Vancouver approves Beach Towers expansion in the West End

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      Vancouver city council has voted to approve a rezoning application for an infill development at the Beach Towers complex in the West End. 

      Following a public hearing attended by dozens of people, many of them opposed to the application, council voted 5-2 in favour of the project. Vision Vancouver councillors said the project will create much-needed secured rental housing in the neighbourhood.

      “This is only the second all-purpose rental building built in a decade in the West End,” said Vision councillor Andrea Reimer. “For those of us who rent, there’s a very substantial pressure on rentals, and in the West End that’s felt more severely than anywhere else in the city, with a less than one percent vacancy rate.”

      Green councillor Adriane Carr voted against the proposal, citing concerns raised by speakers at the public hearing, including density, livability, and affordability.

      “In my calculation of the speakers at the public hearing, it was about seven to one opposed,” said Carr. “I believe our duty is to not just listen to the public, but to reflect the public’s will in our decisions.”

      NPA councillor George Affleck, who also cast his vote against the project, argued the application should have been incorporated into the neighbourhood planning process currently underway for the West End.

      The application for the Beach Towers expansion came forward under the Short-Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) Program. The infill development consists of a mix of low and mid-rise buildings, and will feature 133 rental units.

      Council approved an amendment today to set the proposed rents for the new suites so the prices don’t increase during construction. The prices, as outlined in a staff report, range from $1,125 to $1,310 for a studio, $1,390 to $2,600 for a one-bedroom, and $1,900 to $2,720 for a two-bedroom. City staff said the project is intended to create an affordable alternative to home ownership for moderate income households.

      Christine Ackermann, the president of the West End Residents Association, said while the members of her group support the construction of new market rental, they wanted to see more affordability created through the development. 

      Ackermann asked council last week to set prices for one third of the units at rates that are affordable for local residents. But city staff told council today that such a model typically requires government subsidy.

      “I am disappointed that they lost this opportunity to inject some affordability into the West End,” Ackermann told the Straight by phone. “This is a large development and basically they’re saying that the market is going to create affordability...and I disagree.”

      Vision Vancouver councillor and West End resident Tim Stevenson said his “hope and belief” is that the people moving into the new units will come from the neighbourhood, thereby freeing up existing housing for other local residents.

      Ackermann disputed that prediction, arguing that the new units will likely draw more residents to the neighbourhood from other parts of the city.

      Meanwhile, West End Neighbours spokesperson Randy Helten called today’s vote “an unfortunate but highly expected outcome”.

      “This again is another step by city council that is eroding the trust in city hall, because we’re seeing another massive project going in, strongly resisted,” he said in a phone interview.

      According to Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie, the STIR program was intended to generate market rental units at a time when purpose-built rental was not being constructed.

      “This component of market rental was a segment of the continuum of housing that we need within our city,” he said. “This fits with the original intent of what council was trying to accomplish.”

      Councillors Elizabeth Ball, Heather Deal and Tony Tang abstained from today’s vote after being absent for part of the hearing.


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      Feb 26, 2013 at 8:50pm

      On what planet is $2,700/month a reasonable amount of rent?! Who earns enough money to conceivably pay that?!

      Once again Vancouver real estate is totally outside of reality!


      Feb 26, 2013 at 10:42pm

      affordable alternative to buying????? really are these people playing with a full deck or they think we are that stupid. The proposed rents are way out of reach for most currently living in the west end, the average salary being under $40K per yr. The renters for these new apartments will be coming from other areas or from overseas.

      This is about keeping developers happy. These apartments are not meant to be anything to help anyone but the landlord.

      Vision: for the future profits of developers. Vision is looking a lot like the NPA of yesterday when it comes to planning. Between their bike lanes, the money grab in the community centres, and things such as this COPE is starting to look a lot better.

      Save Vancouver

      Feb 26, 2013 at 11:18pm

      Shouldn't "Vision Vancouver" just change their name now to "Developer's Whore Party" and be open and honest about their mission?


      Feb 26, 2013 at 11:36pm

      It is time to realize that speaking to Vision at public hearings is a waste of time. It is time to focus all energies on removing them from office in the next election. I'm sure we will observe more unstoppable and appalling developer giveaways until then but shame on us if Vision gets re-elected once again. Whether supporting Green, NSV, COPE, or independents it is really a matter of urgency to start building a credible alternative to take power next go around.


      Feb 27, 2013 at 3:57am

      there goes the neighbourhood...


      Feb 27, 2013 at 7:13am

      That vision party likes to ruin heritage in Vancouver. First, the 1050's ridge theatre going, now this unique 1960's apartment building, and The 1950's Canada Post building. Is nothing worth saving in Vancouver?


      Feb 27, 2013 at 7:47am

      If people are unhappy, do what previous generations did and protest in person at the construction site... create a media stir and stop the investors, err, I mean City Hall and Developers.

      "When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you,
      till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer,
      never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn." ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe


      Feb 27, 2013 at 9:14am

      Congratulations, Beach Towers. Scores of people in the area will lose their view, parking spots will be reduced so you can rent those to the highest bidder. The indoor pool, sauna and gym facilities will be eliminated prompting long terms residents to move out so you can put a lick of new paint on the vacant units and double the rent.
      And Vision actually thought this would increase affordable housing? Pathetic!


      Feb 27, 2013 at 9:51am

      In other news Vision recently allowed the conversion of a large rental building in the West End to condos (1265 Barclay St). The developer's website (Wall - a top Vision campaign contributor) disappeared the minute the units sold out. A glamourous "West End" lifestyle was the sales pitch for the refurbished uxury units.

      Just in case there's anyone on this planet left who thinks Vision has a even a shred of credibility with this rezoning.


      Feb 27, 2013 at 10:34am

      Here's some inside scoop. These buildings will become furnished corporate rentals commanding a very high rental price. This will provide the developer healthy profits from day one, while meeting the STIR "rental" criteria. After the dust settles and the public attention has moved elsewhere the units will be quietly sold off as condos. As the other poster pointed out this has been already been happening in the West End, with Vision's blessing.