The latest redevelopment proposal for the vacant parking lot at 105 Keefer Street in Vancouver’s Chinatown district went by the book, but it was still rejected.
On Monday, the City of Vancouver’s Development Permit Board (DPB) rejected Beedie Living’s fifth design for property, with Chief City Planner Gil Kelley and Engineering General Manager Jerry Dobrovolny voting to reject the proposal and Assistant City Manager Paul Mochrie voting in support.
The decision was left to the DPB after Vancouver City Council rejected a rezoning application in June.
The developer responded to Council’s decision by pursuing a development application instead of another attempt for a more ambitious rezoning, and the proposal was subsequently downsized to fit the parameters of existing zoning and City policies for the area.
Anne McMullin, President & CEO of the Urban Development Institute, says the rejection has sent a “negative chill” throughout the local development industry at a time when housing supply has reached historic lows.
“Our members, and the thousands of individuals represented in all facets of development and building, are concerned this decision undermines the integrity and reliability of the City’s rigorous planning regime, and puts into question future projects, not only in Chinatown, but across the City,” she said.
To achieve a reduced density and address concerns over scale and shadowing, the proposed height was cut down from 120 ft with 12 storeys to 90 ft with nine storeys. It entailed 111 market residential units and ground level space for retail, restaurants, and a subsidized seniors’ cultural space.
Nearly all of the density reductions came from the elimination of the entire social housing component, comprised of 25 units for low-to-moderate income seniors, that was a part of the previous design rejected by Council.
During the project’s latest marathon public hearing session, some critics called on Beedie Living to use its privately-owned lands for a smaller scale development containing only social housing with no market residential units.
Others also said the proposal would further “gentrify” the district and displace a small group of low-income Chinese seniors, and suggested that the municipal government should acquire the land from the developer or perform a land swap.
Vancouver City Council has yet to comment on the DPB’s decision, but Beedie Living issued the following statement this afternoon:
We are extremely disappointed that the
institutions mandated to provide regulatory and policy framework – the City of Vancouver planning staff, and the council-endorsed and appointed Urban Design Panel and Development Permit Board advisory panel – have been undermined and their unanimous support for 105 Keefer ignored by select members of the Development Permit Board. Like many people, we are uncertain what this unprecedented decision will mean for these civic institutions.
It remains to be seen whether the developer will pursue legal action against the City.
“This ruling creates significant uncertainty because our members don’t know if they can rely on zoning, urban area plans, advice of city staff or recommendations of the Urban Design Panel,” continued McMullin.
This is the first time since 2006 the DPB has rejected a development application.