Greater Transparency Urged To Overcome Kitsilano’s Shameful Housing Divisions

2086-2098 W 7th Ave and 2091 W 8th Ave
As yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of our first City Duo post, I think Hannah and I have proven we’re among the most dedicated individuals when it comes to following Vancouver’s urban growth. Yet neither of us would ever force our children to attend an Urban Design Panel meeting, so maybe the residents around the future Arbutus SkyTrain Station are slightly more passionate. Fortunately, these kids were extremely well-behaved, which is more than can be said for some adults.

Certainly it wasn’t these youngsters who flooded Twitter with a combination of false information about this event, as well as attacks on these volunteers. That’s particularly awful as, like usual, all they did was use their expertise and experiences to judge whether this proposal complies with city policy, and fits within the larger community. Then again, it’s not like this reaction was unexpected, given past interactions between supporters and opponents, as well as the ongoing lawsuits against the Broadway SkyTrain.

So with an overflowing room, and over 40 participants watching online, city staff introduced the  Permanent Modular Supportive Housing Initiative (PMSHI) (pg 5) for the second time this day. Like the previous item, that means these homes cannot only be constructed quickly, but they’ll also be able to achieve passive house standards in a cost-effective way. Which is important, as these home are meant for people like the widowed war veteran who lives next door to an architect on the applicant team.

It was his deep shame of living in affordable housing that inspired this design which offers the supportive services people with his traumas need, and also blends into the standards of its existing surroundings. This isn’t an easy task considering the Development Permit Board rejected a nearby strata development last year for failing to meet those guidelines. Granted, that context could be transformed by the Broadway Plan, as it would allow structures between 15 to 25 floors in the immediate area (pg 39).

That led a couple members to ask if this building’s width could be reduced if its height was increased, which proved impossible as city policy prohibits shadowing on Delamont Park. This realization led to a recommendation to consider the extent of the visual screen concealing the rooftop mechanical. One architect questioned why the city was more concerned about a park than a school’s playground, but no one had doubts about whether these homes were suitable for this location.

They hoped this gesture would dampen the opposition to these homes, as reducing the width wasn’t an option since it would jeopardize the internal courtyard. Several panellists used tales of their elderly family to stress the importance of these shared spaces, and wondered if this could be used to provide a better connection to the wider community. Acknowledging the challenges that would pose, they instead recommended design development to the activation of the podium to improve transparency where appropriate.

That said, they appreciated how the brickwork on the three floor social services offices both provided privacy for residents, and related to St Augustine private school. In fact, they were far more concerned about the interaction with the Arbutus Greenway, and suggested that public art or lighting features were needed to help celebrate it. Adding to the burden it’s placed on these non-market homes, they recommended design development to the east facade to provide interest and engagement with the Greenway.

Already a 4.5 meter strip of this site’s eastern edge has been taken to accommodate that long-discussed streetcar route (pg 12), and nobody wanted to further hamper what they considered to be a great project. Unlike the toxicity, and divide demonstrated in the 236 questions at its virtual open house, they unanimously approved a motion to support it. Regardless of how you feel, hopefully their civility inspires you to send your thoughts to the city’s rezoning planner by emailing PMSHI.rezoning@vancouver.ca .

You can view more photos from this meeting here on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Partnership – CMHCBC Housing, & Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency
Architects – Human Studio Architecture and Urban Design Ltd.
Landscape Architects – Hapa Collaborative

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