Thursday, August 4, 2022

Furry Creek Zoning Bylaw Amendment finally goes to Public Hearing August 11th, 2022

Furry Creek residents gather at one of the 11 community meetings that have been held since 2017

Over the past two months I have been involved with three complex and controversial development approvals. In the first instance, there was little community opposition, other than from three politically motivated 'council-watchers', one of whom often runs for Council. However, in the case of the other two projects, a small group of well-organized vocal opponents raised concerns. In both cases, the concerns were based more on fear than fact. Fortunately, the misleading information used to generate opposition to the project was exposed when the opponents tried to 'use' the media. However, in the case of the third proposal - a comprehensive zoning bylaw amendment for the Furry Creek community along the Sea-to-Sky highway, the jury is still out.

The first project was a major rezoning of the Travelodge property on Marine Drive, near Capilano Road, in the District of North Vancouver. I first started working on this application in 2016. But after a year or so, the owner and I disagreed on strategy and another development consultant was brought in. In 2020, he still did not have the necessary approvals and I was invited back onto the project 

The 300+ unit development comprises the three central buildings in the above illustration, including a 27-storey tower with market rental units and condominium homes; a 10-storey midrise condominium; and a four-storey passive house below-market affordable rental building. The development also includes some innovative housing programs and concepts including rent-to-own homes, a 'locals first' sales program, and lock-off suites. 

Notwithstanding the development's conformance with the OCP, broad mix of housing choices, an elevated level of sustainability initiatives, and dedication of 42% of the property for roads, parks, public easements, and rights-of-way, it was only narrowly approved by a 4-3 vote by DNV Council at a Public Hearing on June 27th. 

The second project was the significant Dundarave proposal described in the preceding three posts on this blog. Unfortunately, a few people with political ambitions spread incorrect information about the project which generated considerable community opposition. As readers of this blog will have read, they made the mistake of inviting the media to help drum up further opposition. However, after Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight wrote about their opposition, he subsequently learned the correct details of the proposal and wrote a forceful column urging the councillors to support the project. And they did 6-1. But not because of his editorial. Project supporters and councillors complimented the developer on the project's creative design and respect for the village character of Dundarave.

The third project is an OCP and Zoning Bylaw Amendment for the Furry Creek Community along the Sea-to-Sky Corridor. It goes to Public Hearing on August 11th at the Britannia Beach Mining Museum meeting hall. Now some will say, hey, just a second, why would a project go to Public Hearing in August? Well, it is because the SLRD Board sometimes meets in August. But more importantly, as you will read below, this application has been underway for four and a half years. The current Board has reviewed it on three separate occasions and the application has been significantly revised in response to the direction received from the current Board Directors. 
Members of the SLRD Board have visited the property and reviewed this application on three separate occasions and are familiar with the proposal details. It's therefore appropriate that they should be the ones considering the zoning bylaw amendment.

They include the mayor and a councillor from Squamish; the mayor and a councillor from Whistler; the mayor of Pemberton; the mayor of Lillooet, and four Electoral Area Directors. One is Tony Rainbow, Electoral Area D director, who lives in Furry Creek, and has worked hard to represent the various factions within the community. After October 15th, there could well be a different board, and given all the collaboration to date, we do not want to start all over again!

This is my second involvement with the planning and approvals for Furry Creek. I first became involved over 30 years ago in 1990 when Tanabe Corp (Japan) retained me to oversee planning and approvals for a major residential/recreational community, including 920 homes, a golf course, resorts, a marina, and community facilities on this 1036-acre property, just south of Britannia Beach. We started in May, and highly motivated by a substantial performance bonus, managed to obtain approvals from the SLRD and Ministry of Transportation and Highways in April 1991. 

While I oversaw the overall planning and technical studies, the golf course was designed by architect Robert Muir Graves, based in Walnut Creek California. He was selected because of his reputation for designing courses that responded to the environmental features of a property. However, when I studied the layout, I mentioned to one of the local company directors I thought the course would be too difficult to play. His response was "this course isn't being developed for players of your calibre". 

Unfortunately, he should have listened to me since while there are many people who regularly enjoy playing Furry Creek, there are many more who will tell you they played it once, and never again! (I once suggested to management that golfers should be asked if it's their first time, and if it is, to give them a coupon for a free second round, since once you have played the course a couple of times it is a most enjoyable experience. You just need to be prepared to lose a few golf balls!)

Unfortunately, my vision of a 'complete' residential/recreational/resort community never really materialized following the initial development approvals. Once the approvals were granted, my involvement with the project ended, in part because I was insistent that the developer build a small general store to serve the residents. My concept was a marina-oriented chandlery 'general store' like that at the Semiahmoo community near Blaine, Washington 

One of the beautifully landscaped streets at Furry Creek

I also questioned the developer's ambition to create another British Properties, rather than a more affordable mix of single-family and multi-family homes. That said, some attractive streets of single-family homes were initially developed.

You can read more about my early involvement with Furry Creek here:

In 1997, Tanac sold a waterfront parcel to United Properties, an established local multi-family developer. They retained highly regarded Derek Neale of NSDA architects to design a large 240-unit townhouse project. (Ironically, in reviewing my early plans, I noticed the owner had initially wanted single-family lots in this location.) Victor Setton, the owner of United Properties, convinced Tanac to relocate the community's commercial component from the waterfront marina to his property, next to a proposed recreation centre. 

Some townhouse homes at Olivers Landing are now selling for over $2 million 

While 56 townhouses and the recreation centre were built, the commercial component was not, in part because there were not enough homes at Furry Creek to support a general store. Also, the location was somewhat hidden and away from the new single-family homes and future community neighbourhoods. Retail experts did not consider it a commercially viable location.

Unfortunately, by early 2000s Tanabe aka Tanac Canada went into receivership and the golf course and waterfront lands were subsequently purchased by Burrard International (Caleb Chan). Parklane Homes, owned by Peeter Wesik, which had successfully developed similar single-family mountainside developments purchased the balance of Tanac's assets for the tax losses. The company built a few homes but was too busy with other priorities, including the River District, a major new community in the southeast corner of Vancouver.

In 2017, I again became involved with Furry Creek. Thanks to David Eger at Altus Group, I was introduced to Fine Peace Canada, a company that had developed several major golf course communities in China. The company owner, who had a home in West Vancouver, enjoyed playing Furry Creek, so he was considering buying it. I was retained, along with Kevin Healy of Creus Engineering, who from 1993 to 1999 had worked for Tanac, and Derek Neale, to undertake an assessment of the project's feasibility and technical challenges. In October, Fine Peace purchased the golf course and Burrard International's adjacent land holdings. 

Several newspaper stories reported on the purchase including this Glacier Media article.

In 2018 I approached Peeter Wesik to see if he would consider selling his portion of the development lands. He promptly dismissed me saying it wasn't for sale, and he wasn't interested in selling. His son would develop the property one day. But fortunately, he was convinced by Fine Peace to sell.  

An artist's illustration of the proposed midrise buildings along the waterfront replacing 186 townhouses

Given the substantial size of the property, and growing market interest in the Sea-to-Sky corridor, Fine Peace initially hoped to increase the number of homes beyond the 920 approved in 1991. They also wanted to replace the waterfront townhouses with midrise apartment buildings offering single-level suites. Midrise apartments over parking would also be easier to floodproof, given rising sea-levels and higher Flood Construction Levels (FCLs).

To begin the planning process, a two-day Design Charrette was held with community residents

However, in the interest of getting a speedy approval for the midrise buildings, Fine Peace agreed not to seek approval for more condominiums. At an initial meeting with the SLRD Board, then Squamish Mayor Patricia Heizman said there should be affordable housing in the community, and the owner subsequently agreed to add 120 below market rental and ownership homes in accordance with SLRD's new affordable housing policy. 

When I was told some Whistler politicians might have concerns with up to 300 hospitality units at Furry Creek, Fine Peace reluctantly agreed to reduce this number to a more modest 120 units. Since a kayak club had been built where the 80+ berth marina had been planned, we decided to seek approval for a small resident's only marina further to the north.  We agreed to maintain up to 15,000 sq.ft. of commercial space, as previously approved, but proposed to relocate it from next to the Oliver's Landing Recreation Centre to a more central and accessible location near the third fairway tee box.

While this would require shortening the third hole, and losing a small amount of golf course, Fine Peace agreed to transfer a small area of community land to offset any loss of golf course, lest some people claim this could become a precedent for redevelopment of other golf course lands.

(It might be noted that one of Burrard International' goals was to redevelop portions of the golf course into housing. This prompted the SLRD to rezone the golf course in June 2016 to prevent this from happening. However, substantial portions of Fine Peace's holdings remained unzoned, which is one of the reasons many wanted to see a new comprehensive zoning put in place for the overall property.)

An artist's illustration showing the proposed commercial and community centre 'community heart' below the Ocean Crest development

While relocation of the village commercial and a proposed community centre would create a more accessible, commercially viable 'heart' for the community, it did concern some nearby residents in Ocean Crest, a bare-land strata development high above the future commercial site. They feared development would reduce their property values and bother them. 

While at one time commercial development was often seen as a negative influence on property values, this is no longer the case. One only needs to look at all the expensive condominiums being built above grocery stores along arterial roads throughout the lower mainland. In this case, the proximity of neighbourhood shops might well increase values, as it has done elsewhere.

However, the development team met with the Ocean Crest residents in July 2019 and agreed to several design changes including limiting the commercial building to just one storey along Furry Creek Drive, adding a green roof, and concealing the mechanical equipment. It was also agreed that any restaurant/pub/wine bar outdoor patios would be on the westerly side of the development, away from the homes.

The Ocean Crest residents were also concerned about potential view impacts from the midrise buildings proposed along the waterfront. While Fine Peace had agreed to comply with a community recommendation that these buildings be no more than 8 to 10 storeys, which was the height of the trees behind the buildings, one building overlooking the golf course's signature hole was proposed at 11 or 12 storeys, and not concealed by trees. 

One of the views as seen from an Ocean Crest home. While each home had a different view, in all instances the new buildings did not exceed the height of the trees

To demonstrate that Ocean Crest residents need not be concerned, the developer agreed to a request to fly balloons at the proposed building heights, to see how they appeared from the homes. As expected, this revealed that five of the buildings would not exceed the height of the trees and would not impact what the residents' views of the water. However, the sixth building was very visible, and the developer reluctantly agreed to reduce its height by half, to six storeys, hoping this would allay any fears.

To support the comprehensive zoning bylaw application, numerous technical studies were carried out by 18 different consultants. These included how to address fire safety issues since only a volunteer fire department was available. Archeological assessments reviewed the Squamish Nation's longstanding history in the area and how best to protect a pictograph that had been found. Engineering studies were undertaken to demonstrate there would be adequate water and wastewater treatment facilities. Other studies looked at the geotechnical attributes of the area, and the significant environmental features to be protected.

A formal zoning amendment application was submitted in spring 2019, it was initially hoped that the bylaw could be considered at Public Hearing in late 2019. However, then Director Doug Race proposed that a 'Committee of the Whole' meeting should take place first before considering bylaw readings and this meant that the Public Hearing would be delayed to 2020. Unfortunately, Covid and other factors interfered, and it wasn't until July 2021 that First Reading of the Zoning Bylaw Amendment was approved. 

This led to a requirement for further studies and preparation of various legal documents. Unfortunately, they were delayed many months due to the SLRD's lawyer's workload. However, in June 2022 the Board finally considered the referral reports and additional technical studies, legal agreements, and last-minute 'voluntary' financial commitments agreed to by the developer and approved Second Reading. 

Unfortunately, this led to a request from the Ocean Crest residents for another meeting. They were now concerned with the SLRD Board's request for an additional 10,000 sq.ft. of commercial space to provide more employment opportunities within the community. (Residents were shown this space would be under the retail space requiring no change to the overall footprint.

Residents were also concerned since SLRD and Ministry of Highways had requested parking for trail users and a future 'park and ride' facility below near the entrance to the community. 

'Park and ride' was desired since public transit is hopefully soon coming to Furry Creek. If it is not in place by the time the first new residents move into the land being rezoned, the developer has committed to subsidizing a private shuttle. He has also agreed to a shared neighbourhood electric vehicle and electric bike share program to help residents get around.

The residents claimed that these were all new requests which they hadn't seen before and hadn't had time to study. In fact, all these changes had been presented to the community on two separate occasions in December 2021 and again in May of this year.

Last week, a Public Information Meeting was held in the community to review the zoning bylaw. In preparing a chronology of the planning process to date, I calculated this was the eleventh formal public meeting held to discuss the zoning application. When one of the residents questioned why the proposal was being rushed, adding there had not been adequate consultation, I checked my email records and discovered there were 550 emails between this individual, the development team, and other residents, related to the zoning application! 

As noted at the beginning of this post, our zoning bylaw amendment will be considered at a Public Hearing next week. Notwithstanding all our efforts to assure the Ocean Crest residents that their properties will not lose value due to the nearby commercial centre, or lose their unobstructed views of the water, they have submitted a lengthy brief setting out a myriad of concerns. They will no doubt be opposing this rezoning at the Public Hearing, along with some other residents.

Fortunately, many in the community want to see this zoning amendment approved for various reasons. For one thing, after many failed developer attempts, Furry Creek is now owned by a company with considerable experience and financial resources to follow through with its promises and commitments. Zoning approval will allow the community to grow and realize its original vision. 

A boutique hotel is proposed adjacent to the existing clubhouse
The plans include a new waterfront park adjacent to the signature 14th hole and improved public access along the waterfront.

Zoning will confirm the location of the firehall, the affordable housing, and future resort facilities benefitting the residents. It will lead to creation of the village centre and bring future childcare, a potential secondary school site, and small 20-berth residents-only marina. (At the last public meeting I mischievously suggested first dibs on the marina berths will go to those who support our rezoning at Public Hearing!)

In keeping with the new UNESCO designation, the community now includes many more sustainability initiatives compared to the 1991 plans.

The new zoning will also result in a much more sustainable, floodproofed, fossil-fuel-free community.

Two final benefits of the rezoning will be reduced fire insurance costs since the new fully equipped fire hall will be one of the first new buildings. Zoning will also result in improved cellular and wi-fi service. Unfortunately, the existing service is not good, but Telus has committed to starting an upgrade program once they know new zoning is approved and more people will be living at Furry Creek.

However, I have recently learned that some SLRD Directors are concerned that the submission from the small number of Ocean Crest residents is representative of much broader community concerns. So, if you live in Furry Creek and want to see this proposal succeed, please write to the SLRD Board at planning@slrd.bc,ca and consider attending the August 11th meeting.

And check in with me on August 12th and I'll let you know what happened. Thanks for your interest in this fascinating undertaking.

Plans include an extensive open space and trail network

In 1991, I told people this would be a 15 year project. I was very wrong. However, this time I expect the 870 additional units will be finished within 10 years. Time will tell if I am right this time!




Wednesday, August 3, 2022

From the North Shore News July 26, 2022 West Van approves controversial Dundarave Beachside Development

West Van approves controversial Dundarave Beachside development

Council members had strong words for a misinformation campaign claiming the proposed building was taller than it actually is.

Brent Richter
Jul 26, 2022 10:02 AM

A proposed development is going ahead at 2452-2496 Marine Dr. in West Vancouver. Council approved the project on Monday, July 27, 2022.IBI Group

West Vancouver council has given the OK for a controversial mixed-use development in Dundarave, and condemned a misinformation campaign opposing it.

Council voted 6-1 Monday night (July 27) in favour of Dundarave Beachside LP’s three-storey development, which takes up the southwest half of the 2400 block of Marine Drive.

Once completed, the building at 2452 to 2496 Marine Dr. will hold 55 strata homes, 12,000 square feet of commercial space fronting Marine (including a large space earmarked for a new drugstore), 10,000 square feet of office space facing the lane, plus a new public plaza at Marine and 25th.

The project is compliant with the district’s official community plan and zoning, so it did not require a public hearing to advance, only a vote by council to allow for a height variance.

Still, dozens of residents turned up or tuned in to council Monday to sound off, mostly in support of the new homes and revitalization of the block.

Another, larger contingent wrote to council to oppose the project, saying its size would jeopardize the seaside village character of Dundarave.

But several council members called out a campaign from the West Vancouver Community Stakeholders group asserting the project would be 10 feet taller than the IGA building across the street when it would in fact be about two-and-a-half feet shorter.

Coun. Peter Lambur said he found that once people had the project carefully explained to them, their concerns were largely assuaged.

“I think it's unfortunate that that did occur in this project, but I'm confident that the residents in West Vancouver will be happy with the result,” he said.

Council members spoke positively about the project’s design, contribution to housing diversity in West Van and the change it would bring to a block of buildings reaching the end of their useful lives.

“I think really, it'll be a great addition to the community and I think it will be a great start of the revitalization of one of our core centres,” said Coun. Marcus Wong.

Coun. Nora Gambioli warned that council’s actions were being watched, and not just by nearby residents.

“This is really a test of the resolve of our council to address the housing and climate change crises and if we don't do it, there is a strong chance that the B.C. government may well take away our authority to even make these decisions,” she said.

Mayor Mary-Ann Booth acknowledged the angst that new development and change causes but said there was no need to resort to dishonesty.

“This push and pull between growth and maintaining our uniqueness has gone on for over 100 years in West Vancouver. This is not new. Unfortunately, some of the division is being so sowed by social media,” she said. “I don't have a problem getting the facts out and encouraging engagement but when you have to basically lie about something to get people riled up, that's division – and it's not being sowed by council, and it's not being sowed by staff, and it's not being sowed by the developer. It's being sewed by some misguided individuals, and that's not right.”

Coun. Craig Cameron also lamented the decline of discourse in the municipality.

“When I talked to people about the substance of this proposal, they quickly realized that what they've been told was not correct and that the actual proposal is quite modest and quite reasonable,” he said. “I do think there's a sensible core in this community and I just hope that we in future are able to have calm, reasoned discussion of these issues.”

Coun. Sharon Thompson voted in favour of the project, but cautioned council not to be dismissive of a group of people who felt their way of life was under threat.

“There's still a greater part of the population who either don't understand the project or they are threatened by it. And in all my discussions over the last few weeks, you know, there's nostalgia to our charming seaside villages," she said. "But I in my time with this, I have come to accept that I think it will be a great addition. It offers the housing and the commercial vibrancy.”

Only Coun. Bill Soprovich voted against the proposal.

“I can’t turn away from an awful lot of people that I talked to who had that sincere feeling in their heart that they want to hold onto something and this development, in my view, is a lot of massing on the sidewalk, which is overpowering,” he said.

Businesses evicted from the current sites will be given first right of refusal to move back into the new commercial spaces under favourable lease conditions, the developer said, and current West Vancouver residents will be given exclusive rights to buy the homes for the initial period when they are put up for sale.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Dundarave Beachside Development Permit Application - Approved by West Van Council 6-1 July 25th 2022

West Vancouver Councillor Nora Gambioli with just some of the hundreds of letters written                  in opposition (and support) for a new Development Permit Application in Dundarave

"It was a good project and should have been easier to pass. Sigh."

These are the words of Councillor Craig Cameron, who along with Councillors Peter Lambur, Marcus Wong, Sharon Thompson, Nora Gambioli and Mayor Mary Ann Booth all voted in favour of the DP Application and requested height variance for a new 3-storey development in the southwest quadrant of Dundarave Village. 

The variance was required since the site has a 13-to-15-foot slope from Marine Drive to Dundarave Lane. As a result, building height is measured from the 'average grade' which was determined to be 5'-6" below Marine Drive. Given the change in elevation, the development has five levels along the lane; however, the first commercial level is depressed approximately four feet to minimize the overall height.

Only longstanding Councillor Bill Soprovich voted against the project. Although he had previously told me he was impressed with the design, he expressed reservations about the massing and disruption that would be caused by construction, amongst other things. As a result, the vote was not unanimous, as I had hoped going into the meeting.

I first became involved with this DP Application in October 2021, shortly after the District's Design Review Committee refused to support a proposal prepared over the previous two years.  My Furry Creek client passed on my name to the developer, Brimming Development, a Surrey based firm that has undertaken other projects in the Lower Mainland and Seattle. However, this was their first project in West Vancouver, which over the years has earned a reputation as BC's most difficult municipality in which to get development approvals.

This was my sixth West Vancouver project. I have often joked that I like to undertake projects in West Van since, if I can get approval there, I can get approvals anywhere the world! 

This certainly was the case for Hollyburn Mews, my first West Van development project that met fierce opposition. Hundreds of angry letters and speakers urged Council to reject a proposal for...are you ready...nine 2-storey duplexes and coach houses one block off Marine Drive, across from a church, and next to the West Van Recreation and Seniors' centres. 

The opponents claimed that if approved, it would 'destroy Ambleside'. Many councillors agreed but the project was approved by a 4-3 vote. However, since being completed, the development has been widely admired and considered the kind of 'missing middle' housing that should be built throughout the district. 

In my opening remarks, I mentioned this since I was convinced the same would hold true for this development, given a significant amount of community opposition.

This opposition was generated in large part by CiviX West Vancouver Elector Society, a politically motivated community group led by Nigel Malkin and Claus Jensen. It previously stopped rapid bus service into Ambleside and Dundarave and effectively orchestrated hundreds of letters opposing the project. 

Jensen even wrote to the Georgia Straight, hoping to amplify the opposition to the project. 

However, when it was pointed out to Charlie Smith, the longstanding editor, that the group's claims were false, he wrote a powerful editorial on the need for municipal councils to ignore NIMBY organizations like CiviX and support well-conceived new housing proposals.

One of the many view impact studies prepared by IBI at the request of nearby residents

Unfortunately, the CiviX opposition made it necessary for us, along with IBI Group, led by its president David Thom (a UofT Architecture School classmate) to go to extraordinary lengths to refute the organization's false claims and try to generate community support for the project. (As every developer can tell you, it's always easier to get people to oppose a project than support a project.)

Fortunately, people did write letters of support and showed up at last night's Council meeting. I must confess, we were all shocked...when the first ten speakers all spoke in favour of our application. By the end of the evening, 25 of the 30 people who appeared in person and online urged council to allow the proposal to proceed.

This certainly made it easier for Cllrs Lambur, Wong and Thompson, who in the past have generally not been supportive of controversial new developments, to vote in favour of this one.

To conclude, thank you to Lisa Berg and other West Vancouver planning staff who went to extraordinary lengths to review our application and prepare a most positive staff report. 

Thank you to the Ambleside Dundarave BIA, Chamber of Commerce, architect Paul Merrick, Polygon president Neil Chrystal, members of Positive Voices, and everyone else who wrote letters and spoke in favour of the application. Thank you to Virani, who will be marketing the completed project, for helping to generate support.

The development proposal includes a wider sidewalk along Marine Drive and enhanced mid-block connection to Bellevue Avenue and the beach.

Special recognition to David Thom and IBI for creating amazing presentation materials and help the community visualize the completed development and dispel the CiviX lies. This included a time-lapse video that illustrated why the sidewalk across the street would not always be in shadow.  Some of their submission can be found here

To reduce the apparent mass of the development and reinforce a village-like character, the facades were designed to appear like a number of different buildings. Each storefront will have a distinctive character, similar to that created at UniverCity's Cornerstone Building. 

David Thom brought in IBI architects from Los Angeles and Toronto to assist with the preparation of the most impressive graphic materials. Today the firm has over 3400 employees! 

Finally, a big thank you to Connor Yang and the principals of Brimming Development for having faith in us to get their Development Permit Application approved.

Now we must refine the suite plans, prepare the Building Permit application and get all the additional approvals, and find a contractor who can build the project in less than the three years many expect construction to take. I hope it won't take that long since I have been asked to continue with the project and could be 79 before it's finished! 

That said, I heard on the radio this morning that Mick Jagger is 79 today and still performing every week. Tonight he's in Lyon, France.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Dundarave Beachside - Anatomy of a Development Permit Application

My most interesting projects usually begin with an unexpected telephone call. 

In 1988, it was a call from the late Art Cowie, then Director of Planning for Delta, who wanted me to plan George Spetifore's 753-acre property in Delta. 20 months later, after 26 nights of Public Hearings, Council rejected our proposal. 

In 1989, it was a call inviting me to the Bayshore Hotel's International Suite to meet a Japanese gentleman whose company had just purchased the entire Westin Hotel chain. Over the next 10 years I managed the redevelopment of the parking lot into Bayshore Gardens, a multi-tower 980-unit mixed-use development. 

In 1990, it was a late Friday afternoon call from a colleague at Colliers to see if I was available that weekend to meet some Japanese businessmen considering the purchase of a large property near Britannia Beach. That turned into a 30+ year planning involvement with Furry Creek. 

Last September, it was an unexpected call from a local developer whose development proposal for a large site in Dundarave Village was not supported by West Vancouver's Design Review Committee after two years of community consultation and planning. After viewing the District's website, I was not surprised the proposal for approximately 22,000 sq.ft. of commercial space and 55 residential units under the existing C2 zoning, had been rejected since although an attractive building, did not really fit with Dundarave's village-like character. 

Following discussions with the planning department and two councillors, I became involved. Over the past 10 months, I have worked closely with the client and my former UofT Architecture classmate, David Thom, now president of the IBI Group, who personally assumed responsibility for the redesign which has turned out very well. 

While the building is three storeys, as permitted by the OCP, the third floor is well set back. The lengthy facade is designed to appear like several smaller buildings with different architectural expressions. As a result, it fits in nicely with the scale of the village. 

The developer set up a storefront office so nearby residents and community groups, including ADRA, the Ambleside Dundarave Business Improvement Association, and Chamber of Commerce could view the plans. Councillors also visited and offered constructive and generally positive feedback.

However, a key consideration was timing. While councillors were supportive of the revised plans, and eager to see new housing choices, some suggested we wait until after the October election. However, since the interest meter was ticking, the developer was not able to wait.

Thanks to some extraordinary effort by the architects and District staff, in June Council considered the staff report and referred the Development Permit Application to its July 25th meeting. Another Public Information Meeting was arranged, and the planning team was confident the revised design would again receive support.

Then a most unfortunate thing happened.

A self-formed political group known as the West Vancouver Community Stakeholders distributed a flyer which incorrectly stated that our requested zoning variance would allow a building 10’ or a full floor higher than the IGA development directly across Marine Drive.  

This group, which previously stopped a rapid-bus service to Ambleside and Dundarave Village, is led by an individual whose website says he's running for mayor but is now rumoured to be running for Council.

The flyer claimed the development did not include a drugstore and would block the sun from most of the village. Moreover, this would result in another 'Grosvenor' development in Dundarave. "Let's not make the same mistake twice!" Residents were urged to write letters to the mayor and council opposing the development. 

On all counts, the flyer was wrong. The proposed building is 2 feet 6 inches lower than the IGA development across the street. Since the third floor is well set back from the street, the building shadowing will be similar to the two-storey building next door. Furthermore, the developer is in discussions with the pharmacy operator to determine how best to accommodate his space requirements in the new development. And this is by no means another Grosvenor development. 

However, when residents attended last week's Public Information Meeting, many refused to believe the drawings. Instead, they believed what they read in the flyer! 

It is now less than a week until the Council meeting. Hopefully, all the councillors will appreciate the careful design work that has been carried out over the past 10 months and will agree with a West Vancouver resident who recently wrote the following to them: 

"The buildings and retail services in this strip of Dundarave Village are tired, old and in need of reinvestment. This project ticks a lot of boxes to begin the revitalization process. The project is well-designed and fits in with the other new development that has taken place over the last 10-15 years. Finally, the project will add much needed housing."

In a redevelopment like this, a consideration is the fate of longstanding tenants. This developer has offered them a right of first offer at preferential lease rates. Those who cannot afford the prime Marine Drive spaces can consider the new retail spaces being created along the lane to the south. 

While this development is of an entirely different scale than Spetifore, Bayshore or Furry Creek, it will be a most attractive addition to Dundarave Village. It may also be a good precedent for other new mixed-use developments in Ambleside and Dundarave. But first, Council will have to approve the Development Permit on July 25th!

Below are images of the new building illustrating the 'west coast' and 'seaside' aesthetics, the variety of roof shapes and material selection that all contribute to its village-like character.  

The full application can be found at 

If you agree this development should be approved, please consider sending a note to 


Sunday, July 17, 2022

Remembering Sam Geller who passed away 18 years ago today. January 14, 1912 - July 17 2004

On this, the 18th anniversary of my dad's death, we are having a few friends over who remember him well. Since he and I once went to Greece together in 1994, we are having Greek food. Here's a photo taken in Mykonos

And something I wrote two years ago.

Today is the 16th anniversary of my father's death. In looking for an article I once wrote about him, I came across this article from five years ago in The Jewish Independent, Vancouver's Jewish community newspaper:



After some opening activities....Moderator Gloria Levi, a social services consultant, was then introduced. Levi has a master’s degree in public policy and is the author of Dealing with Memory Changes As You Grow Older and a series of booklets, Challenges of Later Life.
She introduced Michael Geller, an architect, planner, real estate consultant and property developer, who serves on the adjunct faculty of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development. The talk was conducted in an interview format.
Geller’s topic was Lessons My Father Taught Me. He acquainted listeners with the unique and collaborative relationship he shared with his father, Sam Geller, who was one of the first members of the Jewish Senior Advisory Council (the original name of the JSA). He passed away 11 years ago at the age of 92.
Sam Geller was born in England and was a soldier in the Second World War who had survived being a prisoner of war. That occurrence colored his life. The very fact that he had survived made him happy and grateful to be alive and he never sought material things for happiness, often saying that things could have been so much worse. He moved to Vancouver from Toronto and enjoyed life at Langara Gardens, his grandchildren visiting him, doing Sudoku, crosswords, swimming and exercising daily. Then, after an emergency life-saving surgery, Geller said his father attempted to live each day to the fullest, saying, after all, it could very be his last.
Geller said his dad was a stoic, truly enjoying what he had rather than accumulating more items just to impress others who he may not care about in the first place. The lesson he received from his father was “Do what you enjoy, what makes you happy and continue contributing to the happiness of others, as that increases one’s own inner joy.” Geller recommended the book The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine.
The love and respect that Geller said he felt for his father was reflected on his face throughout the talk. Thoughts of his father swimming are with him as he does his own laps in the pool.

Binny Goldman is a member of the Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver board.

SUNDAY, JULY 12, 2020