Review of WestStone Building Height
Submitted to White Rock Planning Dept. Attn: Anne Berry
following is an assessment of the proposed WestStone Development Building Height on behalf of our Save White Rock community. We have been waiting for you to respond to our simple 5-point clarification of basic data for the review for quite some time. We assume it is not coming, and thus have reviewed it based on the City’s applicable bylaws and procedures and made the following comments. It took us quite a bit of time to find, and then review, the validity of the presented information. We wish to say though that we do not expect the Planning Department to spend that much time to review each application. We understand that applications are submitted by registered professionals to provide a degree of accuracy; nevertheless errors do happen.
1.There was no certified (or uncertified) topographic survey provided as part of the Public Information Package presented on 24 July 2023. Inadvertently though, we found enough existing ground elevations/contours on the Tree Protection and Removal Plan in the Arborist Report. That enabled us to determine the Average Natural Grade (ANG). Refer to Exhibit A.
2.We make reference to the PROJECT DATA sheet dated 15 May 2023, as well as the previus PROJECT DATA sheet dated 26 June 2020. Both are for 6-storey versions of this development. The Average Natural Grade (ANG) is identical for both, and determined as 96.66m. Since the length of the current building is slightly shorter, in an area with a drop in elevation because of the a downslope topography, these values should not be identical.
3.In both cases, the ANG is determined using 4 points, at North, East, South and West sides of the building. That determination does not comply with the text definition and the Ilustrated Example provided in the Zoning Bylaw No. 2000. That definition states:
4.8 Building Heights
4.8.1 The height of buildings and structures shall be interpreted as the vertical distance between the highest point of the building or structure and average natural grade, except as indicated for principal buildings in the CR-3 zone. For the purposes of this Bylaw, average natural grade shall be calculated as the average grade, as determined by measuring the natural grade at the midpoints of the walls on all sides of the building or structure, then divided by the number of all sides, as illustrated below using four sides as an example (the sum of 1, 2, 3 & 4, divided by 4 = ANG). Natural grade shall be determined by a registered BC Land Surveyor and shall be determined as the grades prior to any construction or alteration of the land.
We note that the purpose of this definition is to establish the height of a building as an exact numerical value, not as a number of floors. There is no reference to storreys or floors, and their numbers, in the bylaw. Those are left to the architect to “locate” within this vertical distance (i.e. the greater the height of floors, the smaller the number of floors). The emphasis is on how high the building looks like. Assuming that the Building Height shown as 26.42m and 6 floors, that would result in 4.07m (13.35ft) high floors. That would, of course, be unrealistically high since most of the floors in this building are only 3.05m (10ft) high. Often, the floor heights are only 2,70m (9ft) high. The vertical distance between the T/O Roof and T/O Upper Roof (highest point of the building, per the Bylaw) is excluded from the calculations. Yet, it is 5.18m (17ft). With the floors in this building at 3.05m or 3.30m high, that represents 1.55 or 1.70 floors not counted.
4.Both versions of this “6-storey” development are past the first and second reading which requires that the tree locations be surveyed by a BC Land Surveyor. Therefore, we question whether the survey is available. The same goes for the topographical survey for the certification of the Natural Grade by a BC Land Surveyor. It would seem logical that these would be available, since they form the basis for the building’s design. It would be apreciated if you could provide it to us so that we can double-check the existing elevations, etc.
5.The proposed building has 6 sides, not 4 sides. Therefore, we have based our calculations on 6 sides.
Our calculations show:
North side at 99.65m, East side at 97.15m, South side at 92.97m, Southwest Long side at 93.93m, Southwest Short side at 95.55m, West side at 98.18m >>>>Sum = 576.57, >>>>ANG = 96.10m
T/O Roof = 123.08m less>>>>ANG = 96.10m>>>> = 26.98m = Building Height.
(Note: The East side elevation shown in the PROJECT DATA is about 1.2m (4ft) in error, and should be reviewed).
6.Most “habitable” storeys (as opposed to parkades, etc.) of this building have 3.05m (10ft) height. Therefore, 26.98m : 3.05m = 8.85 floors (as a decimal value). Rounded to a whole number, it results in 9 floors.
Similarly, there are two “habitable” storeys in the building that have 3.35m (11ft) height. Therefore, 26.98m : 3.35m = 8.05 floors (as a decimal value). Rounded to a whole number, it results also in 9 floors. Refer to Exhibit A and Exhibit B.
Besides these calculated values, the ADP repeatedly made a point that when a pedestrian looks at the building from the property’s southern limit at Thrift Avenue, it visually ads yet another floor (due to the downslope on Vidal), making it 10 floors in the perception of the public.
This is obviously nowhere near the 6 floors the proposed building according to the Public Information Package represents. Rather, it corresponds closely to the visual rendering shown on the Save White Rock webpage, which shows more than 2 floors above the 6th floor. That is what the public relates to.
7.Other relevant sections of the Zoning Bylaw state:
4. Regulations for Size, Shape and Siting of Building and Structures (a) The principal building for multi-unit residential use, inclusive of elevator shafts, stair housing, and all mechanical equipment, shall not exceed a height of 20.32 metres (66.66 feet).
8.It is worth noting that the Staff seems to have an inconsistency problem applying this bylaw. That goes both for Greg Newman and later for Neethu Syam. Each had a different version of their reasoning, but both were equally wrong. The earlier 6-storey version (2020) was explained to us by Greg Newman, as follows:
Height is measured in the zoning bylaw using an “average natural grade”, further defined in the attachment. In this case, the applicant is proposing a Comprehensive Development (CD) Zone. A CD Zone is a site-specific zone within which maximum height would be designed by the design of the building, if approved. I have attached the elevation drawing of the building and related project data. The data sheet identifies “average natural grade” as 96.66 (above geodetic elevation). The maximum height of the building (to upper surface of roof joists) as shown in the elevation drawing is 118.20m. As such, the maximum height of the building measuring from the “Building Height” is “6 Storey – 25.66m”. This measurement was taken at the southern end of the building where the structure (measured from the natural grade of the land) is more exposed than it would be on the north end of the building where portions of the parkade is designed below grade”.
-The “to upper surface of roof joists” was obviously an incorrect interpretation of the Bylaw. The current (2023) version of the building no longer claims that. But it still does not count the elevator shafts, etc. on the top of the roof, above the upper surface of roof joists. And it should count them.
-”Building Height” is “6 Storey – 25.66m. Should this be the case, it would mean that each storrey would be 4.28m (14ft.) high. It is not, and it does not make sense.
-We are unsure of the meaning of “maximum height would be designed by the design of the building”. It does not make sense to us.
-”This measurement was taken at the southern end of the building where the structure (measured from the natural grade of the land) is more exposed than it would be on the north end of the building where portions of the parkade is designed below grade”. This interpretation of the measurement is a strange compilation that does not seem to have any support in the Bylaw.
Similarly, on 24 October 2023, we received a response from Neethu Syam explaining to one of the members of our team why the proposed building is only 6 storeys high, and no more. Our respose to her email follows below:
We understand that the OCP is an evolving, broad-brush document that covers, as it says in its Introduction “Vision, Guiding Principles, and Goals”. Except for giving a range of building heights (in terms of stories) for certain areas, all other details are governed by the Zoning Bylaws.
You state that “Confusion can arise because of the reference to the OCP’s reference to maximum height in storeys, however, there is no definition for the same in the OCP”.
We do not find any confusion in your above statement; it is clear to us. The interpretation of the Zoning Bylaw as you describe it (or quote from) further in your email is incorrect. We realize that it is taken from Section 4.13.4. That Section states exactly:
“The heights of buildings and structures permitted elsewhere in this Bylaw may be exceeded for: elevator shafts and stair towers that do not provide direct access to the roof; for antennas; for church spires, belfries, and domes; for chimneys; for flag poles”.
You said that the Bylaw takes into account certain projections that are exempt from the building height, and thus do not fall within the storey calculation. Firstly, the Bylaw also only refers to “the heights of buildings and structures in all RS, RE, RI and RT zones”. However, this building is in a CD-68 zone. Secondly, the clear intent of this section is to allow exceptions for structures that are minor in area but significant in height, like antennas, spires, chimneys or flag poles. The two dwelling units, the elevator shafts, stair and mechanical equipment housing, etc. are certainly not minor in area by any measure. Thirdly, the Bylaw excludes elevator shafts and stair towers that provide direct access to the roof, which is the case for this building, as designed. Therefore, the dwelling units, elevator shafts, etc. do count towards the building height calculation, thus constituting an additional floor.
It becomes even more clear considering yet another part of the Bylaw: Regulations for Size, Shape and Siting of Building and Structures (a) The principal building for multi-unit residential use, inclusive of elevator shafts, stair housing, and all mechanical equipment, shall not exceed a height of 20.32 metres (66.66 feet).
Your assertion that “two of the dwelling units have a roof/ceiling height which projects beyond the ceiling height for the remaining units on the same storey and therefore should be exempt from counting them as a storey” has no basis for support in the Zoning Bylaw. The bylaw does not allow it, regardless of your opinion. Taking this logic to the extreme, if not only these but all units would be “double-height” as well, then the entire building would be “double-height. This would result in a rather towering building. Yet, the number of stories would remain the same. Therefore, these two dwelling units do count towards the building height calculation, thus constituting an additional floor.
Similarly, your statement that “this is interpreted as a feature alone, to add some visual rhythm to the overall form and character of the building – this is not an additional floor hence this is not considered a storey” may indeed be how you interpret it. However, there is no basis for it in the Zoning Bylaw. The bylaw is as written; it has no basis for fluid interpretations unless it specifically allows them to be fluid. And it does not.
9.In conclusion, the calculations provided by the architect on behalf of the developer are incorrect. Since this is a fundamental information for the viability of this development, any further processing of this proposal should be stopped.The Council should be informed that the application does not comply with the OCP, and as such, it should be rejected, and sent back to the applicant.
Encl. Exhibits A, B, C
The Save White Rock Team
On behalf of concerned citizens of White Rock