Onni – Safeway Development Proposal
This project was ‘death by density bonusing’. The amounts that were bonused were an additional 210,000 SF (square feet) on a site zoned for 257,046 SF. The whole site was a huge concrete fortress with 3 towers of 240, 180 and 90 feet high. The 240 foot tower was positioned on 14th St. with no setback and would have loomed over the 100 foot high buildings on the north side of the street. The overall density meant that large numbers of vehicles – cars for owners and shoppers, delivery trucks, moving vans and waste management trucks had very limited entry and exits, mostly onto 14th – a pedestrian oriented street. There was no green space left and the Stella Jo Dean Park had walls and towers south and west with little sunlight. A petition saying this density was over the top was signed by 995 people; 1,005 signed another petition regarding the traffic issues on 14th.
The devil is in the density bonusing details. For instance – the daycare for 37 children. It was to be 5,000 SF indoor space plus 5,500 roof play area. For this, the developer was to receive 40,000 SF of residential density – which would be at the top of one of the tower s – roughly five additional floors of condos, at the going rate of $750 per SF, which would sell for about $26 million dollars. If it costs roughly $300 per SF to build, the difference would be $18 million. At the Public Hearing, Onni said it would cost $5.3 million to build the daycare – indoor, outdoor, elevator, etc. – on the podium at the base of a tower (a price of $145,000 per space). For five additional tower floors worth millions of dollars – added height and density forever – would this have been a good deal for our community?
Daycare is needed. Talking to people while doing the petition, we heard young families were more interested in daycare located at ground level in schools and churches, by playgrounds where other children are located. Rather than have a developer include this space in their development – where costs per SF are very high – it would be better to bonus less density and get money to provide daycare in more affordable and preferable settings –many more than 37 daycare spaces could be provided with $5.3 million.
The equation for the ‘affordable’ housing (which would be adaptable housing) is similar. We were to get 10,000 SF of housing; the developer was to get 42,500 SF of residential density. The developer would be giving up $6 million in possible sales revenue for suites at the base of the tower and getting 5.5 floors at the top of the tower for sales revenue of about $28 million – a gross profit of about $3 million versus $17 million after building costs.
The adaptable housing is much needed and is a real loss to the community. The provincial and federal governments are supposed to fund these facilities. I know personally that this is not happening and that we have to try to help within our community. I still feel the space trade in this proposal did not merit over five floors in extra density and the resulting problems with the total density. We must continue to fight for funding and suitable locations for people needing adaptable housing.
In this proposal there was also bonusing for building to environmental standards; for connecting to the Lonsdale Energy Corporation; for office space of 72,000 SF with a contribution from the developer of $1 million to the Community Amenity Fund. It was like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Density bonusing must be fixed so that there are limits to the total – most people we talked to are really frustrated with having an OCP that is over-ridden at every turn with bonusing. Again and again people said – we have an OCP that spells out heights and densities, why do we keep getting projects that totally disregard this?
To characterize those for and against this project as a demographic divide is not my experience at all. In the petition process, we talked to people of all ages. Many young people were horrified at the huge concrete structure and tower sizes and thanked us for taking our time to collect their feedback because they had no time between jobs and looking after their children. Some younger working people said that if this and other over OCP projects kept happening, they would look for jobs and places to live elsewhere – they chose to live in North Vancouver, not the West End or Yaletown, because of the character of our City and its outdoor orientation.
I hope the next round for this building site will see more detailed, publicized information sooner, with lots of community participation. Thanks to everyone in our Community who took part in this debate.
cc: NS News