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City council approves 1401 Comox tower


City council approves 1401 Comox tower

NPA Councillor George Affleck voted against rezoning 1401 Comox St to allow development of a 22-storey tower. IMAGE 1 OF 1
It will fill a gap, Vision Vancouver councillors say
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and a majority of city council voted June 27 to allow the development of a 22-storey apartment tower in the West End, despite concerns the project will be unaffordable to many.

Green Councillor Adrienne Carr called the proposal “ridiculous.”

“I don’t think that this is what the STIR [Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing] program intended to achieve, which is affordable housing,” she said before voting against the development.

NPA Councillor George Affleck agreed. He said the project missed an opportunity to add needed community amenities. “Rental housing is not a community amenity.”

Affleck also argued that the project fails to meet criteria of the city-led STIR program. “It is not a commercial arterial. It is not in the neighbourhood high street, it is not in the transport centre. These are the crucial criteria of STIR and this building meets none of STIR’s criteria.”

Vision Councillor Tim Stevenson, who is gay, disagrees. “The purpose of STIR is to provide rental housing,” he told Xtra after the meeting, adding that the West End needs more rental housing.

Stevenson called the councillors opposed to the proposal “short-sighted.”

The final decision was split six to three, with Stevenson and fellow Vision Vancouver councillors Heather Deal, Geoff Meggs, Kerry Jang and Tony Tang voting with the mayor in favour of the proposal. Carr, Affleck and NPA Councillor Elizabeth Ball voted against.

The decision follows a lengthy public hearing process and more than two years of community input.

The new tower at 1401 Comox St will include 186 new rental apartments, including six subsidized units for low-income seniors.

Council also passed an amendment asking staff to look at the option of closing the adjacent block of Broughton St to further increase green space.
Since the project was first proposed in 2009, it has gone through two revisions and was put on hold for community feedback. The revised design is 16.5 feet shorter than originally proposed, sculpted to reduce shadowing and features more green space. The site is zoned for a 190-foot building; the new building will be 200 feet tall.

“Does this building answer everything we need for the complete spectrum of our rental stock? Can we achieve all our housing goals in this building? I think not. Does it help? Definitely,” said Tang before casting his vote in support.

“People need places to live, and that’s why I’m supporting this [recommendation],” added Jang.

The development doesn’t address all the needs people have raised, Jang acknowledged, pointing in particular to the need for more social housing. “But this [development] really does fill a gap that hasn’t been addressed in a decade,” he said.

“It does indeed fill those gaps,” Deal agreed. “And it’s within compliance of our assessment of our rental housing program that we have in place.”

Deal also suggested that the new development could remedy the spike in renovations that have become a disturbing trend in the West End. “The old stock is not performing well anymore. That’s why we’re facing those rent evictions that are in some cases being used as an excuse to get rid of renters, and that’s never acceptable,” she said.

City staff say that rent for a one-bedroom unit in the building is expected to be more than $800 cheaper than the cost of purchasing a one-bedroom condo in the West End. But Carr argued that the comparison should never have been made. “I think it’s moot, and it’s inappropriate to compare affordability with buying or renting,” she told council.

Outside city hall, community members opposed to the development were angry about the decision.

“This confirms for me that Vancouver’s politics have a case of systematic corruption,” Randy Helton charged.

Helton, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2011, is the director of West End Neighbours, which is staunchly opposed to STIR and rezoning without a West End Plan.

“I’m disappointed with the decision, but I’m twice as convinced that there are systematic problems at city hall, and I’m twice as committed and motivated to fix the system,” he said.

No word yet on when construction of the new tower will begin.

Calls to the building’s developers, Gregory Henriquez of Henriquez Partners Architects and Ian Gillespie of West Bank Corp, were not returned before press time.

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Wake Up ... Time to Marure
What a shame. This tower won't be near as high as it needs to be once it's built. Vancouver is surrounded by water & mountains. Building "up" is the only future Vancouver actually has. The Loony Left continues to want the same full-on immigration policies from the days of Trudue. If we have no new housing being built in our city, can you imagine the cost to rent an apartment in the West End in 10 or 12 years from now ? A studio will cost you three thousand per month.
In other news, Vision Vancouver recently approved conversion of an 11 story rental tower in the West End to condos. Hard to believe? Have a look:


Considering that the 1401 Comox rental prices are anticipated to be far higher than those at 1265 Barclay, the net result between the two projects is to add no new rentals in the West End. Instead the average rent will just go up. Oh yeah, and some healthy $$ in the pockets of the developers and architects involved (which just by amazing coincidence were some of Vision’s top campaign contributors).
Vision Vancouver Hypocrites
Vision Vancouver, if you wanted to "fill a gap" with rental housing, why don't you instruct your staff to enforce your own bylaws and have the 96 apartments at 1128 Alberni Street -currently being illegally operated as hotel suites - converted back to rental apartments? Ironic that one of the development partners at 1401 Comox owns that building, isn't it?
Vision Vancouver Betrayal
This is not about the difference between 190 feet in height and 200 feet in height. This developer achieved 98,000 square feet of additional floor space through this rezoning, without paying any of the standard amenity charges or development cost levies required in the city system. The rental revenue on this tower will approach $4 million per year for some of the most expensive rentals in the neighbourhood. The community gets market rental units in a building that's twice as big as it needed to be, all the while being strung along through a sham consultation process (how's Qmunity feeling in all of this?) that was destined to result in approval of the developer's desired building. There was no justification provided for the scale of the density increase, other than the developer asked for it, and his Vision Vancouver friends presumably pre-approved it prior to the land purchase. Thank you to Councillors Affleck, Ball, and Carr for attempting to be the voice of reason and for speaking up for the West End. Vision Vancouver and in particular Councillor Stevenson, you should be ashamed for stealing the sun and the sky from the residents of the West End and exchanging it for rental revenues accruing to one of the most powerful developer/architect teams in Vancouver.
Vision's definition of affordable rentals.
Is a heck of a lot different than the owner of a new 22 story tower about to be applied for at Thurlow and Pendrell across from Mole Hill say. This is what Central Presbyterian Church says affordable means. 40% of tenants will get 50% of market rent, 40% will get 80% and 20% will pay 90% of market. All get discounts while Comox can charge full market rent. I can't help but wonder what retired Vision Council will pay for rent if they move into the top floors with unobstructured views. This deal reeks and one of the owners led a fund-raising dinner for Vision. City of Vancouver staff should be ashamed of the Staff Report recommending this project. Compare the rents currently offered at PAPA on Robson to what City says market rents are. No amenities for the community and full benefits flow to the owners, one of whom built a 200 suite rental building on Alberni and promptly converted it to a hotel without City approval. Will we see WestPete Hotel on Comox, you be the judge. The hanging judge spoke on Wednesday and citizens are swinging in the breeze.
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