The site under the spotlight is 3701-3743 West Broadway & Alma in Vancouver West. Westbank revised its 2015 proposal from a 6-storey 100% secured rental to a 14-storey tower with a height of 172.6 feet. A public hearing is scheduled for October 27, 2020. The outcome of this application will set a standard that will shape how Vancouver West is likely to be and the way developers should approach rezoning and development proposal.
Residents who were against the proposal has already started a petition on change.org gathering over 3,600 votes. The question trickles down to why everyone is resisting the rezoning proposal to the point of gather public support to prevent the revised proposal from happening. The problem lies beyond just this proposal. If the City of Vancouver permitted this application, it will set a precedent for past and future rezoning/redevelopment to ignore guidelines and voices of the community.
The existing zoning is a commercial (C2) site with a maximum allowable height of 45 feet and up to 4-storeys. The first proposal (2015) is 6-storey building with a maximum height of 64ft, which is well within the acceptable range in the community. Until moderate income rental housing pilot program comes into play, which grants additional height and density up to 14 storeys at the intersection of 2 arterial. The new proposed building features 176.6 feet height, 14-storeys, and a bonus density of 5.27 FSR.
Everything was good on paper until we consider its place within the community. The site is surrounded by low-mid rise building no higher than 4-storeys. On the same block are single detached homes. Therefore, we have an enormous building protruding out of nowhere like Langara Gardens. There is serious shadow impact. The community also claims the proposal violates MIRHPP guidelines. It did not respect transition to surround area, and Broadway should not be considered as an arterial road.
Due to the reason stated, we understand why the community are furious over the revised plan and if it did get approved. It will send out a signal to past developer to revise their proposal and future developer to continue this kind of moves. In our perspective, Westbank would not put effort into proposing something so outrageous into their proposal without grounds. The application has already passed one community open resulting in a decrease in height and increase in residential unit count.
There are multiple C-2 sites on Alma that are due for redevelopment without a proper official community plan. Since the city of Vancouver announced Broadway/10th avenue in their frequent transit development plan in 2010, we have not heard of any major announcement from the government. Westbank’s proposal could accelerate the plan and put pressure on the government to come up with measures for the neighbourhood because spot rezoning is never ideal. The city of Vancouver is also pushing hard for affordable housing and the additional units from the 14-storeys building is attractive yet costly.
The revised proposal also unlocked a whole bag of questions including criticism on MIRHPP regarding its over subsidizing pilot program and the lack of regulatory process and assessment of applications. We believe COVID situation played a role in the debacle to prepare for the upcoming years of economic recovery. A side note, Westbank recently proposed additional density for its Phase 2 Oakridge development, and we are tempted to see what happens.