“We Can’t Let These People Take Over Our Neighbourhood!” Opponents of New Kitsilano Housing Plan a Tidal Wave of Opposition.

Making Room Housing ProgramKitsilano Zoning Changes
After a quick stop by city hall to pick up Darren from a very short UDP meeting, we made our way down to Kitsilano to learn more about the biggest changes proposed for the neighbourhood since 1994. We were surprised to learn that many of the proposed changes to Kitsilano’s RT 7 and RT 8 areas (residential two family) are already allowed in the city RS (Residential Single Family) zoned neighbourhoods. In fact, even laneway homes, which have been allowed in RS zones since 2013, are not currently allowed in these areas of Kitsilano.

Still, this does not compare to the shocking comments we heard from a couple leaving the event, who remarked they would fight this policy as “we can’t let these people take over our neighbourhood.” We are not sure who they were referring to, but we feel it is safe to assume it was not the existing neighbourhood residents who had set up a table in front of the only entrance to the event.

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These members of the West Kitsilano Residents Association were handing out their own information and feedback forms (posted here), which queried attendees over what aspects of this new policy concerned them. The questions posed focused primarily on impacts to existing residents, focused on how the new homes would impact their privacy, amount of sunlight, green space, and the amount of parking available. There was even a concern that new homes may be several feet closer to the road, resulting in the size of the front yard no longer being standardized.

These notices did raise a point that, in order for home owners to take advantage of these new policy options, they would first have to upgrade their existing homes to modern building codes, and include fire sprinkler systems. This was the only time renters were mentioned, as home owners would potentially have to evict their basement tenants from their “affordable” suites. Honestly, with the recent fires in Vancouver that have resulted in tragic loss of life, we think these extra costs are reasonable. Still, this concern about renters seemed more like lip service, as the section pointing to alarm about the lack of neighbourhood control over new designs was almost double in size.

While the residents association was advising people that the city had run out of feedback forms and it was better to fill out their survey, we still went into the event and learned this was a half truth. As over 200 people had attended the event, the city had run out of feedback forms, but were in the process of printing new ones. Sure enough, long before we left another large stack of forms were clearly available.

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It is a good thing others avoided the advice from the crowd outside, as there were a fair number of people booking one-on-one appointments with the city. They appeared eager to learn how to take advantage of these new policies so they might cash in on the value of their property, while others wanted to provide better housing options for their children. Unfortunately for these residents, the available times for these meetings seemed to fill up rather fast. Also, most will be limited to building a simple lane-way home, as only 10% of Kitsilano will be zoned to allow for fourplexes.

Still, this seemed too much for many attendees, as there were plenty of individuals screaming their opposition at various city staffers. One person was easy to hear above the entire room, as they howled it was unfair to label these areas as single family and two family zones, as many residents had adult children, and even grandchildren, still living in their family home. While Darren and I care for our parents, we certainly would not want to be in a situation where we were forced to live in our childhood bedroom because there was no other housing options available to us.

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It is hard to tell if these views represented the majority of attendees, but they were certainly the loudest and, based on their info sheets, we assume they reflect the values of the residents association. Some of these individuals openly discussed their plans for the public hearing on September 18th, the date these policy changes would be heard. They promised to do their best to raise a tidal of opposition, and talked of how they would strongly urge their friends and neighbours to come out. Anyone too shy to speak would be instructed to quote a few passages from a recent Vancouver Sun column, which labelled these small changes as a “chainsaw massacre.” They were certain they could get the numbers needed to defeat this small increase of housing in Kitsilano.

Maybe they are right; there are some councillors standing for re-election, and even retiring politicians want to secure a positive legacy, so it really is up to all Vancouverites to speak up and decide what the city, and Kistilano, should be in the future. So, whether you agree with these changes or oppose them, we urge you to write to makingroom@vancouver.ca or, even register to speak at the September 18th meeting. Do not worry though, we will not guilt you into it.

Note : The boards from the event have already been made available online, and can be found here.

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