Vancouver council approves Shaughnessy rental housing complex

Council rejected original proposal in 2019 on concerns raised by neighbouring hospice

Vancouver council unanimously approved a 24-unit rental housing complex for a piece of property at 4575 Granville St. | Rendering courtesy Stuart Howard Architects Inc.

Vancouver city council has unanimously approved a 24-unit rental housing project in Shaughnessy after rejecting the developer’s original proposal in 2019 largely because of concerns identified by a neighbouring hospice.

The eight-bed hospice, which serves up to 150 people annually, is still there but its management has entered into a “good neighbour agreement” with the developer, who has made significant changes to the building’s design.

“No development next to a hospice is better, but given the circumstances we feel satisfied with the collaboration that’s taking place,” Sarah Cobb, the executive director of the Vancouver Hospice Society, told council Thursday night at a public hearing.

Stuart Howard Architects Inc., on behalf of the Pabla family, modified the original design from 21 units spread over two townhouse buildings to a single four-storey structure with a total of 24 market rental units.

The building, which will be built on a 1,600 square metre site at 4575 Granville St., will be further set back from the property line it shares with the hospice. Significant landscaping, including trees, will buffer the properties and privacy screens and planters will be added to top floor balconies.

Originally, the development called for 32 parking spots but the developer agreed to reduce the number to 17 — a modification that both Cobb and several city councillors said they appreciated, noting it will lead to less excavation (and noise) during construction.

The collaboration Cobb referred to included a third party facilitator — former city planners Ray Spaxman and Scott Hein — who worked with the hospice and developer to move the project ahead.

The hospice also had a say in choosing the new design.

'Good neighbour agreement'

The developer's promise to follow through with the “good neighbour agreement” was noted by Cobb and Coun. Colleen Hardwick, who was one of seven councillors who voted against the original proposal in June 2019.

“We’re a small organization and we don’t have the resources to hold the proponent accountable when construction begins,” Cobb said. “If this becomes prolonged or disruptive to our operations, we need a focal point of accountability from the city.”

Hardwick asked Cobb to elaborate on her concerns.

“I can’t be running a hospice and running out to the street to try and manage noise mitigation,” she replied. “What we need is somebody that we can call to help us to enforce some of these agreements and arrangements that we’ve made so that we’re not on our own, trying to make that work.”

City rezoning planner Chee Chan told council that a file manager will be attached to the project during the development permit process. The city’s 311 service was also an option for the hospice to call, Chan said.

Neil Robertson of Stuart Howard Architects Inc. said in his closing remarks to council that he wanted to reaffirm his and his client’s commitment to the good neighbour agreement and thank the hospice for “their genuine engagement with us and by accepting and taking the hand that was extended to them.”

Gurveer Pabla, on behalf of his family, told Glacier Media in a text message after council’s decision that “we are really happy with the outcome and are looking forward to continuing to work with the hospice.”

575GranvilleThe original proposal for 4575 Granville St. on the left and new design on the right. Images courtesy Stuart Howard Architects Inc.

Though council’s support for the project was unanimous, only seven councillors were present for the vote — Hardwick, Christine Boyle, Melissa De Genova, Michael Wiebe, Adriane Carr, Pete Fry and Sarah Kirby-Yung.

'Worthy project'

Of the seven, Hardwick, Wiebe, Carr, Fry and Kirby-Yung rejected the proposal in 2019. But all pointed to changes made to the design and the proponent’s work with the hospice to reach an agreement on moving the project ahead.

Carr: “Congratulations to the applicant on really taking seriously those concerns and to the hospice society for your diligence in raising those concerns and being willing to go through facilitated discussions with the applicant.”

Wiebe: “We now have a process in front of us and a building that has better relationship between the hospice next door and neighbours nearby and the new residents that are going to move in.”

Fry: “I think this is a far better project. I really appreciate how the architects are working with the hospice to ensure that they’re doing this in a respectful manner that respects the dignity of people’s final days.”

Kirby-Yung: “There’s been a significant effort on both sides to pull this together. I’m really excited to see additional rental housing in this neighbourhood — and we’ve also got a net increase of three additional units [over the 2019 proposal].”

Hardwick: “On the merits of the neighbourhood agreement that’s been entered into and the changes that have been made, this is a worthy project.”

Hardwick, however, admonished the proponent for what she believed was an attempt to “stack” the number of people in support of the project; council heard from 14 speakers Thursday night, with a majority making similar points.

“When you hear the same script over and over again, it is problematic,” she said. “But I think what is really persuasive here is the fact you’ve gone the extra mile, working with the hospice and other professionals to arrive at a solution that’s making everybody satisfied enough to move forward.”

Added Hardwick: “So thanks for doing the extra work and going the extra mile. You did the right thing. But we don’t need to stack meetings to get the response.”

Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who supported the proposal in 2019, was on a return flight Thursday night from Ottawa, where he was meeting with the prime minster, cabinet ministers and big city mayors.

Dominato, who supported the proposal in 2019, was also absent for the vote, as were Rebecca Bligh and Jean Swanson, who both rejected the original application two years ago.

De Genova, who supported the proposal in 2019, noted the proponent could have avoided a rezoning and gone ahead and built a 13,000 sq. foot mansion, but chose instead to work out an agreement with the hospice.

“So I commend you for that — thank you for doing that,” she said.

Shaughnessy 'off-limits'

In reiterating her support for market rental units on the site, Boyle said it was important to build rental housing across the city, including in Shaughnessy, which predominantly features large, expensive single-family homes.

“This neighbourhood in particular has been off-limits to most Vancouverites at most income levels for a very long time,” she said. “In a city as diverse as ours, I don’t think we should have neighbourhoods where renters aren’t able to find a home.”

The new building will include 12 one-bedroom units and 12 three-bedrooms. The policy under which the proposal was approved by council does not require below-market rental rates.

A table included in a staff report showed average market rents for newer buildings on the West Side ranged from $1,975 a month for a one-bedroom and $3,349 for a three-bedroom.

The project is expected to take two to two-and-a-half years to complete.

mhowell@glaciermedia.ca

@Howellings