June 25 PLUC Early Thoughts

If you look just at the number of pages (375) in the Planning and Land Use Committee agenda, you’d think it will be a big meeting tomorrow. But if you actually take a dive into it, you see that there are only 7 items and none of them seem to represent anything major or new. Which is my way of suggesting that I doubt there will be much conversation tomorrow, perhaps because they’ll be conserving their energies for the in-camera update that will be occurring after the public meeting.

It will be a “mediation update” on the Johnson Street Bridge. 

I’ve been wondering when they’ll be back in the public for a bridge update.

So what are the public items tomorrow?

1040 Moss Street – Rezoning

There are 196 pages of text and graphics included in the agenda for this item tomorrow (Art Gallery of Greater Victoria). As noted in the Part 1 attachment, the proposal is to remove a Land Use Contract (not provided) and to rezone from the PB Zone (Public Building District) to a new zone to increase density and to permit the expansion and exterior alteration of a cultural facility with ancillary uses through a new three-storey addition to a Heritage-Registered property.

Aspects of the proposal relevant to land use and regulations include:

  • increase in density to 0.99:1 in floor space ratio (FSR) and;
  • increase in the floor area of the building from 3820m2 to 5662m2 to expand the exhibition galleries, classrooms, gathering spaces, gift shop, archival storage and offices, and to introduce a theatre/multipurpose room and a cafe.

I personally hadn’t realized how big the property is:

Art Gallery Rezoning

The Part 2 Attachment on the agenda includes a Historical Statement of Significance for the existing Art Gallery Building and also contains a series of Parking studies which were required because the existing zone standard for the proposed space is 159 stalls and the applicants are proposing to only provide 26 (for a difference of 133 parking spots).

The Part 3 Attachment on the Agenda is a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Strategy for the proposed additions to the art gallery of greater Victoria.

The Part 4 Attachment on the Agenda includes a Tree Rention Plan as well as feedback on the proposed rezoning from the Rockland Neighbourhood Association who have concerns about parking but are otherwise in support of the proposed expansions.

The recommendation for Council’s consideration includes direction to the applicant to consider if design refinements could improve the views to Spencer Mansion from Moss Street and to secure the design of the new addition, landscape and heritage alterations of Spencer Mansion through a Section 219 Covenant. Lastly, staff have included a condition, for Council’s consideration, to explore the feasibility of securing access to parking stalls on nearby properties to help mitigate the potential impact of the expanded gallery on the availability of on-street parking as recommended in the transportation consultant’s reports.

1008-1012 Pandora Ave – Rezoning

The 4 page staff report attached to this item does a very poor job of accurately capturing the many intricacies of a large development proposal (with a new 4 storey and a new 6 storey building) and respecting what seems to be a very complex & tumultuous relationship with the community. On this note, I wasn’t in town when the application was first considered so I have spent a lot of time today trying to figure it out.

Probably too much time to be honest.

Apparently Council let the process stall last September (see page 1 in minutes)  when the scheduled Public Hearing was “postponed” by Council in response to the applicant’s request (see attachments available under item F(2) in the agenda for all relevant documentation).  As for why this occurred, it sounds like there was a lot of “misinformation” about the project circulating in the North Park Neighbourhood and so the developers did not feel as though they had a secure mandate to proceed I guess.

What I found particularly interesting about the actual 2014 Council motion to postpone this hearing (not reject it and send it back to square one) were the comments made by individuals Councillors, especially Isitt and Gudgeon. A direct clip of the video from this discussion is pasted in below and I recommend you check it out!

So what does this all mean?

As noted in the staff report for tomorrow recent changes to the original application (which isn’t described anywhere in tomorrow’s report by the way) include the following:

  • The provision of 11 non-market rental units tied to the Housing Income Limits set for Victoria, for the life of the proposed building – which will require amendment of the previous bylaw.
  • The provision of six additional bicycle parking stalls at grade (total of 24).
  • The provision of raised planter beds for garden plots.
  • Bicycle repair and wash station within the proposed building.
  • Additional frontage improvements, including a curb bump out and planting on the north side of Mason Street immediately opposite the underground parking access point.
  • Additional bump outs on Mason Street for traffic calming.

Here is a photo of the Pandora face of the proposed buildings:

1012 Pandora

Which will be on the corner of Vancouver & Pandora:

Site of 1012 Pandora

Here is a top down view:

Pandora 1012 Top Down

I have two main issues with the whole thing. The first is that there is no language within the City’s Land Use Procedure bylaw for “postponing” public hearings or even ‘cancelling” them as the staff report suggests. Instead it is “reject” or approve. The second one is that the staff report tomorrow says that previous reports are attached to the report. But they are not.

So I had to go back to the agenda for September 11, 2014 to try and find an accurate rendering of just what is proposed for this building.

In doing so we find that Council is to consider redevelopment of the St. Andrews school site to increase density and to allow a mixed commercial and residential building. This will be accomplished through rezoning of the land known as 1002-1008 and 1012 Pandora Avenue from the CA-1 Zone, Pandora Avenue Special Commercial District and the R-2 Zone, Two Family Dwelling District, to a new CA-75 Zone, Pandora Vancouver Mixed Use District.

In the context of my having attended the City’s Development Summit yesterday that focused on how to improve  timelines in the development process, I was intrigued by this identification of “misinformation” as a leading cause for this proposal being waylaid by lack of community support to be very interesting. As someone attempting to build a space for new media related to local government, I also find it curious that the Times Colonist even contributed to this by publishing inaccurate information.

Because honestly how is it that something as concrete as a building can be miscommunicated? That said, I’ve had a heck of a time trying to gather a clear sense of what’s been going on with this property. And this is largely because, the City as originators and approvers of development and land use related information, do a really poor job of both presenting and storing all relevant data.

As evidence of this I had to go all the way back to an April 2014 report to find the following information:

The applicant proposes to demolish the existing school and gymnasium. The new building includes at-grade retail and professional office uses within three to five storeys of residential units above. The applicant proposes 4,507m2 for professional offices, banks and retail uses. The apartment units are a mix of one- and two-bedroom units as well as bachelor suites. At-grade residential uses are provided on Mason Street. Private open site space is provide through the use of balconies and a centralized common garden is constructed on top of the main for retail level. 

Curious to see what will happen at PLUC tomorrow. I bet everyone will just be excited about the 11 affordable housing units which I believe represent 5% of the total undefined number of suites.

Anecdotal comment about this project is that the developers are called Blue Sky Properties, and they are owned by the new owner of the Fairmont Empress, Mr. Bosa.

80 Saghalie Road – DP with Variances

This one is kind of weird. As noted in the staff report, it is a retroactive application to authorize an existing sales centre and offices for which no picture of the actual building is provided. Variances are required from the existing SSR Saghalie Road District  zone to:

  • Part 10.42.27 – Increase the allowable maximum floor area for Commercial use from 190.00m2 to 938.40m2 ;
  • Part 10.42.31 – Reduce the minimum required open site space from 50% to 45%;
  • Part 10.42.32 – Allow commercial uses on all floors rather than only the ground floor;
  • Part 10.42.34 (a) – Allow required parking to be located on-site rather than being enclosed;
  • Schedule C, Section C(5) – Reduce the required number of parking stalls from 14 to 8.

I imagine this will go through on the consent agenda tomorrow.

Superior St (521, 539, 545) HAPs

This is a pretty basic report about the heritage alteration permits necessary to move these three heritage houses from Superior Street over to Michigan Street (as shown below).

Superior Heritage Homes

Unless Councillor Madoff finds something irksome or Isitt is feeling particularly ebullient tomorrow I imagine this will go on the consent agenda. I’m assuming these are part of the Capital Park development because the applicant requests (found in the last 4 pages of the agenda attachment) are from South Block Development Corporation and signed by a Ms. Jawl.

Related to this, I learned yesterday at the Development Summit that the internal Development data tracker used by the City only allows them to know when a project enters the system and then once it is complete. And I mention this for two reasons:

1) You’d assume the City would be keeping a conceptual map of all components related to major developments such as Capital Park that require Council approval – not just for Council’s sake but also for the public, and;

2)  I also learned yesterday that apparently the City has problems with issuing timely Building permits – which is to say that they have troubles tying off and completing approval processes because it doesn’t seem as though they have anyone overseeing it all.

Related to this…. Mayor Helps announced and introduced the City’s new Planning Director yesterday by saying that the best thing about him is that he has no municipal experience.

Maybe he has a magic wand?

1202/1208 Wharf Street – HAP

According to the staff report, this is a proposal to extend a lower level arbour from the existing deck to provide seasonal coverage to the patio. As noted in the applicant’s request which uses less technical language:

The Docks Restaurant has an existing outdoor dining patio situated at the lower ground level, west side of the restaurant. A portion of this patio is located under the existing Main Floor dining deck on the west and south sides of 1208 Wharfside. The outdoor patterned concrete patio extends out beyond the patio portion protected by the deck overhead. The operator would like to extend an arbour out from the existing building to provide seasonal coverage of the usable patio area. The basic premise is to extend the post and beam design of the existing deck structure and in between the beams alternate glazed areas with retractable accordian style awnings.

Here is a map of the affected property.

1202:08 Wharf Street

I imagine it will go through on the consent agenda.

Zoning Bylaw Improvement Project – Phase 2

This is a policy report from the Assistant Director of Development Services which will require a public hearing prior to adoption because it proposes changes to Schedule A of the City’s Zoning Bylaw. Specifically, the following changes are proposed:

  • Add definitions of “finished grade” and “natural grade”.
  • Amend the definitions of “site coverage” and “setbacks” and the applicable low density residential zones to include a requirement that raised-building features greater than 0.6m in height are subject to site coverage and setback regulations.

Here’s to hoping there will be a presentation tomorrow about this project so that we can all get a better understanding of what’s been going on. It is interesting to note that it was initiated back in 2012 and only being brought forward now because everyone has been really busy, which is a fun excuse.

We’re doing busy working in a way that doesn’t work – which is why we need you to amend the zoning bylaw so that we can be less busy doing work in a way that actually works.

What do you think?

As an interesting point of context to this item, I was at a Public Hearing in Oak Bay on Monday that was similar in the sense that it involved changes to a zoning bylaw that were initiated by the municipality.  And I mention this because the public were super involved in the Oak Bay process, with one fellow even asking detailed questions at the Public Hearing which Mayor and Council then made sure to address prior to passing the subsequent amendments.




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