sibling, with a similar number of homes proposed near an East Van Park, and yet, it’s facing nowhere near as much criticism. Admittedly, it’s hard to tell exactly what the community response will be, as three individuals have dominated the feedback to city council.

In contrast, Item #3, one of the last proposals under the now replaced Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning Policy, has generated dozens of letters in support. Which makes the decision by city staff to eliminate the indoor rooftop amenity for these 100 rental homes all the more surprising. The changes required to the roofdeck for the eight rental homes in Item #2 aren’t as severe, but then again that applicant has sought city staff’s advice on at least five occasions.

Even Item #1, the smallest project under the Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning Policy, has been unable to avoid this micromanagement. These eight, three-bedroom rental homes have been required to be formally resubmitted twice over the three last years in an effort to remove any discomfort for its immediate neighbours. All of this goes to show that, no matter how small you think your voice is, sometimes it just takes speaking up to make a difference.

Backlash Expectations

Item #1 – 1515 West 49th Ave.Very Low
Aside from a couple landlords, this gentle density has largely gone overlooked.

Item #2 – 4310 Slocan St.Very Low
The only complaint seems to have come from a rival architect.

Item #3 – 4408-4488 Fraser St. and 707-709 East 29th Ave.Low
Despite concerns about traffic congestion, the response has been overwhelmingly supportive.

Item #4 – 1406-1410 E King Edward Ave.Moderate
It’s hard to say, as the comments have been dominated by three very upset individuals.

-(Source)

The First Item – 1515 West 49th Ave. – Very Low

What is it?:
It’s the smallest project under the Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning Policy, with a total of eight, three-bedroom, rental townhomes split between a pair of 3.5 floor faux-heritage buildings.

Where is it?:
Here, at the northwest corner of the intersection of Granville and W 49th Ave. This vacant lot worth ~$2.8 million, was separated from the adjacent single family home in 1993 (pg 3), and still hosts their garage.

What will it contribute to the community?:
These eight family-sized rental homes are in a neighbourhood whose shortage of rental housing has persisted through the pandemic (pg 8). A ~$123,000 utility levy will ensure any required civic infrastructure upgrades are paid for (pg 45).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
To address the concerns raised by its neighbours, it was revised in May 2021, and again in February 2022, with a host of small moves to offer them more privacy.

What was the open house like?:
Maybe it was due to the cold weather outside, but the pre-application event held three years ago only drew out 20 people. Then again, the virtual session failed to garner a single question.

What are its strengths?:
This is pretty much the definition of gentle density, as once it’s built it’ll be hard to tell these buildings apart from the surrounding homes. It’s really rare to see a proposal that offers 100% family housing.

What are its weaknesses?:
Retail stores may have been a better use for the ground level of this busy intersection, but that probably wasn’t possible due to the adjacent single-family home’s land title claim on this property (pg 3).

What is the opposition like?:
Three years ago, the fear was this would give renters too many rights, and options for a place to live, but today, it’s the potential impact on these “tiny” roads that’s seen as an “inappropriate pain in the” butt.

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

-(Source)

The Second Item – 4310 Slocan St. – Very Low

What is it?:
This four floor building include eight rental homes, a rooftop amenity, and a retail store built into the hillside behind it.

Where is it?:
Here, replacing the Li Rong Wushu and Qigong Academy, just a ~5 minute walk from Slocan Park, and the 29th Avenue SkyTrain Station.

What will it contribute to the community?:
It will pay a levy of at least ~$86,000 to upgrade local civic infrastructure (pg 12).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
The project book has been revised fives times since 2019 (pg 1), but neither Hannah nor I are sure what was updated. Whatever advice city staff provided wasn’t enough to resolve the rooftop privacy issues for the neighbouring strata, which must be addressed if this is to be approved (pg 18 & 19).

What was the open house like?:
This event resembled a virtual classroom, as one of the two questions seemingly came from an architect, who didn’t know the difference between a retail mezzanine level, and a second floor.

What are its strengths?:
Its similar in scale to the adjacent Beacon condos, and offers a reasonable amount of parking given its close proximity to the Expo Line.

What are its weaknesses?:
Honestly, neither of us really like the look of the building, but that’s just a matter of personal taste

What is the opposition like?:
They might be lonesome, as only one person expressed concerns about this project (pg 36).

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

The Third Item – 4408-4488 Fraser St. and 707-709 East 29th Ave. – Low

What is it?:
With 100 rental homes, and retail stores at the ground level, this six floor building under the Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning Policy is pretty typical, aside from its sunken laneway townhomes.

Where is it?:
Here, replacing a block of single family homes on Fraser St, that are sandwiched between Dean’s No Frills, and a block of small retail stores.

What will it contribute to the community?:
Having forgone a waiver that would have reduced the size of it’s homes, it will now be required to pay ~$2.6 million in fees to upgrade city infrastructure, with ~$200,000 directed to the City’s Affordable Housing Fund (pg 13).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Pretty much all of the Urban Design Panel’s recommendations have been made into conditions of its approval, except that city staff are enlarging the indoor amenities by eliminating the one on the rooftop.

What was the open house like?:
Most of the 12 questions asked at this virtual event were focused on how this would impact traffic congestion, though one person was worried this construction process would cause a rat problem.

What are its strengths?:
It fills in this gap of retail stores on Fraser Street, and accommodates this sloped site in a thoughtful way. I liked how the architecture broke up the building, but that might change now due to its conditions of approval (pg 6).

What are its weaknesses?:
While they’re right to require improvements to the laneway townhome’s sunken patios, it’s unreal that city staff are removing the washrooms from the rooftop deck. (pg 6)

What is the opposition like?:
A lone individual fears this “monstrous building” will “drastically reduce the value of their property. Yet it’s hard to tell if anyone shares their view, or if they want more funding for community services.

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

The Fourth Item – 1406-1410 E King Edward Ave. – Moderate

What is it?:
The 109 social/supportive housing apartments in this 14 floor Passive House building will be run by an Indigenous housing operator. Half of them will be rented at the assistance shelter rate of $375 a month, with the rest set at the Housing Income Limits monthly rate of $715 (pg 2).

Where is it?:
Here, alongside Kingcrest Park’s northwest corner, it’s across the road from the King Edward Village towers, where Knight St, King Edward Ave, and Kingsway come together.

What will it contribute to the community?:
Bluntly, it will give people in danger of being homeless, or those already living rough in the neighbourhood a secure roof over their heads, which is cheaper for tax payers in the long run too.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
The percentage of homes at shelter rate was reduced to allow the inclusion of residents earning up to 30,000 a year, and was likely needed to pay for maintenance costs.

What was the open house like?:
Some at this virtual event were genuinely curious to learn more about the programming of this building, and how/if it would affect their community. However, over half of these 44 questions came from three users, including one who’s ranting comprised 15 of them alone.

What are its strengths?:
These permanent modular homes can be built extremely quickly, and are still able to reach the highest levels of sustainability. It does a good job of evoking a “west coast” spirit of design too.

What are its weaknesses?:
As the Urban Design Panel noted, the location of the service rooms poses some challenges, which city staff are trying to remedy with a few conditions of approval (pg 21).

What is the opposition like?:
There were 38 comments against this project, but given what happened at the open house it’s hard to know how many people they represent. A few are also clearly confused, as they think this will some how shadow the park to the south (pg 50).

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

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