April 8, 2019

Not In My Back Yard~Some Kitsilano Homeowners want to Axe 1805 Larch Street Application


Trust Dan Fumano in his Vancouver Sun article to wade right into the ongoing NIMBY and YIMBY discussions which in many ways mirror what we all think is happening on the west side of the City of Vancouver.  In his article (and you should read the comments on-line) a group of older articulate residents express their displeasure with the potential for a new five storey building on the site of the old St. Marks Church at Second and Larch in deepest darkest Kitsilano.

This application for 1805 Larch Street is for a 66 foot tall five storey building that will have 63 secured rental units which will be built under the City of Vancouver’s Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program (MIRHPP). What this means is that 20 percent of the building will be for “moderate income” renters, those earning between $30,000 and $80,000 annually. In total the building will have 19 studios, 16 one-bedrooms, 20 two-bedrooms, and eight three-bedroom apartments, with underground parking and a rooftop patio.

In the rezoning application for the three lot site, Metric Architecture describes the church as disused for ecclesiastical services, but notes that its location and site lends itself for moderate income family accommodation.

“The site and its use, coupled with position and mature landscape afford us a unique opportunity to allow a greater density for the benefit of moderate income families under this limited pilot policy…We have designed a sensitive contextual residential building and believe there will be very little disturbance for neighbours compared to some of the large events that the current St Marks, and all parking will be within the building curtilage. The landscaping is key, and most of it will remain to continue the mature boulevard of trees that are the character of the area providing backdrop and privacy.”

But no even though this site is abutting the cherished RM-4 area of wonderful older rental apartments that have good access to the beach, some older homeowners brought out a surprising litany of reasons why this application was out-of-place. And it is what you usually hear at any rezoning hearing~its too big, there will be more cars, it’s ugly, it is not in neighbourhood character, and basement suites are already available in character homes already in the area.

And this is where I think we are talking about the proposed work in the wrong way. I spoke yesterday to a recruiter for a national health company that could not find  licensed practical nurses to work in a Kitsilano location. Instead this recruiter had to substantially increase salary levels, and those qualified individuals will be commuting daily from Surrey to Vancouver. Look at almost any retail block in the Kits area and you will see signs in windows advertising for staff. Talk to any person in business in Kitsilano and they are having difficulty finding qualified individuals to work, as those workers cannot find accommodation to live in the area.

There will also be a need for workers to provide health  services to an aging west side population, and that is inclusive of these outspoken residents. Without the diversity of housing type and form, services desperately needed by an aging population will be unavailable. We need more housing in Kitsilano, and the reasons why need to be more fully discussed with residents.

Change is hard~but I would argue that change is the one dynamic that remains the same through life.Adding housing forms that allow for a range of residents will add to the liveliness of the neighbourhood, as well as its future wellbeing. As planners we need to talk more about mutual interests in developing cohesive communities,and directly address positional postures.

You can take a look at Dan Fumano’s YouTube video below which outlines some of the concerns of these older Kitsilano homeowners.

Image: DailyHive




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  1. I’d agree it isn’t the most pleasing looking building, it does seem to have a brutalist look to it, but we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    My actual concern is that in 10 years this building is going to look seriously underbuilt. If the local Nimby’s are going to go berserk over a moderate 5 story building, I say you might as well go higher and propose 10 stories. The local Nimby’s are already at maximum crazy, how much worse would it be if you proposed something higher?

    I say they should have proposed 10 stories, then “compromised” down to 7 or 8. Which by the way will still look underbuilt in 10 to 15 years.

    1. There should be an attractive 10 story building—— No traffic problem with a restrictive covenant limiting occupancy to non vehicle owners who have a transit pass

        1. Not only less ugly, but transformative from the inside where they will be craving light. Bringing in light from different angles if you can’t have more window aspects is simply humane. I despair in my little five year old dark oblong box, that easily could have had bay windows.

  2. It is ugly and it is taller than any of the neighbouring buildings, so why not gently densify by building in sympathy to the surroundings, both design wise and density? There seems to be this notion that there are no aesthetic rules in the name of density, but there is no need for that. What if it was thirty stories? Is there ever a line drawn? Why not value the feeling and quality of the existing neighbourhood? It seems to me the bigger issue is that 80% of the building will be unaffordable to most locals, so this feels like a con so developers can continue building for foreign buyers who leave them empty. Same old plan as we have seen for the last ten years and it has not helped.

    1. There’s a 6 storey tower across the street, an 11-storey tower half a block away and a 12-storey tower a block away. It’s not correct to suggest this is out of place. They should be proposing an 12-storey tower.

    2. It’s both comforting and distressing to see this type of NIMBY pearl-clutching coming from one of the City’s less exclusive neighbourhoods. Why exactly do these people get a say in the aesthetics and massing of the building? I thought the whole purpose of having a council-at-large is to responsibly consider the needs of the whole city and not just squawking from a local ward. These people have no standing whatsoever and should be aggressively dismissed. Is it more important to increase local housing stock or appease the most vocal residents’ sense of aesthetic propriety? Ludicrous.

    3. It’s rental only, it can’t be bought and kept empty. These rental buildings keep getting 100% occupancy after they are built so the only thing that hasn’t helped is not building more of them faster. If this building gets 100% occupancy, which it will because we have a less than 1% vacancy rate, then it is affordable to locals as anyone renting there is a local. Otherwise the company loses money by having it be too expensive and empty.

  3. We need more buildings like the Pennsylvania on Carrall – stacks and stacks of bay windows.
    Our old house, as nothing as it is, has a huge bay. It makes the place feel spacious with tons of view and light.
    Cannot believe how many (almost all) new granite-bedecked new-builds with moronic “feature walls” and a silly fireplace are bereft of oriels and bays; just boxes with rough openings for flat windows; maybe a bump-out.
    If you’ve ever lived in a place with a bay, you wouldn’t be happy without.

    1. There would probably also be comments about overlook and neighbours being able to see into each others’ units with bay windows.

  4. 1. This bldg will need to meet significant energy requirements, which is probably driving the design and ratio of window to wall.
    2. It should easily be 6 stories, likely up to 12. Let’s put density with amenities, and create more affordable and attainable housing
    This development should go ahead.

    1. There are lots condos with very large windows built recently —– The ugly design is probably driven by cost —–__-attractive units don ‘t rent for much a premium—-If it is voted down it will be a good lesson for other ( penny wise pound foolish) developers—- FSR for an ugly building should point 5

      1. Beauty isn’t defined by the size of the windows. I’d suggest that many people find the traditional architecture of European cities to be more beautiful than ours even with building sizes and window proportions similar to this building.

        But get used to smaller windows than we’ve been seeing in the condos of the last 25 years. Energy codes are going to challenge architects and designers to create beauty and bring in ample natural light with mush less energy loss or unwanted solar gain than the glass towers we’ve been building.

  5. The protestors really don’t have a lot of justified criticism, and the benefits Sandy et al outline are in firm middle ground territory between both sides.

    Overall, this building mass is apropos to Kits and much less intrusive than earlier developments. The O’Keefe Lands up Arbutus come to mind where the original proposal was for a max of 15 storeys. After hard negotiations with residents, that came down to eight with lower buildings on the inside Walk and facing the high street.

    Sure, there could be design improvements, but after blowing up the image on my iMac the materials, texture and varying window sizes emerge. Both the dark and light areas are brick, an increasingly common material (actually making a comeback) that wears infinitely better than stucco, and the standard running bond pattern will add interest. The material alone is a clear departure from the nearby flat stucco walkups of the 80s, or the 60s bare concrete mid-rises to the east. The dark brick could be changed to the light tan of the other side, if needed.

    The windows are small only on the left side of the image but much larger with a vertical orientation on the right side (look closely — they’re half hidden by the trees). They do tend to disappear, so with a lighter brick the window frames and mullions could be changed to a darker charcoal for contrast. Bays would be nice, but it’s reasonable to not expect the developer to turn every window into one in a rental building. Perhaps a simple cornice detail and a variation in the brick patterning or colour for the lintels over the windows would help assuage the critics seeing only flat plains and act as a nod to the Edwardian brick walkups in the neighbourhood off Cornwall. The cornice shouldn’t be too large thouh, more like a reflection, on a clearly neo-modern design with a desire to have clean and uncluttered lines. It would be inappropriate to try to mix the exterior character of the neighbourhood’s big detached Edwardian and smaller Craftsman shingle houses with a completely different building type.

    Lastly, it’s all rental. Kudos! The NIMBYs don’t have a case except perhaps on some relatively small details.

    1. It is reasonable to demand an attractive building ( rental or condo) as a condition for more density—– If developers want to build cheap they should do it with existing density—– Award the extra density Vancouver needs to those willing to beautify the city instead

  6. Best of the best windows come with an R rating of 5; nothing like the cheap locally manufactured ones we replaced our depressing single pane Al sliders with a few years ago. If ours rate a 3, I’d be shocked.
    An R of 2 to 5 is normal.
    Heat loss through windows is massive.
    Todays windows are largely devoid of aesthetics. The spec builder puts in huge windows because it’s cheap and easy – makes the place look bigger.
    The residents come in and block the plethora of ill-conceived windows with a variety of tacky coverings.
    Almost the only time windows are uncovered is when there’s an Open House.
    There should be a proliferation of external insulated shutters; and/or thermal blackout interior drapes. This stuff is expensive, but will pay off not just long term, but immediately in terms of comfort and quiet.
    If you’ve got the ka-ching for something as moronic as granite countertops, you can put this on your list first.

    1. About 10 years ago we replaced the single-glazed and very leaky aluminum sliders on the second floor bedrooms of our 1912 fixer upper that in turn replaced the original single-glazed fir sash windows in an unfortunate spate of “modernization” in the ’70s with double-glazing + laminated exterior storm windows. The storms and air-tight installation made a world of difference.

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