Tag Archives: Planning

What’s that smell?

What’s that smell?

There was a distinctly fishy aroma at Monday’s CNV Council meeting when, at the behest of Mayor Mussatto, Council re-considered Starlight’s proposal to develop 40 units of infill rental housing around the existing high-rise building at 151 East Keith (fronting Victoria Park).

The development had already been discussed at a public hearing on April 23, and Council had turned it down by a 4-3 vote. That should have been the end of it under the rules, which state: “No further information or submissions can be considered by Council once the Public Hearing is closed.”

Then suddenly last week, the mayor directed that an item be added to the May 14 council agenda: to reconsider (and approve for third reading) the zoning bylaw changes that Council had rejected on April 23.

No one seemed to know what the mayor was up to. Had one of the dissenting councillors decided to change his or her vote? Surely he wasn’t bringing up new information received after the public hearing had been closed – that would be against the bylaw.

And we know the mayor was sensitive about upholding the bylaw, because at the start of the May 14 Council meeting, he did not allow two members of the public to speak about 151 East Keith in Public Input Period. “We’re not allowed to receive any new information,” he explained.

Then came the mayor’s big reveal. In their original proposal, Starlight had promised to apply the “10-10-10” affordability formula, meaning 10% (i.e. four) of the new units would be rented for 10% below market rates, for 10 years. Now, the mayor told Council, Starlight was proposing to make 20 per cent (i.e., eight) of the new units available at 10% below market rates, in perpetuity. More affordable housing! Who could be against that?

But didn’t this contravene the rule about “no further information or submissions…once the Public Hearing is closed”? Heavens no, claimed the mayor – Starlight had informed him of this pot-sweetener before the public hearing. Apparently, they just neglected to mention it at the time.

In the subsequent discussion, both the mayor and Councillor Keating revealed they had had discussions with the developer offline about this offer. Keating claimed the rule had not been violated because it’s OK for individual councillors to receive new information, just not Council as a whole. (Hmm.)

Despite the mayor’s urging, and some passionate oratory by Councillors Keating and Buchanan on the crying need for more rental housing and more affordable housing, the dissenting councillors (Clark, Back, Bell and Bookham) stuck to their guns and the mayor’s motion was defeated.

Some closing thoughts:

Either the mayor was less than entirely truthful when he claimed Starlight told him about the deal sweetener before the public hearing, or Starlight’s project team is amazingly incompetent for neglecting to mention such an important detail at the April 23 hearing.

It seems municipal bylaws governing public hearings are merely suggestions, unless you’re just a taxpaying citizen, in which case they are iron-clad.

Could it be that this whole exercise was just to provide a platform for Councillors Keating and Buchanan to kick off their election campaigns with some thundering rhetoric about the need for more rental development? We’ll see.

 

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Planning Contradiction

Two rental buildings similar size:  365 E 2nd (Public Hearing on May 14th); 151 E Keith (public hearing in April) coming back May 14th for “reconsideration” of vote.  

To:  Mayor and Council, City of North Van
There is a major contradiction between the proposed development at 365 E 2nd and 151 E Keith. I hope someone explains it during the public hearing on Monday night.  Parking proposed at 365 is 44 stalls for a 42 unit building (noted in the staff report as being ’11 more than required’).  Parking proposed at 151 for a similarly sized building is zero.
Similar access to transit.

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

North Shore losing it’s charm – letter to Editor NS News

Comment from Voices: We have received the following Letter to the Editor, NS News (now published). We note that the public hearing has not yet been scheduled, and we have a further comment after the submission:

 Not just Deep Cove – the entire North Shore is rapidly losing its charm!!

I read with interest the comments from the residents and merchants of Deep Cove.  They have every right to be frustrated with the congestion and parking issues in their Community.  Unfortunately, apathy from the residents in the rest of North Van is allowing the City to ram through projects with no regard to the consequences to the people who live in the areas.

Case in point is the proposed infill development at 151 East Keith Road by Starlight Developments.   

Despite bitter opposition to the project almost completed next door at 161 East Keith (an 18 storey monstrosity that was pushed through by Council without regard to the thousands of signatures on a petition),  the 93 units on that property will have parking based on .7 spaces per unit.  Council says that will have no impact on the parking on East Keith or 6th Street …. Even though parking is already at capacity on both streets.

The proposed infill for 151 is adding an additional 40 rental units to that property.  Originally, it was 43 units but that has been ‘amended’ due to the opposition from residents of the area.  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.)* 

Currently, the building at 151 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.  The change to the bylaws in June 2017 to enable this for rental buildings was just slipped through as a “clarification” by the Mayor and Council of the City of North Vancouver.

The proposed infill for the 40 units includes NO provision for parking.  It is laughable that both Starlight Developments and North Van City Council think this is acceptable on any front.  The building at 161 is not even ready for occupation yet and the .7 parking per those 93 units is going to have a major impact.  Nonetheless, the City will probably push through the infill development at 151 East Keith without researching or studying the impact when 161 is fully occupied.

Residents need to sit up and take notice.  As with the building at 161, the infill will occupy the property from lot line to lot line.  The precedent has already been set and, if it is not stopped, all properties around Victoria Park will be able to apply for infills.  Infill developments face several challenges.  The projects are more expensive to build; infill sites are sometimes constricted in available space; additional transportation and vehicle parking issues have to be addressed; and the need for architects and developers to “respond to the context” of the neighborhood – in other words, to create a development that fits into the “character” of the neighborhood.

How does one define the “character” of a neighborhood?  A neighborhood’s character goes well beyond how the buildings look – it’s about how people live and work there, how people move around, the scale of the neighborhood, and many other factors.  Architects and planners should be asking themselves how people live in and interact with a place – and how they can support people living with broader, longer-term changes in the economy and environment. 

The saddest part is that Victoria Park is a place of comfort and refuge for many.  It is particularly evident on Remembrance Day when hundreds of people fill the park to commemorate the soldiers who fought and died for our country.  The park will be a lot less used and appreciated when there is total unavailability for parking. Starlight had a PR Company recently distribute an information sheet to local businesses along the Lonsdale corridor (I know specifically of shops on East 14th) asking for them to support the project.  From the flyer – it says 40 rental units will be added with 10% below market rental rates – this means only 4 units!! * The renderings shown on the flyer are only for the townhouse components – it does not show the 4 story building that will block the view corridors from 6th Street.  In the Project Timeline it shows this all started in Oct. 2016 and is now coming to the second last step.  How can our planning people and Council allow this to have continued to this point?

Hopefully, other residents will voice their comments and objections through the NS News and by letters to NV City Council and Mayor Mussatto.

Victoria Thompson 

On behalf of Strata VR 2735 Victoria Place

*comment from Voices: FSR will now be 3.21. We also note that the four units will be studios, size approx 400 sq ft. These units will be rented at subsidized rates for a period of ten years only.  The equivalent cash option would be $3.7 million for the additional density.  Is there proof of a ten year demand for 400 sq ft units? Would the cash perhaps be a better option for the residents of the City?  Zoning variances are required for the north, east, west and south sides. In addition, parking variances to a width of 8 ft.

http://www.nsnews.com/opinion/letters/it-s-not-just-deep-cove-that-s-losing-its-charm-1.23211426

Affordable Housing case study

One of the items on the agenda for Monday’s Council Meeting is a rezoning application for 365 E 2nd.  In the 1050 page agenda package are details of the application, for a new 42 unit rental building (with 4 suites at mid-market rates for 10 years).  This new building will replace an existing rental building with 15 suites.  The new building will be 6 storeys, existing is 3 storeys.

A report from Colliers (undated) details the sale of this building:

Westbrooke Apartments, a 15-suite wood frame apartment building located at 365 East 2nd Avenue sold in June 2015 for $3,750,000, or $250,000 per unit. In January 2016, the property sold again for $4,475,000, or $298,333 per unit, representing an appreciation in value of 20% in under seven months. Lack of product, influx of foreign capital and the introduction of the North Vancouver Official Community Plan can all be attributed to this insatiable demand for North Vancouver apartment buildings.

In the report (part of the agenda) are the results of the information meetings, attendees for the most part extolling the virtues of the new building, with particular emphasis to having rentals in the area. But the existing building is a rental building – with rents varying from $824 to $1650 (2 bed).  

Based on the City’s reporting: Generally the Mid-Market rates represent a discount of approximately 35 %- 45% from current market rates. Based on the 2017 average rents in the City, Mid-Market Rental Units are to be rented $1425 for a 2 bed – therefore the current market rent would be about $2000. 

Does it make any sense to continue replacing affordable renting housing with unaffordable new rental housing?  Should there not be proof of the demand?  Should there not be evidence of the neighbours supporting these new proposals? It seems as though 80% of the responses at the info meetings are not from residents in the area. How can a newly built building possibly complete with an existing building value of $300K/unit?

 

Rebellion in the neighbourhood | The Global Canadian

Comment by Voices:  Comparison of current growth in the City of North Van, the target in the Regional Growth Strategy for 2031 was 28,000 dwelling units. Currently planned are 31,192 (exceeding the 2041 targets). All details are on our ‘Statistics’ page or here for specific details:   https://nvcityvoices.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/cnv_housing-units-january-2018.xls

Article in The Global Canadian:

Residents built our communities but now see a decline in quality of life due to disruption caused by endless rebuilding By Corrie Kost I feel like an end of an era in municipal governance is about to take place. In my opinion, and this is a change I’d welcome, many municipalities in the lower mainland …

Source: Rebellion in the neighbourhood | The Global Canadian

Questions abound – Anthem/Eastern

Comment from Voices:  We have received a copy of the following email from a long time City of North Van resident concerning the Anthem development proposal at Eastern Ave and 17th Street in the City.   The resident attended the ‘developer information session’ this week and has the following questions for the City and the developer:

.

‘No Councillors were at this meeting that I could see. 

I talked to the Development and Relocation Consultant who was there and he explained his role. 
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The consultant  lives near Broadway and Cambie, not in North Vancouver.
It would have been a nice gesture if members of Council were there. Are we their enemies? 
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The employees from Anthem politely answered questions which they are supposed to do; they are obliged to give the party line that everything is the best of all possible worlds, when they must know that tearing up the neighbourhood is shameful. 
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On the other hand, maybe they don’t know the long term effects on life quality of this kind of expansion.
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The key issue the Council and the planners must face is that the OCP that is being administered for this part of North Vancouver means that all the worst aspects of urban expansion will take place with no logic or rationale that anyone who knows about these matters and who live here can understand: other than expand and then pay the price of congestion and living with aesthetically cookie cutter buildings which this one will be, I am sorry to say. 
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Anyone who looks at urban expansion in, say,  The Netherlands and Germany will see that the new high rises in North Vancouver around 13th, as well as the sprawling clunky ones around 21st St West, are not  buildings that one might admire. They are like warehouses.
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Since there are plans for expansion of housing north of Harry Jerome citizens of North Vancouver need to know why these high-rises are being tossed up now in this vulnerable area of the town. ‘