Homeless in Vancouver: Selling a West Broadway alley has unintended consequences for delivery drivers

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      A deal whereby a private developer will pay the City of Vancouver $3.7 million and change to buy a bit of back alley in the 1400 block of West Broadway could also force delivery companies to pay money to the city—in the form of "No Stopping" tickets.

      That’s because the bit of alley is the only legal place where commercial trucks can park during the morning rush hour, when they deliver food supplies to the seven restaurants still in business on the north side of the block.

      Now that the alley has been gated to all traffic, delivery trucks have no choice but to park on the street and face being ticketed, like a delivery truck from the food services company Snowcap was Tuesday morning (December 11), at about 9:30 a.m. (with 30 minutes to go in rush hour).

      Two more delivery trucks—one food services and one courier—that stopped in the same block between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. happily escaped the notice of bylaw enforcement.

      The Snowcap driver shrugged off the ticket. He wasn’t the one who would have to pay it, he explained.

      Making way for subway station in development

      Diagram from the city staff report showing the lane being sold to PCI (red); the remaining city lane (dark grey) and the “Surface Right-of-Way” PCI is giving to the city.
      City of Vancouver

      As originally reported December 6 by Naoibh O’Connor, for the Vancouver Courier, PCI Developments has agreed to buy the 213.7 square metres of laneway separating 1489 and 1465 West Broadway Avenue.

      As a City of Vancouver staff report on the alley sale explains, the developer expects to redevelop it into a single property incorporating:

      “…a 5-storey office building over six levels of underground parking that incorporates retail at grade and the Granville station head house and transit access for the Broadway subway.

      The city staff report basically justifies the sale of the lane to PCI as being “essential” to keep the planned Broadway subway on track:

      “The closure and sale of the lane is essential to the development application and to the multi-party arrangement to ensure the Granville station head house will be located at the corner of Granville and West Broadway.”

      West Broadway side of the gates lane at 7:02 a.m.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      The report concludes that the lane is surplus to the city’s needs; that $3,795,00 represents the lane’s fair market value and that the proceeds of the sale should be credited to the city’s Property Endowment Fund (PEF).

      The PEF is a shadowy arrangement that somehow looks after the value all of city-owned property and, in 2010, was estimated to be worth $3 billion.

      Over and above the land sale price of $3.7 million, PCI will pay an additional road-closure fee of $10,460, as well as any related taxes, fees, et cetera.

      Unfortunately, the road closure fee will also go into the PEF, rather than going toward paying any parking tickets incurred by commercial delivery truck drivers.

      As part of the deal, PCI has agreed to give the city a two-metre wide sliver of land from 1465 West Broadway that is contiguous with the remaining L-shaped laneway between the 1400 block of Broadway and West 8th Avenue. This is to give trucks faced with the blocked lane more room to turn around.

      The lane sale was scheduled to be put up for council approval on December 10—the day after the development permit board was to consider approving PCI’s development application for 1465-1489 West Broadway.

      Toting up a back alley bargain

      The back alley side of the lane closure at 6:53 a.m.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Is $3,795,000 really “fair market value” for the lane separating 1489 and 1465 West Broadway?

      Adding in the road closure fee of $10,460, PCI will be paying about $17,807.48 per square metre for the 213.7 square metres of lane way.

      Based solely on their combined current assessments of $47,507,600 (and Google Maps’ measurement tool), the roughly 2,423.62 square metres of 1489 and 1465 have a 10 percent higher value per square metre of $19,601.91.

      Arguably that should have been the minimum value per square metre placed on the laneway between the two properties. If it had been, the cost to PCI for the laneway would have been more like $4.18 million.

      As it is, I’m surprised that the city—which seems to have almost as much riding on the commencement of the Broadway subway as the B.C. government—did not just wrap up the alley and give it to PCI for Christmas.

      But perhaps PCI is willing to forgo this little present for a bigger one in the near future.

      When gifting a developer density never disappoints

      It’s no secret that the five-storey plan for 1465-1489 West Broadway is something of a placeholder waiting for the significantly increased allowable density expected in the city’s Broadway Plan—due December 2020.

      If the city’s Broadway Plan delivers the gift of higher density in Christmas 2020, it is expected that PCI will try to amend its current development plans for the corner of West Broadway and Granville to include the additional residential floors needed to justify both the “future residential elevator” and six floors (and 332 stalls-worth) of underground parking already in the submitted blueprints