February 23, 2022

Heresy in Shaughnessy

 James from Shaughnessy, a Viewpoint reader, submits his viewpoint as a long-time resident …



I am a huge fan of upzoning.


We live in Shaughnessy (2nd) .  I often refer to it these days as a ghetto.


When we bought here 40 years ago, it was a vibrant neighbourhood.  Our three kids had plenty of pals to walk to school with (Shaughnessy Elementary & then Prince of Wales High School). We still have neighbourhood Safeway, liquor store, athletic clubs, parks and other community amenities.

But now the sidewalks are devoid of kids, our doorbell rings once or twice at Halloween instead of every 30 seconds, the blocks around schools are gridlocked twice a day with kids
being driven to school, often from out of boundary.  Our kids’ friends – with their kids – have all moved East of Oak.

How did we get here?

Initially, it was simply East side prices vs West side prices – aka
affordability for young families.  Then the City accelerated the trend with Heritage zoning rules – that drove up renovation costs wildly (great for house-raiser Zebiak!), and incentivized staggering increases in home sizes to absorb the high costs, particularly in 1st Shaughnessy.

Then the Province jumped on top, with the “school tax” surcharge, roughly doubling already sky-high property taxes on these high-end homes, and dramatically increasing taxes on even modest 3 and 4-bedroom homes.

And now, it is critical mass.  When young families are all congregated “over there”, who wants to be first to move back West, with no playmates in the neighbourhood.

Even with prices continuing to decline substantially on a relative basis compared to the East side, it is hard to see what would trigger a return of families to this area.

But upzoning would at least create the economic opportunity for East-side home sizes to be assembled on West side lots, particularly in 1st Shaughnessy.  (After all, how many tourists travel to Vancouver to see newly built “heritage” homes on lots once owned by CPR barons?)  Of course, it would be a huge waste to see the new mini-Fairmonts torn down and replaced with half a dozen smaller homes, but there are still many in unrenovated states, and it would be great for City livability to have Shaughnessy once again become vibrant.

So trash the counter-productive Heritage zoning rules, and upzone everything.

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  1. The “heritage zoning” has nothing to do with what goes on inside the house, so convert the houses into suites? Oh, can’t do that? Not because of “heritage rules,” but because the building code applies to all conversions. Why not infill the lots? Easier to do with the possibility of heritage relaxations, but any owner still has to navigate the city’s Byzantine rules. When Shaughnessy became the ghost town of “Mortgage Heights” in the ’30s, mansions converted into rooming houses. Time for that to happen again? Yes.

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