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January 01, 2017 7:00 AM | Anonymous member

The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) has now issued its written decision in respect of RKHCA's appeal of the approved development permit for a 5-storey, 135-unit condo development at 2418 33 AV SW.

As you may recall, the issues raised in the appeal included:

  1. excessive density/intensity: the number of residential units on the parcel would be increased from 15 to 135, well beyond the maximum allowed under the parcel's previous M-C1 zoning or contemplated under the recently approved Marda Loop Area Redevelopment Plan (the "MLARP"), which is intended to govern, and establish a vision for, the redevelopment of the Marda Loop business district;
  2. excessive size/mass: the building would not comply with the side setback and side and front upper storey stepback requirements under the Land Use Bylaw and the MLARP, its Floor Area Ratio (FAR) would exceed the maximum FAR contemplated under the MLARP and it would have no significant articulation along its extremely long front facade;
  3. excessive overshadowing: single family homes across the rear lane would receive no sun in their south-facing main floor windows for an estimated 2.5 months per year, from early November to late January;
  4. inadequate public realm: the minimum 6m wide front boulevard/sidewalk as called for by the MLARP is not provided for;
  5. main floor uses: no retail/commercial uses on the main floor, and not designed to allow for future conversion to retail/commercial, as called for by the MLARP;
  6. traffic, vehicle access and transit: the proposed relocation of the existing NB restrictor at the intersection of 33 Avenue SW and 22 Street SW would likely lead to increased traffic tie-ups on 33 Avenue SW and increased cut through traffic on 22 Street SW; and
  7. trees: inadequate proposed trees -- mainly Swedish Columnar Aspen, which would never have a meaningful canopy, and Siberian Larches, which although coniferous would not provide any winter colour or windbreak as they lose their needles in the fall.

The SDAB decision allowed the RKHCA's appeal in part by requiring the following changes to be made to the plans for the proposed development:

  1. trees: replace the Siberian Larches with another species of coniferous tree that does not lose its needles in the fall.

That's it.

No changes to address the excessive density/intensity.

No changes to address the excessive size/mass.

No changes to address the excessive overshadowing of adjacent single family homes.

No changes to address the inadequate public realm.

No changes to address the lack of main floor retail/commercial, or even future convertibility to retail/commercial.

No changes to address the traffic, vehicle access and transit issues.


Apparently, it doesn't matter that the proposed development fails to comply with several key provisions of the MLARP, and fails to even come close to satisfying the overall "vision" for the Marda Loop business district, as set out in Section 2.1 of the MLARP (annotations added):

“Marda Loop is envisioned to become a vibrant, successful area that will cater to both residents and visitors alike. Through mixed-use development (NO) and modest increases in density (NO), the area will incorporate a desirable mix of residences (NO), shops (NO), and offices (NO) that enhance the livability of the area during the day (NO) and at night (NO). A high standard of urban design will respect the existing community character through human-scaled buildings (NO) and by providing sensitive transitions to the adjacent residential streets (NO). The area will feature a pleasant, walkable public realm (NO) with wide sidewalks (NO), street trees (A FEW), attractive lighting (NO) and street furniture (NO). Marda Loop will continue to be a desirable place to live, work and play (QUESTIONABLE).”

This is the first major development proposal to be submitted for approval since the MLARP was approved by City Council in 2014, and therefore is the first major development that should have been designed to comply with the MLARP vision and requirements. Unfortunately, this developer decided not to follow the MLARP vision, but rather to maximize both the size of the building and the total number of units. That is disappointing, but not entirely unexpected, as developers are business people and as such maximizing profits is often their primary objective. What is incredibly disappointing is that neither City Administration, nor Ward 8 Councillor Woolley, Ward 11 Councillor Pincott and the rest of City Council, nor the SDAB were willing to step up and require this developer to change their plans to make the proposed development consistent with the MLARP vision.

If you get the sense that we are unhappy, you are correct. The MLARP may not be a very robust Area Redevelopment Plan, as it was developed through what was referred to as an "ARP-lite" process rather than a full and proper ARP process. However, the MLARP is (at least in part) the product of considerable public and community engagement, and at the moment is all we have to work with to help the Marda Loop business district achieve its potential and become a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly Main Street. To see City Administration, City Council and the SDAB allow this developer to run roughshod over the MLARP is just heartbreaking, and hugely disrespectful to the Richmond and Marda Loop communities.

We will leave you with a couple of questions to ponder. Why does the City bother taking communities through the costly and time-consuming process of putting Area Redevelopment Plans in place if it doesn't care whether developers pay attention to them or not? And why didn't our Ward 8 and Ward 11 City Councillors do more to defend the MLARP's vision for the Marda Loop business district?

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