On Thursday evening, Vancouver’s calm, quiet Dunbar neighbourhood was erupting in cheers and jeers in a local church gymnasium.
Over one hundred people gathered to hear retirement home developer Pacific Arbour’s plans for a six storey home between West 30th and 31st Avenues.
But Pacific Arbour’s free coffee and cupcakes were met with concerns and complaints. Judging from the vocal opposition, few came away satiated.
Residents showed up to protest a development that many felt, “didn’t fit the character,” as one audience member put it.
Pacific Arbour has purchased a pair of houses on the block between West 30th and 31st Ave., along Dunbar St. The remaining houses are, according to the company’s president Peter Gaskill, “on contract,” to sell.
Gaskill took the stage, saying that “this is not a rezoning plan,” and the company is consulting the community about its proposal. This was noted several times throughout the presentation.
But opponents were not against high-density development, per se. Several people told the audience that they were not a NIMBY crowd.
Instead, complaints centred around the company’s lack of adherence to the Dunbar Community Vision plan. The plan acknowledges the need for housing the elderly:
Housing for seniors could be in a variety of forms, including low-rise apartments.
And as stipulated in section 9.2:
Low-rise buildings (up to four storeys) committed to seniors should be permitted, provided the scale and design fit into the neighbourhood.
In his presentation, Gaskill stated that Pacific Arbour could finesse buildings so they appear lower than they are.
“We can work on shadow studies and we can play with building form,” said Gaskill, to a round of hoots from the audience.
A former city planner who lives in the area, was adamant that “you cannot massage architecture to make levels go away.”
“A lot of us spent a lot of time on the Dunbar Vision,” said resident Julie Burtinshaw. “I don’t know why you’d come here and talk us out of it.”
Burtinshaw finished, saying “I just think it’s really arrogant and thoughtless,” to a flourish of applause.
Estimates peg the monthly unit fees at $4,900. This includes amenities and services, including a driver that can be booked by residents.
That fee is for a 600 to 800 square foot unit with one bedroom for a single resident. A second person would add $800 per month.
The company has said it has created three bedroom units, with one room typically for a live-in caregiver. Gaskill was mum on whether these units would be in the Dunbar residence.
A pair of people raised the question if these rates are affordable.
When asked, Gaskill stated the estimate is “market value and competitive with other facilities like Crofton Manor in nearby Kerrisdale.”
But the recently released final report from the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing says that consideration for six-storey buildings along arterials will hinge on:
where units are sold for at least 20% below market value and include a secure mechanism for maintaining that level of affordability over time (e.g. resale covenant, 2nd mortgage, etc.) (pg. 5)
Gaskill had also said in an interview that there was no intention at the time to provide subsidized housing to less affluent seniors. He acknowledged, “that could be raised at one of the workshops.”
The workshops, two in total, would invite 45 residents on each occasion to consult on the proposed appearance and architecture of the building.
One resident called out that 90 people were not enough to determine an entire project’s appearance, with the audience, cheering again.
“It went as well as I figured it would. We didn’t go into this eyes wide shut,” said Gaskill in an interview after the presentation. He went on to say that he expects initial opposition to wane, once more consultation is underway.
Reported by Jeremy Sally
This post first appeared on Sally’s South West Vancouver beat blog.
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