Defend the City's rejection of 105 Keefer Development Permit Application

Issue Overview

On Friday March 2, the Board of Variance (BoV) will hear Beedie’s appeal of the Development Permit Board’s (DPB) decision to reject the 105 Keefer Development Permit (DP) application.

The BoV is a civic body that receives and makes judgements on appeals for development applications. They can reverse DPB’s decisions on refusing development applications. To learn more about the BoV and the process, click here.

We must defend the DPB and Director of Planning’s decision to reject 105 Keefer at the Board of Variance hearing.

Background Documents

Summary of Beedie's Appeal and Counter Arguments

Beedie’s appeal argument #1:

DP Board ignored the fact that 105 Keefer was supported and recommended by City staff with stated conditions that Beedie stated that they were committed to addressing, which would have fully aligned them with the design test concerns raised by the DP Board. The DP Board could have approved the application subject to conditions that would have brought Beedie in conformity with the design test conditions raised by the DP Board.

Counter argument #1:

  1. As per Development Permit Board and Advisory Panel By-law No. 5869 6(a), the DP Board has the authority to refuse a development permit application. A DP application that is supported and recommended by City staff does not automatically guarantee an outright approval or approval with conditions by the DP Board.

  2. As per HA-1A zoning area’s District Schedule 4.17, the Director of Planning may approve a design but they must first consider:

    1. the intent of the schedule,

    2. submissions of any advisory group, property owner or tenant, and

    3. the effect of new visible exterior surfaces on the architectural and historically significant characteristics of the existing building on site or adjacent buildings.

In the minutes of the DP Board, they stated explicitly that they considered all aspects, which resulted in their refusal of the design.

  1. The design issues raised by the DP Board were significant and were not addressed by the conditions laid out by City staff. The Director of Planning stated that “if this application were to be approved there is a lot of design work ahead to reach that context of a cultural appropriate design for the reasons outlined by the board members.” Specifically:

    1. Reduction of massing on the building

    2. Significant reduction in the floor area in locations to mitigate view impacts and provide a more appropriate backdrop to the memorial plaza

    3. Buildings flagging Chinatown Memorial Square should include frontages that offer general pedestrian interests

    4. Better contextual design for visible exterior surfaces

  2. The design issues raised and refusal decision are within the DP Board’s jurisdiction as per this statement on pg 8 of the staff report that under HA-1 and HA-1A Districts Schedule (Chinatown Historic Area): “The achievement of this height and use, with respect to massing, density, external design, and livability, however, are subject to discretionary approval.”

  3. In the Processing Centre - Building Comments section on pg 26 of the DP staff report, staff deemed that the development is “significantly deficient” in its compliance with the Building Bylaw and the main floor level may require a full redesign.


Beedie’s appeal argument #2:

The public opposition to the application was at best only tangentially related to design, but instead focused on use. The proposed use was in full compliance with the allowed use. Beedie claims that DP Board purported to refuse the application on basis of design, but implying that they refused it based on use. Beedie claims that the refusal of the application on the basis of design cannot be supported by the evidence and materials before the DP Board.

Counter argument #2:

  1. As per the minutes of the DP Board hearing, over a quarter of the speakers specifically addressed design and/or design within the site’s context.

  2. The Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee (CHAPC) voted non-support for 105 Keefer DP because of the same design issues outlined by the DP Board, specifically improvements need on:

    1. Scale and massing;

    2. Detailed architectural expression, to be more in keeping with the historic vernacular of Chinatown;

    3. Sensitive response to the site context (memorial plaza);  

  3. As per the minutes of the DP Board hearing, the Director of Planning stated clearly that the decision was based on design, not use.

    1. “The Board cannot impose conditions on affordability or dictating culturally appropriate retail uses. Mr. Kelley noted the notion of housing and retail tenure is outside the board’s jurisdiction.”

    2. He noted that “Nonetheless the board does have discretion. The discretion in this instance goes to the design issues, including if the design of the proposed building is an appropriate fit within the cultural context in which it resides. Mr. Kelley noted this is what he focused on when coming to a resolution about this application.”

    3. He also noted that “in the case of an amended application the board’s jurisdiction remains the same, and the board would look to the design issues and not those of affordability and retail context.”


Beedie’s appeal argument #3:

Beedie claims that their site is unique in Chinatown because it is significantly larger than the majority of sites in the area to which the design guidelines of the zoning bylaw are directed. They claim that the DP Board failed to consider the design guidelines in the context of their site, and the site’s area and frontage anomaly.

Counter argument #3:

  1. The design guidelines states explicitly in 4.2 Form of Development and Massing that it considers forms on “both small (single lot) and medium (double or triple lots) building sites.” 105 Keefer is a double lot building site.

  2. The design guidelines and zoning bylaws do not have limits on size of site area (4.1) or site frontages (4.2). This means that HA-1A design guidelines are directed to all sites in the zoning area regardless of size and 105 Keefer cannot be deemed as an anomaly.


Beedie’s appeal argument #4:

Beedie claims that they have suffered significant hardship, including lost of money, carrying costs, internal staff costs, loss of revenue, inability to make effective use of the property, and damage to their reputation.

Counter argument #4:

The reasons and hardships listed by the applicant are typical costs and risks of doing business that are not the responsibility of the DP Board or the City of Vancouver.


Beedie’s appeal argument #5:

Beedie claims that the DP Board’s decision left them without any means for resolving a path forward for design improvements. They say that the DP Board’s reasons and direction for further consultation without direction did not clarify what was acceptable development for the site. They believe that this would have been resolved by the conditions that staff laid out in the report.

Counter argument #5: 

  1. The DP Board offered the following means forward to the applicant:

    1. The City’s services to facilitate conversation between Beedie and the community to help Beedie meet the design test.

    2. Beedie is entitled to re-submit an amended DP application to address the issues that have come up.

    3. The City provided opportunities to Beedie for a landswap as per the staff memo to Mayor and Council dated Oct 27, 2017.

  2. The DP Board provided Beedie with clear reasons for rejection.