Out of Control Development?

We (North Van City Voices) are hearing from many people dissatisfied with the ongoing rate of development in our little city.  The proposal for the 19+ storey development by Hollyburn Properties at 13th and Lonsdale (yes, probably the busiest in the city) across from the contentious Onni development is the most recent.  For anyone who needs a reminder of what is currently under construction photos are here courtesy of Bill Bell: http://www.northvancitynews.com/north-vancouver-city-development-out-of-control/

There was an open house last week with the usual project boards and staff in attendance.  Following is feedback from Linda Heese, an attendee.  We note that there is a discrepancy with the FSR (floor space ratio) on the City website, which quotes density at 4.96, also the height is quoted at 19 storeys excluding elevator shaft.   We have to ask the question ‘why if discussions go back to 2013 was this not part of the 2014 OCP – designated it as a “Special Study Area” when staff must have been aware of the plan?’   We also note that committee meeting minutes referred to are not yet available on the City website.  Is this housing that City residents need?  More little boxes?  (yes, there will be 16 3-bed units). We welcome your comments.


1301-1333 Lonsdale Ave.
(NW corner of 13th & Lonsdale)
Development Open House Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016

I attended this Open House and was immediately frustrated and angry at the result that our City council and planners have allowed to come forward. According to one of the information boards, Hollyburn purchased the sites in 2007 and 2014. Starting in 2013 there have been on-going discussions and negotiations with City staff. In fall 2015 the current proposal went to: ‘City citizen advisory Committee review (APC, ADP, ITC) with Unanimous support for OCP change and some detailed comments – height not an issue’.

Who are on these review committees? I do not believe they looked at this proposal from the viewpoint of those who live in the immediate neighbourhood. Why would they agree that such excess height and FSR would be acceptable to our neighbourhood?? We spent too many hours at too many meetings where hundreds of people spoke against the over-densification and excess heights being agreed to by our planners and council. We managed to get some maximums agreed to in the OCP – and then this proposal goes forward exceeding these maximums!


Hollyburn Properties Limited is asking to build a tower with two floors of retail and office space and 16 floors of rental apartments – 9 units per floor.

The development would be 134,768 square feet on a property that is 27,582 square feet.

This is a Floor Space Ratio (FSR) of 4.89.

This project has a height of 180 feet (approximately 18 storeys high) plus another 30 feet for an amenity floor and the elevator shaft for a total height of about 21 storeys.

To be fair, the building shape looks attractive and good consideration has been given to its placement by City Hall. Also there is a community amenity space on the top floor that would be excellent for socializing – especially needed in small living spaces and increased density.

In the 2015 OCP land use, this property is shown as a Floor Space Ratio of 3.0 to a maximum allowable bonus up to 4.0.

The OCP also shows this property as a maximum height of 37 meters (120 feet or approximately 12 storeys).

In this proposal, the City is also agreeing to a Density Transfer from the City Hall property to allow the extra height and density! There should be no density transfer from anywhere to allow a building with so little set-back from Lonsdale, that should be a maximum of 12 storeys high, to be 18 and more high!

The reason for the height restriction for the buildings fronting Lonsdale is to keep the street walkable – not closed in and shaded by tall buildings. The Prescott on the SE corner did a good job of placing the tower away from Lonsdale and building to a reasonable height (46 meters – 152 feet – 15 storeys). The Onni project was allowed too much height – there are many more floors still to be added. We do not need to add to the problem by agreeing to another over-height tower across the road.

Do we need to give extra height and density for more, small rental units?

This is to be a rental property with 9 units per floor, each with one 3-bedroom unit at 1,005 square feet; one 2-bedroom unit at 550 square feet and seven 1-bedroom units from 462 to about 600 square feet. Does this sound like good rental housing that we need more of in our community? Many people have told me they would like to down-size and rent but they cannot find a place with enough space. Many young people cannot afford to buy houses and will likely live long-term and raise families in rental housing. Such small units are not long-term living places. Do we really need more, tiny rental apartments with people constantly moving to try to find space they can live in?

What about traffic and parking concerns?

Additional traffic is also a concern for this corner. The Onni project will cause thousands of additional automobiles to go through 13th and Lonsdale daily. Another 144 rental units will add to congestion.

The project information shows 85 parking spaces for 144 residential units; and 222 bicycle spaces.

I think this is going to add to the parking problems on all our residential streets in the area. In our building, young couples are asking for 2 parking spaces (plus bicycle spaces) not half a parking space!

Many people cannot ride a bike or take public transit to work. As we know, TransLink is not increasing the bus service and it is inadequate to rely on for work or appointments.

My Recommendations:

– reduce the building height by at least 3 floors (to 150 feet)

– increase the size of the units and reduce the number of units per floor – especially the 1-bedroom units

– if necessary, to increase the unit size, increase the tower footprint on the north side by a few feet but not height above 150 feet

– with fewer units the parking may be adequate? or can be increased?

I hope that Hollyburn and our City Council will listen to the feedback they get and make changes to this project – we need good, long-term rentals and the building looks good architecturally.


Linda Heese

One response to “Out of Control Development?

  1. I was on the Heritage Committee. Last planner assigned wouldn’t accept conversation opposed to what had already been decided and anything not endorsing city thinking sometimes would be omitted from the minutes. Minutes clerk was downright rude. When I complained, Gary “I have a master’s degree” Penway attacked me. When I demanded an apology he sent RCMP to my home saying I was threatening him. I also tried Friends of the Museum. The money they got in was all paid to the president’s wife. What a waste of time both experiences were.

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