July 18th Public Hearing – Vancouver’s West Side Rages Against New Housing. In Arbutus, Some Label Future Neighbours As Squatters and Demand Compensation. Others in Marpole Fear Condos Will Cause Fires.

While yesterday’s Public Hearing was a breath of civility, tonight’s meeting is set to plunge Vancouver into a depth of depravity rarely seen in council chambers. Families across the city should be set to rejoice as council considers amendments to speed up the approval process of laneway homes, while also easing height restrictions to make them more livable.

Meanwhile in Marpole, a well designed 3 building strata proposal will nearly complete the rezoning of an entire city block. On a lighter note, neighbours of a Dunbar private school worry its expansion will result in heavy traffic congestion. The last item could last hours, as the neighbourhood is bitterly opposed to an addition of any new housing to a shopping centre, and may very well showcase some of the worst opinions in Vancouver.

Backlash Expectations
Laneway Home Regulations – High, Two neighbourhood association are strongly opposed
988 West 64th Avenue & 8030-8130 Oak Street – Low, Based on previous rezoning on the block
4175 West 29th Avenue (St George’s Senior School) – Low, Fears of carmagedon in West Dunbar
2133 Nanton Avenue & 4189 Yew Street (Arbutus Centre) – Very, Very High, Some of the worst comments we’ve ever seen

The Second Item – Laneway Home Regulations

Laneway House Locations.JPG

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What is it?:
An amendment to the laneway homes policy to permit larger, more livable homes. In addition, proposals will no longer to be reviewed by a board, but can be approved of by staff, like most other buildings.

Where is it?:
Anywhere that laneway homes are currently permitted.

What was the open house like?:
There were several consultations held for those that own laneway homes, those who live in them, and for people in the industry. As we don’t meet any of those criteria, we were unable to take part. Roughly 75% of occupants felt that the biggest benefit was that it allowed them to have their own space, eg. that it was more private than a basement suite. Additionally, 45% felt that the biggest problem with laneway homes is that they are too small. Meanwhile, 55% of homeowners felt that their experience in building laneway home would have been improved with a more streamlined approval process. More than 41% of the homeowners surveyed had an annual income higher than $100,000 dollars.

What are its strengths?:
This amendment will address the concerns expressed at the workshops. It will permit larger laneway homes, which will allow for/ more space and better layouts. Tall people will actually be able to use their second floors. It also simplifies the application process.

What are its weaknesses?:
In our view, there are none. It simply improves upon on an existing policy.

What is the opposition like?:
Perhaps confused, as many are complaining that this will eliminate rental housing. In reality, home owners are still free to rent out their laneway properties. Both the Upper Kitsilano and West Point Grey Residents Associations appear to be against incentivizing more of the homes, and making them more livable.

The Third Item – 988 West 64th Avenue & 8030-8130 Oak Street

IMG_2197

What is it?:
A trio of 6 floor buildings that will provide 130 strata homes.

Where is it?:
On the corner of 64th Ave and Oak St, just north of the small retail node at Oak and 67th Ave.

What was the open house like?:
Uneventful, people were curious, and mostly supportive. 9 pieces of feedback were submitted, and the only concerns expressed were about traffic, and the need for more housing.

What are its strengths?:
The architecture is stunning, the courtyards are very usable, and the staggering of the buildings’ massing provides more privacy for these homes. The amount of bike parking is appropriate, as the site is forced to provide a set back for a future bike lane extension. There is also a fair amount of family-sized homes proposed.

What are its weaknesses?:
151 parking stalls for 130 homes feels excessive for this location.

What is the opposition like?:
Almost entirely from one neighbour, who opposed a previous rezoning on the block. Apparently they have a serious fear of matches and other objects falling / being thrown from 6 floor buildings.

The Fourth Item – 4175 West 29th Avenue (St George’s Senior School)

St George's School.JPG

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What is it?:
An expansion to a private school, including more boarding rooms.

Where is it?:
Located in an area that could be described as the Dunbar Peninsula, as it’s bordered on three sides by Pacific Spirit Regional Park.

Is this the first version?:
No, the proposal has been revised at least three times, once in 2014, then in 2017, and now in 2018.

What was the open house like?:
There were two events held, one in 2014 and the other in 2017. We didn’t attend either event. Private Schools are not something we’re interested in, though we were tempted to see what the school looked like inside.

What are its strengths?:
It provides more school space for those fortunate enough to afford it. It likely offers many more benefits, but it’s not something we care to spend time looking into.

What are its weaknesses?:
There’s many people that can’t afford the tuition/fees. There may be others faults, but again we simply aren’t interested in the proposal.

What is the opposition like?:
Unsurprisingly, it’s not affordability that is the concern of this affluent neighbourhood, rather it’s just frustration over a new development. People feel entitled to views of the school yard, fear that a bigger school will result in traffic “going crazy,” and are worried that the neighbourhood will experience an increase in crime, for example, students smoking pot. Others expressed that they paid a fortune to live in the neighbourhood and didn’t want a density of .7 FSR and transient boarding school beds to be packed into the neighbourhood by city staff.

The Fifth Item – 2133 Nanton Avenue & 4189 Yew Street (Arbutus Centre)

IMG_1212

What is it?:
An increase of 100 thousand sqft to the amount of housing already permitted at this old shopping mall. 20% of the floor space will be used to provide non-market housing, providing no less than 25 homes, owned by the city.

Where is it?:
In the Arbutus Towncenter (Arbutus Village), at the aptly named Arbutus Centre Mall.

What was the open house like?:
While we regret it now, we didn’t go. 156 people attended the event, and there were roughly 134 pieces of feedback. The comments were toxic, and we can’t imagine what the event was like. While some raised typical objections to the height, density, or the idea of adding any new housing in Arbutus, other comments are just cruel. Some felt that social housing didn’t belong in the Arbutus neighbourhood, others took it further expressing that “rental housing is a threat to safety that puts seniors at risk.” Another simply demanded “the developer should compensate residents for confiscating their ambiance.”

What are its strengths?:
It’s rental and non-market housing in Arbutus, a neighbourhood that badly needs more. There will be a seniors daycare centre provided, as well as a recreation room for the Arbutus Village community. The changes really aren’t that large, and are still smaller in scope than the applicants original vision.

What are its weaknesses?:
The UDP expressed some slight concerns, including one about the building casting shadows on a neighbourhood park. Still, city staff appear to have resolved those issues in the conditions for approval. While some might express concern about the impacts on views from Quilchena Park, the North Shore Mountains are still clearly visible.

What is the opposition like?:
Honestly, it is some of the worst we’ve ever seen. There’s been plenty of misinformation spread, claiming that there was support for the previous application, that non-market housing is no longer being supplied, and about almost anything you can imagine. The opposition dates back to before 2010, when it opposed any new housing here. Only in 2011 was there an offer to “compromise” and accept about 200 homes, by that point the applicant had already reduced their offering from 1000 to 500. The letters from the public are mostly polite, but several hint at xenophobia when they mention that, with a national birthrate below replacement levels, these new rental homes will only help “people from outside.”

One comment from the open house best sums up these horrid views “future residents have no existing right to be permitted to live in the neighbourhood, and would impose their presence on existing residents likes squatters.” Frankly, with remarks like these, we imagine many people might now feel ashamed to call Arbutus their home.

How to Have Your Say
If you want to speak in person register here. Otherwise, you can use the instructions below to send your comments to city council: (Note, all personal information, aside from your name and comments, will be redacted by the city clerks).

  • Include your name (anonymous comments aren’t shared with Council).
  • The deadline to send your comments is 15 minutes after the speaker’s list closes.
  • If you send your comments during the meeting, use a maximum of 1,500 words.
  • Comments are posted on the City of Vancouver’s website.
  • Email: publichearing@vancouver.ca
  • Mail: City Clerk’s Office, City of Vancouver, 453 West 12th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4

*If you want to submit a response to council, and need more instructions, let us know, and we’ll do our best to give you some added guidance.

2 thoughts on “July 18th Public Hearing – Vancouver’s West Side Rages Against New Housing. In Arbutus, Some Label Future Neighbours As Squatters and Demand Compensation. Others in Marpole Fear Condos Will Cause Fires.

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