Quilchena Park-area residents feel betrayed by developer

Sunday, April 29th, 2018

Residents feel betrayed by builder

Susan Lazaruk
The Vancouver Sun

A magnificent view of English Bay and the North Shore mountains from Quilchena Park near Arbutus Street and 33rd Avenue is going to be lost if a developer is granted rezoning for taller rental buildings at the nearby Arbutus Shopping Centre site.

That’s the fear of a local city group that says the developer after agreeing to keep the buildings under a certain height when the four-building development was approved in 2011 is now proposing to add extra height to two of the buildings.

“This is just a huge, giant change,” Dick Ballard of the Arbutus Ridge, Kerrisdale, Shaughnessy (ARKS) community group, said on a recent sunny day at the park’s best vantage point for the view, which is marked by a bench.

Katherine Reichert, also of ARKS, said the increased height will obscure the view not only for residents, but also for regular users of the park for strolls, picnics, sporting events and its Frisbee golf course. It will also be a loss for those using the new Arbutus Greenway pedestrian/bike path that runs east of the park, she said.

“They’ve got a map of the greenway and this corner (at 33rd Avenue and Pine Crescent) is listed as a resting point where you can enjoy the view,” she said.

The builder, Larco Investments, said the reason for growing the development through a zoning revision is to increase the number of rental units because the city’s rental stock has shrunk since 2011.

“Vancouver is very short of rentals, especially on the west side,” said Larco spokesman Art Phillips. “We’ve seen an opportunity here” to change that.

He couldn’t say how many more units would be added to the 500-unit project.

The proposed revision is being reviewed by city staff. The city said in an email that the view from the park will be maintained under the proposal.

“The changes proposed to height and massing were developed specifically to maintain the public viewpoint” in Quilchena Park, according to guidelines first established in a 2008 report setting out plans for future development of the site, said a city spokesman in an email.

“Additional height is to be located on the northwest portion of the site, leaving the view of English Bay and Point Atkinson from Quilchena Park (Pine Crescent and 33rd Avenue) largely unobstructed,” said the city spokesman.

The 2008 guidelines refer to the “significant public viewpoint at the southeast corner of Quilchena Park, looking northwest toward English Bay and Point Atkinson (in West Vancouver).”

The guidelines also said buildings “generally should not exceed six storeys,” but could go as high as seven and eight storeys in specific parts of the site.

It stated that most buildings should be built below 57 metres to “preserve views of the water,” but “consideration may be given to clustered massing of somewhat taller buildings” of seven to eight storeys, “with limited interruption of the east edge of this view to the water.”

The zoning amendment application proposes to increase one of the four buildings to eight storeys (60 m above sea level) from six storeys (57 m) and the other to 12 storeys (72 m above sea level) from nine storeys (57 m), said the city spokesman.

Reichert said the city at an open house in February displayed photos showing the original approved height alongside the proposed new height and in the latter “the mountains and water are significantly blocked.”

She and Ballard said this isn’t a case of NIMBYism because they don’t oppose densification and agree development of the seven-acre site was overdue.

Ballard said ARKS was involved in the planning process for the 2011 approved changes.

“We worked hard with the (city) planner and the developer and we got a deal,” he said. “They gave ground and we gave ground and we made a deal. We were quite happy with what we negotiated. It took us eight years.”

Reichert said, “Now the developer is just ignoring all this work and we feel that this shows disrespect.”

”It’s a betrayal of the agreement we had in place for years,” said Ballard.

Ballard said he is also concerned the developer a year ago changed its plan to build a project with only rentals instead of a mix of rental units and residential market-rate condos as originally planned.

Ballard said because the developer isn’t building the rentals under the city’s Rental 100 program, designed to grant cost-cutting incentives to builders who agree to maintain the units as rentals for 60 years or for the life of the building, it can decide to sell them as market-rate condos at any time.

Phillips said Larco decided against building under Rental 100 to give it “flexibility” in future.

“We’re not going through any back doors,” he said. “We’ve been transparent about this process from the start.”

City council is expected to consider the proposed change in “coming months,” after a public hearing, said the spokesman.

Construction has begun on the first phase of the development of the two buildings the developer isn’t requesting changes for and it should be complete next year.

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