Shannon Mews rezoning approved by Vancouver city council in a 6-4 vote

Early this morning, the Vision Vancouver-controlled council approved the rezoning of Shannon Mews over the objections of scores of neighbours, as well as the COPE and NPA councillors.

Around 2 a.m. after a marathon public hearing lasting over three nights, residents were unable to convince a majority of civic politicians to scale back Wall Financial Corporation’s application. The company sought to more than quadruple the number of housing units on its four-hectare site near the corner of Granville Street and West 57th Avenue.

“We’re delighted with the councillors’ decision and this opportunity to create a great development for the city and for the immediate neighbourhood,” Wall Financial Corp. president Bruno Wall told the Georgia Straight in the council chamber shortly after the vote. “We look forward to working with city engineering staff to mitigate any of the traffic concerns.”

Bruno Wall expresses his satisfaction with the council vote.

In August 2010, Wall Financial applied to increase the number of units from 164 to 891 on the historic site, which includes a Beaux-Arts mansion, Italianate gardens, and a heritage perimeter wall developed in the early 20th century by sugar baron Ben Rogers.

People living in the tony single-family neighbourhood quickly mobilized to fight the proposal. Wall Financial scaled it back to 735 units, and staff requested a further reduction to 706 units. Wall told council at the start of the public hearing that he accepted this number.

Buildings will reach nine storeys and, according to staff, 1,300 people will live on the site after it’s built out. One of the area residents, UBC professor Gary Hewitt, suggested during the hearing that the number will exceed 1,500, based on the proposed housing types.

Wall promised that 187 units will be rental for 60 years, and another 15 will remain rental for 20 years. Currently, all 164 units on the site are rental.

Potential profits discussed

In response to a question from COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth, Wall revealed that his company seeks a 15 percent rate of return on the cost of development, whether it’s at Shannon Mews, downtown, or in Surrey.

Bruno Wall and Brent Toderian discuss profits and community amenity contributions.

Planning director Brent Toderian added that his department considers 15 percent as a “reasonable developer profit”. He said that on top of this is the profit on construction, which is not factored into calculations to determine community-amenity contributions in return for higher density.

At this project, the city would recapture 75 percent of increase in land value to pay for community-amenity contributions. “So there’s an additional profit in there for the developer as well,” Toderian said.

Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie, who introduced the motion to approve, acknowledged that he heard numerous concerns from area residents about the proposal. They included: height, density, traffic, crime, access, upkeep, the process, whether or not it conformed with the Arbutus Ridge/Kerrisdale/Shaugnessy community vision, the owner’s failure to maintain the site, the lack of transit, EcoDensity, the democratic process, whether the proposal was a done deal, whether people can actually trust council, some discrepancies in the traffic report, construction disruption, high-rise development, and the phasing of the project.

“All these things, I think, are important to deal with,” Louie said before voting in favour. “I am satisfied at this point that staff have explained that much of this can work within this context.”

Raymond Louie and Heather Deal explain why they favour the rezoning of Shannon Mews.

Louie mentioned that he’s interested in looking carefully at mitigating the impact of construction on the neighbours and trying to reduce the traffic impacts, possibly by exploring whether some commercial development could be included in the purely residential project.

Vision Vancouver councillor Heather Deal said she was voting in favour in part because the developer is creating a park and opening up the site for public viewing.

COPE councilor David Cadman, on the other hand, voted against the application after citing concerns expressed by heritage advocate Michael Kluckner that the proposal was “not green”, “not smart”, and was going to become a “car-captive site”.

Cadman saved his most withering criticism for the project’s impact on traffic. It will include entrances and exits along West 57th Avenue and along Granville Street.

“When I look at somebody coming north on Granville—because there currently is no left turn on 57th—people are going to look for ways from the middle lane going north of trying to turn on 58th, 59th, 60th, 61st in order to get into their place on 57th,” Cadman said. “That’s bad enough because there’s a school and a playground there. But when I think of when people come out of the driveway on Granville Street and try to either get out and get into the northbound late across three lanes of southbound traffic or cut into that driveway across three lanes of southbound traffic, this is an accident waiting to happen.”

Later, Cadman added: “I don’t think we’re treating the roadspace of Granville wisely. It’s just plain dangerous.” His colleage, Ellen Woodsworth, also voted against the proposal.

Cadman’s remarks came after many residents cited their concerns about traffic. In two presentations near the end of the public hearing, Simon Ng and Hewitt urged council to pay attention to this issue.

Resident Simon Ng talks about his dream of owning a house, followed by Gary Hewitt’s detailed denunciation of the traffic impacts.

Another resident, Jeffrey Lee, told council that his home on Adera Street shares a wall with Shannon Mews. A four-storey building with floor-to-ceiling windows, large patios, and a rooftop garden will be only 38 feet away from his property line, whereas there are minimum 79-foot distances between buildings on the Shannon Mews site.

Lee noted that his neighbours across the street will also face this building, which won’t be covered by trees. “All the occupants from the proposed building will be staring into our back yard—at least every single day of the year,” Lee said. “The invasion of privacy and damage to our quality of living is in the extreme.”

Jeffrey Lee says the development will rob his privacy.

Despite the objections from the residents, Toderian said that his department still supported the proposal. In his closing remarks, he told council that staff have added a condition to add more trees along Adera to address residents’ concerns.

Planning director Brent Toderian offers his closing remarks at the public hearing.

George Chow, who isn’t seeking reelection, was the only Vision Vancouver councillor to vote against the rezoning. He said that he wasn’t troubled by the 1.6 floor-space ratio. However, he objected to the massing of buildings on the site, saying it wasn’t appropriate for the neighbourhood.

“The residents are not saying ”˜no development’,” Chow pointed out. “What they’re talking about is some kind of development they can live with.”

NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton said she wouldn’t support the project because it’s too car-oriented. In addition, she stated that there’s more density on the site than is required to preserve its heritage.

She also expressed regret over the the loss of the castle-and-out-buildings approach favoured by Heritage Vancouver advocate Richard Keate. This would have put the historic mansion at the centre of everyone's attention and was, according to Keate, something that architect Arthur Erickson strived for when he designed townhouses on the site.

Moreover, Anton described the Granville bus as “terrible”, which will add to traffic problems. “It’s too slow; it’s too cumbersome,” she said. “People will use their cars to drive a few blocks.”

That prompted a blunt rebuttal from Mayor Gregor Robertson, who voted in favour. He said that the city wants “transit-oriented development”.

“I’ve heard people say the bus service sucks, but you compare the service on Granville—the four- to six-minute headway during rush hour—to the transit service around the region,” he said. “You need a reality check if you think that sucks. This is a good bus service compared to what most of the region has.”

Vision Vancouver councillors Tim Stevenson, Geoff Meggs, and Andrea Reimer also voted in favour (their colleague Kerry Jang was absent).

Stevenson and Meggs each said that they objected to Kluckner’s presentation, which argued that Wall Financial should have built high-end low-rise buildings to maintain the heritage character of the site.

“He wanted an enclave for the rich,” Stevenson declared. “I was just thrown by that remark.”

Stevenson added that the Vancouver Heritage Commission supported the proposal.

Concerns about city-developer news conference

Prior to the vote, a spokesperson for the Arbutus Ridge/Kerrisdale/Shaughnessy community visions process, Sheldon Zelitt, condemned the city's handling of the rezoning application.

"ARKS is concerned about the disconnect between high public feelings on this proposal and the apparent lack of place that public feeling has in staff and council's deliberations," he said.

Then, he said Toderian had "spoken openly of injecting a bias" in favour for those citizens who were too shy to speak to council. This occurred even though more than 90 percent opposed the project in an anonymous ARKS survey.

Next, Zelitt zeroed in on a media briefing that Toderian conducted with Wall at Vancouver City Hall earlier this year.

"The city manager states that the rationale was alleged misinformation in the press, including suggestions of corruption, which they took seriously, but has yet to cite those press reports, including after several requests," Zelitt said. "Without other views present at the press conference, a perception of corruption was actually created. Council might want to have taken steps to dispel this view."

He went on to say that the city manager and planning director have cited a legal relationship between the city and the proponent, which "enables" such news conferences.

"But no legislative basis has been cited for any such relationship, again after several requests," he added. "The community questions whether this places the city in perhaps an adversarial relationship with respect to the community."

Zelitt suggested that this action damaged the city's credibility.

Stevenson later asked Toderian about this prior to the vote. The planning director replied that the city uses media briefings to clarify misinformation on complex exercises. He cited EcoDensity and the metropolitan core jobs and economy study as two examples.

"It is at least unusual in the context of a regular rezoning," he conceded. "Certainly this is not a regular rezoning."

Toderian then explained that there was confusion in the community about the relative roles of the developer and staff.

"And I think communication staff's concern was that if the media asked questions about the application—and if staff were answering questions about the application—that could be perceived as staff proposing the application," Toderian said. "It might make it look like it was our proposal, which of course it wasn't. So I think the intent was that the developer would be there to clarify information about the application; staff would be there to clarify information about the process, particularly the enhanced process."

Brent Toderian discusses why he held a joint news conference with Bruno Wall.

Toderian never explained why journalists from only five print-media outlets were invited, and none of them worked for any Chinese-language newspapers.

He said that in hindsight, the attempt to improve clarity about the roles might have had the opposite effect.

"It probably made our jobs harder," he admitted. Toderian added that he probably wouldn't want to do this again.

Comments (25) Add New Comment
Glenn L
Planning in this city is ridiculous. This was not even a NIMBY the residents were fine with a development they just asked for something smaller. Why have these marathon meetings if nobody listens.
Rating: -9
Gregor, his gang and Vision are 80% funded by developers. Now you know why anything the developers want, the Visionless gang gives it to them.
Rating: -9
James G
I can take no joy in the failure of any neighborhood to defend itself, not even a tony one like this. Money talks and developers walk ... all over City Hall.

It is cold comfort to offer condolences and remind other neighborhoods that this is the way NPA councils treated most of the East Side nearly all of the time. For that matter, if the needs of Arbutus/Ridge residents hadn't prevailed over the Oakridge residents in NPA calculations during decisions affecting what is now the Canada Line, Vision Vancouver likely wouldn't even exist! Of course, Vision now inherits the mantle of boogeyman of the East Side but irritatingly has become so with my vote. Not next time!

Councilor Anton again showed poor political instinct by attempting to use a situation with no easy answers to political advantage. Sorry, but the bus along Granville Street is really not worse than many others. Try taking a bus along Main Street sometime!

Side note to the Anton campaign: neither this, nor flip flops on bike lanes, nor recent-found opposition to the impending Viaduct disaster nor second-guessing the riots wins my approval. Try to take principled stands, stick to them and be yourself. Whoever is advising you to campaign like a pinball?

The votes of Geoff Meggs and Andrea Reimer for the development are interesting. Although, I doubt Ms. Anton can generate any support for herself out of the issue, I suspect these two could be targeted for removal from council by neighborhood residents. They are already the weakest on the Vison slate (no independent constituencies of their own like Louie and Stevenson, no expertise like Jang, both in their first term and both with serious baggage). A concerted effort from East Side residents threatened by the demolition of the Viaducts and West Side residents upset with Shannon Mews would have quite an impact on these two candidates!

Rating: +4
Anton complained about bus service on Granville? Gregor was right to call her out on that.
Rating: +3
Sven Crawson
And people think the NPA is in the pockets of developers! Vision has been bought and paid for, and has been doing the bidding of developers for the past 3 years. And shocks of all shocks: COPE councillors didn't vote exactly the same as Vision! That happens about once every two years. What a shame COPE isn't running their own mayoral and council candidates, that's a lost opportunity. No one that I know who voted for Vision or COPE plans to vote for them again this fall.
Rating: +1
Suzanne voted against this one, but if she becomes the next mayor she'll be approving development proposals all over the city. The NPA has even older ties to developers than Vision does. It's truly sad that the only way a non-developer can get elected in this city is to cut a deal with Vision or the NPA and accept a powerless minority position.
Rating: +1
Randy Chatterjee
Kudos to Charlie for sticking this night out and providing the only press coverage of one of the most hideous, incongruous, ecologically-indefensible, heritage-and community-busting developments ever proposed in Vancouver. Nice work on the videos as well!

What Vision Vancouver did to the East Side at Little Mountain, they've now also done to the West Side. They've at least proven themselves consistently against community, heritage, and sustainable building.
Rating: +7
yes, thanks and kudos to Charlie for helping us understand the many twists and turns of this decision. I believe the Director of Plannign is completely uncredible on this one. This is not a "regular" rezoning? What pray tell is a regular rezoning and why shold it be any differnet in terms of neutral treatment by staff from a non-regular rezoning?
Rating: -8
East Van Arts
VISION has lost its vision. They no longer know where they're going.

They have approved this hideous, overbuilt, over-priced monstrosity against the wishes of 90% of the neighbours. They have created a terrible traffic problem that will take years to solve -- if ever.

When tested, VISION votes for the developers who put them in office -- and the people who build chicken coops, of course.

This is very disappointing, and will not be forgotten in November.

The joke is already going around: VISION needs new glasses. They just don't know where they're going.
Rating: +8
I do believe that this development is good for the city and shows a correct long term vision for our beautiful west coast home. Vancouver is a very young city and needs to be able to grow and can not stay forever the same.
Rating: -5
Ed Johnson
VISION created "talk-vancouver" and "enhanced consultation process". Turned out to be just "BULL SESSIONS". This council masked "tyranny" or "ego gone wild" under these innocent terms to deceive the public. Time and again, the Mayor and Council have used famous phrases such as " we hear your concerns, BUT.....". The Mayor and Council think that they can now use Vancouver neighbourhoods and Vancouverites as their guinea pigs. Hosting big parties without proper planning resulting in one of the worst riots in the world. Damage to London Drugs was over $1,000,000. Nothing of concern to this Council. Creating empty bike lanes as demonstration projects just because they have the right to do so. Destroying stable neighbourhoods by approving monstrocities development such as this without any concern for severe traffic, parking, and amenities impact to the area. In November, we have to set this right. With the internet, we can play back all the video tapings of these reckless and irresponsible candidates. We must all rest up during August and get ready to end this nightmare in November starting in October.
Rating: +12
Vision bends over for developers. A developers' rep came to shake down council on Thursday on the agenda item for the Grandview/Woodland, Marpole and West End community plan report.

It didn't sit well that the owner of the Davie Village "Garden" corner of Davie and Burrard would have a more difficult time with a spot rezoning during the coming community planning process. So within minutes Raymond Louie puts out an amendment to allow a loophole for the developer at this site.

When has Vision Vancouver done that just once for a member from the public?
Rating: +5
I encourage everyone to look at the design of the project for themselves. Here:

And more info here on the specific layout:

I really think there are positives here. The park space is good, this is in no way heritage busting and in fact the original mansion will be much more accessible now by the looks of things. The site is also pedestrian friendly, with good public access through it. See here:

It's also more than fair that wealthier and west side neighbourhoods receive more density, especially since most of the people buying condos, no matter where in the city they are, tend to be higher than average income, even if they just end up renting it out. Up until now EcoDensity could be renamed EastDensity.

Finally, if you want to solve traffic problems then you should build denser. That's what's needed to get people out of their cars. It's not like if we don't build this, the would-be residents would decide "actually, I think I'll go live in Calgary." They're coming here regardless, and they can live in the low-density, car-dependent suburbs and lobby for more and more Gateway Project-style highway expansion, or they could move into dense, urban, central neighbourhoods and use transit and bikes. This is way greener, way better for traffic than the alternative.

That said, there seems to be very little attention paid to the lack of any commercial stores on Granville. Granville is a major, major street, and this is a large enough chunk of residents far enough away from Marpole that it ought to have some local stores. That would definately help people leave their car at home, and create a more complete neighbourhood, but I don't see anything there. Am I missing something? Is there really no commercial here?

Council also has the power to make amendmenets, to improve the design in response to neighbour concerns. For issues of privacy this is especially issue, put an amendment requiring an improved site plan for trees, for instance. It's hard to say whether that recommendation was given the weight of a council vote or not in the article, but it sounds like it was just recommended. There are other areas that I'm sure could be improved.

Rating: +1
Rich Neo-Con Politicians
Gregor the Great Juice Guy [overpriced Juice if u ask me...]...

Lets see Rich A-Holes protesting a development = NIMBY, F-Them

Rich Developer MUST be making MORE than 15% no Developer goes into a major Real Estate deal with ONLY a 15% margin, that's ridiculous.

Where is the actual Plans & Costing with Contracts so that we can see the Real Profits?

I hope the Rental Units offer some assisted Social Housing for the Poor and Rents are Controlled, what too much to ask eh?
Rating: +3
Standing Water BA LLD MBA
"Finally, if you want to solve traffic problems then you should build denser. That's what's needed to get people out of their cars."

That's nonsense. I live in a detached residential home built c. 1910, and I don't drive, never have. What gets people out of their cars is destroying their pigfuckingly selfish entitlement mentality---the real entitlement mentality, the one that says "the planet and its natural resources are here for me to despoil, for my convenience."

The best way to do that is subsidies for ethical transport, not beehiving humans.

"Am I missing something? Is there really no commercial here?"

Yes, you are missing why that would be desirable:

“Nature has made no shoemaker nor smith. Such occupations degrade the people who exercise them. Vile mercenaries, nameless wretches, who are by their very condition excluded from political rights. As for the merchants accustomed to lying and deceiving, they will be allowed in the city only as a necessary evil. The citizen who shall have degraded himself by the commerce of the shop shall be prosecuted for this offense. If he is convicted, he shall be condemned to a year in prison; the punishment shall be doubled for each repeated offense.”
Rating: +2
Yahoo, now I can move in, this process took far to long when cambie project was approved long ago.
Rating: +8
Re: Standing Water BA LLD MBA

That may be true for you, but it won't work for everybody because of simple geometry. Low density means things take up more space, there's fewer services nearby, and people have to drive to get to where they want to go. Look at the census, and you'll see the denser the neighbourhood the fewer people using cars. It's a simple and obvious correlation.

Secondly, if your detatched house is c. 1910 I'm guessing it's in a highly developed, actually very dense neighbourhood. Neighbourhoods with houses can be very dense, very walkable, full of services, especially if it's mixed with apartments, and houses are split into suites. Where I live has a mix of housing types. I'm not saying it has to be this particular built form everywhere, but that this form is part of the mix.

As for the second part, why is it desirable to make people travel further to get simple groceries, bread from the bakery, etc. That attitude is what forces people to drive. You try building a city wihtout stores.
Rating: -1
Bill McCreery1
2:15 AM Friday @ City Hall was a sad nite for Shannon Mews neigbourhood, Vancouver, sustainable, healthy neighbourhood planning, heritage, transit, congestion, etc... Vision Council's 6 to 4 (Anton Cope, Chow) vote betrayed voters.

It was also the culmination of Vision ramming through their last minute agenda, including 8 major reports and 3 other significant spot re-zonings as well as the above. Wednesday during the afternoon Council session, what VV refers to as the 'sustainable neighbourhood' planning item was passed over the objections of a number of speakers including myself. Mayor Greg and his Vision cohorts once again expose themselves. Saying one feel good sounding thing, and then, turning their backs on Vancouver citizens and doing the opposite.

The Planning Commission’s “Sustainable Nieghbourhoods Report concludes:

“... it seems very clear that the most important investments for the City to make in neighbourhoods are those that strengthen and extend connections among people and groups in ways that BUILD TRUST.”

I asked Council, how can you hope to “build trust” when you repeatedly subvert the democratic process of “open and transparent” government you promised? The Vision Council's latest effort Wednesday night at 10 PM after the media had gone home was to get an ”˜opinion’ from their legal council saying the proxy method of delivering citizens views on the Shannon Mews spot rezoning was unacceptable. My understanding is the proxy method had been pre-cleared through the City Clerk’s office and a form was created to document of who was speaking for who, which they signed. Then Thursday night, poof, they suddenly fund that is was OK to accept proxies once again.

You then added further insult to further injury by extending the time for the hearing from the scheduled 10 PM ending to midnight on Wednesday and for as long as it takes on Thursday. This was done over the objections of Councillor Anton and those in the gallery. As well the Councillors’ and the presenters were exhausted after three consecutive late nights and having to get up early to go to work the next day.

It is the opinion of many that they have gone way over the boundary of treating citizens with respect in these late July maneuvers designed to stifle public dialogue.
Rating: +5
sandY j
after reading all of these comments, it seems as though people are fed up with vision vancouver and their broken promises. remember, we put these politicians in power and pay their salaries and if they aren't living up to their promises (which they aren't), we have the power TO VOTE THEM OUT in the upcoming civic spread the word, educate your friends and community, and VOTE!!!
Rating: -4
dread nugent
Why is it everyone in this town from the poverty pimps to the rich Nimby crew can't wrap its tiny brains around the fact that Vancouver is one of the most desirable places in the world to live. This has only begun. The offshore money isn't going to stop coming. The rebuilding and density plan isn't gonna stop cuz someone loses a bit of privacy. Are most of you people even remotely for real?? This city has changed a huge amount since 1994 when I arrived. Most of it for the better. This is not a hippy town any more people. Its being nurtured into a Metropolis. The Georgia Straight writers and its delusional followers can wear out a thousand keyboards typing and griping about the injustice of it all. You will change little. I can hardly wait to see this City in 15 years. I hope Thomas Keller and Gordom Ramsey open 4 star resto's in the former DTES ( the Future New Yaletown ). The "hearing" is just that... they hear.. but they ain't ever gonna seriously listen to ya. Now go down to the Railway.. grab a pint and mutter how much better things were when you could smoke anywhere .. and don't forget to wear your bike helmet on the ride down.
Rating: +5


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