Vancouver council approves tower for 1401 Comox Street in the West End

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      Vancouver city council approved a rezoning application today (June 27) for a 22-storey rental building at 1401 Comox Street, following a public hearing and an over two-year process since the contentious proposal first came forward.

      Vision Vancouver councillors voted in favour of the development, citing a need for purpose-built rental housing in the neighbourhood.

      “I remain astounded that there are some who don’t think we need purpose-built rental in this city,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said before the council vote. “The reason that we need purpose-built rental in Vancouver is because the majority of people in Vancouver cannot afford to buy homes…It’s absolutely critical that we create more rental housing that is secure for the long-term.”

      Green councillor Adriane Carr and Non-Partisan Association councillors George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball voted against the project, citing the comments from over 60 speakers at the two-day public hearing, the majority of which were opposed to the proposal.

      “Not only do we have overwhelming lack of support for this development in the West End, it’s not a development done right,” argued Affleck. “I’m not against density...but in this development, I feel we’ve let the community down.”

      According to minutes from the public hearing, 25 people spoke in favour of the application, while 44 were opposed to the development.

      “I don’t believe it achieves what we intend the STIR program to achieve, which is truly affordable housing, and I also don’t think that it’s warranted to allow this zoning based on the impacts on livability—not only the immediate liveability of the area, but more importantly the liveability of the West End,” said Carr.

      The project, which will be located at the northwest corner of Comox and Broughton Streets, will consist of 186 units targeted at moderate income households.

      The units are expected to rent for between $860 to $1,209 for a studio suite, $1,128 to $1,465 for a one-bedroom apartment, $1,611 to $1,988 for a two-bedroom, and $2,320 to $2,541 for a three-bedroom townhouse.

      Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs suggested that staff work with the developer to find ways to “improve affordability” of some of the units.

      During the public hearing, the West End Residents Association (WERA) proposed that the building costs of the project be lowered by reducing the parking, and that a portion of the suites be rented out according to the median income of residents in the area.

      “We need to find ways if we possibly can to make rents more affordable in new buildings that come in there, and I hope that staff will work with the developer and see if there are any ways…to work on the parking or see if there’s other partnerships, or anything that can be done to try to improve affordability, at least part of the new stock that would come in that building,” said Meggs.

      Christine Ackermann, the president of WERA, said she’s encouraged the idea is being explored.

      “I’m very happy to see that, and I do have hope, but it remains to be seen if they’re going to follow through or not,” she told the Straight by phone.

      Carole Walker, a member of West End Neighbours, claimed the affordability targets for the project have been lowered since the proposal first came forward.

      "There can be rental housing within community guidelines that is affordable, and they’re choosing not to look at that option," she told the Straight following the council discussion.

      “They continue to change the goal posts, they pull out what they want to hear from the community, and they completely dismiss the really fundamental thing that the community was saying—this is the wrong building in the wrong place."

      Ackermann said WERA “strongly believes” there’s a need for new, purpose-built rentals in the neighbourhood.

      “I think a big part of the opposition is because people that live there currently probably won’t be able to afford to move in,” she said. “So while we encourage and are happy that we’re getting new purpose-built rentals, you know it’s a bit of a bittersweet feeling.”

      The original development application was submitted in October 2009. The revised application from Henriquez Partners Architects, on behalf of Westbank Projects and the Peterson Investment Group, includes a landscaped public open space along Comox Street.

      City council also approved an amendment today directing staff to report back on the possibility of closing the adjacent block of Broughton Street to enable an increase in public green space.



      Ian G62

      Jun 27, 2012 at 4:48pm

      If that is affordable we need to bring back real co-ops and take out some of the profitability from so-called "affordable" housing.

      jonny .

      Jun 27, 2012 at 5:34pm

      That tower is going to cause parking hell in an area that is already horrible for parking. I think the building has 70-something parking spots, with over 200 units. Its less than one stall for every 2 units. That is just not a reasonable number! The developer does this to save money, AND creating a parking shortages makes the cost for parking, which they charte on top of rent (and is changeable at any time), skyrocket.


      Jun 27, 2012 at 6:07pm

      Who is supposed to build this stuff? Certainly not us bridge and tunnel tradesmen types I hope! It is far to far to ride our bikes in the rain especially Considering packing our tools. Better start scouring the yaletown coffee shops for hipsters who know how to work with concrete and steel. If the vision Vancouver crowd really don't want cars in the downtown they should stop issuing building permits.

      james green

      Jun 27, 2012 at 6:34pm

      Let us be clear. The struggle here in this city of ours is the loss of democracy at council. This mayor and council are servants of developers and will continue to made the decisions to build whatever, without taking into account what the people they were elected to serve want. It is time to change the system where people have a voting say as to what is built in their communities, perhaps a form of referendum.
      I have never heard anyone in the streets screaming for more towers and a fast track to desensification here other that silly Sam Sullivan and now Meggs and his puppet, Robertson.
      So the big issue is what can we do to stop these non caring pols from ruining our city? I know the answer but the problem is we have no alternative to Vision to elect at the polls. So it's hit the streets, protest, and oppose this civic oligarchy any way we can that is legal and and non violent and peaceful.
      The people have to form an opposition in this city as this council with a Vision majority is arrogant, has contempt for the people's voices and some have bigger political careers to care about then what happens to them at the polls in 2014. Sounds like we are stuck with the Vision and the dreamer, and the NPA and a weakened COPE for some time to come.


      Jun 27, 2012 at 7:39pm

      One of the issues I have with this proposal is the waiver of development cost levies. Under the Vancouver Charter the City can waive DCLs for "affordable rental housing". It is clear that Vision Vancouver is waiving DCLs for market rental housing using the rationale that market rental housing is affordable for those who don't have the means to own a home.

      The Vancouver Charter could have said "rental housing" in which case this waiver would be fine. But it says "affordable" and the STIR bylaw does not even define affordable. My opinion is that the city is illegally waiving DCLs which results in a loss of revenue that other taxpayers will have to bear.

      When this project is finished, the developer will be able to rent for whatever the market will bear and the city can't do anything about it.

      Plum Duff

      Jun 27, 2012 at 9:31pm

      Fourteen hundred and sixty-five dollars for a fucking one-bedroom apartment?! 70 parking stalls for 200 units??

      This is insane. Vancouver desperately needs rental accomodation, Gregor is right about that much. But he fails to realize that a mortgage on a home in the burbs can be had for much less and, even when factoring in transit costs, folks come out ahead by living in said burbs.

      Goddammit Gregor, I want to believe in you, I really do, But every time I turn around, you shoot yourself in the foot. Just like this.

      Small wonder I had to move to Surrey some 8 years ago. Does the word "affordable" even register on your consciousness?

      Apparently not. San Francisco, here we come.


      Jun 27, 2012 at 9:39pm

      I bet you in the West End there are over 2 people for every other person who doesn't own a vehicle.


      Jun 27, 2012 at 10:58pm

      Robertson considers $1,465 for a one bedroom affordable? He's even more out of touch than I thought!

      W. End

      Jun 27, 2012 at 11:21pm

      Could someone please get the message through to Mayor Robertson and Vision Vancouver that the desire to build rental housing doesn't have to mean damaging communities? This developer has achieved a deal of the type of sweetness almost unheard of in the Vancouver real estate market: a five-fold increase in permitted floor area, a waiver of over a million dollars in development cost levies, relief from the need to provide any community amenity contribution, AND the ability to charge market rents with a revenue stream approaching $4 million per year. (And if anyone thinks that these one bedroom units will start at $1128 a month, I hope they will report back during the occupancy period, because it ain't gonna happen.) Sure, let's create rental housing, but once you've given away the farm it's a bit hard to get it back. This approval was a betrayal by Vision Vancouver of the over 12,000 people who signed a petition asking for rezoning to be regulated in a predictable manner by the community plan currently in process. Thank you to Councillors Affleck, Ball, and Carr for attempting to speak up for the West End. In stark contrast, Councillor Stevenson should be ashamed for his complicity in toeing the Vision Vancouver party line at the expense of the West End.


      Jun 28, 2012 at 12:20am

      I don't understand. Gregor writes "The reason that we need purpose-built rental in Vancouver is because the majority of people in Vancouver cannot afford to buy homes." So, the rich get to buy, the poor get to own?

      Gregor's Vancouver of the future is "The Rich Get To Own Homes and Drive Cars," whereas "The Poor Have To Ride Bikes or Take Transit and Be At The Mercy of Corporate Housing Developers Who Hate Pets and Prefer Transient ESL Students Instead of Long Term Tenants."