Council approved Tuesday a rezoning application that adds new buildings to the Beach Towers complex.
The existing complex features four highrises built in the 1960s, which reach heights of between 19 and 21 storeys. Located at 1600 Beach Ave. and 1651 Hardwood St., the buildings overlook English Bay and house 607 rental units.
IBI/HB Architects submitted a rezoning application on behalf of Beach Towers Investments Inc.
The approved development includes a four-storey residential building with two-storey townhouses along Beach Avenue, as well as a nine-storey residential building at the corner of Hardwood and Cardero streets. The development creates 133 new rental units, with a studio renting for $1,195 a month, a one-bedroom going for $1,495 and a two-bedroom for $2,155, according to the proposal.
Council’s approval includes a provision prohibiting starting rents outlined in the application from being changed for the first 12 months after the units are built, after which the rates would be subject to regulations in the provincial residential tenancy act.
Council’s decision comes after three nights of public hearings earlier this month, during which 36 people spoke — 31 against the project.
Mayor Gregor Robertson supported the rezoning.
“None of these decisions are easy and certainly we don’t see any perfect applications in terms of achieving all of our goals in one fell swoop,” he said before the vote. “But I think this proposal here does speak primarily for the need for creating more secured market rental housing. In fact, it achieves that in the most dense neighbourhood for rental housing in the city.”
Robertson said the development creates an opportunity for people in the West End to move into the new units and free up other apartments in the community.
“For hundreds of people this creates new homes in the West End at more affordable rates certainly than owning and, in all likelihood, frees up affordable housing in the rest of the West End,” he said.
Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr voted against the rezoning, explaining her decision was based on basic principals of democracy and serving the public good.
The public, she said, is opposed judging by feedback to city hall. Correspondence related to the proposal was five to one opposed, according to Carr, while speakers at the public hearing were seven to one opposed.
“I believe our duty is not to just listen to the public but to reflect the public in our decisions. Because the will of the public is against this project, I will be voting no,” she said.
Carr also noted the development will result in a loss of ground-level public oceans views, which “are rare and globally renowned of our waterfront, especially in English Bay.”
She added: “I cannot support a development proposal that would reduce this key public amenity.”
Affordability was a key concern raised during the hearing. Christine Ackermann, president of the West End Residents’ Association, had argued for starting rents of $950, pointing out that’s 30 per cent of the median income in the community.
She told councillors that the development was an opportunity to encourage affordability through the third-third-third model — one third affordable housing, one third market rentals and one third luxury rentals.
Ackermann told the Courier she wasn’t surprised by council’s decision, but called it a lost opportunity.
“I think the development of new rentals is a good thing for Vancouver, but WERA is very disappointed at the lack of affordable rentals to be included in this project,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “We think this is a lost opportunity to build affordability for the people in the community.”
Ackermann said affordability is needed now, not 10 years from now.
“I understand that they want to have all three levels of government in play, but I don’t think they’ve used up all the tools in their toolbox yet. I think this was still achievable by city hall. That’s why I’m disappointed. Having said that, the inclusion and addition of market rents is desperately needed and we will welcome these new neighbours to our community.” firstname.lastname@example.org