July 6th, 2021 Public Hearing – Decades Old Fears Threaten West End Community Pride While East Van Rental Homes Undergo A Green Revolution

Public Hearing – July 6th, 2021

I think Hannah would laugh at anyone that would call me an optimist, but I do believe that though the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends towards justice. Lately, there are many reasons to doubt that, as last month a small addition to a public school triggered roughly seven hours of vitriol (credit to the live tweeters). Fortunately, our expectation is this event will show that time can breed understanding, and allow most wounds to heal.

After all, a decade ago the Cambie Corridor plan left single-family homeowners fuming, yet today the townhouses in Item #2 barely merit mention. Item #4 is similarly a more procedural matter, as it corrects some spelling, and similar errors in a few bylaws. That doesn’t mean one can just sit back and let things happen, which is why Item #1 adjusts the fees the city charges developers to reflect the rate of inflation.

It probably won’t draw any attention either, but Item #3 demonstrates why that’s significant . That’s because this modest strata building near the largely vacant Little Mountain Lands will actually help fund the rebirth of social housing there. Some will argue Item #5 shows things are getting worse, as we’re aware of a petition that was circulating against this West End proposal over fears about who could live here.

The stigma against victims of the forgotten pandemic has passed, yet the efforts of QMUNITY shows how a better understanding can grow acceptance. Item #6 is a perfect example of that, as six year ago a similar six floor rental project across the street faced dozens of opposition letters (pg 34), yet today the response has been far more welcoming. That said, one local group is upset its name doesn’t reflect its location on an arterial road, so while we’re grateful the weather has cooled down, there may be heated days to come.



Backlash Expectations

Item #3 – 5107-5119 Main St & 196 E 35th AveVery Low
As this scale is common to the area, there’s been virtually no interest of any kind

Item #5 – 1190 Burrard StLow
Fear can drive people to do funny things, but it has subsided since the 1980s

Item #6 – 1405 E 15th Ave & 3047-3071 Maddams StModerate
Will the dozens who opposed a similar building across the street in 2014 return? We doubt it

The Third Item – 5107-5119 Main St & 196 E 35th Ave – Very Low

What is it?:
This six floor building will provide 37 strata homes under the Little Mountain Adjacent Area Rezoning Policy.

Where is it?:
Here, in an area perfect for families, as the nearby General Brock Elementary School is under capacity (pg 4), and Innocent Ice Cream, as well as Queen Elizabeth Park are just a short walk away. As the policy name reveals, it’s next to, but not part of, the Little Mountain social housing lands.

What will it contribute to the community?:
It will pay ~$520,000 that will be used to fund new social housing on the Little Mountain Site, and an additional ~$715,000 in levies used to improve services across the city (pg 10).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
This form is pretty standard in this area, so there hasn’t been much, aside from a requirement from city staff to improve the “playfulness” of the mid-block connection (pg 15).

What was the open house like?:
Of the 1,500 household notified about this virtual event, less than 0.1% submitted feedback (pg 28). The only question, which you can view here, expressed concern that these future homeowners would increase the crime rate, and traffic congestion.

What are its strengths?:
It exceeds the amount of family-sized homes required by city policy, and provides a large rooftop children’s play area too. With similar size buildings on the lots around it, this one is hardly out of place.

What are its weaknesses?:
The policy leaves it up to the applicant, but Hannah and I believe retail stores, restaurants, or even live-work homes would have been a better fit on Main Street.

What is the opposition like?:
So far it consists of three people (pg 28) who seem rather confused, as they fear this modest density will overload the nearby under-capacity schools, and local amenities like the Hillcrest Community Centre (pg 29).

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

The Fifth Item – 1190 Burrard St – Low

What is it?:
This 17 floor building will be constructed from mass timber, reach passive house standards, and include a ~13,500 sqft social service. While that will be occupied by QMUNITY, the non-profit McLaren Housing Society will operate the 117 social housing apartments.

Where is it?:
Here, on a lot that, until recently, was occupied by a payday loan store. It’s across from St Paul’s Hospital, and the development planned at the Davie Village Community Gardens.

What will it contribute to the community?:
The city couldn’t quantify the benefit QMUNITY provides to the West End, however the value of the social housing has been estimated at roughly three million dollars (pg 15). A further ~$80,000 will be paid in city-wide improvement fees.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
As public comments have expressed fear over these added homes, city staff are requiring further crime prevention measures (pg 24). As requested by the Urban Design Panel, they’ve also provided instructions to better highlight the entrance to QMUNITY’s space, and to “terminate the top of the tower” through various design methods (pg 21).

What was the open house like?:
Over 60 people joined Hannah at this event, but I wasn’t among them as I had a prior commitment. According to her, most were curious to learn more, with a few who feared these homes could threaten the community’s safety, and were gathering signatures for a petition that has yet to materialize.

What are its strengths?:
The dichroic film in the glass speaks to the West End’s character, which benefits from QMUNITY’s expanded presence. The mass timber construction will speed up the process, allowing those overcoming the misinformation around living with HIV / AIDS to find stable homes sooner.

What are its weaknesses?:
The monochrome look of the tower is rather uninspired, and it’s a shame the Charleson Seawall view cone prevents a rooftop amenity, as even an extensive green roof would be better than nothing.

What is the opposition like?:
They’re largely driven by the belief that there’s too much below-market housing in the immediate area already, and fear it’s leading to more crime and lower property values (pg 48). That said, based on Hannah’s experience at the open house, it seems some still fear living near victims of the forgotten pandemic.

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

The Sixth Item – 1405 E 15th Ave & 3407-3701 Maddams St – Moderate

What is it?:
This six floor building will provide 82 rental homes, and is coming under the Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning Policy.

Where is it?:
Here, stuck between Clark Park, and Knight Street, as well as a similar building to the south which was approved in 2014.

What will it contribute to the community?:
~$250,000 will be paid to support the growth of the childcare facilities in the neighbourhood, like the 37 spaces planned at Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House (pg 17). There will also be ~$1.45 million in levies to improve city-wide services (pg 16).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
With such strong community support, city staff have allowed some modest increases that have resulted in a more environmentally sustainable building that includes three more homes (pg 6). In addition, they’re requiring some shaded space to be provided on the rooftop amenity (pg 23), while ensuring no shadows are cast on Clark Park (pg 22).

What was the open house like?:
While I was watching the Urban Design Panel, over 60 people (pg 14) joined Hannah at the applicant-led event last February, most of who were young professionals that strongly supported these homes. The city’s virtual open house last Fall drew a slightly larger turnout, nonetheless over 90% were supportive (pg 45).

What are its strengths?:
A lot of care has gone into preserving the existing large trees on this property, and Hannah really likes the wooden front door, and green highlights on the roof.

What are its weaknesses?:
It’s not really in the realm of this proposal, but I can’t help but be concerned about the blind connection between Knight Street, and the city’s own laneway.

What is the opposition like?:
Some refuse to believe Vancouver has a shortage of rental housing, and are philosophically opposed to creating more. Their numbers have fallen, as this time over 100 people have written in to support (pg 45), rather than oppose this project, however we’re not sure whether its changed the mind those who spoke to city council (pg 5). That said, there has been a last minute push by a local residents group who believe proposals like this must have an arterial street address.

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

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