The people in the community next to this building and around the park totally understand the need for housing in our community. However, many of us believe this infill as proposed is not acceptable and our council should not agree to this proposal. It needs to be a smaller infill building. This building is located east of Lonsdale, on the south side of Victoria Park. There are 10 rental and 2 condominium buildings around the east side of the park which are home to over 1,000 people.
Currently, there is a 16-storey tower on the 151 property with a reasonable amount of property on the west side of the building to add another small infill building. However, the application before council (for the third time) is asking for much-reduced setbacks in order to build two large four-storey market rental buildings.
In April 2018, Starlight Investments along with Urban Systems Ltd submitted an application to build three infill buildings at the base of the 16 storey tower but this was rejected by the community and voted against by council twice. Now Starlight has submitted another application for rezoning this property with minor changes made to their proposal a year ago. They are asking for two buildings rather than three but the two buildings have been expanded to have the same number of total units — 40 (34 units just over 400 square feet, to rent for $1,550 and six units over 1,033 to 1,115 square feet, to rent for $3,200).
Here are the concerns with this proposal:
This developer is again asking the council to allow the reduction of the required setbacks including on Keith Road, fronting Victoria Park, from the required 25 feet to as little as 5 feet.
· This is too close to the street for a building over four storeys (46 feet) high.
· This variance is too much — over half of the two building footprints are on the reduced setback area
· The minutes from Advisory Design Panel (Jan 18, 2017) include comments that changing the setback of the west building “should have positive feedback from the neighbours to do this” and “the setbacks are aggressive and neighbours to the east and west need to be satisfied”. There is no “positive feedback” and the “neighbours are not satisfied”!
· This reduced setback would set a precedent for the whole park. The owners of other rental buildings (which are in excellent condition) will look at this change and see how much more they could build, and therefore earn, by tearing down their buildings and replacing them with buildings using greatly reduced setbacks. With much smaller units and higher rents as every new building demands, this would be a huge loss for our community!
· Another proposal has already been received to rebuild on the corner of East Keith and St. Georges, a 16-storey tower — of course, asking for reduced setbacks!
2. Impact on Victoria Park and the environment
· One of the principles of building higher is to allow more ground space to surround the building. This provides habitat for plants, animals and water drainage. It also leaves gaps between buildings for the sun to shine on surrounding areas. The area on the north side is Victoria Park. An infill building of this height and width, so close to the road will cause a larger area of the park to be in shade most of the year. People come from the surrounding area to walk, sit and play in this park year round. The 25 -foot setbacks were put in place to protect the park and keep as much sunlight as possible.
This proposed reduction would have a negative impact on the park as well as the property surrounding the current tower.
The developer is drastically reducing the total parking available — 40 additional units with fewer parking spaces in total.
· The existing building originally had 104 parking spaces for 89 units; the proposal is for 77 parking spaces for the total 129 units
– 95 units are studio/one-bedroom; 34 are townhouse/two-bedroom units.
– How are 77 parking spaces in any way adequate for this building and location?
· The parking space ratio requirement in rental buildings was reduced recently and only requires 0.6 spaces per unit. This application in fact meets the minimum requirement.
· In reality, there is a major parking problem in this area. There are sections along Keith Road where parking was removed when the street was narrowed for the Green Necklace for buses to make the corners.
· There are ten large rental buildings in this block of East Keith, many with less parking than needed. This area cannot have additional units added with insufficient parking.
In return for asking the council to approve the 40 infill units (to be built more than 50% per cent on the reduced setbacks and having major parking issues), the owner is allowing four units to be rented at reduced rates (subsidised by the SAFER program) in perpetuity. The total number of units on this site would be 129 but the offer is for the minimum 10 per cent of the new units.
We need subsidised units in our city but this is such a small amount from Starlight in trade for 36 additional market rentals — on property that they are not allowed to build on without a variance by the council (my rough calculation is they give up about $16,000 per year income on the four units and bring in over $800,000 rent on the 40 units) .
The city has added over 2,000 rental units in eight years. In the 100 block of East Keith, there are over 550 rental units. An additional 40 units in an area already heavily densified, requiring rezoning, with major impacts is not necessary or acceptable.
What the neighbourhood is asking for is a smaller infill building, positioned closer within the 25-foot setbacks that would have less impact on Victoria Park and the ground space surrounding the building and provide a better resident parking ratio.
Is the current proposal a worthwhile trade for us, the taxpayers? I believe Starlight would be allowed to build too much on this property with too big an impact on the immediate area, with too little in return to our city and would set a new precedent for other buildings to follow. The end result would be a loss of our more affordable rental units and huge impact on Victoria Park. We need a much modified proposal.