July 5, 2023
City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4
Attention: Nicholas Danford, Rezoning Planner
Re: Rezoning application at 3329 – 3429 West 41st Avenue and 5649 – 5683 Blenheim Street for a Seniors’ Community Care Facility
Dear Mr. Danford,
It came to the Dunbar Residents’ Association (DRA) Board’s attention last month through communications with concerned residents in Dunbar that a rezoning application at 3329 – 3429 West 41st and 5649 – 5683 Blenheim for a Seniors’ Community Care Facility was linked to the Dunbar Community Vision.
Having had several conversations with Amica and Pooni Group, we were aware of the proposed project. We were, however, not aware during those discussions that the project was proposed under the 1998 Dunbar Community Vision. We had assumed incorrectly that the project was being proposed under the enabling six-storey Secured Rental Policy, allowing for a maximum height of seventy-two feet. We were also not aware at that time of the project’s proposed height of 94 feet.
Once aware of these aspects of the project, members of the DRA Board began to undertake a careful review of the application and became aware of the project’s proposed height and massing and the significant impact it would have on liveability for area residents, especially those to the north of the project.
Although the application is linked to the Dunbar Community Vision, many aspects of the proposed project depart from its stated intentions.
Vision Direction 9.1 Seniors Housing identifies that “Seniors should have a variety of choices of housing that allow them to stay in the community as they age (e.g., congregate housing, intermediate and extended care).” However, with Vision Direction 9.2 Seniors’ Lowrise Housing, “Lowrise buildings (up to four storeys) committed to seniors should be permitted, provided the scale and design fit into the neighbourhood. They should be located near local shopping and transit.”
It is in Vision Direction 9.2 that the application departs significantly from the Dunbar Community Vision, specifically in scale and design that fit in to the neighbourhood. Further, although not stated, one would assume four storeys to be in the range of forty feet.
The project’s proposed height of 94 feet, width of 496 feet, and depth of 129 feet, is a substantial change from the properties to the north where houses range in height from 25 to 35 feet and the average lot’s width is 50 feet. This difference in scale is significant.
Further, the design of the project needs to be sensitive to the fact that the lots immediately to the north are on average one hundred feet in depth. The atypical depth of these properties would mean that the shadowing would be even more significant than if their depths were the more-common one hundred twenty feet. The design needs to keep this in mind to maintain the liveability of the properties to
Further, the Dunbar Vision document notes that Seniors’ Housing Rezonings Vision Direction 9.2 “...would be implemented through site-specific rezonings. That means that when a group that is organizing housing for seniors finds a site, they would be able to apply for a rezoning. Each rezoning would be considered in consultation with neighbours.” We have learned from the neighbouring owners that there has not been meaningful consultation and they feel that their concerns have been neither heard nor addressed.
This requirement for consultation is restated in Vision Direction 20.1 Community Involvement in Decision Making where “Community residents should have more input, and more timely input, into decision making about changes in their community, such as development projects, transit planning, street and traffic changes, park design, etc.”
Vision Direction 14.2 addresses Preserving Existing Private Greenery. “There should be more preservation of existing trees and major shrubs on private sites than is now required.” With the current proposal, the adjacent neighbours will experience an irrevocable loss to nature with the proposed removal of seventy mature trees at the back of the property including the wildlife that inhabits those trees. More should be done to preserve existing trees and major shrubs.
As stewards of the Dunbar Community Vision, the DRA Board is requesting the following for the rezoning application with a view to maintaining liveability for those who would be impacted by the proposal:
1. Consultation – that there be sufficient consultation with neighbours who would be affected by this application to ensure that their concerns are addressed. Stefan Aepli, Architect AIBC, SIA, LEED AP, a member of the Urban Design Panel, advocated that there be more study for impact on neighbours.
2. Ceiling height – that the ceiling height for each floor be reviewed. At the Urban Design Panel review on May 24, 2023, Bryce Rositch, Architect AIBC, AAA, FRAIC, architect for the project, specified that nine-foot ceilings would provide sufficient air circulation. The drawings however show an allowance for ten-foot ceilings on most floors.
3. Height allowance for mechanical equipment – with respect to the height required for mechanical equipment, many members of the Urban Design Panel thought that the height allowance for mechanical equipment could be reduced. Reza Mousakhani, P.Eng., CPHD commented that at least a foot could be taken off.
4. Massing – that the overall massing be reviewed with a view to breaking up the massing so that more sunlight can filter to the north. Kai Hotson, Architect AIBC, member of the Urban Design Panel referred to the project as “a big wall.”
5. Setbacks – that setbacks of the building mass to the property lines be increased, most importantly the setbacks to the north, with a view to reducing the impact on neighbouring properties.
6. Shadowing – that minimizing shadowing to the north be a component of a review of height, massing and building setbacks.
7. Fence to the north of the lane – we recommend that the design decisions for the fence be made in consultation with the neighbouring properties, that it be built with environmentally friendly materials, that along with suitable planning it provide privacy, and that it be light-friendly so that light can filter to the properties to the north.
8. Traffic study – that a thorough traffic study be conducted for minimizing congestion and maximizing pedestrian safety, keeping in mind that an increase in traffic would be generated not only by the current proposal but also the six-storey development to the west and the five-storey development to the east.
9. Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) – we recommend that consultation take place with the DRA for input on what contributions would add value to the community.
Board of Directors, Dunbar Residents’ Association