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City of Vancouver Motion to Designate Mole Hill as a Heritage Conservation Area

By admin

On June 14th the City Council of Vancouver will consider a motion to designate Mole Hill as a Heritage Conservation Area (HCA).

The motion, moved by Councillor Adriane Carr, seconded by Councillor Heather Deal states:

“BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to proceed with the steps necessary, including public consultation with all the local stakeholders and working with the Mole Hill Community Housing Society, to designate Mole Hill as a Heritage Conservation Area (HCA), including placing a moratorium on demolitions and development applications for the maximum period allowed under the Vancouver Charter while the HCA designation is being pursued.”

The full motion is available here.

Background: In November 2015 Mole Hill Community Housing Society made an application to the city to designate Mole Hill as a Heritage Conservation Area. The proposal generated a tremendous response from tenants, neighbours, members, stakeholders and supporters of Mole Hill who subsequently advocated in favour of the idea.

The community was galvanized by development proposals on two privately owned properties on Comox Street which seek to construct dominating modern infill buildings directly adjacent to the award-winning heritage laneway. A third property was recently sold for $3,000,000 and redevelopment is expected.

By designating Mole Hill in this way the City of Vancouver could:

  • Signal to the public, owners and developers that the heritage character of the block is highly valued;
  • Provide historic context for directing change on the block;
  • Clarify the importance of creating additional public benefits on the block;
  • Preserve the existing pedestrian character of the laneway and maintain one story massing for buildings adjacent the lane.

In terms of preserving the heritage character of the block for the long term, this is the most significant opportunity since the Mole Hill Community Housing Society was formed fifteen years ago.

Mole Hill is a 170 unit social housing development and a model for sustainable community. The internationally renowned heritage landscape contains 30 buildings listed on the City of Vancouver’s Heritage Registry, more than any block in the City of Vancouver. Awards for Mole Hill include the Heritage Canada Award, the City of Vancouver Heritage Award of Honour, the Canadian Construction Association’s Environmental Achievement Award and a CMHC Housing Award for Best Practices in Affordable Housing.

Public input will likely be scheduled for the evening of Wednesday 15th June.

To speak to the motion contact Nicole Ludwig: nicole.ludwig@vancouver.ca / Phone: 604.873.7191

Cut’n’paste into your address bar to write to mayor & council — encourage them to support the motion!

gregor.robertson@vancouver.ca clrball@vancouver.ca clrcarr@vancouver.ca clrdegenova@vancouver.ca clrdeal@vancouver.ca clrjang@vancouver.ca clrafflek@vancouver.ca clrlouie@vancouver.ca clrmeggs@vancouver.ca clrreimer@vancouver.ca clrstevenson@vancouver.ca

Questions? Contact Quentin Wright, Executive Director, Mole Hill Community Housing Society. qwright@molehillhousing.ca 604-681-2096


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Mole Hill Redevelopment plans finally made public just before decision by Director of Planning

By admin

Design encroaches onto neighbouring childcare facility; Architect threatens that the Mole Hill Greenway could be “dramatically changed”.

On May 17th Mole Hill Community Housing Society was contacted by Timothy Ankenman, the architect of the proposed development at 1150 Comox Street. He said the images used on the posters for the 26th May public meeting regarding the future of Mole Hill are incorrect.

Mr Ankernman said the City of Vancouver website is out of date and the current plans have not been made public.

Following an email to the city, the redevelopment plans for the Mole Hill property were finally revealed on May 18th.

It is frustrating and deeply unfair to the community that the current proposal has been kept private until today — only two weeks until the Director of Planning makes a decision, and almost 3 months after being approved by the Heritage Commission.

Mole Hill is a 170 unit social housing development and a model for sustainable community. It’s internationally renowned heritage landscape contains more listed heritage buildings than any block in the City of Vancouver. Awards for Mole Hill include the Heritage Canada Award, the City of Vancouver Heritage Award of Honour, the Canadian Construction Association’s Environmental Achievement Award and a CMHC Housing Award for Best Practices in Affordable Housing.

The proposed redevelopment seriously compromises such achievements, by dominating its surroundings, being ostentatiously modern, and requiring gross bylaw exemptions in terms of site coverage, height, siting, size, etc.

1150-comox-updated-2015-05-18

The design illegally encroaches on the neighbouring property, which contains two specially adapted daycare facilities belonging to the Mole Hill Community Housing Society. About 400 square feet are incorporated into the new development, removing structures and landscaping which do not belong to the developer.

The Society noted this encroachment in earlier design proposals and 6 months ago informed the city that it would be impossible. However the encroachment remains in the plans made public today.

No request has ever been made to the Society for use of land but on May 16th architect Tim Ankenman said, “We are proposing a larger shared paved walkway for fire emergencies. The lane has already been improved with planters, curbs, etc… which would have to be quite dramatically changed if we were to firefight from the lane. This solution seems to be the least intrusive… as the lane can stay as-is. The tree located on the SW corner of the property is being retained.”

The tree in question belongs to the Society so its removal is not in question. The larger issue is that our award-winning Mole Hill greenway would be “dramatically changed” unless the Society gifts a significant parcel of land to the developer, Vandwell Homes (owned by Mr. Jerry Rakhra.).

It is highly unlikely that City of Vancouver Engineering, Planning and Heritage departments would allow changes to the lane to permit fire truck access, and the Fire Department would not approve the greenway as fire-fighting access.

Rather, the solution is that the proposed building needs to be much narrower and provide fire access through their own sideyard, which would require major changes to the proposal.

It’s amazing that the approval process at the City has proceeded so far when there is a glaring technical problem with something as basic as fire-fighter access.

The developer, architect, owner & city staff have apparently negotiated these plans in private and have not engaged with the Society or the community, otherwise this would have been apparent earlier.

The Society suggests that proposals for the block must respect the current zoning bylaws, compliment the heritage landscape, and observe the established one-story massing adjacent to the laneway.

Write or call the City of Vancouver before June 2nd 2016:

CITY MANAGER: Sadhu Johnston; Phone: 604-873-7627; sadhu.johnston@vancouver.ca

DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT SERVICES: George Fujii; Phone: 604-871-6033; george.fujii@vancouver.ca

GENERAL MANAGER/DEVELOPMENT SERVICES: Jane Pickering Phone: 604-873-7456; jane.pickering@vancouver.ca

PLANNER, WEST END/DWNTN STH: John Grottenberg: Phone: 604-873-7447; John.Grottenberg@vancouver.ca

A public meeting to discuss the future of Mole Hill is scheduled:

Thursday 26th May at 6:30pm; Mole Hill Common Room, 1157 Pendrell Street, Vancouver.

Questions? Contact Quentin Wright, Executive Director, Mole Hill Community Housing Society.

qwright@molehillhousing.ca 604-681-2096


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Vancouver’s Famous Heritage Block to Change Forever

By admin
  • New developments will radically alter the look and feel of Mole Hill
  • City of Vancouver approves demolition of 1180 Comox Street
  • Heritage Commission approves modern infill apartment building at 1150 Comox
  • 1126 Comox Street sold for $3,000,000. Demolition request expected

The concept of Mole Hill as an important heritage landscape has been abandoned as the City of Vancouver approves modern redevelopments and the demolition of a house at 1180 Comox Street.

Mole Hill is Vancouver’s ONLY intact heritage block. The houses date from 1886, the year the City of Vancouver was first incorporated and includes many of the city’s oldest houses. There are more listed heritage buildings on the Mole Hill block than any other city block.

However three privately owned properties on Comox Street now belong to property development companies.

City staff and council have repeatedly reassured the community that Mole Hill is not threatened. Yet in April 2016 the City of Vancouver took the unprecedented step of approving the demolition of the house at 1180 Comox Street. The property will be redeveloped as a 6 unit apartment building in a modern style.

1180-comox

And in February 2016, the Heritage Commission moved to support a development application for 1150 Comox Street for a domineering infill apartment building which is brashly modern in design. The proposal’s imposing modern design is located in the middle of the block, seriously compromising Mole Hill’s innovative and award-winning greenway and ruining the concept of the lane as an expansive heritage landscape.

The Heritage Commission approved the plans on February 22nd 2016 but they were not made available to the public until being uploaded to the City of Vancouver website on May 6th 2016.

Bylaw exemptions have been requested and granted for building height, site coverage, shadowing etc.

The City of Vancouver approved the West End Community Plan in 2013. This plan claims to seek to preserve heritage resources, praises Mole Hill and describes the Mole Hill laneway as “a cherished community space”. However, the Plan’s zoning for Mole Hill is the same as any other block in the West End and permits large-scale infill buildings and no additional protection for the heritage landscape or the traffic-calmed greenway.

future

Mole Hill has received numerous city, provincial and national design awards. The city-owned properties were restored following a decade of community activism that saved it from destruction. It continually receives accolades from the public for its forward-thinking embodiments of heritage preservation, green building design and sustainable community development.

Dozens of community members, including Spencer Chandra Herbert MLA, and architect Sean McEwan (who oversaw the restorations at Mole Hill) have written to the city in recent months requesting stronger measures to preserve the heritage character of this block.

Development of these properties seems inevitable, but community advocates strongly feel that the city should approve designs that do not conflict with the heritage landscape and respect the one-storey massing adjacent to the greenway.

A public meeting to discuss the future of Mole Hill is scheduled. 

Thursday 26th May at 6:30pm

Mole Hill Common Room, 1157 Pendrell Street, Vancouver.

All welcome.

Questions? Contact Quentin Wright, Executive Director, Mole Hill Community Housing Society. qwright@molehillhousing.ca 604-681-2096


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New 1150 Comox Development

By admin

NEW 1150 COMOX DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION SUBMITTED TO CITY
FEEDBACK DEADLINE: WEDNESDAY 16TH DECEMBER 2015

The proposal is to create five units out of what is currently a single family home

In April, many West End residents attended an Open House hosted by Ankenman Marchand Architects, who presented a proposal to develop 1150 (now referred to as 1158) Comox Street on behalf of the property owners, Vandwell Homes. This is one of the eight privately owned properties on the Mole Hill block not belonging to the Mole Hill Community Housing Society, who operate twenty-eight of the properties.

They proposed moving the house to the front of the property and constructing an apartment building at the back. However, the development application was rejected by the City. This was encouraging news as there were numerous problems with the proposal – parking, heritage preservation, and density & siting concerns (the physically dominating aspect of the proposed infill building).

However, a new development proposal has been submitted, with a similar design. Once again the proposal is to move the existing house to the front of the property. A large infill construction is to be added to the house and a modern apartment building backs onto the Mole Hill Laneway.

Is this the future of Mole Hill?

Under the site’s RM-5B zoning, the application is “conditional” so it may be permitted; however, it requires the decision of the Director of Planning.

Details of the design with plans, 3D renderings etc are available online at the Urban Planning section of the City of Vancouver’s website in a list of development applications: http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/developmentservices/devapps/1158comox/index.htm

1150 Comox Street is not designated a heritage building yet the architects are apparently seeking a “Heritage Revitalization Agreement” with the City. Such an agreement offers compensations to the developer in exchange for protecting the heritage asset. Normally the compensations takes the form of variances in the use, density and siting regulations.

Like the previous proposal, and another application this year for 1180 Comox Street, the scale and design of the infill building seriously compromises the integrity of the Mole Hill block from a heritage perspective while the proposed relocation of the original house negatively alters the famous Mole Hill streetscape on Comox Street.
Among the other concerns: the building will dominate the Mole Hill laneway, wrecking it’s expansive interior and imposing upon the neighbouring historical properties; the construction period will disrupt the community and threaten the adjacent community gardens; contrary to the established nature of the Mole Hill Community the completed units will be 100% privately owned with no affordable housing component or rental options.

blog-1150-comox-before-after

There are numerous questionable items in the plans that were posted online. Most obvious is that the owners of the property incorporate part of the property belonging to Mole Hill Community Housing Society into their design – notably encroaching upon 1154 Comox. This would of course not be possible. There are other such items regarding the placement of trees, fences, neighbouring structures etc. that take a creative approach to the actual layout of the properties.

There is further concern regarding the manner in which this application has been made and the absence of public consultation.

There are over 200 adult tenants who rent from Mole Hill Community Housing Society. Additionally there are over 100 adult tenants in the Strathmore Lodge or who occupy rental suites in the four or five other privately owned properties on the block. Several hundred more reside in rental apartments on Pendrell Street. However, of the several hundred residents of this block, less than 10 will have received the postcard that notified of this application because they are not property tax payers. There is no reason why the developer should not be required to alert all tenants in the neighbourhood, as is easily done by other organisations such as film companies or even the City of Vancouver (recent notices re. parking consultation were ubiquitous).

The City of Vancouver website states that “comments should be received on, or before November 27, 2015, to be considered in the staff review.” Yet a public notice was not posted at the property until December 1st 2015. A city staff member informed us that the comment period had been extended to December 16th but at the time of writing that is not reflected in any public notices or the City’s website.

The City of Vancouver website lists this as 1158 Comox, which would mean the house addresses on Comox Street will go 1146>1158>1154>1160. Any person visiting Comox Street to view the property during the advertised staff review period would be unable to identify it.

This bizarre non-consecutive re-numbering of the address, together with the absence of notice and the confusion surrounding deadlines for comments seemed designed to obfuscate information about the development. It is a very discouraging approach to development planning, particularly in such a sensitive heritage area as Mole Hill.

The proposed new building will dominate the heritage streetscape on Comox Street

The city is accepting written comments (letter or e-mail) on this development application. Comments should be received on, or before Wednesday December 16, 2015, to be considered in the staff review of the project.

The contact to submit your views is John Freeman, Project Facilitator, john.freeman@vancouver.ca , 604-871-6076.

If you wish to view the printed plans, or to discuss this further, please contact Quentin Wright, Executive Director of Mole Hill Community Housing Society at: 604-681-2096, qwright@molehillhousing.ca.

We will keep the community informed on any further developments.

Quentin Wright
Executive Director
Mole Hill Community Housing Society