Vancouver’s First Moderate Income Rental Building Narrowly Wins the Support of the UDP
2810 & 2830 Grandview Highway
Hannah and I have been quite open about our criticism of the city’s policy which requires the Urban Design Panel to review every 6 storey proposal. As this type of structure is fast becoming the new Vancouver Special, it feels like a waste of these volunteer’s time, and an insult to the competency of city staff. That said, we both understand that highly impactful applications deserve a more strenuous process.
Whether this one qualifies as such is up to interpretation. While it may be the first stand-alone building proposed under the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program, it’s still just a fairly standard 6 storey mid-rise, providing retail space along the streetfront, and townhomes at the rear. Ironically, many panellists seemed to be learning about this program for the first time, as a couple questioned why the extra height was allowed.
Most of the panel didn’t have problems with that aspect, as they felt this rental incentive program was deeply needed, and this was a good trade off. Others felt the height was already appropriate for the area, given its road network and steep incline to the south. A minority raised concerns that, due to the townhomes, the building had the appearance of seven storeys from the lane, with a couple insisting that the height be chopped down by a floor.
In the recommendations, the chair clarified that was an issue for planning to sort out, but these same individuals were instrumental in creating most of the recommendations. Some of them appeared to have an issue with the very style of the building. One criticized the building’s cellular appearance, stating “we’re not Mexico,” and expressed a desire for a different look. Though the need for improvements to the building’s laneway face was fairly universal.
The chair summed up the panel’s opinions as a desire to improve the neighbourliness of the project. Ironically, the setback at the lane was felt to be unnecessary, and that it would be better for these homes to be better connected to this area by providing them a patio space. The other recommendation concerned the large overhang on the north side of the building.
Understandably, several panellists thought it was unneeded, and would only hasten the death of the relatively short-lived Birch Tree. Like many aspects of this project, this one divided the panel as well. One person really liked the tree, as they felt it rooted the building in place, while another believed, even if it died, the created plaza space was worth the effort spent to preserve it. In contrast, a third voice felt it was more important to create a better entry space than save the tree.
That division meant there was no recommendations issued on that area. Oddly, at the start of their summary, the chair commented there were five issues that needed to be addressed, but I only counted the three. That’s kind of funny, as the motion to support the project passed by a vote of 5 – 3. However, as part of that motion the panel advised the proposal should return at the development application phase for further review.
Assuming our assessment was correct, three is also the same number of feedback forms that were submitted at the open house. As the UDP noted, this is an important project for all of Vancouver’s residents, so it’s a shame these few voices may be the only ones heard. Help ensure that’s not the case and make your opinion heard here.