Victoria Park – Beginning of the End?

Rated as #21 in ‘things to do in North Vancouver’ on Trip Advisor.

Some City of North Van residents may not be aware of the pressure being placed on some loved spaces in the City. Victoria Park is recognized on the register of ‘Canada’s Historic Places’ as ‘an urban park surrounded by a high density residential area’. The area has a park-like feel mostly because of the green space surrounding the apartment buildings. That green space has generally had a 25′ foot setback from neighbouring buildings, but is now being reduced to as little as 5′ to enable more buildings on some lots. 

There is a public hearing on Monday for a proposal at 151 East Keith, a rental building whose land is being paved over by an additional three buildings with no additional parking provided.  PLEASE ATTEND THE PUBLIC HEARING AND SPEAK UP TO SUPPORT YOUR NEIGHBOURS IF YOU ARE NOT IN AGREEMENT WITH THIS PROPOSAL.

We urge you to read this letter to Council and know that surrounding buildings are being approached by the City’s former Director of Planning suggesting that their building could do similar.  ‘I see you have potential for additional development on your property’.  He also seems to be pushing support for two particular members of Council which appears questionable in a local election year.

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ THIS AND THINK ABOUT THE IMPLICATIONS FOR PRECEDENCE IN THIS AREA.  

To Mayor Mussatto and Counsellors Back, Bell, Bookham, Clark and Keating

I am totally opposed to the proposal for 151 East Keith Road and I hope you will be also.

BUILDING SETBACKS

The proposal is asking to change the building setbacks from 25 feet to as little as 5 feet for much of the property. This is not a minor change to adjust a small piece or corner of a building to position it better – no – this is a proposal to build about 50% of additional structures ON THE 25 FOOT SETBACK.

RESULT – This would be the beginning of the end for Victoria Park.

  • PRECEDENT

This would set a precedent for every building around the park. Already 123 E Keith received an email saying they could consider doing the same. 160 East Keith has just been sold – we have heard it may be to the same company and that it is already being looked over for possible additions.

  • RESULT FOR THE PARK

If buildings are allowed to have only a 5 foot setback, the park will be a walled fortress with a small green space (or probably mud space) in the middle. Already the shadow from 161 E Keith is covering the east end of the park for much of the winter. The park alone is not a wide space. It looks much wider because of the 25 foot setbacks all around and gets a good amount of sunlight – a space much needed by people living in highrise towers and used by people all over the City.

  • RESULT FOR CURRENT RENTAL BUILDINGS AROUND THE PARK

The owners of about a dozen, older, well-kept, rental buildings all around the park will look at their properties and recalculate what could be built if you tear down and rebuild when you only need a 5 foot setback. These are rental buildings in excellent condition that provide high quality living space for hundreds of people. Any new construction will have smaller units at higher prices. This would make our affordable rental problem even worse.

ADVISORY DESIGN PANEL – Feb. 15, 2017

  • SETBACKS AND NEIGHBOURHOOD BUY-INS

There were multiple comments in the minutes from members of the panel:

you should have positive feedback from neighbours to do this’

I think we are allowing this building owner to do something which is not really in the zoning’

The setbacks are aggressive and neighbours to the east and west need to be satisfied.’

NONE OF THESE COMMENTS got carried forward to the summary of the minutes or into the Rezoning Application!!!

There is NO BUY-IN FROM THE NEIGHBOURS!

  • PRECEDENT

There was a question asked by the Advisory Panel:

What is the implication of breaking the setback? Can other buildings along East Keith Road make similar applications? What precedent does it set?’

Answer from staff – ’ There is not much opportunity for neighbouring sites to do the same thing.’

Reality: – We already know that even before this has past there is already activity! And this sets a huge precedent for all buildings around the park!

  • PARKING

There was also a question – ‘no additional parking is being added?’

Answer from staff – ‘The requirement is 0.75. A variance request down to 0.70 is being made.’

Reality: – the building can only provide 0.63 but somehow the zoning bylaw regarding parking requirements was changed to 0.6 last summer.

Obviously the design panel was questioning the 0.75 level – now there are fewer parking spaces than when the project was reviewed! This is totally inadequate for adding 40 units with 7 units being townhouses with 2 and 3 bedrooms and high rents. Very few people paying these rents can walk to work or even work in NV.

HOUSING ACTION PLAN

  • The City’s Housing Action Plan requires 10% of new units be offered at 10% below market rates for 10 years. For the 40 proposed units this means 4 would be required. (The 10% should apply to all the units on the property as the FSR, lot size, and setbacks are for the whole property – 129 units = 13 below market units.) Starlight is working with Hollyburn Family Services and is offering the 4 units at the BC Government SAFER rate of $765 per month.

When this is calculated – what is the value of this contribution by Starlight?

CMHC NV Average Bachelor Rent

$1,018

BC Government SAFER Rent

$765

Difference Starlight Foregoes Each Month

$253

Starlight Total Value of Foregone Rent for 4 units per year

$12,144

Starlight Total Value for 10 Years

$121,440

What does Starlight gain?

CMHC 2017 – NV Average Rents * # of New Units Total per Month Total Per Year
– Bachelor Rent $1,018

33 – 4 = 29

$29,522

 
– 2 Bedroom Rent $1,645

5

$8,225

 
– 3 Bedroom $2,192

2

$,384

 
TOTAL ANNUAL RENT
– FOR NEW UNITS
 

$42,131

$505,572

TOTAL OVER 10 YEARS    

$5,055,720

*These rental rates are averages – probably much lower than a newly constructed building would command.

Starlight stands to gain very significant income from these units. Their building costs would be paid back quickly as there would be no underground parking added and it would be wood frame construction – less costly than concrete. In comparison they would make an extremely small contribution to our community in the way of a Community Amenity. Our community would give up extremely valuable setback zoning – that would set a precedent for the whole park area.

Can anyone explain why this deal would even be considered acceptable by Council? We are being bribed with an inadequate offer of 4 rental units – in return for substantial gains to Starlight!

The community is clearly the loser in this transaction!

THE CURRENT RENTAL SITUATION

According to CMHC 2017 report, the City of NV now has a vacancy rate of 1.3%. Our OCP has a GVRD 10-year Housing Demand target of 200 Market Rental. Since 2011 our City has already approved or built 1,166 units (only counting mid- and high-rise rentals) – with more under construction. Condo buildings have rentals of about 40% so that is another 1,136 units. We do not need another 40 market rental units. We need the BC and federal governments to help provide rents that allow people to live in them.

ACTION NEEDED

The community understands the desperate need for affordable housing. In discussion with Mayor Mussatto, I suggested the City use some of our gain from the $1.8 MILLION sale of the boulevard by 161 East Keith and make arrangements to house at least 4 people as soon as the building is finished. As he pointed out, there are many more units needed so we cannot do this for one group and not others. It is also not the responsibility of the municipal government to provide this housing – it is the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments. With the recent changes in these levels of government there is now increased commitment for support in this area. Our City needs to advocate very strongly to obtain increases especially for the GVRD area so the SAFER program and other similar programs will be funded to meet the actual rent requirements. If the City needs the citizens to get involved there are many of us willing to stand up for these requirements.

SUMMARY

I totally object to this proposal and implore council to reject it. The precedent would have unbelievable consequences for our park and our affordable housing! It has NO BUY-IN from the neighbourhood!

PLEASE REJECT THIS PROPOSAL

Linda Heese

140 Keith Road East

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2 responses to “Victoria Park – Beginning of the End?

  1. ‘Gentle densification’ is where the increase is incremental, respectful of the setbacks between towers that are important to the livability of an already high-density neighbourhood. ‘Harsh density’ is an opportunistic developer exploiting the fact that the City doesn’t have a consistent standard and does not consider cumulative impacts on the neighbourhood (or local traffic). This proposal overreaches. Imagine this pattern were applied everywhere around the park. Towers were not supposed to have coach houses. This proposal, and others like it, should not be approved.

  2. Thank heavens for your detail analysis and forceful argument…I don’t live in the City of N. V., but this must be made very very public, as developers will push and push, and if there is no response….you will see your park substantially reduced.

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