2924 Venables Street – Alice Saunders House
Similar to my recent flight to attend a family member’s funeral, I had a window seat on my way to this open house. As a result, I knew that Darren and I’s prediction that the Vancouver Tenants Union would protest this event were accurate, as I could see their sign-carrying members walking up Hastings Street. I know virtually nothing about the project they were coming from, but their signs that called for homes, not condos felt out of place here.
It is almost unfair to describe this as a “demoviction” considering how much care has gone into the welfare of these elderly residents. Not only have they been found replacement homes, but all have been guaranteed a right to return to live in the new building. In fact, this plan far exceeds Vancouver’s recently expanded Tenant Protection and Relocation Program, as at no point will these individuals be forced to pay more than do presently for rent.
Nonetheless, when these activists were led into the room by Councillor Jean Swanson, many stayed on message. Admittedly, I do not know what more could been done to satisfy these voices, but their actions were nothing less than respectful. This represented the tone of the entire evening, as I never heard any raised voices among the nearly 100 attendees, even after the coffee ran out. Though there were some who wanted to see more height here, and retail spaces added along Renfrew Street.
Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen given the opposition to a similar application a couple blocks to the north. While that rental proposal was eventually approved at city council, it was only after the community successfully advocated for the elimination of all of its retail space, and a reduction of about 20, 000 sq. ft. in floor area. This precedence has ultimately limited this non-market building, as, despite reaching 6 floors, it has a similar FSR of 2.21.
The effects of that decision are immediately noticeable from the south, as much of the building has been carved away to retain the existing courtyard space. Which is fortunate, as the new residences will not only house low income senior’s but families too. With outdoor amenities, green space, and urban agriculture, this will become an important area were the young can learn from their elders, and the later can enjoy the sounds of youthful laughter.
However, people also need privacy, which makes the lack of space between some of the balconies concerning. Similarly, others wanted to see at least one provided for every home. Perhaps this was related to the criticism about the size of the three bedroom residences, as their floor area is the same as those with two bedrooms. There might be an easy way to resolve these issues, but I doubt city staff will consider it without strong public support.
Which is surprising, as allowing for more height along Renfrew Street would likely not have much of an impact. With a block of stores hidden behind a heavily tree-covered side street to the north, an eight storey building could easily blend in quite well. Plus, there is some justification to allow it, as the 15 year old Hastings-Sunrise Community Vision noted strong support for the creation of new senior’s housing (pg 41).
It also acknowledged that generally, old buildings eventually need to be replaced, as no amount of upkeep can keep pace with the needs of an ageing population. Yet that document never addressed what heights should be allowed on CD-1 sites like this one, but it did call for plenty of consultation (pg 30). After all, one thing that never changes is how valuable your input can be, so before October 22nd, 2019, make sure to either send your thoughts to Melanie Belanger-Finn at email@example.com, or simply fill in this questionnaire.
Applicant Team Information:
Developer – Brightside Community Homes Foundation