July 5th, 21st, & 28th 2022 Public Hearings – An International Union Blooms As Parkside Residences Face A Local Blockade

Public Hearing – July 5th, 2022
Update: As the July 5th meeting lost quorum during Item #5, it has been removed from the agenda, and will be forced to start over on July 28th. As for Item #6, it will continue as normal, and begin at 6pm on July 21st.

With the news that the Broadway Commercial Safeway rezoning has been delayed until after October, and the ongoing debate around social housing in Kitsilano, some might overlook this meeting. Which would be a mistake, as it’s rare to see the Vancouver Tenant’s Union band together with well-established multi-million-dollar detached homeowners to fight the creation of a brand new community. Then again, Item #6, the Balfour Block, has never had an easy road, having already seen dozens of its homes eliminated.

Alliances like this have always puzzled Hannah and I, especially since Item #5, a social housing building in Cedar Cottage, isn’t getting much support, aside from the international community. This European-inspired passive house faces a growing level of opposition, unlike the rental homes in Item #4, who’s neighbours have calmed down now that they can benefit from the Secured Rental Policy. That’s something Item #3 knows too well, as its biggest opponent has been a rebuffed property investor.

Item #2 seeks to level this playing field, as city staff have put forward a series of amendments to make the jargon found in various policies more understandable. That’s pretty self-explanatory, as is Item #1 which, after a delay of two weeks, looks to provide the facades of the Hartney Chambers building with a heritage designation. Which goes to show that there’s no project too big or small, where your thoughts won’t be able to make a difference.

Backlash Expectations

Item #3 – 418-496 Alexander St.Very Low
There’s only a lone individual with a fiscal incentive to oppose this proposal.

Item #4 – 3970-3998 Main St.Very Low
The approval of the Secured Rental Policy has calmed those most angered by this.

Item #5 – 2009-2037 Stainsbury Ave. — (Vienna House) – High
These non-market homes have upset some very dedicated gardeners.

Item #6 – 906-982 West 18th Ave. and 907-969 West 19th Ave.Very High
At least they’re not selling t-shirts to oppose these homes, like the did five years ago.

The Third Item – 418-496 Alexander St. – Very Low

What is it?:
This is a 16 floor building with a six story podium that will provide 181 below-market rental homes. Half of those will have two or more bedrooms, and a third of the total will have rents set at no more than $375 a month. It also includes a 37 space daycare, and office space for a non-profit organization.

Where is it?:
Here, a block north of Oppenheimer Park, and across from the historic Vancouver Japanese Language School.

What will it contribute to the community?:
It saves people, and their families, from living on the streets, provides space for childcare, and is certainly cheaper than the cost of leaving people to camp in city parks.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Based on the Urban Design Panel’s feedback, one of these homes may be eliminated to provide a slightly larger amenity space. Measures will also need to be taken to provide more daylight for the daycare, and increased privacy for the adjacent single-family homes (pg 19).

What was the open house like?:
Hannah and I didn’t learn about its applicant-led virtual event until after it happened, but we probably didn’t miss much as there weren’t any questions at the city-led meeting a couple months later.

What are its strengths?:
Aside from the non-market housing, and the daycare, it provides a great looking rooftop amenity in an area that hurts for green space.

What are its weaknesses?:
It’s not exactly the most exciting looking building, which is a pretty minor point in the scheme of things.

What is the opposition like?:
It’s somewhat puzzling, as while the city report notes 12 comment forms were submitted, somehow it counts 38 responses in opposition (pg 41). The property owner next door is probably among them, as they refused to sell their land to this non-profit for anything less than a windfall.

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

-(Source)

The Fourth Item – 3970-3998 Main St. – Very Low

What is it?:
This is a typical six floor rental building that provides 60 homes, and retail stores at the ground level.

Where is it?:
Here, foodies will recognize that it’s a 5-minute walk from Canada’s best restaurant, and families should appreciate that it’s just a ~10-minute trip from two elementary schools, a daycare, and Sir Charles Tupper Sr. School.

What will it contribute to the community?:
At a minimum, it will pay a ~$600,000 levy to finance for civic infrastructure upgrades (pg 13).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Originally, Mid-Main Community Health Centre planned to turn this into social housing, and move twenty blocks to the north. However, something must have gone wrong after they submitted their plans to the city, as this property was sold earlier this year instead.

What was the open house like?:
This virtual meeting was dominated by three users (JIT, jmhimmel, Anersl), who asked 14 of the 34 questions submitted, and were focused on how a six floor building on Main Street could be justified.

What are its strengths?:
It will provide parents with peace of mind, as the local schools are under capacity (pg 4), and 42% of these homes have 2 or more bedrooms. As the Secured Rental Policy now allows for similar-sized rental buildings on all of the surrounding blocks, it shouldn’t have any trouble fitting in either.

What are its weaknesses?:
No one wants a longer commute to see their doctor when they’re sick, though it’s easier to get to Main, and Kingsway than to the Fraser Valley, where Hannah and I have our family doctor.

What is the opposition like?:
There were 60 negative responses submitted (pg 36), but like the questions at the open house, it seems they’ve only come from a couple people who are concerned this will turn Vancouver into Hong Kong.

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

-(Source)

The Fifth Item – 2009-2037 Stainsbury Ave. — (Vienna House) – High

What is it?:
This is a seven floor passive house certified building that was designed in co-operation with the City of Vienna (hence its name). It will include 123 social housing apartments.

Where is it?:
Here, on a piece of city-owned land at the evolving intersection of Stainsbury, and Victoria Dr, that’s a short ~6-minute walk from Trout Lake.

What will it contribute to the community?:
This gives families, and individual who are at risk, or already suffering from, homelessness a home to live in, which has earned it government funding (pg 6), and a waiver of ~$3.2 million in city fees (pg 14).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Since the City of Vienna got involved last year, the amount of living space was increased by 23 thousand square-feet, resulting in the creation of another 18 homes.

What was the open house like?:
Its applicant-led event was cancelled due to the start of the pandemic. At the city-led meeting almost two years later, most were concerned about street parking availability, and shadows on their lawns. That said, two users (Grn, & Chris Flerlage) generated a third of the 68 questions submitted, with the former concluding the area should be “neutralized from future rezoning applications for affordable housing.”

What are its strengths?:
It’s super rare to see any homes with four bedrooms, let alone six of them. They should be quiet too, as the insulation needed to reach passive house standards will mitigate any noise from SkyTrain

What are its weaknesses?:
Even knowing the above, I’m a little apprehensive about whether the sound of SkyTrain cars breaking at the nearby turn could echo into the internal courtyard.

What is the opposition like?:
Naturally, the Cedar Cottage Community Garden members aren’t fans, and neither are several neighbours who feel this European-crafted form is too tall for their neighbourhood (pg 4- 7).

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

The Sixth Item – 906-982 West 18th Ave. and 907-969 West 19th Ave. – Very High

What is it?:
This is the second version of the Balfour Block, which will provide 58 townhomes, 51 strata apartments, and 99 rental homes, with 25 set at below-market rates. A 37-space daycare, as well as a public park will be built, and then transferred to the city as outlined by the Cambie Corridor Plan (pg 161).

Where is it?:
Here, it’s a ten-minute walk away from Vancouver General Hospital, it’s two blocks north of Douglas Park, just west of Heather Park, and right behind the oldest synagogue in Vancouver.

What will it contribute to the community?
The daycare has been valued by city staff as a $5.75 million benefit, with the 6,100 sqft. public park assessed at $200,000. In terms of cash, at least ~$3 million will be paid in levies to improve things likes sewers, and there will be ~$400,000 provided for public art (pg 18).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
The first concept submitted in January 2021 faced strong criticism from the Urban Design Panel, and the neighbourhood. That led to the elimination of 26 townhomes, as well as 6 strata apartments, and 1 rental home, as well as the switch from a linear park, to a more focus spaced in the southeast corner.

What was the open house like?:
The city-led event for the original submission drew 50 questions in March 2021, and changes to the revised design still generated 30 questions at its October meeting. These sentiments are summed up by user “WorriedonWill” who fears this will trigger a wave of development, and “Not Again” who lives across the street, is adamant this will infringe on their right to daylight.

What are its strengths?:
This is a significant improvement upon what was first proposed, which provides some pretty great benefits to the community, and offers a breadth of housing for many income levels.

What are its weaknesses?:
No one wants to see a community of 25 tenants displaced, even if they are covered by the city’s relocation and protection plan (pg 55). Similarly, it’s a shame that the townhomes lack an amenity space, as it would been a good place to bring the new and returning residents together.

What is the opposition like?:
It’s a mix of well meaning tenants rights activists (pg 11), and the remnants of a defunct neighbourhood association who sold t-shirts, and lawn signs to fight off a restored church with six rental homes five years ago.

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

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