February 27, 2017

Church Rezoning versus Single Family Neighbours

Cheryl Chan in the Vancouver Sun  reports on the  Dunbar Ryerson United Church located in Kerrisdale that has  a bucolic setting in Kerrisdale. The land is currently zoned  for single family  housing and is a massive block and a half in size.  The church itself needs some major repairs and the congregation went to the City to change the zoning of its property along the east side of Yew Street beside West 45th Avenue from single family to a comprehensive development zone. After that change, Wall Financial would then develop an eight storey   forty unit condominium and scaled two and half level townhouses on that part of the site which now houses the church’s community centre and an income generating rental home.
Seeing that the church badly needed funding for a rejuvenation of their stone church’s roof  and for a siesmic upgrade, this made sense. It also would allow more housing choice for seniors aging out of their single family residences and for families trying to locate into Kerrisdale.  Reverend Debra Bowman stated Vancouver needs more housing and more density. “We need a stronger capacity for multiple generations to live in this neighbourhood.”
Well this did not go well with the residents in the surrounding single family homes. With an active “NO Ryerson Rezoning” campaign those folks think the project will attract traffic and parking, even though the location is close to good transit and shopping. A resident spokesperson who has lived in the area for 40 years states the classically expected line, that density is not needed in this location, and if it was just three or four stories, that would have been fine.
This is a block and a half of land in an old-established neighbourhood where something transformative could happen that could allow seniors to age in place and new families to transition in. The No Ryerson Rezoning group are saying that increased traffic on the 45th Avenue bikeway is  another reason not to allow 40 units of housing. These folks want that “gentle density” through more costly  to purchase laneway houses and infill, and  argue that three dwelling units-a basement suite, coach house and house can be built on one lot. At some point should we start looking at these rezoning opportunities as the potential to keep people in the community and have housing diversity?  How do you present change to the people in single family homes  in the neighbourhood with a single family lifestyle?  How can we embrace change and housing choice in these residential bastions?
City of Vancouver staff and church representatives are holding an open house Monday (today) from 5 to 8 p.m. on Monday (February 27) at 2195 West 45th Avenue.

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  1. The West Blvd commercial storefronts and transit are ~135m east of Ryerson. There are about 10 towers within 200 m of the church and Ryerson, at least half are 8-12 storeys. The precedent for low to mid-rise new development was set years ago. Shadows from point towers are very temporary and irrelevant in winter when it’s cloudy anyway.
    According to the CBC Early Edition, the compromise already happened when the church and the developer went down to eight storeys from 12 on the tower. I am reminded of the O’Keefe lands (12th x Arbutus) when the community (mostly residents living in detached homes) negotiated a compromise from 15 storeys to max eight on the former industrial property. That ended up being a well-thought out development as the result.
    The church has stated its case and it’s pretty strong, including heritage preservation work. They may need to address parking / noise a bit better, but with a commercial arterial less than a block away, so many pre-existing low and mid-rise developments nearby, and a community centre only two short blocks north, the city would not be justified to cancel or greatly diminish this project, in my view.

    1. Alex – thanks for the contextual information. I didn’t know the site until you mentioned. If in Kerrisdale proper, there is an argument to be made for height there.

  2. Here we go again, the NIMBY’s are in Kerrisdale. It’s only 40 units of new housing in an area that can totally support it. Parking is already a joke in Kerrisdale because everyone has to drive there due to lack of density. We need affordable housing everywhere in this city. Maybe Kerrisdale is better off having a bunch of unoccupied housing no one can afford? We need to embrace change for the future as a positive thing, be a part of the solution.

    1. Probably because it’s simply not true. Marine Gateway came out 13.7% unoccupied (by usual residents) in 2016. The higher 25% number is for the larger area around Marine Gateway and is essentially due to MC2 that got completed just before the census.

      1. What source are you using to discredit Yan’s conclusion? Though even 14% is far too high and shows the foolishness of believing that 40 units are required when there are already so many unneeded units out there.

        1. “Units.”?
          You mean detached homes on large lots worth $4 million apiece vs. 40 additional townhouses and apartments worth a lot less, and suitable for Kerrisdale seniors to downsize in their own neighbourhood? My guess is that the “units” will fill up mostly with locals while a greater number of nearby larger houses sit empty.
          Andy Yan posits the phenomenon that some neighbourhoods are not as susceptible as others to the empty house syndrome, but without research / data to find out why. I suspect the definition of empty home isn’t refined enough, and that there is a correlation between EH clusters and higher values. Neither Yan or Gold offer any solutions on how to address affordability with respect to land use. In fact, Gold quickly dismisses land use and it’s cousin, supply & demand, outright in her loquacious commentary on ‘dem stinking rich foreigners. With respect to ‘speculative escalation’, see above sentence on downsizing seniors who always have practiced what empty nesters usually practice without regard to speculation.
          In my neighbourhood there is one empty home I am aware of, and that resulted from the city issuing a stop work order for major illegal renovations. The owner and the city are working it out while the house is empty.

        2. Census. Same as everyone else. And if you got back to the article you see it’s entirely consistent with what I said. The issue is that citing numbers for the “Marine Gateway neighbourhood” is not helpful as it suggests (and you assume) that the unoccupied units are in the Marine Gateway development. Which is false.

        3. And no doubt you will attempt to explain away the equally high Norquay figures. Why is it so hart for many PT readers to admit how many of these units are purchased solely for speculation or as a place for foreign interests to park money.

        4. Jens, thank you for the informative block-by-block data link.
          One example: it appears the data for Metrotown was skewed by the higher vacancy rate of the commercial mall and especially by one block on Nelson that rated almost 60% vacant because it was undergoing construction after a land assembly and rezoning from low-rise to high-rise (a story unto itself). Most other blocks rated under 10% and many were even under 5%.
          Moreover, since when is a new tower with an 86% occupancy rate not a success? Welcome to Marine Gateway.

  3. Land-rich and income-poor Church sites are often low-hanging fruit for site-specific residential and care facility intensification. No- brainers, in fact. But, and there is always a but, vastly looming over low-scale neighbours is not, well, very neighbourly. They probably wouldn’t have had much if any pushback at, say, 4 storeys. Maybe even a very special 5-6 storeys, with due regard to adjacent heights and impacts (shadows, etc.)

  4. If we lowered our income taxes, say like Texas, eliminated provincial income taxes altogether, and increased PST and tripled provincial property taxes, perhaps we’d get more desire to sub-divide large (and often empty) homes and we would certainly monetize all the foreign money in real estate far FAR better !
    I’d say we ought to start densification along arterial roads first, as far too many SFH are long those streets, and not in the most tony neighborhoods.

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