Comment from Voices: We heartily agree with this sentence in the following article from The North Shore News today: “What Goes Up …”, ‘We also need our municipal governments to keep a closer eye on developers who walk in the front door preaching affordability and walk out the back door hawking luxury living.’
We have calculated that over 7,000 new units have been added to the City of North Van since 2011 – and if you are searching for a new condo, or a rental – you will likely not find one to purchase under $500,000 and a rental under $1800. That would be for 500 sq.ft.
Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster and the relationship between housing supply and affordability. It’s an unlikely trio that belongs to the realm of the mythical – at least, that’s the contention of a Kwantlen Polytechnic University professor who crunched 15 years of housing numbers and concluded Metro Vancouver has produced more than enough supply to meet demand. For every 100 new households, Metro Vancouver has built 119 new housing units, John Rose contends.
There will doubtless be sufferers of tower fatigue who will use the study as grounds for opposing every construction project. And it’s true supply has utterly failed to exert any gravity on the North Shore’s astronomical housing market. Over the past decade, benchmark home prices in North Vancouver and West Vancouver have risen 98 and 106 per cent.But even if Rose’s conclusions are correct and we do have enough physical houses, that still doesn’t mean we have an adequate housing supply. That’s largely because we’re burdened with a more than adequate supply of Airbnbs, empty homes, and speculators.
While the foreign buyers tax has helped, we still need senior levels of government to make a simple declaration: if you’re not going to live here then your money’s no good here. We also need our municipal governments to keep a closer eye on developers who walk in the front door preaching affordability and walk out the back door hawking luxury living.
Rose is slated to release his report this Friday. We hope all levels of government will examine it closely because for far too many trades workers, nurses, and teachers, the real myth is an affordable place to live on the North Shore.
With the current rush in the City to build market rental housing:
4) Design for liveability, not profitability
This one’s not so much a policy as a rant: this city does not need any more luxury shoeboxes.
My last apartment search in Vancouver revealed an epidemic of new condo units clearly designed to appeal to investors, not to people looking for a home. We encountered countless “junior one-bedrooms” and “microsuites” commanding nearly $2,000 a month for less than 500 square feet, many with “extras” such as a “flex space” (read: a windowless sliver in the back of a closet) or high-end finishes like solid granite countertops and state-of-the-art appliances. While those features add to the resale value of a suite, they are absurd add-ons in a space so small you’d have to make an executive decision between having a couch or a kitchen table. A top-of-the-line kitchen is useless when you literally don’t have enough space to sit down for dinner.
The majority of new or renovated condos are painfully impractical for couples, much less families, and utterly unaffordable for singles. The really frustrating part is it wouldn’t take much to fix that. The difference between 500 and 700-square-feet when it comes to liveability is huge. Many people would happily take Ikea countertops and basic, functional appliances if it meant they’d also have room to breathe.
Perhaps the city needs some sort of liveability standard for new developments that would determine a minimum square footage (and a maximum price) that is realistic for an average family, couple or single person to occupy long term. Developers could then be tasked to stay between the lines — think of it as a fun design challenge. Or they could simply ask themselves: would I want to live in that?
Comment from Voices: We have been received the following notification from a CNV resident concerning a Seaspan (Vancouver Drydock) request to discharge air contaminants from their location at 203 East Esplanade:
‘We have become aware that Seaspan (Vancouver Drydock) has applied for a permit from Metro Vancouver to discharge air contaminants. They have never had a permit and are applying to double the number of volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and trace metals compared to their own 2016 report. Seaspan self-reports and self-monitors. They have an air quality monitor on their property but Metro Vancouver does not have access to it.
Please send your input in as noted in the following and attached permit by DEC 6th‘
We also received the following comment from a resident in the area:
‘In general, I think the shipyards have reached their capacity for airborne contaminants and are trying to apply to spew more into the air here in North Vancouver.
With all the development of people living in the shipyards, I do not think that is fair or safe. You can smell VERY strong chemical smells at times already.
North Vancouver also has deemed this area an Entertainment District, to sell to whomever to use(loud electronic music parties was one).
When you purchase here, none of the developers disclose this’ .
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NOTICE TAKE NOTICE THAT Vancouver Drydock Company Limited Partnership of 1800 – 510 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 0M3 applies to the Metro Vancouver Regional District (“Metro Vancouver”) pursuant to the Greater Vancouver Regional District Air Quality Management Bylaw 1082, 2008 for a Permit. 1. Vancouver Drydock Company Limited Partnership has applied for a new permit to discharge air contaminants from a dry dock facility located at Pier 94 – 203 Esplanade E., North Vancouver, BC V7L 1A1.
. The purpose of this application is to request authorization to discharge air contaminants from a dry dock with the primary business of vessel conversion, repair, maintenance and dry docking services.
. Emission sources include: Two floating dry docks with surface preparation and painting operations; one hut for surface preparation of small items; and one shed to crush used paint cans for recycling. link to full notice follows:
Since then, various applications and rezoning proposals have come before Council (search Harbourside for history). The project was the subject of a contentious public hearing, with many speakers asking for a provision for a park, and plans for a pier were discussed at one point. We estimate that the City has added approximately 5,000 residents in the area with recent development. If the area was deemed ‘not park deficient’ in 2012, perhaps that could be looked at again.
Now a change from seniors housing to market rental is being proposed and a new public hearing will be held. Councillor Keating was waxing eloquently about the stream of workers leaving Seaspan after shift, and how they need rental housing in the area. However, Seaspan in another article, is contemplating layoffs. Once again, so many issues. A project forced through the approval process in 2012 and still languishing. An opportunity for a fresh look at the site? We are a waterfront community without access.
A view of what Harbourside might look like in 10 to 15 years. Monday’s motion is intended to jumpstart construction at the waterfront. image supplied
More than three years after winning approval to build a massive commercial/residential project south of the Northshore Auto Mall, Concert Properties has yet to apply for a building permit or a development permit for the Harbourside project.
The development was debated again Monday as City of North Vancouver council voted 4-2 to grant Concert’s request to delay the construction of a seniors’ rental-assisted living facility, push some of the commercial space originally earmarked for the foot of Fell Avenue farther west, and fast-track the construction of market rental housing.
The changes chagrined Coun. Pam Bookham, who excoriated Concert for taking so long to begin building the 800 strata and rental units and 300,000 square feet of commercial space on the strip of waterfront property between Bewicke Avenue and Bodwell High School.
“The vibrancy which basically sold this project . . . is now in danger of never being realized,” she said, joining Coun. Rod Clark in voting against the change.
“I don’t understand why we would be supportive of Concert when they seem unable or unwilling to move forward and deliver the vision that they sold to us, and sold to the community,” she said.
It was a vision Bookham never bought into, suggesting the project “flies in the face” of planning principles that target high-density projects for areas with quick access to transit.
The project includes a 24-seat community shuttle bus, which would offer complimentary service from Harbourside to Lonsdale Quay. The shuttle would cease operations once TransLink increases service in the area.
Given the steady stream of traffic that backs up along West First Street when Seaspan workers end their shift, “it’s about bloody time” there was rental housing in the area, stated Coun. Craig Keating.
“It’d be great if in fact we could have a bit more housing capacity down there so we’re not overloading the roads with people who just want to come here to work at good industrial jobs,” he said.
The project should “help to address historically low rental vacancy rates,” according to a city staff report. The city’s vacancy rate was pegged at 0.3 by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s 2016 survey.
However, there is also a “strong need” for rental housing for seniors, the staff report noted.
Concert’s bid to reconfigure the commercial space “has the potential to weaken” the city’s goal of creating a vibrant commercial junction at the foot of Fell Avenue, according to a city staff report.
That was a concern for Clark, who questioned if the city had created a “gentrified community” with a large portion of dental, medical, and legal offices.
“Are we at risk of diluting the commercial node at the bottom of Fell?” Clark asked.
Dilution is a concern, said city planner Michael Epp. However, there will still be a plaza surrounded by commercial space.
“I do think that the node does still function,” Epp told Clark.
Clark also expressed frustration with Concert Properties’ sluggish pace.
“I want to see action and I want to see it soon,” he said.
The project’s initial plan prioritized the neighbourhood’s commercial centre and employment-generating office space, with the largest residential portion set to be delivered later in the process. That process was negotiated to provide the city “with a greater degree of comfort that the amenities would be delivered, particularly in the event that market conditions change,” noted a city staff report.
Building regulations related to flood risk have made the commercial component more challenging, according to Epp.
“They just haven’t been able to achieve the amount of commercial development at the ground floor that they previously anticipated,” Epp said.
However, the changes are “relatively minor,” as the majority of the commercial development is still slated to be built in the first two phases of the four-phase project, noted a staff report.
The change is intended to be a “precursor to some serious action on the site,” Epp said.
Mayor Darrell Mussatto concurred, referring to a meeting with Concert Properties.
“They want to get moving on this, and they see this as critical,” he said.
Mussatto also supported building housing first. “I think it’s the right thing to be doing.”
Concert Properties initially pitched a major project for the waterfront in June of 2009.
The site is currently vacant, despite initial plans to create an outdoor plaza at 925 Harbourside Dr. ringed by cooks, chefs, and craft beer brewers. Plans for Hawker’s Wharf were discarded despite entrepreneur Chris Jerome and Concert Properties reaching an agreement with the City of North Vancouver in 2015.
The Harbourside project would likely take 10 years to complete, according to city staff.
Coun. Don Bell did not attend the meeting.
(comment from Voices: Councillor Bell underwent major knee surgery last week, we wish him all the best for a speedy recovery).)
Comment from Voices: Another submission to CNV Mayor and Council from a neighbour regarding the proposed infill development at 151 East Keith:
Subject: Infill Project Proposed at 151 East Keith Road, North Vancouver
On Thursday, November 2nd I attended, as part of a contingent of residents from Victoria Place, a meeting with representatives from Pottinger, Bird, Starlight Investments, Urban Systems, Burrowes Huggins and Connect Landscape Architecture. You have been provided with a very comprehensive report from Victoria Thompson on the discussion which took place at that meeting.
At that meeting I spoke on the subject of setbacks. I believe that it would be useful for you to receive the complete report that I provided to that meeting which is as follows:
“This is an infill project that all developers dream about:
Firstly because it requires no additional land costs
Secondly because it requires no additional parking.
As a result every dollar expended is for the construction of square footage which will produce rental income—a maximum return on investment scenario.
The Official Community Plan provides for an existing FSR density of 2.3 and a maximum bonus of up to 1.0 FSR in exchange for a community amenity, in this case, rental housing. The Developer has attempted to take maximum advantage of the bonus opportunity by going up to .96 FSR in its first submission.( We have not been provided the FSR for this new revision. )
This has been achieved by providing minimal property line set backs.
While it is recognized that the western setback for building 2 has been increased we are disappointed to see that the western setback for building 1 has not been increased to match the western setback for building 2.
The applied for minimal setbacks effectively take advantage of the very generous setbacks provided by Victoria Place which give the visual impression of ample space between Victoria Place and the proposed infill project.
Very simply put, the developer is proposing to effectively expropriate the value of the generous Victoria Place setbacks for no compensation whatsoever to Victoria Place. This is unacceptable.
Victoria Place is not prepared to negotiate a value for this expropriation of value to the developers.
What Victoria Place wants is to retain the beauty and sight lines in the neighborhood of Victoria Park.
All of the foregoing that is, no additional costs for land or parking and attempting to take advantage of the maximum bonus density by expropriating value from Victoria Place leads to one conclusion.
This application is all about corporate greed and absolutely no concern for neighbourhood values.
This is shameful.
Increase the setbacks for this infill development to properly reflect community input on retaining the beauty, character and sight lines of the Victoria Park neighborhood.”
In conclusion, I am hopeful that the City of North Vancouver will not be complicit in this expropriation of value from the residents of Victoria Place.
The City of North Vancouver touts the beauty of the Green Necklace and Victoria Park is a beautiful gem within that plan.
Below is a submission to the City from the residents of 123 E Keith, neighbours of the development proposal at 151 E Keith to add 43 units in four separate infill buildings. It would seem that sometime in the past year the City has amended the parking requirements to .6/ unit.
We received this response from the City when queried: ‘Our Zoning Bylaw does have the provision to charge applicants $35,000 per parking stall for the purpose of creating municipal parking facility. It has only been applied when a the application falls short of the required off-street parking in accordance with the Zoning Bylaw. It has not applied to applications that meet the off-street parking requirements of the Zoning Bylaw’.
We have previously published information on this application (search 151 E Keith ).
Your Honourable Mayor, Esteemed Council Members and Mr. Johnson:
Yesterday evening a contingent of our residents met with representatives from Pottinger Bird, Starlight Investments, Urban Systems, Burrowes Huggins, and Connect Landscape Architecture to allow them the opportunity to hear our concerns in advance of the Public Hearing to be held regarding the infill project at 151 East Keith Road.
Over 30 residents were in attendance at the meeting last night and rigorously participated in the question period. I don’t think any left the meeting feeling anything was accomplished.
Our main objection is still to the aggressive setbacks for the proposal. Originally, they were submitted as:
E. Keith Lot Line: 2.40 m
E 6th Street Lot Line: 1.64 m
East Lot Line: 2.00 m
West Lot Line: 3.04 m
To our dismay, only one of the setbacks has been altered and that one for only a portion of the West Lot line between our buildings to allow a 7 metre green space. It was offered that Starlight was very disappointed to lose three of the 43 proposed units to accommodate this. It was questioned why they didn’t continue the green space on the entire lot line between the buildings and we were told that Starlight would further lose 8 of their 400 sq.ft. units to allow this and the project would no longer be viable. Putting in a small patch of grass does not in any way allay our growing frustration with feeling an inability to communicate with either Starlight or the City.
Other information came up during the meeting that was equally as disarming. The architect advised that the City required them to alter the original plans to create a garbage and bicycle storage facility outside the current building fronting 6th Street and to incorporate them in the current parking structure. Parking has always been one of our biggest objections. Currently, the building has 104 stalls. The original proposal was to decrease it to 93 stalls representative of 0.7 parking stalls per unit. When we found that the plans had been altered, we asked how many stalls they would have in their new submission. We were told 82 – representative of 0.6 per unit. We asked how this was even possible because we knew the requirement had already been dropped by CNV to 0.7 and it was casually noted that the City changed the regulations this past summer. Really??? Did the City change the stipulations to allow this specific project to drop to 0.6 per unit??
When it was noted that the planners had based the parking on a ‘current study’ of buildings in Greater Vancouver, one of our residents asked if they polled the residents at 151. We are fully aware that many of them have to pay for parking in their building and opt to park on the street to avoid paying the $75/month. The only way to get an actual representation of the utilization of the parking in the building is to canvas all of the residents and see how many have cars and where they are actually parking them. There is absolutely no way you can add 40 more units to that property and say there is sufficient parking for all of them using the format presented by Starlight.
It was then questioned how many of the proposed units would be low rental for Starlight to be granted the density bonus. The 34 x 400 sf units are anticipated to market at $1,400/month. We don’t know what the townhouses will be rented for, but know they will be expensive. We were advised that 10% of the units will be offered at off-market/mid-market of CMHC averages for the area. Is this based on 10% of the 40 proposed units or inclusive of the 89 current units on the property? I.e., the architect said that they are allowed to build 34 tiny units to allow the entire portfolio of the property to be 1/3 studio, 1/3 one bedroom and 1/3 two bedroom suites. Does that mean 10% of the entire portfolio will be offered at off-market pricing based on the suite sizes? What about the townhouses … will at least one be offered at a lower rental?
As one of our owners noted, this property is a developers dream …. They are paying nothing for property or parking. They are building on a current structure and are set to reap huge profits. This will be done at the expense of all the other residents in the neighbourhood losing privacy, green space, corridor views and parking. Not only that, the City is giving them extra density to add insult to injury.
The model presented shows the buildings will still go from sidewalk (on Keith Road) to sidewalk (on 6th Street). This is totally in line with the project currently being constructed at 161 East Keith that has been controversial since the onset and was pushed through by council in spite of 4,000 people objecting on a signed petition. After months of being subjected to construction noise, unbelievable amounts of concrete dust and traffic nightmares, our members feel it is unfair for the City to even consider the project at 151 until the residents have moved into 161-163 East Keith (that also has a reduced parking allotment of 0.7 for those units) and do a feasibility study to determine what the actual parking ramifications will be to the residents on Keith Road and 6th Street.
We are aware that Starlight is anxious to get in front of North Vancouver City Council to push the project for development but we want it made clear that we feel the setbacks are still out of line with the OCP and the proposed parking is even more unacceptable.
The City must have decided that the employment rate for consultants is dangerously low. How else to explain the sudden deluge of Requests for Proposals on the CNV website – eight bid requests posted for the month of November, of which seven are opportunities for various flavours of consultant. Let the billing begin! But no worries, the City must be flush with cash from all those development fees coming in.
Bid Topics and programs range from: Family Friendly City, Sidewalk Program, Zoning Bylaw Height Envelope, Functional Space Program (Harry Jerome), Consulting Services (Harry Jerome), Mosquito and Mackay Bridge Replacement, Microsoft Reseller, Water Utility Zone Study. Full details here: http://www.cnv.org/City-Services/Bid-Notices