REFERRAL REPORT ERRORS
At the Special Council meeting on March 31st, 2020, the Referral Report for 2538 Birch Street (28 Floors) was scheduled to be presented to Council for referral to Public Hearing (click here to see the Report). The Fairview/South Granville Action Committee reviewed this Report in depth and found that it contained several errors, omissions and inaccuracies, which we shared with City Council. Without any explanation, City Staff withdrew the Report from consideration at that meeting, and it was presented to Council again at the meeting on June 9, 2020 (click here to see the Report). We reviewed the Report again and found that none of the errors had been corrected. Furthermore, we reported these problems to Council however, unfortunately, they deemed the Report robust enough to proceed, and referred it to Public Hearing.
The following are but a few of the large number of errors, omissions and inaccuracies that we identified in the Referral Report:
Page 4: The Report cites nearby parks but underestimates the walking distance to these parks and the difficulty of accessing them, since they are all located downhill from The Development. All of these parks are located 10 minutes or more from the site (as measured using Google Maps), which fails to meet the City’s Greenest City Action Plan target of having parks within a 5-minute walk of residences.
Page 6: The Report incorrectly identifies L’Ecole Bilingue Elementary as the catchment school for 2538 Birch Street. The Vancouver School Board website has not yet identified a catchment school for this new address, but the website does identify both Emily Carr and Henry Hudson as the English elementary catchment schools for neighbouring addresses. Both of these schools are a 30 minute walk, or 2 km away. It is important to note that the High Density Housing for Families with Children Guidelines stipulates the following criterion for site selection:
“Sites selected for family housing development should be within 0.8 km walking distance of an elementary school and its outdoor play area, a daycare centre, an after-school care facility, a community centre, and grocery shopping and within 0.4 km walking distance to a playground and a public transit stop. Effective access means a walking route which is both safe (free from barriers such as the need to cross a major, unsignalled traffic arterial) and secure (having an environment suitable for elementary school children).”
*Note that none of the English-language schools in the area meet these criterion and, more fundamentally, all are reported to be operating at full capacity.
Page 9: The Report states that while “the Broadway Plan process is ongoing, staff are of the opinion that the proposal directly responds to many of the Broadway Plan Guiding Principles endorsed by Council on October 22, 2019.” The Report does not mention that these Guiding Principles are still high-level and do not yet contain detailed recommendations, and that The Development fails to respect the Guiding Principle Encourage Contextual Design. In fact, during the October 22, 2019 Staff report to Council on the Broadway Plan , John Grottenberg said that “in terms of heights, densities and forms of new development, in the study area, at this point, Staff are not in a position to recommend specific forms of development.” We would point out that none of the City’s online surveys completed by our members in conjunction with the Broadway Plan contained any specific questions regarding height, built form or density. Finally, the Report fails to mention that during the Broadway Plan’s Granville Street, Fairview Slopes, Fairview South and Burrard Slopes Walkshops (which we attended), residents were overwhelmingly against The Development and high-rises in these neighbourhoods.
Page 10: The Report admits that the shadow studies show a “significant increase in the shadows during the winter months resulting from the increase in height up to 27 stories”, but fails to describe the real impact of this: the shadows would extend to the Molson Brewery and halfway across False Creek, at the darkest time of the year. Our own shadow study shows that The Development’s location at a high point in the City creates shadows equivalent to that of a 42-storey building. A recent National Geographic issue exploring the design of cities that were more livable noted that “low-rise buildings allow more light and air to reach the ground, promoting health and well-being.” Finally, the Report fails to mention that the C-3A zoning was originally created specifically to protect the slopes to the north from excessive shadowing created by tall towers along Broadway.
Page 14: The Report advises that The Development proposes an “exemplar amount” of outdoor and indoor semi-private amenity spaces for urban agriculture, socializing and a children’s playground, but fails to discuss concerns about the lack of public green spaces for this “park deficient” neighbourhood, nor the fact that The Development’s playground is located on the 27th floor. A private children's playground 300 ft. above the ground is not a safe, desirable nor socially healthy substitute for public parks and green space.
Page 22: The Report advises that Staff “conclude that the proposed form of development represents an appropriate urban design response to the site and context.” We note that this is stated without addressing the neighbourhood’s overwhelming opposition to The Development and the fact that it is proceeding in the Broadway Plan scope area, in the midst of the planning process.