The Community Association of New Yaletown today filed a legal petition at BC Supreme Court to prevent the development, on the downtown city block containing Emery Barnes Park, of what could become the densest residential building in Vancouver.
The legal petition alleges that the City, in approving development of the 36-storey tower at 508 Helmcken St. and a related building across the street at 1099 Richards St.:
- withheld information from the public about the planned development, preventing informed community participation;
- provided false and misleading information to the Development Permit Board in order to gain approval for a development permit;
- hid bylaw changes concerning New Yaletown within amendments to the West End Community Plan–amendments for a completely different neighbourhood;
- grossly violated the bylaws of the Downtown Official Development Plan, which ensures residential livability by limiting building size and density.
“Our goal is to save our Park,” said Jon Green, President of the Community Association of New Yaletown (CANY). “This city-owned land had been planned and budgeted to become part of our park. Instead, the City chose to ignore overwhelming neighbourhood opposition and approve a developer’s proposal for a building denser than the Shangri La–the tallest building in the city.”
The development at 508 Helmcken violates the Downtown Official Development Plan (DODP) bylaws in numerous significant ways, including:
|DODP Bylaw||Allowed||Approved||Magnitude of Violation|
|Building Height||70 Feet Maximum||320 Feet||4.5 Times Allowed Height|
|Building Density in Floor Space Ratio (FSR)||FSR 3.0 Maximum||FSR 17.19||5.5 Times Allowed Density|
|Setbacks from Sidewalk and Park||12 Feet Minimum||6 Feet (0 Feet in some places)||1/2 of Required Setback|
The public voiced opposition to the development throughout its approval process, with over 91% of neighbouring residents opposed. In considering the proposed development, even the Chair of the Urban Design Panel, Norm Shearing, described the enormous tower as “a building that is out of context” for the neighbourhood.
“The City will likely claim that these bylaw violations are justified by the need for Social Housing,” said Alan Albert, Vice President of CANY. “This planned mega-tower contains no social housing. It’s a for-profit building at market rates.”
Continued Albert, “I support social housing. My family and I chose to live in a neighbourhood that has several social housing buildings because they contribute to the diversity of our community.”
The land at 508 Helmcken had previously been planned to be added to the park as part of Phase III, with funds allocated in the Park Board budgets for 2011 and 2012. The expanded park was intended to help reduce the City’s significant shortfall in meeting its own greenspace targets in the area. The City did not even mention or discuss its prior park expansion plans as it discarded them in favour of the developer’s proposal.
To stop the approved mega-tower and to help enable Emery Barnes Park to expand to its originally planned size, the Community Association of New Yaletown is seeking the public’s support.