June 21st, 2022 Public Hearing – Shadowy Figures Disappear After Taking An Axe To Vancouver’s Urban Forest

Public Hearing – June 21st, 2022
It’s somewhat fitting that the first item on this night’s agenda, a simple heritage designation, has been withdrawn, as this meeting is all about cutbacks, and lowered expectations. Certainly Hannah and I expected a far more robust response to the brick clad West End twin towers that comprise Items Two and Three. After all, the amount of market, and non-market rental homes they provide may have been reduced, but it remains higher than the number of strata homes first proposed here five years ago.

After so long, maybe they just got tired, or involved with another cause, like the head of the consultation firm that set up their Facebook page has. Unlike this individual, Unlike this individual, we aren’t planning to run for city council, and only combined our summaries of these applications to make them easier to read. Then again, Item #4 shows persistence can pay off, as the lone person opposed to the transformation of this long vacant lot has seen some success.

Even in the heart of the evolving Oakridge Municipal Town Centre (pg 62), these rental homes have been scaled back, as has this structure’s podium. Item #5 is the only one to avoid being physically diminished, and in contrast has actually been ordered to retain its high quality architectural style. Somehow, it will also have to do this in a way that’s less noticeable, which proves that contradictory opinions can make a difference over time, so long as you speak up.

Backlash Expectations

Item #2 – 1332 Thurlow St. & 1065 Harwood St. AND 1066-1078 Harwood St.Low
What was once a professional campaign seems to have fizzled out.

Item #4 – 495 West 41st Ave.Very Low
This pales in comparison to the ongoing construction kitty corner to this site.

Item #5 – 809 West 41st Ave.Very Low
If a whole neighbourhood planned next door didn’t garner much interest, why would this?

The 2nd & 3rd Items – 1332 Thurlow St. & 1065 Harwood St. AND 1066-1078 Harwood St.– Low

What is it?:
These are essentially two 36 floor fraternal siblings that will include a combined total of 557 rental homes, with 110 set at below-market rates.

Where is it?:
Here, just a couple blocks south of the amazing Stepho’s Greek Tavern, though it’s probably more well-known for being halfway between the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, and St Paul’s Hospital.

What will it contribute to the community?:
While the value of the land won’t be increased by this rezoning due to the inclusion of below-market housing, each building will still pay ~$6.2 million in levies to improve civic infrastructure. Together they will also provide $860,000 worth of public art (pg 13a & pg 13b).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Five years ago these two buildings (1, & 2) were slightly shorter, with a total of 202 strata homes, and 58 social housing apartments. Later in November 2020, city council approved a policy to allow a mix of market and below-market rental homes instead. However, a year later, city staff demanded a height reduction of 16 feet, which eliminated 15 market, and 3 below-market rental homes.

What was the open house like?:
Most of the 16 questions at the online event for the north tower were dominated by those wondering how this height could ever be allowed in the West End, as it would destroy its charm. Conversely, the virtual session for the southern building was far less contentious, with just six questions, including a lesson on the philosophy of ancient Greek architecture.

What are its strengths?:
The Urban Design Panel felt the brick work, and landscaping fit much better with the West End’s character than the previous concept’s design. Its residents won’t feel out of place either, as those who live here will have access to the amenities in either building.

What are its weaknesses?:
Some will argue whether the city policy that prohibits buildings from casting shadows on Davie Street’s northern sidewalk was worth limiting the housing that could have been provided here (pg 3). As for me, I’m not a fan of the planter canopies.

What is the opposition like?:
Based on the phone number tied to their Facebook page, they were affluent enough to hire West Star Communications to aid them. That said, since the head of that firm announced that they were running for city council, and with the recent downsizing, this group hasn’t been as active.

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 Fourth Item – 495 West 41st Ave. – Very Low

What is it?:
After being cut back by city staff, this building will now only have 99 rental homes above a three floor podium occupied by TD Canada Trust.

Where is it?:
Here, on a lot that has sat vacant since at least 2007, kitty corner to the Oakridge-W41st Avenue Canada Line station.

What will it contribute to the community?:
As these rental homes fall within a specific size outlined by city policy, its city-wide development levies will be waived, but it will pay ~$880,000 for utility upgrades. A further $200,000 will go towards public art (pg 47).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Armed with the Urban Design Panel’s advice, city staff reduced the podium’s height to eliminate a sunken courtyard, and converted it to office use only. A brief summary of all the revisions that have led to the elimination of 13 homes can be found here.

What was the open house like?:
Out of the 2,440 households (pg 37) notified about this virtual event, only one had a question, which they had previously asked a month earlier at the consultation session for Item #5.

What are its strengths?:
It has a spacious amenity room, and at the ground level provides room at this intersection for bike lanes, and an expanded sidewalk. Plus, along with the aforementioned rapid transit, there’s a nine-acre public park coming soon across the road.

What are its weaknesses?:
If TD Canada Trust ever leaves, the green strip that indicates its presence will seem out-of-place, just like the amount of vehicle parking that city policy demands here.

What is the opposition like?:
So far it’s comprised of a lone individual, who is also opposed to the next item located a few blocks to the west.

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

The Fifth Item – 809 West 41st Ave. – Very Low

What is it?:
This 18 floor, arbutus tree inspired building will include a mix of 110 market-rental homes, 21 Moderate Income Rental Homes, and have retail space at the ground level.

Where is it?:
Here, on a site currently occupied by the Oakmont Medical Centre, adjacent to the approved Oak Green neighbourhood, and across from the Jewish Community Centre’s future expansion.

What will it contribute to the community?:
It will pay ~$3.3 million to upgrade neighbourhood infrastructure, like sewer lines, and will provide ~$236,000 for public art (pg 12). Plus, there’s the 21 MIR homes, which will be set at rates that are affordable for households earning between $30,000 – $80,000 annually.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
As far as we know, not much, and city staff have included a condition that requires it to retain its overall architectural expression and character (pg 20). That will need to be balanced with their contrasting demand to also reduce the perceived height and bulk (pg 19).

What was the open house like?:
The only question asked at this virtual event was how this would further grow the city’s urban forest. They must not have liked it will only add 20 trees, as it asked again during Item #4’s consultation meeting.

What are its strengths?:
It’s hard to make out in the blindingly bright renderings, yet given this architect firm’s work on the Aperture Apartments next door, Hannah and I trust this will be an extremely attractive design.

What are its weaknesses?:
Unfortunately, city staff ignored the pleas of both the applicant, and the Urban Design Panel to shift this building eastward in order to improve its relationship with its future neighbours.

What is the opposition like?:
There are a couple individuals who apparently are unaware of what’s already been approved immediately next door, as they think this site offers too many homes, and will cause traffic congestion.

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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