A former senior debt manager with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has claimed that a controversial rezoning application on Vancouver's West Side is a bad deal for the public.
Sean Cassidy, a former independent candidate for mayor, told council today that a proposed 28-storey tower at 2538 Birch Street (formerly 1206 West Broadway) is a "Trojan horse".
"The merits of affordable housing being offered here do not warrant the density that's being increased," Cassidy said during the virtual public hearing.
In 2018, council approved a 16-storey tower in a rezoning of the former Denny's Restaurant site.
The new application seeks to jack that up from 7.07 FSR to 10.52 FSR.
Cassidy explained that the nonmarket component amounts to 1.99 FSR (floor-space ratio) in a 10.52-FSR proposal.
But according to him, the developer is seeking a density increase of 3.45 FSR.
Even assuming the land for nonmarket housing has no value, Cassidy said that this housing boost would be worth $26.5 million, based on $200 per square foot.
He then claimed that the commercial component would add another $11 million in value, based on $400 per square foot.
Yet he said that the city is prepared to forego $4.8 million in development cost levies.
"The numbers on this project just don't make sense," Cassidy said.
He noted that in the 1990s, he raised $10 billion for affordable housing.
He also claimed that this spot rezoning would boost land values for other properties in the area, which over time would make housing less affordable.
There were 106 speakers scheduled to make presentations to council, but not all of them were present at the time they were supposed to talk.
The proponent, IBI Group, filed the application on behalf of Jameson Development Corporation.
The company hopes to develop 258 secured rental units on the upper floors, with 22 percent of the floor area "secured as moderate income units", according to a staff report.
Other speakers objected to this rezoning application going forward while the Broadway Plan is being discussed and hasn't been finalized.
Vancouver architect, planner, developer, and real-estate consultant Michael Geller has been one of the most vocal critics.
On his blog, he declared that the building is "too big for the site from a physical planning point of view".
"I am all in favour of developers trying to make money and they should make money," Geller wrote. "But given all the legitimate concerns about the resulting building form, especially in the absence of the Broadway Corridor plan, is it really in the public interest to allow this rezoning? I don't think so. I say let's stick with the earlier rezoning."
After speakers completed their presentations, council decided to reconvene the public hearing at 1 p.m. on Tuesday (July 14).