1477 W BROADWAY REZONING
(GRANVILLE & BROADWAY)

A rezoning application has been made to build an apartment building at 1477 W Broadway (Broadway & Granville), previously the home of the RBC building. 

  • The applications seeks to increase the height to 39-storeys (410 feet) and density to an Floor Space Ratio of 12.16, 16% more dense than 2538 Birch Street. 

Our analysis has revealed multiple, serious problems with the rezoning application and staff's Policy 3 arguments,  that will further prejudice the outcome of the Broadway Plan, undermine Council, and erode the public’s faith in the integrity of City processes:  ​

  • Preempting the Broadway Plan:  At at Council meeting on July 21,2021, City staff convinced Council to allow a premature consideration of this rezoning application, thereby preempting the Broadway Plan Interim Rezoning Policy ("IRP") under the exemption called "Policy 3". Policy 3 allows rezonings to be considered in tandem with the Broadway Plan, under nebulous "exceptional circumstances". 

 

  • Misleading the Council & Public:  In 2019, we learned about the development permit for 1477 W Broadway. Based on the amount of parking beneath the building, the applicant was preparing to build a much larger building.  This was obvious, and staff were aware of this intention, as stated in the Development Permit Report. Shortly thereafter, the Georgia Straight reported that someone had found plans in the dumpster behind the old RBC building and that a 40-storey tower was planned for the site.  When Councillors Fry and Kirby-Yung asked City staff about this on July 21, staff were clearly evasive. On Saturday, September 4th, Sun reporter Dan Fumano reported that PCI Development confirmed that they are seeking to build a 39-storey building at 1477 W Broadway.  You can read Dan Fumano’s article here (click here). Given the immediacy of Fumano’s article and the fact that the Staff Report states that they had received a Rezoning Enquiry about this project (which would have contained the proposed height), it is seriously concerning that staff were not transparent about the proposed height in the Council meeting. Moreover, our analysis of early MIRHPP applications shows that staff may have known that PCI Development wished to put a 40-storey building on this site as early as Spring 2018!

  • Disastrous MIRHPP Program:  1477 W Broadway is applying for rezoning under the MIRHPP program, which provides developers with huge financial incentives to produce a small number of tiny homes that are supposedly for a diversity of family types. These $10s of millions in incentives mean higher housing costs, and fewer resources for the other costs of running a City. Looking at the specifications for 2538 Birch Street, we get an idea of what we can expect at 1477 W Broadway. The "affordable" homes in that building are a fraction of the total, ludicrously small (much smaller than the market units), in undesirable locations and only marginally affordable. The bulk of the homes in that building will be outrageously priced and have some of the best views in the City. Most renters we spoke to said that they wouldn't live in the MIRHPP suites - too small, too costly. This will be the same case at Broadway & Granville. Moreover, PCI Developments has owned the RBC Site since 2007, so it will make out like a bandit on the property uplift alone, as a result of this upzoning. If we're in an affordability crisis, why isn't the COV ask for the whole building to be affordable? Why does the City give away so much (in terms of height, density and cash) and ask so little in return, when the FSGAC's own analysis shows that developers continue to make such obscene amounts on these developments? This is an important question that neither the City nor the housing advocates seem terribly concerned about.

  • Perpetuating a Precedent: During the public hearing on 2538 Birch Street, we raised concerns that, if approved, 2538 Birch Street would set a precedent for height and density in the Broadway Plan area.  Staff vehemently denied this but, clearly, they were wrong.  Theresa O’Donnell, Chief Planner, has also told us that no decisions have been made on height and density in the Broadway Plan area.  However, between 1477 W Broadway, 2538 Birch Street and, recently, the announcement of a 315 ft. tall tower at 1395 W Broadway (Pattison Toyota), it’s clear that the Broadway Plan has already been finished behind closed doors.  Staff have found questionable methods to circumvent the Broadway Plan Interim Rezoning Policy in all three of these cases.  Clearly, the engagement process simply serves to create the illusion of engagement. 

 

  • A Flimsy Exemption:  The Broadway Plan Interim Rezoning Policy restricts rezoning to protect the integrity of the planning process that is underway.  In this proposal, staff use Policy 3 of the IRP, which allows rezonings to leapfrog the Plan under nebulous "exceptional circumstances", to expedite the rezoning of this site.  Staff have provided flimsy justifications for this proposal stating that the applicant asked for more height in the past, has worked in good faith with the Subway Project, and that staff are concerned about the impact of extended construction.  This is a concerning trend, because it is similar to what staff did with 2538 Birch Street, where they interpreted Policy 1 very liberally, without Council’s consent, to ensure that 2538 Birch Street could be considered during the Broadway Plan.  Staff’s actions demonstrate that developer wish lists, good behaviour and inconvenience trump the integrity of a 30-year plan, and that Council policy is open for interpretation and manipulation.   

  • Longer Subway Construction:  To advocate for this proposal, staff solicited Lisa Gow, Executive Project Director, Broadway Subway Project, for her opinion on the impact of 2 phase construction at 1477 W Broadway.  Gow expressed the flimsy concern that, if rezoned later, a longer construction period may interfere with passenger flow in and out of the station.  Conspicuously absent are Gow’s concerns about the same challenges that will inevitably happen at the Emily Carr, Mt. Pleasant, VGH and Arbutus stations.  These stations are all standalone, 1-storey stations. Given Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis, the City will certainly build above these stations and, at that time, these stations will be subject to the same problems raised by staff and Gow.  So, if Gow’s concerns are so serious, why isn’t the City expediting buildings above these sites as well, and why didn’t both staff and Gow provide a balanced opinion, expressing the same concerns about future development above these other stations?  If the concerns are valid, they should apply to the other stations as well.  The argument sounds impressive, but it is inconsistent because it is a convenient, imbalanced narrative manufactured to advocate for this proposal.

 

  • Increases Housing Costs: Fairview, where this building is located, is 40% rental, mostly in older, low and mid-rise buildings. A monstrous spot zoning like this causes the property values (and therefore, the property taxes) of these surrounding, fairly affordable rental buildings to increase. Since BC Assessment uses "best use" to assess land values...it will look to 1477 W Broadway as the best use. For example, many of the older rental buildings a few blocks away will appreciate at an accelerated rate. When the property taxes of these buildings go up, first rents go up and second, landowners start to think about selling or rezoning their older rental building. When this happens, renters are displaced. And, based on statistics, when older, affordable rental buildings are replaced by huge, concrete towers, the previous tenants are unable to afford homes in the new building.

  • No In-Person or WebEx Open House:  What is most galling is that City staff will not be holding a City-led open house for the rezoning 1477 W Broadway.  The webpage advises that, due to the pandemic, an extended online Q&A will be held instead.  We understand that it is unsafe for people to gather in large numbers but why not hold a WebEx or Zoom open house so that people can interact and provide staff with face-to-face feedback?  The reason is simple:  To divide and conquer.  What better way to stifle dissent than by eroding our civic democratic processes and preventing people from gathering? 

  • Shady Shadow Studies:  The rezoning application only includes shadow studies for March and June, the brightest times of the year, when the sun is almost overhead.  Shadow studies have not been done for darkest months (October and December), when these buildings will cast their longest shadows.  This is deliberately deceptive and intended to paint a "sunny" picture of the building's impact on Fairview and False Creek.

 

Please register your objection to the rezoning of 1477 W Broadway (RBC Site) on the rezoning page (click here)

Below:  Artistic impressions below of the office tower at 1477 West Broadway, Vancouver Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/PCI Developments.  Renderings and shadow studies by S. Bohus, BLA.