UBC Okanagan can go ahead with a 'marquee' downtown campus reaching up to 46 storeys

Kelowna city council has thrown its enthusiastic support behind UBC Okanagan's plan for a downtown campus tower up to 46 storeys high.

If ultimately built to that height, it would not only become the tallest building in Kelowna and the tallest between the Lower Mainland and Calgary. Following a public hearing that ran a little more than three hours, council voted 7-1 to approve creation of a specialized comprehensive planning zone, CD28, with only Coun. Charlie Hodge opposed.

"I was absolutely over the hill thrilled when we found out UBC campus had an interest in coming downtown. This huge for our city and hopefully for UBCO, but I had not idea at the time that it would morph into a 46 storey development, " said Hodge who marveled at the look of the building. "I recognize down the road it probably won't seem that odd, it will be part of a developed downtown with highrises everywhere.

"I don't see this being far enough back for 46 storeys and I don't feel the timing is right." About two dozen people, most speaking out against the project, addressed council during Tuesday's public hearing.

Many spoke of safety concerns around the potential for firefighters to properly fight a fire in a 46 storey building. Others spoke about the heat island affect a building of this size would produce and other issues around climate change and the environment, while others questioned UBCO's intentions to utilize the 500 units of housing just for students and staff.

The handful speaking in favour suggested the building would be an incredible opportunity for the city in having a world-class university campus downtown, and a way to help students experiencing the housing crunch in the city.

UBCO principal and deputy vice-chancellor Lesley Cormack said the 500 units of housing would help to alleviate the student housing waiting list at the university, which has grown from 500 to 1,300 over the past two years.

Aubrey Kelly, president of the UBC Properties Trust which is funding the project told council unlike other projects of this kind which receives provincial and federal grant funding, this campus will be solely funded by the university trust.

In defending the need for 46 storeys, much of it for student housing, Kelly agreed they are trying to maximize and monetize the project. "There will be a revenue stream. We're trying to maximize residential revenue as a way to pay off the loan," said Kelly.

"We are pushing the limit." Kelly did admit rents would likely be below market value. He said only students and those involved with the university would be able to rent units within the development. In the summer when enrolment dips, the university says it hopes to rent the units out on four month contracts.

Airbnb-style short-term rentals will not be permitted.

Speaking to the numerous questions about safety within the building, Kelowna Fire Chief Travis Whiting says the fire department was part of the ;process on this application as it is with any building in the city, providing comment on code and building compliance. "Modern highrises are built to a higher standard than previous and have a lot more safety features within them that allow things like egress, smoke control and residential sprinklers that are now mandated and critical in our protection of these types of buildings," said Whiting. "We do have a number of towers in town and we do have plans in place for those buildings and will continue to pre-plan buildings like this to work within these structures.

"These new buildings don't burn the way they did 25 years ago because of the very nature of construction and the ability of fires to be contained to the unit of origin or floor of origin and give us the opportunity to manage those incidents."

In his support of the project, Coun. Luke Stack pointed to the unique nature of the building, saying the intent is to construct a "marquee building" in Kelowna with substantial design features. "We have been encouraging UBCO to come downtown for years. We've been looking for a way to bring students into our inner core and we were so excited when UBC got established but we always believed we needed to have a downtown connection," said Stack. "To finally see a downtown connection is huge for the city. I just wish it was a little less controversial because I actually think this is an amazingly good news story for our city. "It's what we need and what I have been trying to achieve for the many years I've been on council."

Coun. Brad Sieben called it a tremendous opportunity while Coun. Loyal Wooldridge called the project the future of Kelowna.

Mayor Colin Basran added the 46 storey height allowance is an exception, saying he doesn't see the city approving many more of this height.

The decision of council did produce one tense moment when Basran asked one woman to leave the council chambers after she loudly voiced her displeasure with council's comments, saying they are ruining the city.

The Doyle Avenue campus is expected to house more than 350 students within the nursing and social worker programs as well as those within programs around the art gallery. There will also be a few hundred faculty and staff within the campus on a daily basis.

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KELOWNA SPRINGS REVISITED

Kelowna council will revisit a decision to change future land use of golf course to industrial land

A vigorous debate to convert green space into industrial property took centre stage around the city council table Monday afternoon. And, while the debate will continue for at least one more meeting - the long-term fate of Kelowna Springs Golf Course may have already been sealed. At issue for council, at the request of Coun. Luke Stack, was a land use change for the golf course to industrial in the recently adopted 2040 Official Community Plan.

The discussion around the table highlighted two critical needs in the city, more industrial land and the need to protect, and create more green space. And, while council seemed to be unanimous in the need for both, councillors were split almost equally into which should take precedence. Stack led the charge to have staff return with a "viable bylaw" to amend the OCP for the golf course property from industrial to recreational. His motion to that effect passed by a 4-3 vote with councillors DeHart, Singh and Hodge joining Stack while Mayor Basran and councillors Wooldridge and Donn opposed.

Stack, in his lengthy dissertation talked about the cumulative affect the previous or future loss of four other golf courses have had. Central Park where Walmart now sits and Fairview in the Mission which now includes housing and a school have already been lost. Shadow Ridge at the southern end of the airport is now city owned and will eventually be part of an airport expansion while Michaelbrook Ranch has been designated future park in the new OCP.

"One-by-one, they are being converted to other uses," said Stack. "Cumulatively, the loss is significant, and is now to the point that I believe it is negatively affecting the quality of life of our citizens."

He pointed to the most recent citizen survey in which most residents said they had a good quality of life, but more than half say it is getting worse, not better.

Those who sided with staff agreed industrial lands are in short supply and more is needed for a growing city economy. It was also argued that placing employment closer to the people will help reduce the amount of time people spend commuting, thus achieving the city's climate action objectives. "I'm concerned we are going to push industrial into areas that we won't necessarily need when we know this area is connected to all of the servicing that is needed," said Coun. Wooldridge. "It's sad to see green space designated this way, but it can still be used that way (golf course) until a future owner comes forward with rezoning."

Staff also reminded council it was the owners of Kelowna Springs who approached the city about a possible change in land use designation in the new OCP. The owners suggested the golf course may cease operations during the life of the 2040 OCP.

If a bylaw reverting the property to recreational use is adopted by council down the road, it would be forwarded to a public hearing for further discussion.

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$500,000 for Kelowna Airport Terminal

2022 0711 YLW Business and Employmnet

(Kelowna Capital News)

Calling it a “big day” for YLW, provincial Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon has announced $500,000 in funding for the airport terminal building expansion.

The money is coming from B.C.’s mass timber demonstration program.

“This project showcases what is possible when we promote innovation in the construction sector and support the development of mass timber in large infrastructure projects in B.C.,” said Kahlon during a media event at the airport on July 11.

Mayor Colin Basran noted the city expects YLW will continue to see significant increases in air traffic and passenger numbers.

“I’m confident this expansion will address that growth,” said Basran. “Using mass timber for the terminal expansion allows for flexibility for future reconfiguration.”

The airport terminal building expansion project is expected to start in 2023 and will add nearly 8,000 square metres of space. Kahlon also announced an additional $2-million for another intake of the mass timber demonstration program, which begins immediately.

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PAVING OVER GREEN SPACE?

Should Kelowna turn this golf course into industrial land?

A Kelowna city councillor wants to know why more than 100 acres of prime green space has been designated as future industrial land.

Coun. Luke Stack brought forth a motion Monday morning, asking staff to bring back its rationale behind changing the future land use designation of Kelowna Springs Golf Course from P3, parks and open space to industrial. The change could pave the way for the sale of the course to a developer with plans for building an industrial park on the property.

That sale, at last report, was still pending.

"I am fully aware that we need more industrial space and this is contiguous with existing (industrial), so I understand the logic," Stack told Castanet News. "But, this is 106 acres of beautiful golf course that the residents enjoy in the city, and although it is not technically city park green space, most would argue it is a very nice green environment. "I want to make sure that is the right designation as opposed to leaving it as P3, which would be public open recreation space."

Stack says he has heard from some members of the public who are not happy with the pending loss of public golf courses in the city. If Kelowna Springs does eventually sell and shut down, it would join Shadow Ridge, purchased by the city from southern expansion of the airport and Michaelbrook golf course, which is earmarked to become part of the Mission Recreation Complex.

"It is, I think, affecting what people would view as their quality of life in Kelowna as we lose some of these resources."

In the most recent citizen survey, 55 per cent of residents indicated their quality of life is not as good now as it was two or four years ago. Knowing the environment and recreation space needs to be protected, Stack says he doesn't know if the decision regarding future land use was the right one.

Stack says he brought the issue forward after coming across a city-owned golf course in the middle of Burnaby recently.

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Kelowna can choose to grow up smart

I spotted this Letter to the Editor in May 2022. I agree with Dave Crawford, the author. He has captured my perspective on how Kelowna should grow. Thanks Dave!

2022_Smart_Growth_Letter.jpg

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Dear Mayor and Council

Dear Mr. Mayor and Council,

                 We strongly believe that a Community is only as strong as its most vulnerable. The Kelowna Gospel Mission asks you to accept this letter and petition of Gratitude for the immense work, dedication and effort being put forward by you, the Mayor, your incredible council and your planning team. Your “Journey Home” plan is one of the most comprehensive plans we have seen to date. It shows how much work and thought the City of Kelowna has  put into dealing with the complex needs of its most vulnerable citizens.

While we all celebrate Kelowna’s ever growing success and the extraordinary work Mayor Basran has been doing in advocating the complex needs of our most vulnerable with the Urban Mayor’s Caucus. We also recognize that that success can come with road blocks. These obstructions include higher housing and living costs. In addition, strains have been placed on our services and infrastructure, such as healthcare, emergency services and mental health provider needs. The “Journey Home” approach seems to tackle all of the issues with short, medium and long term solutions. This ensures our most vulnerable don’t fall through the cracks.

We the workers whose job it is to care for these people would like to convey our immense gratitude to you and the council. We see, appreciate and admire the efforts you as well as BC housing are making. Your incredible efforts to find us a long term/permanent shelter, and ensure that 60 souls in desperate need are not without a warm bed, food and safety is seen. You have also shown a great deal of  care for all of the 56 incredible individuals that work for and love these marginalized people.

Please continue in your exceptional endeavours and know that we as an organization are here cheering you on, praying and working tirelessly towards mutual success.

Yours Sincerely,

The entire team at Kelowna Gospel Mission

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New Kelowna homes will need EV charging outlet

Kelowna Daily Courier, RON SEYMOUR

Feb 8, 2022

 New homes built in Kelowna will be required to have an energized charging outlet for electric vehicles.

 City councillors on Monday endorsed the idea, presented by staff as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Council heard that requiring new homes - both single-family and parking stalls in multi-family developments - to have energized EV outlets would likely add up to $1,500 to the cost of a new house.

"This will increase the cost of development," Coun Luke Stack said. "That's just one of the realities. "I'm always struggling with something like this," he said. "We want to do something right one way, which is to reduce our greenhouse gases, but it has a negative impact on the cost of housing, which is another thing we're concerned about. "So we're always trying to wriggle down that middle," Stack said.

Going forward, he suggested, the city should seek to allay concerns about the additional cost to housing construction by pointing out what he said were the considerable cost savings that can come with owning an electric vehicle compared to a gas-powered one, "particularly now with the cost of gas going up." Every parking space for a new home would have to be built with a 220 volt to 240 volt outlet to facilitate charging for electric vehicles, council heard. The city predicts that 25,000 new homes will be built in Kelowna between now and 2040.

About 12% of vehicles sold in B.C. last year were zero emission vehicles. More detail on the proposal to require EV-ready outlets in new homes will be brought back to council before the necessary changes are made to city building regulations.

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Land donation paved way for 322 homes for low-income Kelowna residents

    • RON SEYMOUR
    •  Jan 28, 2022 Updated 17 hrs ago

Gordon Ziglar and his wife Helen gifted land worth that much to the Society of Hope housing society more than 25 years ago.

His mom had spent her declining years in a less-than-satisfactory retirement home, and he wanted the society to build a retirement residence with more amenities to keep seniors active and engaged with one another.

 The society used the donation to begin work on a series of housing projects near the south-west corner of Springfield Road and Benvoulin Road.

More than 200 homes already exist in three buildings; the fourth and final one, the groundbreaking for which was held Friday, will be nine storeys with homes for low-income seniors, small families, singles, and people with disabilities.

The provincial government has provided $13 million for the project as part of its housing strategy, the city waived $300,000 in development fees, and CMHC assisted with pre-construction costs.

But Ziglar’s land donation was the catalyst for the entire four-building Apple Valley housing development, says Luke Stack, the Society of Hope’s executive director.

“It was an incredibly generous donation and Gordon took a bit of a chance with our society, because at that point we hadn’t been established for very long,” Stack said in an interview.

“But our size was something of the appeal for him. He thought if he gave the land to a bigger non-profit, he might sort of get squeezed out in the decision-making process in terms of what amenities would eventually be built for people living in the buildings,” Stack said.

 The society was happy to accommodate Ziglar’s requests, such as one that stipulated a bowling alley should be included. Ziglar, who died a few years ago, had pressed for other features in an occasionally forceful way, Stack recalled.
 
“He wasn’t always the easiest guy to deal with, to be honest,” Stack said. “One time, he sent a crew in to start ripping out the furnishings in the bowling alley because he said they weren’t good enough.

“I told him, ‘Gordon, you can’t just come in here and start taking apart the furniture’,” Stack said. “But we worked it out.”

The nine-storey mass timber building now under construction will include a large common area, lounges, a pool room, and fitness areas for activities such as yoga and tai chi.
 
It’s expected to open next year, and will bring the society’s total number of residential units for low-income people in the Central Okanagan to 822.

“Gordon inspired us to go beyond just housing,” Stack said. “That’s what we’ve tried to do.”

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At a housing crossroads

Castanet  - Wayne Moore

Jan 11, 2022

It's no secret- housing unaffordability is a real issue in Kelowna. And the ability to attain housing, be it through purchase or rent, is becoming less and less attainable as the days, months and year roll by. As city council reviewed this year's community trends report, focusing on housing affordability, many pointed to last week's property assessments which jumped a whopping 35 per cent as another sign housing is out of the reach of many in Kelowna.

Coun. Gail Given suggested her adult children not only can't afford to buy a home in Kelowna, they can't afford to rent either.

In presenting the report to council Monday, planner Daniel Sturgeon says prices of all different types of housing in the city are rising faster than income levels which is creating the gap in affordability. He says the gap is only widening costs of purchasing, and renting has increased by as much as 30 per cent in some cases and the increased jump in inflation and the cost of living. "Affordability is a worsening condition, and has real impacts on the ability of people to move about the rental system, to move to Kelowna, and other serious impacts on health and well being of the community," said Sturgeon. "The worse it gets," he says, "the harder it is to address. "And, it impacts renters more significantly because renter households make less than owner households statistically."

 The yearly trends report does not specifically outline solutions, but sets the stage for future actions by identifying local implications of broader national trends. "Housing affordability challenges are severe," planning manager Danielle Noble-Brandt said during a preamble, "affecting not only our most vulnerable, but also middle income earners and families. "Decades in the making, it will not disappear overnight. Without bold changes today, these challenges are certain to persist well into the future." Change, added Sturgeon, will likely be unconventional, such as a different use of zoning and encouraging different types of ownership. "We need to rethink roles and rethink the housing system," he said. "Building a supply that is at an affordable price, what we're calling the right supply at the right price, and the right location is key. "This is a big challenge."

Coun. Luke Stack praised the city's planning department and those who work on housing on a daily basis. Stack suggested the city has taken advantage of pretty much every opportunity made available to it through either senior levels of government, legislation or the private sector. Without those, he shudders to think where the city would be. "When I think of all stuff we've built in the last several years, hundreds of units, I just don't know if we could have built more," said Stack. "I think we're hitting all the right buttons, and we need to keep pushing all of them because they're all needed. "But, the reality is the market forces are so big that we can't out-policy the market."  He says when people are willing to pay 30 per cent more for housing than they were a year ago, it's a market force he says the city can't respond to.

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14 homes and no new land

Castanet, Wayne Moore. Nov 3, 2021

 Several unrelated decisions by Kelowna city council Monday caught the attention of one councillor. Council approved a number of minor two lot subdivisions and one three-storey apartment building that, taken separately, didn't warrant much commentary. But, added together, Coun. Luke Stack said these additions are significant. If all go ahead as planned, he said that will amount to 14 new households within the city without giving up a single square foot of land. 

"Once upon a time, if we were issuing 14 new lots, it wasn't uncommon that they would be a third of an acre so, essentially, we would be using about a five-acre chunk of land to bring 14 new homes into our community," said Stack. "If you're a growing city, you would just chop up another farm, cut out five acres, build a 14-lot subdivision and away you go." However, Monday's series of applications only included building on land presently being used for housing. "In today's series of applications, we're not actually using one extra square foot of land that's isn't already being used for housing. "When you look at our plans for growth as a city, this is quite interesting to see we've got 14 new households, but we're not growing the city land base."

The city has in recent years signalled a shift away from new developments on its outskirts. Earlier this year council rejected a new 680-home subdivision in the Upper Mission in an effort to rein in sprawl.

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