8636-8656 Oak Street
As Hannah and I have never gone to an event at the Coast Vancouver Airport Hotel before, I made my way down to Marine Drive to attend the open house for this simple 6 story rental project, the new “Marpole Special.” As Hannah was still at work and we hoped to attend the event for 1st and Clark later in the night, I went to this open house alone.
Neither of us expected many to turn out, as this proposal falls completely within the Marpole Community Plan. Unfortunately, that 2014 approved plan generally limits neighbourhood growth to replacement of the existing 3 story buildings along the major street corridors. Granted, these new 6 story rental buildings will have more family-friendly homes and more homes overall. Still, Hannah and I feel that we failed our city because, like many, we were aware of the area plan process, but we never took part. From this we’ve learned how important it is for everyone to be involved with the community planning process, as the consequences are far reaching and will stretch out for years.
Still, you can imagine my surprise when I walked into the event and found it packed with people. A city staffer quickly explained to me this wasn’t as bad as it appeared, as only 5 people, including myself, were members of the public. It seems this applicant was new to the process as they must have brought out almost their entire team.
It makes sense that no one would turn out, as it seems the single family home owners of Marpole were happy to see existing renters displaced if it meant their lawns were preserved. Meanwhile, the renters in the area have accepted that they are on borrowed time. Frankly I’m just happy they have some recourse through Vancouver’s strong tenant protection policy.
That said, this isn’t a bad proposal as it’s replacing two end of life buildings with twice as many homes, a third of which will have more than two bedrooms. Though the Marpole Plan requires the proposal to be split into two buildings, which adds development costs, the result is a nice courtyard that is well handled. However, I do wish that rooftop amenities were encouraged instead.
There is room for some improvement. I’m sure that the UDP will recommend that the applicant reorganize the lobby space of the southern building to provide better access to the elevator and hallway. My other view, which might be less popular, would be to eliminate the two existing trees along Oak Street. This would allow the sidewalk to be moved further from the road, which would create a better public realm experience.
My major regret is not about the building, but my own behaviour. Having spent an hour at the event, I was is rush to leave and meet Hannah when I overheard two women talking about how one was now facing eviction. The other wanted to fill out a feedback form and call for more to be done to protect these renters, but decided against it as they didn’t live in the area. I should have taken the time to explain that all Vancouverites are allowed to voice their opinions, and that her voice mattered. Unfortunately I didn’t, and while I regret it now, I can only hope a staff member was able to explain that key point.
It’s important to take part in area planning processes so that renters won’t be cast aside to preserve luxury single family home entitlements. However, in the meantime, all we can do now is provide our feedback to ensure the City protects those who will be displaced today, while they grow the homes of tomorrow.