February 11th 2021 Public Hearing – Moderate Income Rental Homes Face Danger In Vancouver’s Quiet Place While A Landmark Rises From the Ashes

Public Hearing – February 11th, 2021

Update 03/03/2021 – After several nights of hearing from public speakers on Item #3, city council will finally decide its fate on March 4th at a back up meeting set to start at 3pm. Items #1 and #2 have already been approved.

It’s odd to write about a public hearing where several city councillors have already made quite clear they have no interest in what you have to say. I don’t mean Hannah or I specifically, rather every Vancouverite, as a couple of our elected officials voted against even listening to the general public on two of these items. Councilor Hardwick was the lone vote against the referral of Item #1, a social housing project near Commercial Drive that isn’t even the tallest structure in the area.

Unlike city staff, apparently she feels strata homes, and those that are non-profit, should be forced to compete as equals under the same rules. The Grandview Woodland Community Plan, which some continue to dedicatedly protest, recognizes that’s unviable, and allows the latter a little extra height to compensate. After all, it’s far better to keep people housed, as any resident living in Strathcona can attest to, whether they’re securely housed or living in a tent city.

The closer of shelters due to the pandemic has caused a schism in this community, as both sides live with mistrust and fear. So, there’s a chance there may be some opposition to a new mixed housing, and shelter proposal that sits opposite to the Raymur strata shipping containers. That said, even adding housing for households with moderate incomes in Kitsilano has proven controversial in the past, and that history looks set to be repeated with Item #3.

Despite city staff conceding to many of their demands with cutbacks to this structure that could be found on any major street in Vancouver, already nearly 90 letters (1, 2, 3) have been submitted that oppose it. That doesn’t include an internet petition, nor Councillor Hardwick, or Councillor Kirby-Yung, who refused to hear any other opinion about this concept after the opponents submitted an alternative design. Given that, it’s easy to see how your opinion may swing the remaining councillors into either supporting or finishing it off.

Backlash Expectations

Item #1 – 1766 Frances StreetModerate
Some are upset about the extra height needed to make this social housing viable, and growth in general

Item #2 – 1015 E Hastings StreetLow
Nearby tent cities have been a source of anxiety, but these homes promise stability

Item #3 – 3084 W 4th Ave & 2010 Balaclava StVery High
Most of their requested cutbacks have been met, but dozens of letters now demand even more

The First Item – 1766 Frances Street – Moderate

What is it?:
This nine floor building will provide 84 non-market homes that will be constructed from Mass Timber, and achieve Passive House environmental standards. A 20 space licensed before and after school care program is also included (pg. 10).

Where is it?:
Here, it will replace a four floor fire-damaged structure that sits between Commercial Drive, and the 30 year old, 12 story Panorma Gardens, in an area that allows for six floor strata buildings (pg. 91).

What will it contribute to the community?:
In addition to the childcare program, a legal agreement will ensure these homes are used for social housing for at least the next 60 years, or the life of the building, whichever is longer (pg. 17).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Its appearance will be slightly muted, as city staff are requiring a lighter tone at the upper floors (pg. 21). Other alterations are largely based on the Urban Design Panel’s comments, as the outdoor amenities will be enlarged, and the seventh floor’s children’s playspace will be relocated to the south (pg. 23).

What was the open house like?:
387 pieces of feedback were received, with 129 comments submitted through the Shape Your City site that were mostly in support (pg. 41). In contrast, the city-led virtual open house was dominated by concerns over street parking availability, and a desire to revisit the community plan. You can view all the questions from that event here.

What are its strengths?:
Aside from its sustainable design, and focus on families, it will also create badly needed homes in a neighbourhood where only 6 of every 1,000 rental homes are vacant (pg. 12). The First Nation’s artwork is very attractive, and so is the design of the amenity areas.

What are its weaknesses?:
Despite expressing their support for the proposal, the Urban Design Panel worried the outdoor amenity areas were a little small.

What is the opposition like?:
There are some who regularly urge city council to undo the local community plan, but a few still seem shaken from the 2017 fire. Councillor Hardwick’s refusal to even consider this issu, seems to indicate she sides with the former, leading to one opponent of this proposal to praise her as Vancouver’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg (pg. 1).

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak by phone here.

The Second Item – 1015 E Hastings Street – Low

What is it?:
This proposal would create 85 non-market, and 53 market-rate rental homes, in addition to 25 transitional housing spaces, and an 80 bed shelter with supportive services. There will also be a social enterprise space, a DIY bike repair amenity, a cafe, and space to store canoes for cultural purposes.

Where is it?:
Here, on an empty lot bordered by the Hastings Viaduct and the Burrard Inlet Line, which separates it from The Raymour strata building known for its shipping container appearance.

What will it contribute to the community?:
It might come as a surprise, but even shelters, and social enterprise spaces must pay Development Cost Levies (pg. 21). As a result, there will also be a total payment of $1.3 million to the city (pg. 69).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
City staff have included conditions of approval that aspire to make this design become more of a landmark in the area (pg. 29). The Urban Design Panel’s desire for more landscaping along Hasting Street, and to provide more prominent entryways, have been included as requirements as well (pg. 30).

What were the open houses like?:
Although the in-person applicant-led event was cancelled due to physical distancing regulations, an online event drew 15 comments (pg. 3). A further 51 comments were submitted during the city-led virtual event, with slightly more opposed than in support (pg. 57). Only a few questions were asked, and you can view them here.

What are its strengths?:
Like Item #1, the type of housing provided is very commendable. The rooftop amenities are simply outstanding, and respectfully reflect the area’s historic First Nations presence. Furthermore, its elegant but simple appearance stands apart from its neighbours very prominent look.

What are its weaknesses?:
The need to protect against a disastrous rail accident with a wide setback and crash wall makes the Raymur side of the building seem unfriendly. The same can also be said about the laneway, which feels more like the industrial areas to the north and east.

What is the opposition like?:
The reduced capacity of shelters due to the pandemic, and the resulting tent cities, have caused a lot of fear in this community, and is fueling concerns about this proposal. There are also those who worry how this could affect their investment homes, and efforts to restore the neighbourhood’s heritage look (pg. 7).

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak by phone here.

The Third Item – 3084 West 4th Avenue and 2010 Balaclava Street

What is it?:
It’s a six floor building on an arterial road, fairly typical for Vancouver. However, under the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program eight of these 35 rental homes will be rented at rates affordable to households earning $30,000 – $80,000 a year.

Where is it?:
Here, roughly halfway between McBride and Tatlow Parks. Those who prefer to snack are probably more familiar with the The Naam, Chewie’s, or Sazon, who’s proprietor supports this proposal.

What will it contribute to the community?:
It will contribute ~$220,000 in Development Cost Levies (pg. 63). Parents of children at the upgraded General Gordon Elementary, and the soon to be rebuilt Bayview Elementary, might be happier that their children’s teachers will be able to afford to live nearby.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Public feedback has led to several alterations (pg. 4), including a lightening of the colour scheme, enhancements to the landscaping including a bigger amenity, and reexamining the window placement to provide more privacy.

What were the open houses like?:
The pre-application event was dominated by those opposed to the Broadway Subway Line, and structures taller than 3 1/2 floors. This included a founding member of We Love Kits, who hated the thought of having to look at this building while watering their lawn.

120 people (pg. 49) attended the city-led meeting which was held on the same day restrictions on public gatherings were announced. Though one opposition activist manned a table for the entirety of this four hour long event, several supportive voices left after finding out it would be years before they would be able to rent one of these homes.

What are its strengths?:
The retention of several large trees likely came at high fiscal cost, but the rents of the MIRHPP homes will remain affordable as they will be tied to the unit, and not the tenant. Up until now, public comments have helped shaped this design, and their feedback as well as the Urban Design Panel’s requests, will be implemented as conditions of approval (pg. 23).

What are its weaknesses?:
It might be improved by the condition to locate the garbage bins either underground, or within the building (pg. 25), but currently the laneway feels a little harsh. As the local family who have rented these homes since 1971 (pg. 1) can no longer afford their upkeep (pg. 5), there will be some displacement, but residents will receive compensation under the Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy.

What is the opposition like?:
They’re very experienced, as some have opposed everything from Sen̓áḵw, four floor buildings, duplexes, and even neighbourhood grocery stores for decades. Like their previous efforts, they’ve had success here, as city staff have granted most of their demands, including lowering the overall height (pg. 23). Despite this, they’re still passionately urging city council to reject these homes.

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak by phone here.

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