Agenda Index City of Vancouver



Standing Committee on Planning and Environment


Director of Current Planning in Consultation with the General Managers of the Park Board and Engineering Services


Vancouver General Hospital Precinct




In the absence of Council policy requiring increased open space for employment growth, staff do not recommend F.



· Council Policy regarding Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) consists of a series of resolutions listed in Appendix B, of which those with immediate relevance are quoted below.

· Council Policy regarding interim Community Amenity Contributions approved January 28, 1999, states that non-standard rezonings (sites greater than 10 acres) will be reported to Council for direction on whether to apply a flat rate or a negotiated approach.


This report conveys to Council policies recommended as objectives or ‘goal posts’ for evaluating an anticipated Text Amendment Rezoning Application for the Vancouver General Hospital CD-1 District and to be used to guide development of buildings, open space and public realm features in this precinct. Relevant aspects of these policies would also be used to evaluate rezoning applications from other agencies within the precinct.


This report transmits conclusions of a public policy review for the VGH Precinct, which sought to determine whether a VGH proposal to introduce up to 700, 000 sq. ft. of new development for leasable medical biotechnology (biotech) uses, and sell the site of the former Nurses’ Residence for residential uses, would be consistent with maintaining commitments to providing hospital facilities and public open space, and providing opportunities for retention of heritage resources. As new hospital buildings such as the Laurel Tower are completed and occupied, redundant hospital buildings are to be demolished. This will free up sites for open space and biotech uses. About three quarters of the proposed floor area for new uses, exceeds the density limit of 2.23 FSR requiring an increase to 2.6 FSR (an additional 554,000 ft²). Prior to VGH making a rezoning application, this study was done to identify possible approaches to developing the proposed new uses without jeopardizing the above public objectives.

The study identified three development scenarios, which are supported by staff, and each achieve:
· all known future hospital needs,
· 620,000 to 700,000 ft² of biotech space,
· at least 5.1 acres of public open space in a configuration equal to or better than that provided in the 1989 Open Space legal agreement,
· retention of the 1906 Heather Pavilion, augmented in some options by retention of the 1908 additions and two facades of the Doctor’s Residence.
These scenarios require an increase in the 50% long term site coverage limit to 55%, plus the footprint of Heather Pavilion. The study also addressed parameters for built forms, important pedestrian linkages and vehicular access within the precinct. Re-use or replacement of the former Nurses’ Residence is also supported along with additional housing south of 12th Avenue and pedestrian oriented retail on 10th Avenue.

Timing of demolition and delivery of open space is still pivotal. It is recommended that Council urge VGH to come forward with one of the three acceptable scenarios for open space and strive to maintain the implementation schedule agreed to in the 1989 legal agreement. Concerns regarding timing of demolition have led staff to withhold support for 150,000 ft² of biotechnology development and a long term research addition, pending further demolition. Council direction is sought on whether additional open space should be provided and whether some biotech buildings should be available for hospital use in case of future unknown demands.


In July 1999 Council approved a public policy review for the VGH Precinct to consider a policy framework for a pending rezoning application and options for open space, housing and medical biotechnology development for the VGH Precinct. Specific commitments regarding this precinct are set out in the attached policy document.


Council approved this program on the basis that a land use and urban design analysis could generate options for biomedical research development which achieve “at least as desirable an open space plan for the precinct as previous commitments would require”. Provision of sites for all known future hospital needs and a minimum 5.1 acre open space obligation were assumed for scenarios showing sites for medical biotechnology. Retention of at least the 1906 Heather Pavilion, and where possible other heritage resources, were also objectives.

Policy Review Process
Civitas Urban Design Consultants were engaged by the City to conduct a workshop process involving representatives of known interest groups and stakeholders to generate a range of scenarios for locating open space and buildings, as a basis for public discussion.

Spectrum of Options
Six development scenarios were created through the workshop process. These scenarios explored configurations which favoured alternative open space attributes. For example, some scenarios separated open space from 12th Avenue to limit noise. One offered dispersed, urban open spaces bounded by buildings. Others sought very public exposure of open space. Both retention and replacement of the former Nurses’ Residence were considered to have merit, though the scale of that building could not be supported in new development.

Feedback on Six Scenarios
Five public open houses and presentations to the Urban Design Panel, Planning Commission, Heritage Commission and Douglas Park Community Association provided opportunities for staff to explain these alternative approaches to the public and receive comments. The public were asked to rate the scenarios based on a range of criteria. Three scenarios were clearly more highly rated, largely due to greater publicness and accessibility of open space.

Comments identified issues such as effects of massing adjacent to open space and a strong desire for direct access from 13th Avenue. Other concerns related broadly to the desirability of biotechnology uses at VGH, particularly impacts of traffic and concerns that medical needs such as long term care could be better served by retaining all lands for hospital use.

Three Refined Scenarios
The three scenarios rated highly by the public (“A”, “C” and “D”) were modified to address massing and accessibility issues raised in open houses. Modified scenarios were presented at public meetings to ask the public if proposed refinements resolved their concerns. Staff concluded that adjustments to massing were well received in scenarios “A” and “D” along with improved accessibility from 13th Avenue in Scenario “C”. Scenario “A” received the greatest public support. The performance of these scenarios, in regard to the key objectives, are summarized in the chart below.

Comparison of Benefits By Development Scenario



Scenario "A"


Scenario "C"


Scenario "D"


Public Open Space


Principal Open Space (acres)








Secondary Open Space (acres)








Total Open Space (incl.Willow Street)







VGH Land Provided










Heritage Potential


1906 Heather Pavilion


1906 Heather Pavilion


1906 Heather Pavilion


1908 Heather Pavilion


1908 Heather Pavilion


Doctor's Residence (façade)


Development Potentials




Biotechnology Potential (ft2.)







(if Nurses' Residence retained )










Nurses' Residence Retained (ft2.)







Additional Residential Potential








Residential Potential (ft2.)







(Without Nurses’ Residence


Remaining Issues
Traffic: Although initial analysis identified that access into and out of the Hospital Precinct could be accommodated, potential traffic impacts south of 12th Avenue remain a concern and should be reviewed at the rezoning stage. Measures to reduce shortcutting through Fairview Heights will have to be weighed against loss of access for local residents and increased congestion at strategic arterial junctions (particularly Cambie/12th). Circulation and accessaround the hospital “superblock” will also require detailed analysis to ensure efficient access and minimize congestion.

Open Space Access from 13th Avenue: Residents prefer direct open space access from 13th Avenue, which is achieved by the principal open space in Scenarios A and C. Although Scenario “D” contains some open space adjacent to 13th Avenue, as well as 5.7 acres of principal open space, this issue was not fully resolved in this Scenario. To resolve this, staff recommend retaining the south half of the open space adjoining the parkade. Biotech development would be reduced by 30,000 ft².

Future Hospital Needs: People have raised concerns about using public hospital land for “commercial” research uses because they fear that hospital needs for acute and long term care could increase with an aging population. However, hospital projections indicate that adequate site area is reserved for future hospital needs. Zoning would still permit hospital use of all sites. However, Council could respond to this concern by requiring some biotechnology buildings to be capable of hospital use if needed. This option is presented for Consideration.

Environmental Concerns: Some residents are concerned about biotech research being nearby. The same types of research labs already exist in the precinct. However this proposal would significantly increase the extent of such lab work in the area. VGH has developed an Environmental Protocol Document with policies and responsibilities for the proposed VGH subsidiary and their tenants. The protocol requires an Environmental Management Plan from each tenant/lessee (content: see Appendix C) and this document will be incorporated as part of the lease agreement. The Environmental Management Plan will also be submitted to the City of Vancouver and all applicable regulatory jurisdictions for review and approval. VGH will also be expected to conform with its current Waste Management Plan.

Nurses’ Residence: Most neighbours prefer demolition of the Nurses’ Residence. However, there are good arguments for recycling the building, though replacement may prove more economically attractive to VGH. If retained, staff have asked VGH to consider making main floor assembly space available for community use. The policy supports either demolition or retention with the merits of either to be further assessed at the rezoning stage.

Adequacy of Open Space Requirement: The Douglas Park Community Association argues that proportionately more open space should be provided to offset biotechnology development. Council has sought to provide additional open space in response to significant increases in residential capacity but not generally for additional employment. Under most scenarios, residential capacity would be unlikely to exceed the floor area of the former Nurses’ Residence. However, if Council believes that more open space should be provided, staff should be directed to seek options to raise the total open space area (Consideration F).
Increased FSR and Site Coverage: Staff believe that the proposed increase in site coverage to 55% would be offset by reducing the extent of paved area and creating more usable open space. To achieve 55% site coverage (not including Heather), staff expect that footprints of some new buildings may have to be reduced to achieve development of proposed biotech buildings and a Jack Bell Centre extension, proposed during the course of the study to replace 828 West 10th, prior to the latter building being demolished for a Centennial Pavilion replacement in about 20 years. A new Centennial would in turn accommodate administrative uses allowing Willow Pavilion to be demolished.

Implementation and Timing
VGH proposes a demolition program which takes five years, thereby delaying delivery of open space by 36 months beyond provisions of the 1989 legal agreement. Staff believe this results from a more linear approach to funding and programming development of new facilities which VGH should be urged to re-examine. Therefore, recommendation B above would tie a biotech development timetable to the demolition schedule. To permit an early biotech presence in Vancouver and put VGH on the world map in this industry, the recommended parallel program should include development of a biotech building where a building can be demolished, such as the Women’s Residence east of Heather Street.

This development program also conflicts with use of the Willow Pavilion site for biotech or open space. Biotech development on the Willow Pavilion site in Scenarios “C” or “D”would be withheld until Willow Pavilion is removed. In Scenario “A”, an interim adjoining open space site to the east would be required, again precluding development of a biotech building in the interim. In that scenario, development of the biotech building at Heather on the north side of 12th would be tied to creation of that alternate interim open space.

Willow Pavilion, shown to be demolished in Phase II of the legal agreement is proposed to be retained for administrative use. In scenarios “C” and “D” this would not affect open space but would reduce biotech potential by 150,000 ft². In Scenario “A” the central block of open space would have to consist of a half block east of Willow Street for up to 20 years, which again reduces biotech potential by 150,000 ft² during that period. Therefore, the floor area recommended in the Precinct Policy plan for biotechnology uses is reduced accordingly.

Staff have urged VGH to consider other locations for these administrative uses, such as in Heather Pavilion, instead of retaining Willow Pavilion. This factor diminishes the appeal of Scenario “A” for immediate implementation. However, staff believe it still represents a very desirable long term choice.

Legal Requirements
The Hospital Act requires written approval of the Minister of Health to proceed with any uses other than hospital of the hospital lands and buildings. On the Heather Pavilion site, a notation on title limiting the use of the site to only hospital purposes may also have to be removed. A new open space plan would require amendment of the 1989 Open Space legal agreement.

Rezoning Process
A rezoning application for medical biotechnology uses and development potential would be reviewed through a public process, assessing the proposal in terms of implications for land use, built form, open space, public realm and hospital needs according to the attached policy reference document.

Public Benefit Contributions

Development Cost Levies (DCLs): DCLs will apply to new development at the approved rate of $26.91 per m² ($2.50 per ft²)(daycare use set at $5.49 per m²/$0.51 per ft²); and

Community Amenity Contributions (CACs): Interim CAC Policy defines a rezoning on a site which is over 4.05 h (10 acres), as is the case here, as a ‘non-standard rezoning’ which is to be reported for direction on whether the flat CAC rate of $32.29 per m² ($3.00 per ft²) on the net increase in allowable development be applied, or a negotiated approach be applied.

The policy further states for non-standard rezonings, the CAC flat rate and applicable DCL rate establish a benchmark for negotiating. A negotiated CAC (cash or in-kind) should not be less than what the flat rate CAC and DCL would provide. The policy also states that for non-standard rezonings providing a negotiated CAC, the contextual information to assist negotiations could include: the cost of providing facilities to City standards; the adequacy of neighbourhood facilities; development economics; and community support.

‘In-kind’ contributions are a possibility, such as attainment of permanent park or public assembly and recreational space in the former Nurses’ Residence or Heather Pavilion. A temporary shelter for homeless people being released from hospital has been identified as a priority. Staff note that considerable experience has been gained, and can now be applied in this case, with non-profit and public institutions such as Lubavitch and Childrens’ and Women’s Hospital (full flat rate was applied), as well as private initiatives such as Arbutus Gardens and Champlain Mall. The issue of what constitutes a community amenity which meets City standards will be carefully examined. It should be noted that the VGHbiotechnology and housing proposal straddles the boundary between institutional and commercial development.

Consistent with CAC policy, because the site is (at least) 10 acres, staff are seeking direction from Council regarding applying either the flat rate or negotiated approach. Staff recommend negotiating for combined cash and in-kind amenities of at least the flat rate value. With a large site and the types of uses proposed, more needs can be met on-site (there is a range of in-kind CACs to be considered) and there is potential for at least the flat-rate value to be delivered to the City, though this might be at a cost less than the flat rate to the institution.


Three development scenarios were found to achieve all of the stated objectives for the precinct in a form at least as good as that provided in the 1989 legal agreement. One of those, Scenario “A” received a clearly more favourable response from the public. VGH should be urged to strive to achieve one of those scenarios as the basis of a rezoning application, with Council expressing an inclination for Scenario A.

Adoption of the recommended policy framework would provide guidance for rezonings and future development in the VGH Precinct. The recommended parameters for built form would be used to assess a rezoning application. Provisions for public pedestrian linkages and public realm improvements are also integral components of these options for which delivery mechanisms would be recommended as conditions of a rezoning application. Due to concerns regarding the implementation schedule and increased site coverage, staff are not recommending that all aspects of the VGH proposal be accommodated at this time.

Recommendations also address the time sequence of development and open space provision. Staff also present for Council consideration two resolutions concerning outstanding issues. Community Amenity Contributions are recommended to be assessed as a negotiated package of at least the flat rate value.


NOTE FROM CLERK: Electronic copy of Appendix A is not available. Hard copies are available from the Office of the City Clerk.



I. Current Temporary Maximums

On July 28, 1998, Council approved the most recent temporary increase in FSR, resulting in the current temporary level of 2.40 FSR. There was no change to site coverage. This ratio is based on the revised site area resulting from the resolution C (1)( on October 21, 1993 (shown below).

II. Review Of VGH Conceptual Development Plan 1992-2002

On October 21, 1993, Vancouver City Council approved the following recommendations of the October 21, 1993 Standing Committee on Planning and Environment:

A. THAT Council endorse the draft Conceptual Development Plan 1992-2002, including the revised open space boundaries, subject to the following changes:

III. BC Centre for Disease Control

On July 20, 1993, Council approved the most significant of recent temporary increases in FSR and site coverage to accommodate the 15 110 m2 (162,648 sq. ft.) B.C. Centre for Disease Control (B.C. CDC), to be developed by B.C. Buildings Corporation at 655 West 12th Avenue. The temporary maximum density approved was 2.48 FSR and 56.78% site coverage. These figures are lower than the 2.575 FSR and 57.33% site coverage approved in May 1991 because the development application for the Ambulatory Care Centre (LSP 2B) was withdrawn by VGH on January 25, 1993.

IV. Receipt of Conceptual Development Plan

On July 9, 1992, VGH presented to Council a draft master plan entitled “Conceptual Development Plan 1992-2002" and Council approved the following resolutions:

A. THAT Council receive the draft “VGH Conceptual Development Plan 1992-2002" and refer that document to the City Manager for review and report back to Council of a staff assessment of proposals contained in the plan.

B. THAT Council instruct the Director of Planning to meet with VGH, Park Board staff and residents of the Fairview RM-4 area and report back their views on open space development, including the block now occupied by the Nurses’ Residence and potential retention of Heather Pavilion.

V. Ambulatory Care Resolutions

On June 27, 1991, Council approved a resolution to increase the maximum FSR and site coverage in the VGH CD-1 District for a temporary period of time to permit consideration of a development application for an Ambulatory Care Centre (LSP 2B), subject to several requirements, including the following:

1. Submission, to the City, of a master plan for development of the entire VGH site and the timetable proposed for each phase of development; such plans to be submitted prior to issuance of any development permit.

2. No development permit shall be issued and the City shall be free to fully enforce the existing Public Open Space Agreement, unless Council approves a new Public Open Space Agreement, or new deadlines to implement the existing Public Open Space Agreement, no later than June 30, 1992.

In the June 1991 motions, Council agreed to consider a revised timetable for demolition in the context of the Master plan. If approved, a revised timetable would be subject of a new legal agreement. Other proposed revisions to regulations could be approved by Council resolution or be adopted as amendments to the CD-1 By-law through the rezoning process.


M E M O R A N D U M May 12, 2000


Tom Phipps, Planning


Doug Roberts,, Environmental Protection


Vancouver General Hospital Re-zoning

The Vancouver General Hospital has developed an Environmental Protocol Document (Draft) which creates policies and responsibilities for both the VGH subsidiary and their tenants.

The protocol requires an Environmental Management Plan from each tenant/lessee and this document will be incorporated as part of the lease agreement. Minimum requirements of the submitted Environmental Management Plan will include;

· the nature of the site operation in detail

· the applicable regulations and best management practices

· the types and quantities of regulated materials stored onsite

· all air, liquid and solid waste streams generated including quantities and frequency of emissions /disposal

· procedures to dispose of waste in accordance with applicable regulations or best management practices

· appropriate permits and monitoring requirements for waste discharges

· training

· emergency response procedures

· persons responsible for environmental management

· frequency of environmental audits

The Environmental Management Plan will also be submitted to the City of Vancouver and all applicable regulatory jurisdictions for review and approval.
Environmental Health Division of The Vancouver/Richmond Health Board have reviewed the protocol document and concur with its content.

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