Comment 122616

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 08:46:11

I think this article oversimplifies the question of how we evaluate new large scale development in a neighbourhood that is well established and already very dense (although not uniformly).

It is not good enough to say simply: we need more density, the developer is proposing higher density so it fits our plans and we should approve it, no questions asked.

There are several things about this project that do warrant deeper examination, which is what the planning department focused on:

  1. Although there have been mid to high rise apartments in the immediate area since the 1960s the current proposal is almost twice as high as highest neighbours (which are around 20-25 stories). Is actual height really a complete non-issue? Height does have some drawbacks: worse shading and wind tunnel effects, less usable space on each floor due to the need for services (decreasing the density advantage). It's previously been pointed out on this site that if density is the goal, 40 storey towers are not the only solution: mid-rise developments can often achieve similar densities due to smaller set-backs and more usable space on each floor. In addition, there is some evidence that high rise residential buildings can negatively impact the social life of the neighbourhood: In brief, it is not obvious that higher is better as a way to achieve density or social inclusion.

  2. The height is amplified by the fact the buildings are on the highest strip of land below the escarpment.

  3. The city has rules around tall buildings and, in particular, that no building should be taller than the escarpment. The current development does not satisfy them. Many other cities have similar rules protecting views or other natural or human features from encroachment. Even the proposed new downtown plan would limit height to 30 storeys as of right, so this building would require an exemption.

  4. The building has no stepbacks and apparently no retail opening onto the sidewalk. It is not clear that the building will connect well at street level or instead overwhelm it and kill it with a blank wall. Vancouver has tried to mitigate the effect of tall buildings in various ways (including setbacks, tower/podium with condos or retail opening directly onto the street). Lamb is on record as saying he "hates" the tower/podium design.

  5. The attitude of the developer since the beginning has been high handed and uncooperative. As far as I know, he has not significantly modified the design in response to the review panel or residents, and he has been selling apartments even though the site plan has not been approved. It's been a my way or the OMB approach since the beginning. This does not inspire confidence that what finally gets built will even correspond to the drawings.

Maybe despite the questions above this is (or can be modified to be) a suitable design. But to say that density is good so more density is better, regardless of context and the details of the design is not enough.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2018-03-20 08:57:05

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