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. https://www.straight.com/news/proposed-three-storey-building-in-dundarave-raises-some-hackles-in-west-vancouver 

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. https://www.straight.com/news/dundarave-proposal-is-a-test-of-west-van-councils-and-perhaps-david-ebys-resolve-to-address

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 surprised...no 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 https://www.positivevoiceswv.org/, 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 https://westvancouver.ca/home-building-property/planning/major-applications/2452-2490-marine-drive

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 https://civixwestvan.squarespace.com/blog-all-civix-candidates/nigel-malkin 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 https://westvancouver.ca/home-building-property/planning/major-applications/2452-2490-marine-drive 

If you agree this development should be approved, please consider sending a note to correspondence@westvancouver.ca. 


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