CALUC Letter re Telus Ocean:Rezoning and OCP Amendment/Development Permis with Variance: 767 Douglas
Dear Mayor Helps and Council,
Further to our letter of 26 February 2021 the DRA LUC has reviewed the most recent version of the proposal for a twelve-storey (53.21m) office building with ground floor commercial with an FSR of 5.2:1. The subject property is within the Core Inner Harbour Legislative Urban Place Designation in the Official Community Plan, which envisions building up to 45 m in height with a maximum density of 1:1 FSR (increased density up to a total of 4:1 may be considered in strategic locations for the advancement of plan objectives).
Despite the staff recommendation presented to Council on 26 August 2021 to refer the application back to staff to “improve its consistency with the heritage Conservation area and Landmark Building Form and character design guidelines and siting and massing policies” there have only been some minor siting tweaks, removal of some interior mezzanine floor space to reduce the FSR number and the removal of the proposed exterior facing video screen. The proposal in terms of its massing and compliance with OCP and DCAP planning policy remains effectively unchanged.
We understand that the project now requires an amendment to remove the OCP reference to the protected view, described in DCAP Appendix One: Public Outward View Guidelines, “Ensure that new development along the Douglas Street corridor is designed to help frame and enhance this view corridor.” The Telus Ocean proposal severely impacts this view corridor but rather than attempt any substantive form of mitigation, the application simply proposes to eliminate the requirement for the protected view from the OCP. We also note that the proposed new site specific zone for this property will be called CA-OV Olympic View District. This name appears to be an appropriate if not ironic choice of name considering the approval of this zoning will privatize the public view of the Olympic Mountains from Douglas Street.
Original Jawl Properties/Telus REI Design – DCAP Compliant 45m height
Concerns also remain regarding the disposition of public property through a Request for Expressions of Interest selection process that takes place in secrecy and provides for no public examination. We know that the application now before us abides by none of the original commitments for DCAP compliant height and setbacks and a more modest density that were key in Council’s original choice to select Telus and the highly respected local partner, Jawl Properties as the developer for this site. Jawl Properties, who provided those assurances, has since withdrawn from the project and the original commitments have subsequently been abandoned. This “bait and switch” calls into serious question the transparency and legitimacy of the City’s disposition of this public land, and Council’s conflicted role as both the vendor and the adjudicator of what is now a noncompliant application for this extremely valuable property.
The CALUC Terms of Reference specifically empowers CALUCs to “comment on the interpretation of the relevancy of policies and whether development applications fit with the spirit and intent of the Neighbourhood Plan” and “Communicate to everyone involved regarding the adequacy of the community consultation”. We have attached our letter of 26 February 2021 as it remains a valid summary of both the comments and concerns from the public consultation process and Land Use Committee commentary on the specifics of how this application fails to comply with both the spirit and intent of the neighbourhood plan. Regarding the adequacy of public consultation, the DRA has been offered no additional consultation from the applicant since our one and only meeting on 04 August 2020.
We strongly support the earlier staff recommendation to refer the application back to staff to “improve its consistency with the Heritage Conservation Area and Landmark Building Form and Character design guidelines and siting and massing policies”. As none of these improvements have been attempted with the current design we strongly advise that Council decline this project as proposed.
Chair, Land Use Committee, Downtown Residents Association