Mount Pleasant activist questions affordability of 19-storey tower and podium
A Mount Pleasant community activist has given a fiery presentation to council opposing Rize Alliance's application to rezone its property on the southwest corner of East Broadway and Kingsway.
Tonight, Sandeep Johal of the Residents Association of Mount Pleasant questioned assertions by city staff at last night's meeting that the Rize proposal for a 19-storey high-rise and podium meets the objectives of the Mount Pleasant community plan.
She noted that the plan mentions the importance of affordable housing 18 times, whereas it doesn't appear once in Rize's submission to the city. After she said this, she received loud applause from those in the council chamber attending the public hearing.
"I feel this development has violated the spirit and the intent of the community plan," she said.
Johal also told council that a one-bedroom apartment in the District building at Main Street and East 5th Avenue rents for $1,850 per month; a two-bedroom in a new building in the neighbourhood costs $2,050.
She suggested that rents in Mount Pleasant now exceed those in the West End.
"It's not affordable for the average Vancouverite," she asserted.
She claimed that Rize's $6.25-million community-amenity package will provide "no immediate public benefit" because the money is being set aside for future projects. Johal also said that there is a lack of "permeability" on the Rize site, which she maintained would not be open to the community, but only for the residents.
Near the end of her presentation, Johal mentioned that she heard a UBC architect speaking a while ago on a panel discussion, where he said that high-rises are suitable for certain areas, but not in Mount Pleasant.
"So you also have to take a look at the community," Johal stated. "It doesn't make sense in Mount Pleasant."
Later in the evening, community activist and design-firm owner Annabel Vaughan took aim at "the flawed process that the city uses for rezoning large development sites".
Unlike other speakers, who were quick to criticize Rize Alliance, Vaughan focused her comments on the city's reluctance to embrace modern planning principles as espoused by Toronto architect and urban designer Ken Greenberg.
"The current public process brings out the worst in everybody,” Vaughan maintained, claiming that the community is only brought into the process after the design is complete.
"Needless to say, the spaceship has landed," she said.
Vaughan stated that Greenberg, on the other hand, advocates balancing community aspirations and goals within a development in a give and take that is about achieving the best outcome for those at the table.
Surprisingly, Vaughan said she didn't have a big problem with a floor-space-ratio around five for large sites like the Rize property. However, she urged council to reincorporate affordable housing into the project and get rid of what she called the "big-box retail" component.
Her most daring recommendation was for council to reduce parking at the Rize project to about half the city requirement, which would drive down development costs and promote affordability. There are currently plans for underground parking for 320 vehicles for 241 units of housing and a two-storey commercial podium.
Vision Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson characterized Vaughan's presentation as "very captivating and well thought out."
Green councillor Adriane Carr added that she was also impressed by Vaughan's comments.
"We have a flawed process," Carr claimed.
Vaughan then stated: “I think at the end of the day that Rize Development has its heart in its right place. I think at the end of the day, Acton Ostry is an architect who can solve this problem.”
However, she said that the project should be sent back to design development with "stringent recommendations".
"There has to be a way to incorporate affordable housing into every project we build in this city,” she said. "These guys can do it. They have the know-how. You, the elected people, have to do it on behalf of the people who vote for you, not the people who fund you.”