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Mayor wants Northeast False Creek to “push the green agenda”

June 3rd, 2009 · 12 Comments

It’s a difficult story to follow but the Saga of Northeast False Creek is a fascinating one and will continue to develop because there are so many interests at play in that area, the big stretch of land that faces the Olympic village across False Creek.

There’s a tussle over whether the Vancouver Art Gallery will indeed land there. The four very influential developers there — Aquilini, Concord, Canadian Metropolitan, and the provincial government — have been arm-wrestling the city for months over how much residential they’ll be allowed to put in, how much density they can add, and how much view cone space they’ll be able to slice into. (Check my Globe story tomorrow for more on one of these issues.)

If you read the report and/or listened to the council debate on Tuesday, you’ll be interested to learn that Raymond Louie and company are thinking about reviving their original idea for Southeast False Creek of a neighbourhood with one-third social housing, one-third affordable, and one-third regular market. That’s still evolving.

And the latest to weigh in is Mayor Gregor Robertson, who wants to see that area to take all the new green building ideas that were incorporated into the village and do even more of them in Northeast False Creek.

In a rare interjection into the public debate at council, Robertson made a point of adding at the end that he is worried the current fledgling plan doesn’t push green far enough.

“I am a little concerned that we are not advancing the sustainability objective or the platform of Southeast False Creek,” he said. “The intention was that that would be the new base for development. Our challenge is to take the next step beyond that. I see Northeast False Creek as the opportunity to take it to the next level and showcase it as a large-scale development site such as this.”

Of course, astute followers of council are probably already thinking what I was thinking as I listened to this. Which is: But, but. But Southeast False Creek is land that was owned by the city, where they could dictate the terms pretty freely.

Yes, Millennium Developments/the Maleks are building a green project that has all kinds of elements never before seen in Vancouver. But they knew that would be required when they bid on the project and presumably bid on the land accordingly. Or not, but at any rate, they knew they were going to have to follow a whole new set of rules in exchange. AND they’ve complained that the green requirements are what fuelled some of their cost overruns. AND I don’t know a developer in town who sees what’s happened at the Olympic village as any kind of model for doing anything green — not at this point, anyway.

But the mayor appears to be saying that developers will be willing to comply with these new, more demanding green requirements from the city because they’ll make money.

He acknowledges that higher standards “will be more for the landowners and developers to factor into their pro formas.” But he points out that projects elsewhere, in Portland and Victoria, at Dockside Green, are seeing people pay a premium to live in environmentally advanced projects. He’s hoping that the Olympic village will see buyers willing to see that same kind of premium.

I’d be interested to hear people weigh in on this one. I personally would pay more for a place that I thought had been designed to be more sustainable. But not sure if that’s what’s proving true in the marketplace.

And I await further developments on the affordable-housing front in this area.

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  • The mayor is a fool.

    Green, sustainable all the other marketing nonsense is just that: marketing nonsense.

    Nothing is sustainable and green is just more maintenance and cost: the last thing the town needs.

    The green roof on the conference center! What is it supposed to do?

    There has been a green roof in Combs for decades: it is better than the CC because goats graze on it.

    What is the town needs is ACCESSIBILITY AND AFFORDABILITY . . . stop the bullshit.


  • Joe Just Joe

    The mayor is aware that Millenium Water was designed as LEED Gold and that the COV has already enacted new building regulations that require all multi-family dwelling started in 2010 and beyond meet LEED Gold standards as a minimal. Not to mention LEED is constantly being updated, and we know not a single building in NEFC will start before 2010 so it stands to reason that under current rules any building there will be at least as “green” as Millennium Water. So I’m as lost as the next guy on what the mayor is pushing for here.

    Perhaps he wants the buildings to be LEED Platium, he should note though that Dockside Green is a small development, it’s easier to find 150people that will pay a hefty premium but nearly impossible to find 4500 purchasers to do the same. Especially when those units will carry a special covenant pertaining to the noise.

  • I got occupancy for a 65 unit condo in Jan. We started starry eyed for a green roof etc. and abandoned for cost, dead load and lack of purpose.

    LEED standards are what any exprienced competent architect will specify.

  • I’d love to see a completely car-free community. Now that would push the boundaries of green.

  • David

    I know we are talking about the future. But what about the ugly pile of crap that Concord gets to leave on a seemingly abandoned lot on the water between the casinos at Plaza of Nation and their sales centre. They should be sued to clean it up. Why is the city allowing this ugly eyesore on the water front? Who gets what in their pockets te allow a wealthy developer Terry Hui, Concord to leave out city looking like no one gives s shit. Shame on Terry Hui and City Hall!

  • bill from the southside

    I say good on you ‘Greg the mayor’ for pushing on sustainability. LEED standards and cerification (as URBANISMO pointed out) are no longer revolutionary, transformative nor add dramatically to construction cost – they really should be looked at as the baseline, lowest common denominator. We have much to do to build in a way that does not further our endless ability to damage the place we live. Muni’s like Vancouver can have significant impact on a process toward development that is restorative of the environment beyond our current LEED focus on lessening impacts.

  • Joe Just Joe

    While a car-free community sounds splendid, I can’t imagine there are 4500purchasers willing to part with that kind of coin and live without a car. I think that idea might be better on a smaller scale development, perhaps gastown would be a better trial for that.

    The eyesore will dissappear as that is the area that would be redeveloped, I know it’s been a common concern for the citygate residents.

    Perhaps if VAG doesn’t come on board a new multi purpose elem/sec school in hte day other functions in the evening/weekend can be built in the area to relieve pressure off the school system in the core.

  • I support Vancouver’s Gold LEED standards, which are already the highest in North America thanks to the last council.

    But the major issue for all residents of Vancouver is affordability. What the Mayor should be focusing on is how to incorporate modest market, rental and social housing into the existing plans to add 7500 residents to our corner of the city.

    Further, what existing residents of NEFC are waiting to see is fast-tracking of Creekside Park, the city taking responsibility for maintaining the Keefer Steps, which is a major public pedestrian and SkyTrain link, and the community centre and schools that have been promised but never delivered.

    If the Mayor wants more green in the area, residents are all for it – but that should also include the 19 acres of park that are owed this area’s residents according to the city’s own standards.

  • Please Mr. Mayor of Vancouver take note:

    When I was a kid we had another meaning when we called someone green!

    Does the hat fit?

    Now there are serious problems to address: affordability being top of my list . . .

  • MB

    LEED Gold is a good start. But issues like energy generation within a building (thin film solar looks very promising), banning vast expanses of glass curtain walls in favour of smaller windows set in heavily insulated wall profiles, geothermal district heating, using concrete with greater fly ash content, and total life cycle energy estimates and such will change the architecture of the community.

    The housing and commercial space sticker prices will be higher, but the operating costs of such buildings will present enormous savings to owners / renters, and could even produce revenue with decent feed-in electricity tariffs and smart meters.

    Creating a car free neighbourhood is perhaps a little idealistic at this juncture. But according to professional prognosticators like Jeff Rubin, Thomas Homer-Dixon and David Hughes — let alone carmudgeons like James Howard Kunstler — the era of triple-digit oil and $2+/litre gasoline is only about three years away. Nothing will get cars off the road more than high fuel prices, and this time the prices will likely be sustained.

    As for the Art Gallery, it’s better that it stay in the heart of the downtown penninsula than be placed at the edge.

  • gmgw

    A colleague of mine has been deeply involved for some years in monitoring development plans for NEFC and advocating at City Hall on those issues, and was at City Hall the other day at the Council meeting that dealt with NEFC. I contacted my colleague to get an opinion on the developments (so to speak) reported in Frances’ story. Here’s a slightly edited excerpt from the response I received. It summarizes, far better than I could, the hypocrisy, BS and obfuscation the City has engaged in on NEFC– a trend that continues apace with the current Council, who are turning out to be just as much of a bunch of craven kissers of developer ass as any of their predecessors. It also illustrates the frustration of those who have spent long years arguing for a more egalitarian approach in NEFC (and just when *is* the City going to force Concord to get to work on that long-delayed 9-acre park they’re obligated to build? Don’t hold your breath…)

    Anyway, here it is:

    ***”…What Frances Bula is not getting is the fact that of the 500 respondents on the comment forms for NEFC HLR, 68% said that they did not want 4 million square feet of residential, but the city staff reported to council that there was a positive response. Suzanne Anton was the only councillor who asked about that fact. The staff had to tell the truth. Geoff Meggs did not ask about that. He was mostly concerned with whether or not Gordon Campbell’s buddy, Ken Dobell, had anything to do with the study. (??) Raymond Louie asked about 1/3 social housing; although how he will get his buddies at Concord and CMP to comply with that is an even bigger question. The mayor weighed in on making it sustainable with “green” requirements, but said nothing about the fact that to be green NEFC would have to have the 10 acre park that has been promised and delayed for 20 years. How green is that, for God’s sake?? I am totally frustrated by the lack of concern about this project. The city staff are proposing 7200 more people in this small area, a 45% increase in density for the area, a reduction in public green space of almost 20 acres, no school, no daycares, no community space– and so far no non-market or affordable housing. The Heritage Density Transfer bank is full and that is what we will get as amenities in the area: A bunch of heritage fix-ups in some other area that constitutes a heritage density transfer for the developer to NEFC so they will get increased density, increased height, and no other amenities pursued.
    If you look at the 47 pages of the first part of the report on NEFC, it states in several places that the current 9.06 acres that should be Creekside Park ‘could be reconfigured without park loss’. In other words they could break up the large area into smaller pods, and there will be more towers along what should be a large green space only. Terry Hui is planning on it and will wait until there is a council who will give him what he wants. He has donated a considerable amount of money to the current council majority, paid off the Vision debt from the last election and gives ‘gifts’ to any and all who will accept them. And they almost all have.”***

    Vile beyond belief, especially the reference to the already-reported cozy relationship between Terry Hui and councillors like Louie, who should at least *try* to display a little integrity. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…” about sums it up. There’s investigative work to be done here, Frances!