Monthly Archives: November 2014

Open House December 3, Creekside Community Centre, 4 pm to 7 pm

The FCRA lobbied for the refurbishment of the Creekside Park playground as part of the Community Amenity Contribution paid by the developer for the rezoning of the area east of the Cambie Bridge..  You will recall that we lost one of the playgrounds on the south side of that park when Science World remodelled and built its outdoor Science extension.

We’re happy to report that the Park Board is now moving to renew the playground.  They will have some initial drawings and ideas to present.  They are asking for community feedback on this initial work and community input into the final placement of the playground, design and playground components.

Come to the Open House


Another condemnation of the 105 Keefer Street proposal and of the planning process.

When I was president of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden Society from 2008 to 2010, I led that organization into the public discussion of the Historic Area Height Review.  I convinced the Garden Board to join with the Chinatown organizations in what was to become known as “Chinatown United.”  After defeating the foolish idea of 30 storey towers in Chinatown, Chinatown United gave its strongest possible support to City’s Historic Area Height Review.  We supported Planning and Council in changing the zoning of the historic Chinatown district for the precise purpose of encouraging development that would secure the economic health of the district and conserve its unique heritage character.   The changes we endorsed are what have made the 105 Keefer Street proposal possible.   After the October 8th community open house I’m inclined to believe I made a great mistake in encouraging the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden Society to support the HAHR and in working hard with Chinatown United to create the political support Council needed to turn the review into enabling by-laws.

These are my greatest concerns arising from the October 8 open house:

  1. However one dresses it up, the proposed building is a tall bulky structure in an historic district that is low and fine-boned.  Disturbingly, the presentation materials fail to represent this.

As I pointed out to City staff and the proponent’s staff the visuals at the open house, especially the isometric view from the southwest, were disturbingly inaccurate.  The drawings show the buildings on the north side of the 100 block of Pender as being about the same height as the proposed redevelopment.  The proposed building appears to be tucked into a neighbourhood of buildings of a similar height and bulk.  We of course know this is not the case.  The project architect pointed out that this drawing was generated with the City’s data.  From a community perspective, the source of this error isn’t relevant; what matters is the proposed structure is of a much different height and bulk than the structures around it and the presentation materials present it as otherwise.  I am not suggesting these drawings are purposefully misleading.  They are simply misleading.  The model, while more accurate, also contained many errors, most of all completely missing the variation in the height of existing buildings on the north side of the 100 block East Pender.  The height and bulk of new buildings in Chinatown does matter.  The impact of these structures on the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park and Garden and East Pender are especially important.  Nothing should be allowed to compromise these rare and unique assets and it is important that the proposed redevelopment be presented to the community in a clear and accurate fashion.

  1. To date the project proponents have not demonstrated how this building conforms with Section 2.3 of the Chinatown Neighbourhood Plan and Economic Revitalization Strategy concerning “Higher Heights.”

The Chinatown Neighbourhood Plan & Economic Revitalization Strategy of June 2012 reads:  “Higher Heights: A rezoning policy for Chinatown South was also introduced as part of Council’s approval. This policy provides Council the opportunity to consider rezonings up to 120’ throughout HA-1A and up to 150’ within a sub-area of Main Street. The higher buildings in Chinatown were for the specific purpose of economic revitalization while also considering heritage values. These sites are also expected to provide public benefits, and the rezoning policy specifies these benefits should meet the community’s objective of innovative heritage restoration, cultural and affordable housing projects. For every supported higher building, a significantly higher standard of architectural and urban design excellence will be required.”  (from Section 2.3, page 28).

This is the measure against which HA-1A rezoning applications that ask for height increases and high floor space ratios must be held.  It is not enough that the proposed building provides housing units, especially of standard market variety.  So here are the questions that arise from the simple breaking out the clauses of Section 2.3, above:

  • How will the building contribute to the economic revitalization of Chinatown?
  • How has it taken heritage values into account?
  • What public benefits does it generate?
  • What does it contribute to innovative heritage restoration?
  • What does it offer culturally?
  • How does it contribute to affordable housing?
  • Does it achieve a higher standard of architectural and urban design excellence?

Nothing in the open house suggested these questions – taken directly from the neighbourhood plan as adopted by Council – have been seriously addressed.  That needs to be done in a thorough way.  Maybe it will turn out that the proposed height and bulk are irreconcilable with Section 2.3.

  1. The City itself needs to explain how this rezoning and the building it will allow will serve the overarching objectives of the Chinatown Plan.

The City needs to decide if it is really serious about the Chinatown heritage district.  All over the world districts like this are used to inform citizens of their heritage and serve as economically significant tourist attractions.  How will a proliferation of buildings such as those under construction at Keefer and Main and the proposed redevelopment of 105 Keefer contribute to this?  What differentiates the buildings I have referenced from other mid- to high-rise residential structures anywhere in the Vancouver Metro Region?  Is the City prepared to permanently damage the heritage district  and Sun Yat-Sen Park and Garden for a few additional housing units?

I left the October 8 open house with impression that the proposed 105 Keefer building, like the two redevelopments at Keefer and Main, would not contribute to the preservation of the historic buildings that constitute the physical heritage value of Chinatown.  Nor would the 105 Keefer proposal create seniors or social housing.  But the wide Chinatown support for greater density and height was premised on these expectations.  And these expectations did not come from nowhere – they were explicit in the years of discussion leading up to the Chinatown Plan and in the Plan itself as adopted by Council.

The City, as much as the proponent, has to do some serious soul searching as to how we have gotten to this stage with the third disappointing building under the revisions to the district’s zoning bylaws the community so resoundingly supported.  How will Chinatown be any different than a strip of Kingsway if redevelopment continues on this course?  There is a lot of good will in every corner in this discussion but that good will needs to be fully reflected now in the buildings that are actually constructed under the new rules.”

Doug Halverson

Our friends and neighbours in Chinatown express outrage

The proposed development at 105 Keefer has raised the ire of the Chinatown Revitalization Committee.  This development flies in the face of the vision and values expressed by the faithful volunteers who have worked for years on revitalization.

Here’s a sample of one submission to the city from UBC professor Dr. Henry Yu:

I am adamantly opposed to the proposed rezoning. Having been a part of the Chinatown Vision and revitalization consultation process for the last decade, and supportive of the consensus created through much hard work involving over 30 Chinatown organizations as well as interested stakeholders from all over the city of Vancouver, I am appalled that all of the work that went into that process will be destroyed in one moment of massive disappointment and failure. This proposal flies in the face of all of the agreed upon principles in the Vision that took so much political work to agree upon. What is needed is a freeze or moratorium on development permits in the Chinatown area until we have created better policy instruments and tools for planners to implement the Chinatown revitalization strategy, and assurances that those who came together to create the revitalization strategy have more formal participation in the shaping of the development of Chinatown. This building could be placed anywhere in the city–Yaletown, False Creek/Olympic Village–why is it in Chinatown? Allow the developers to build it in another site that does not fly in the face of the historic character of Chinatown, and which does not insult community stakeholders by saying that 137 luxury residential units are a higher priority than seniors housing and other needs identified in the Chinatown Vision and revitalization strategy. If the City of Vancouver goes ahead and allows this rezoning, or even if this becomes a permit application to go ahead at 12 stories without rezoning, there will be an open, ugly and vicious political war on City Hall that makes the freeway fight look like a nostalgic moment of togetherness. It will tear the hard won consensus of Chinatown apart, and lead to a mistrust of city planners and City Hall for years to come. The greatest danger is that this development is symbolic of a promise not delivered. The Chinatown Vision and revitalization process was one where the city asked the various Chinatown organizations and community stakeholders to take part, and in exchange for the consultation the City would honour the priorities and commitments made, and protect the unique cultural character of the community. The promises have not been fulfilled, and having this building join 188 and 189 Keefer as three glass towers that have no connection to the street life or cultural fabric of Chinatown is not just an insult, but is easily understood as an act of aggression in terms of misleading the community with promises that went unfulfilled. I am personally angered by the bait and switch quality of the Chinatown Vision process in which I took part in good faith, and also in which I put my own personal and scholarly reputation behind to convince others to take part. I am livid that my bona fide participation as a volunteer for years in various capacities both as a scholar and as a community member has led to this proposal sitting in the last best anchor site for the revitalization of Chinatown. Nothing about this proposal will drive forward the strategic needs of Chinatown and its revitalization. It is anathema to all of the hard work that has been done