New mixed-use development proposed for Vancouver’s west side

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

The Province

A new development proposal for Broadway and Alma could inject a dose of much-needed diversity and youth into Vancouver’s west side if a rezoning application is successful. 

The proposed six-storey, mixed-use building featuring 94 market-rental suites would require rezoning a tiny strip mall on the northwest corner of those streets. The land is currently zoned C-2 (commercial use), but it sits alongside streets featuring single-family (RS-1) zoning, and the application is being made under the Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning Policy. 

Reilly Wood, a housing advocate with Abundant Housing Vancouver, is urging people who need housing and support west-side zoning alternatives to attend a community open house April 5, from 5-8 p.m. at St. James Community Hall, to meet with city officials. 

“It’s absolutely huge that we get supporters out to the meeting,” said Wood. “The only people that usually show up at these meetings are the local homeowners that don’t want change, and it biases the city planners. We want to see support for projects like this.”

Wood said it’s time to address the growing inequity in how and where density is being allowed in the city. “The west side has a really troubling history of exclusionary zoning, although we have decades and decades of demand for affordable housing in the area.” 

Access to the University of B.C., and parks like Jericho beach and Spanish Banks, make the area ideal for families and students, and relieve pressure on areas like East Vancouver that have been loosening zoning restrictions and absorbing more and more people, said Wood. 

Wood said public support is critical to countering the strong NIMBY lobby that has kept the west side on a virtual lockdown. San Francisco-based density expert Sonia Trauss, a proponent of YIMBY — or Yes in My Backyard — was in Vancouver last week arguing the case for increasing housing stock. 

“We shouldn’t allow a few individuals to veto housing for a lot,” she said.

West-side residents, especially homeowners, need to think not just about themselves, but also about where their children are going to live, said Wood. “Their children are not going to be able to afford a three- or four- or 20-million-dollar home.”

Small shifts in zoning to allow townhouses, low-rise apartments and secondary suites, and the six-storey, mixed-use proposal for Broadway and Alma, are necessary steps to creating badly needed rental stock, he said. 

“Broadway and Alma is a great example of a neighbourhood with excellent transit, walkability and access to amenities,” said Wood. 

Wood, who lives in Mount Pleasant, said he was dismayed that when after moving out of residence at UBC he tried to find housing near the campus. “The only thing available was a dingy, illegal basement suite where I couldn’t even stand up in the shower.”

Wood, 30, now lives with his partner in a small one-bedroom. Like many millennials, he’d like to start a family at some point. “I love living in Vancouver and I don’t want to have to leave if I have children.”

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