From Frank Ducote: “This letter to Council may be of interest to Price Tags’ readers.”


April 13, 2015

To:  Mayor and Councilors, City of Vancouver

Re:  Procedural Fairness for the Proposed Re-zoning Application at 508 Helmcken Street (RTS No.10912)

Dear Mayor and Council,

We are a group of Vancouver urban planners and academics including former City of Vancouver planners who are concerned about the future planning direction in the city.  Our concerns relate to both the need for an overall planning framework for the city but also many individual project approvals which ignore long held planning values about the need for new developments to fit in with their surroundings.

In this regard we are very concerned that the proposed development at 508 Helmcken Street is out of scale with its surroundings.  This was confirmed by the initial Urban Design Panel (UDP) review which rejected it 7-0.  It is our understanding that the UDP panel reluctantly approved the project 5-3 when it was considered a second time, following very minor modifications, and only after an extraordinary intervention by the General Manager of Development Services who urged approval.

While we acknowledge this project is in a unique situation we believe the current application warrants another review by the UDP prior to consideration at Public Hearing. This will provide the panel an opportunity to assess whether earlier concerns have been addressed. It will also allow new panel members to comment.

This review will also hopefully provide guidance to Council and staff on how far the city should deviate from accepted zoning and planning guidelines in order to achieve much desired affordable housing and other amenities.

We therefore respectfully urge city staff and Council to refer this application back to the UDP prior to another formal Public Hearing.

Thank-you for your consideration of this request.

Yours sincerely,

Ken Cameron, Former Manager of Policy and Planning, Greater Vancouver Regional District; Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies, Simon Fraser University

Patrick Condon, Chair, Master of Urban Design Program, UBC

Frank Ducote, former Senior Urban Designer, City of Vancouver Planning Department

Michael Geller, President, The Geller Group; Adjunct Professor, SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development

Dr. Penny Gurstein, Director, School of Community and Regional Planning, UBC

Colleen Hardwick, CEO, PlaceSpeak

Scot Hein, Urban Designer, Campus and Community Planning; Adjunct Professor of Urban Design, SALA, UBC

Ray Spaxman, Former Director, City of Vancouver Planning Department; Principal, Spaxman Consulting Group

Erick Villagomez, Principal, Metis Design Build


A dilemma for PT readers: If you were a councillor, would you vote to reject the Brenhill project because of process and urban-design issues if it meant the social-housing project would not proceed (even if the blame could fairly be placed elsewhere, notably because of the lack of senior-government housing programs and support)?