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White Rock City Council quietly approved a high-density building without proper public debate.
Developers who prioritize profit over our quality of life want to impose a monolithic rental building the length of a football field on Vidal St. at Thrift Ave. The heart of White Rock is at stake and more discussion is critical. Take action Now!
The majority of residents living on Vidal, Thrift, and Everall and those who live within the 100m boundary, vehemently oppose this project. Mayor Knight pledged to uphold our Official Community Plan and it’s time to hold her accountable. In a 45-second decision after the July 24, 2023 public hearing, White Rock City Council quietly approved The WestStone Group’s application for a 6-storey, 139 unit rental building on Vidal St. This comes despite the council and Advisory Design Panel (ADP) rejecting a 4-storey version four times over the past three years and strong resident opposition.
The White Rock City Council has a sworn duty and a fiduciary responsibility to safeguard the well-being of White Rock’s residents. We’ve recently scrutinized an addendum to the WestStone Group project summary, and it uncovers alarming concerns that you need to be aware of immediately. They have gravely failed to perform the due diligence required for such an impactful decision. It is absolutely their job to act in our best interests, and it is imperative that they do so.
Read Our Letter To White Rock Mayor and City Council
Dear Mayor Knight and Members of the City Council,
We write to you on behalf of over 800 concerned citizens of all ages, who have signed the website or the paper petition voicing their strong opposition to this development. That is more than the recent Building Height Survey organized by the City (491). Therefore, we urge you to reconsider the Weststone Group Development under Bylaw 2439.
We advocate for a balanced approach between progress and preservation. Our review of the written and verbal information presented by the staff at the Public Hearing uncovered alarming issues that demand immediate attention. You have been democratically elected, and it is expected that will democratically govern. Your fiduciary responsibility calls for the City to act in the best interest of the community, without personal agendas, and address these concerns:
Lack of Public Input: The absence of public consultation along with the blatant disregard for independent expert advice for over three years, culminating with a 45-second approval right after the Public Hearing. This all raises questions about the Staff and/or Council trying to force the project into a quick approval, sidelining due diligence and community involvement. The rather short public notice also suggests that it was pre-planned by the Staff. There has been substantial volume of new information that was not available to you prior to voting on this development. This information reveals that it does not meet the requirements of the OCP in several critical areas. It needs to be properly reviewed.
The Advisory Design Panel: (ADP) has rejected this project four times; even it’s 4-storey lower version. None of their principle objections were acted upon. To avoid yet another rejection, this time the Staff conveniently has not referred it to them for evaluation. The proposed building is nearly the length of a football field with its top at one level. Its towering height and extensive mass would greatly contrast with the stepped-down, modern and relatively new, 3-level townhomes directly adjoining it on 3 sides. This goes contrary to the ADP’s expressed vision.
Building Height: Just a quick glance at the building, shown above, leaves no doubt in anybody’s mind that it is more than 6-storeys high. That is more than permitted by the OCP. But to make it more than a visual perception, we have calculated its height using the criteria in the City’s bylaw, and submitted it to the City. The calculations confirm it as well.
Arborist Report and Tree Preservation: Our examination of the Arborist Report highlights significant errors and omissions. And these allowed the developer to maximize the available footprint for the building, which otherwise would not be possible. Regrettably, concerns raised by residents, pre and post Public Hearing, were not addressed. Instead, they were dismissed. Subsequently, residents had to take matters into their own hands, engaging their own arborists, legal surveyors, etc. One group provided the City with a full-scope arborist report. Another group is completing the same, and meanwhile submitted their own assessment with identical conclusions. The main problem with the developer’s report is an incorrect method of calculating the so-called Critical Root Zone area.
Environmental Impact: The project falls within the “Environmental Development Permit Area” that the developer’s consultant has not even made any reference to, and disregarded it. That designation places additional requirements on this development including strict preservation of trees and native vegetation at the site to prevent flooding downstream in the ravine at the foot of Vidal St. Given the site’s proximity to the 2018 White Rock Mudslide area, this is a red flag that cannot be ignored. Several 100-year-old trees would have to be destroyed to build an underground parkade. Root systems of other remaining trees would be impacted, threatening their health and survival.
Traffic and Safety Risks: Vidal Street already cannot provide an unhindered access to first responders now; as evidenced number of times. This goes beyond the nuisance of congestion. The causes are numerous, and submitted to the City. The main one is the mid-section of Vidal; it has only two lanes. Vidal is the only street in the entire Uptown Area with only 3 lanes. All other streets of the Uptown Area have 4, mostly 5, and even 6 lanes. It is also the only street not directly connected to both 16Avenue and Thrift. This cannot be resolved by any means. For this problem alone, this development should be rejected. This is a wrong building in a wrong place.
Affordability Misrepresentation: While the project promotes itself as providing affordable housing, only 10% (14 out of 139 units) are designated as affordable rentals, and that too for a limited period of 15 years. The long-term security for these tenants remains uncertain. This goal is misleading and warrants scrutiny as it does not meet CMHC’s current definition of an affordable rent. CMHC does not compare market rents as the benchmark for affordability in new construction projects. White Rock, the 9th densely populated city in Canada, comprising of only 0.18% of the Lower Mainland area, already does more for affordable housing than any other Lower Mainland city. A fact recognized as such by some of the previous councillors.
Transparency and Accountability: Reports submitted by the developer, containing glaring inaccuracies, seem to have been taken at face value. This selective reliance on biased information undermines the accountability expected from the White Rock Council.
Sustainability: The project is inconsistent with the White Rock Official Community Plan, notably lacking in greenspace provisions, view corridors, and considerations for the site’s natural topography.
These findings demonstrate a concerning lack of due diligence and transparency, challenging the Council’s ability to meet its fiduciary responsibilities. We urge you to reconsider the Weststone Group Development in light of the concerns raised here and by the ADP, residents, and independent experts. Development can be beneficial, but it should enhance, not harm, our community.
On Behalf of Concerned Citizens of White Rock, thank you for your immediate attention to these urgent issues. We look forward to your prompt response and an exhaustive review of this development project.
The Save White Rock Team
A High Density Rental Building Doesn't Belong at this Location
The oversize structure when viewed from Thrift Ave would effectively rise to the equivalent of 10 stories and extend nearly the length of a football field. The Advisory Design Panel (ADP) insisted on breaking the building into 2 or 3 smaller ones with some greenspace and preservation of view corridors. This building would be a solid mass obstructing sunlight and fundamentally altering our community’s character. We must resolve concerns over density, slope stability, traffic congestion, fire and safety risks, plus the loss of irreplaceable old-growth trees during the construction of 3 level underground parkade. These issues have yet to be publicly debated.
We believe that a development of this scale and design is out of place and could disrupt the very essence of our neighborhood. By voicing our concerns, we aim to encourage a collaborative approach that respects the balance between progress and preservation.
Join us in shaping a future where development enhances our community’s character and quality of life. Together, we can advocate for a vision of growth that reflects the values and aspirations of our neighborhood. Stand with us to ensure that our community’s voice is heard and that our shared environment thrives for generations to come.
How was this approved without further discussion?
The WestStone Group proposal was rejected four times in the past three years as a 4 storey and has now been mysteriously approved as a 6-storey with 139 rental units! (See article below) This project will have a negative impact on our community. The oversize structure when viewed from Thrift Ave would effectively rise to the equivalent of 10 stories and extend nearly the length of a football field.
Townhomes on Everall and Vidal would be dwarfed by the WestStone building.
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A significant increase in density from the proposed 80 units to 139 would put undo stress on this neighbourhood.
100-year old trees would have to be destroyed to build an underground parkade.
These root systems protect the slope stability and prevent flooding into the ravine at the foot of Vidal St. The homes below could be at risk.
Critical Opposition Reports Information (click to open each):
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- A 4-storey building with 81 units was rejected 4 times over the last 3 years.
- Now, an overheight 6-storey building with 139 units was quietly approved in 45 seconds, with no debate allowed!
(Adjacent Beverley and Royce buildings have only 88 and 87 units, respectively.)
- Densification on this scale, especially at this location, blocks sunlight. Insufficient greenspace and parks.
- Beautiful old growth trees must be destroyed in order to build parkcade
- Majority of residents living on Vidal, Thrift, and Everall (around it) oppose the project.
- Vidal Street, with only 2 or 3 lanes, is unable to withstand the impact of increased traffic.
(All streets of the Uptown Area have 4, 5, or 6 lanes and much greater traffic capacity.)
- 6-storey wood frames (first in WR) have a 40% higher incidence of fire than 4-storeys.
- Vidal needs blocks of townhouses; not an excessively tall, block-long, monolithic building.
- White Rock is the 9th most densely populated city in Canada. While only 0.18% of Metro Area, it is adding more units per capita than any other city in Metro Vancouver and is already doing its part towards resolving the Metro housing crisis.
Remember the 2018 White Rock Mudslide?
Environmental Issues: The report fails to acknowledge that the WestStone project falls within an “Environmental Development Permit Area,” which places additional requirements for the preservation of trees and native vegetation. The mudslide was south of Vidal St.The report fails to acknowledge that the WestStone project falls within an “Environmental Development Permit Area,” which places additional requirements for the preservation of trees and native vegetation.
Architectural Design Panel Concerns: The project has faced consistent rejections from the Architectural Design Panel, yet it continues to move forward without meaningful modifications. Is the pursuit of federal incentives for higher density overshadowing the need for thoughtful planning? The notion that these 139 units will serve as affordable rental housing in White Rock seems deeply disconnected from the community’s reality.
Transparency Issues: It appears that City Council is conveniently leaning on staff recommendations as justification for moving ahead, despite glaring inaccuracies in those reports—specifically concerning the project’s impact on traffic, parking, and environmental sustainability. This raises questions about whether the City Planner is being pressured to fast-track projects without adequate scrutiny.
Public Concerns Disregarded: Why the dismissal of public input? The city has alarmingly ignored residents’ concerns and independent expert reports, pushing some community members to the brink of considering legal action as their last recourse.
Questionable Sustainability: The project conspicuously lacks any green infrastructure policies and fails to respect the natural topography of the site, raising critical concerns about its environmental sustainability and long-term impact.
Please help us reach our new goal of 1,000 names by directing friends and family to savewhiterock.com to add their support. All personal information will remain confidential. Your time, commitment, and ongoing support are invaluable to our community. Together, let’s continue to make our voices heard.
About Our Cause
We are concerned citizens of all ages, committed to fostering responsible development and community progress. We firmly believe that growth should align with the unique character of our neighborhood. We understand the importance of creating vibrant spaces that meet the needs of our residents while preserving the charm that makes our area special. Our advocacy is not against sensible development; rather, it is a call for thoughtful and harmonious integration. The proposed monolithic building by WestStone Group stands in stark contrast to the low-rise, townhouse community that defines our identity.
What Others Are Saying
Be forewarned, residents of White Rock
“The decision by Mayor Knight and Council to so severely amend the OCP to accommodate this development is a perversion of civic responsibility and governance.
Residents of White Rock recognize the need for a diversity of options in our ever-changing housing landscape. We have welcomed and embraced thoughtful, responsible development that contemplates the benefits and consequences for all.
This is not one of them.
Within 45 seconds upon conclusion of the public hearing, Mayor Knight and Council granted an amendment that will have profound and lasting implications for future development in our city.
Mayor and Council outright rebuffed the submissions of knowledgeable experts in the fields of infrastructure development, architecture, construction, fire safety, and finance. Also evident was their disdain for the tax-paying citizens whose lives and property values will be forever diminished by an ill-considered development that serves two purposes only: money for the developer and tax dollars for the City of White Rock – at all costs.
The initial proposal for this site contemplated a four-story, townhouse development. The developer now seeks to construct an ill-conceived, wood-framed, over-height building in order to recoup financial losses stemming from its initial acquisition of the property.
The infrastructure in the proposed area is incapable of sustaining the increased density. And, sadly, when the demand and the desire for affordable rental accommodations is so great, the “affordable” rental units represent only 14 of the 139…and the remainder of market rentals will remain unaffordable for many.
Be forewarned, residents of White Rock, because Mayor and Council will not hesitate to bastardize the OCP governing the developable land near you.”
Hello, Just wondering…. Is our city council immune to the law? Are they legally able to behave like dictators and push issues through without due process? It seems that way. The older apartment block at Russell and Fir was recently approved for redevelopment and after speaking with the displaced residents it seems the request was pushed through with this new council yet denied many times when the previous council was in power. Perhaps we need a revolution to regain our civil rights to fair process. Can we impeach the current council? Thank you, S.G. White Rock resident since 1984.
Please listen to the resident taxpayers in this lovely community.
Enough already with the insane high-rise buildings blocking sunshine and increasing traffic along Thrift.
My sister-in-law lives on Thrift and cannot sit out on her condo balcony for conversation because of the high volume of traffic noise on Thrift. PLEASE reconsider this development. I live one block away from the White Rock area in South Surrey but care very much about the development of this lovely area.
Thank you. -PC
We have been evicted from 1475 Fir Street, after 6 years of protesting, attending meetings, presenting petitions, getting publicity in the Peace Arch News. You name it we did it to save our building. The previous council voted against the developer, who immediately sold it to another developer and the present mayor and council gave him the permits to demolish our building. Seniors,in their 70’s 80’s and 90s have been evicted. No one cares. I don’t mean to sound blase, but you will need legal advice and help to stop this development on Thrift and Vidal. Petioning is no good. It is outrageous, but it is too late for us. When we put up signs at our yard sale, to let people know what is happening, the developer’s agent came and tore them down. I wish you luck. We have contacted local politicians, provincial politicians, newspaper, TV media. We have had no response. No one cares. It is cruel and unjust. – EB
High rise buildings, gone to far! Oxford St.near 16th St. high rise original high rise building being one high rise, later deciding a two building high rise. This seems to be going through with the third reading. Money talks right ? White Rock has already been ruined with back to back high rises looking like a concrete jungle. All rental high rises for people who cannot afford to live in them. Thank you for giving me a voice. -AE
They have completely abandoned seniors already living in affordable housing which the developers want to replace with unaffordable housing. I sense an impending feeding frenzy by developers. – GW
I support the halting of the proposed development, and I read the article in the Peace Arch News. It did not include the mudslide between Oxford and Vidal about 20 years ago which impacted residents and businesses for years. Cosmos amongst many others was closed for over a year. The slide included sewage in the homes and businesses which exacerbated the devastation due to compromised health and safety. Thank you for your work by doing the right thing.
We’re destroying what makes the peninsula so beautiful. The whole Lower Mainland is drunk with developer money. One of the reasons I moved to the peninsula was to escape the mess that Vancouver has becomes. We live in a uniquely beautiful area with nature that needs to be protected. The unabashed, uninformed and unsustainable development at massive scale that has hit South Surrey and White Rock is a blind quick money grab without thought of the longer term future. Over the last 10 years there has been so much destruction done to the area, something needs to be done before it’s too late.
The following was taken from the WestStone’s Vidal Project on their website today (comments in brackets):
– In response to community, committee and City feedback raised throughout our rezoning process, we have made a number of changes to the proposal to better reflect the priorities of neighbours and wider community.— (Amazing!! Has the community asked for an increase in height from 4 to 6 storeys? We must have missed that one)
– WestStone are proposing a 4-storey building. 3-storeys at the northern end, adjacent to The Beverley, due to the site’s significant slope. To preserve existing view corridors, the building form is stepped back along Thrift to follow the sloped grading of the site and minimize the impact of the building on the street, as well as our neighbours to the north with a reduced elevation of 3-storeys —(Interesting!! They considered stepping back the building to follow the Vidal’s sloped grading to minimize the impact, as the ADP were instructing them. In the end, the roof is a very long, flat area)
– Reduction from 6 to 4 storeys on the southside. See comparison elevations above and to the left.— (We must have missed this one too. The previous submission was for 4 storeys, now it is for 6 storeys)
-The project, including the parkade, has been specifically designed to ensure the preservation of the mature growth trees, trees that will continue to provide shade and privacy on the south and west elevations— (As the two comparative Arborist Reports, commissioned by residents show, trees will be sacrificed for the building’s construction)
– A new pedestrian sidewalk is proposed along Vidal Street and Thrift Avenue adjacent to the development to improve connectivity for the public— (Wow! A great developer. They do not want the new residents to walk in mud!)
-Further consideration toward onsite landscaping, stormwater treatment, and impact on surrounding tree network— (Great design goals. But exactly zero from these aims are embodied in the presented design)