Kitsilano’s Locally Grown Moderate Income Rental Homes Draw An Otherworldly Reception

3084 West 4th Avenue and 2010 Balaclava Street
The furor over a recently approved rental housing proposal in Kitsilano clearly demonstrated the area’s various resident associations are among the best organized in our city. That was not news to us, as Darren and I have witnessed numerous times before, including at the pre-application open house for this proposal under the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program. Still, it speaks volumes they successfully lobbied the city to extend this 3 hour event into one that lasted over 4 hours.

The strength of their activism did not end there, as the quality of the display boards at their protest table left some professionals confused as to whether it was an official city presentation. That said, this night was far from ordinary, as a thick tension hung in the air of the H.R. MacMillian Space Centre. We are used to the atmosphere that comes with a room full of angry people, but this was unlike anything we had seen previously.

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As this was the day restrictions on public gatherings were announced, the sense of anxiety was understandable, with city staff equipped with gloves and a container of wet wipes. I think, like me, everyone was also apprehensive this lobby would fill with people once a separate session for the Secured Rental Policy ended at 7pm. We did not attend that meeting at the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, but we overheard complaints it had drawn over 400 individuals.

This was not caused by a demand for toilet paper, as the resulting long lines were due to the venue’s fire code capacity. Apparently, this turnout was driven by rumours that the city is secretly planning to permit six floor buildings throughout this entire neighbourhood. While it is true some blocks could allow for four stories, with up to six on arterial roads, the rest is fantasy, but some remained convinced these rental homes were part of a larger agenda.

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In truth, this is a locally-grown proposal, as those responsible for it are not a faceless corporation, but are instead long-term residents of Kitsilano. The Miller Family has rented out these duplexes since the 1971 (pg 1), but claim the cost of maintaining them has grown too high (pg 5). Rather than develop them into a four storey building with strata homes, they have taken the risk that comes with building rental housing as they wanted to invest in their community’s future.

They have also tried to address their neighbour’s concerns, with several changes to their original plan (pg 4). The most noticeable is the colour has been softened, but I am sure residents, both new and old, will appreciate the added privacy which will come from shifting some of the windows. However, we were most pleased that the amenity space has been significantly increased, as it was one of our biggest concerns. Which goes to show that one’s feedback can have real effects.

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Several of the night’s over 100 attendees failed to realize that, as they left after learning it may be years before they can rent a home here, as city council needs to approve them first. That process may take longer than normal, as Urban Design Panel reviews have been cancelled until June due to physical distancing requirements. Of course, if We Love Kits, the group formed to oppose these homes has their way, that delay will be permanent.

Though their interest now includes a housing proposal in Squamish, their primary concern remains this “significantly over-height and oversized six storey, 32 unit [sic] residential rental tower.” That description is a matter of opinion, but it is disturbing to others mislead with false claims these 35 homes will shadow properties north of 4th Avenue. Nonetheless everyone deserves to be heard, and as you have seen your thoughts can make a real difference, but only if you express them here.

You can view all of our photos from the open house here on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Peter & Naomi Miller (pg 1)
ArchitectsEKISTICS Architecture Inc.
Landscape Architects – PMG Landscape Architects

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