Proposal to rezone Northwest Point Grey's mansion area for 6-storey buildings

Dec 9 2017, 8:12 am

One Vancouver City Councillor will need to bat very hard to get this idea over the outfield fence, as he has very high ambitions when it comes to increasing density in the city to help address housing affordability.

Hector Bremner, the newly elected Vancouver City Councillor with the Non-Partisan Association (NPA), will be introducing a motion to City Council on Tuesday to allow low-rise buildings to be built in the most upscale area of the most expensive neighbourhood in not just the City of Vancouver but all of Canada.

The motion calls for the rezoning of the northwest corner of the West Point Grey (NWPG) neighbourhood – an area of large lots occupied by mansions. The proposed area for rezoning is framed by Blanca Street to the east, West 4th Avenue to the south, Pacific Spirit Regional Park to the west, and Spanish Banks to the north.

Aerial view of some of the mansions in the northwest West Point Grey area. (Google Maps)

Bremner says the proposed policy strives to address the shortage of available housing near the University of British Columbia campus for both students and faculty.

“This shortage has resulted in students and faculty commuting long distances, leading to congestion on the road and transit works, loss of productivity and increased greenhouse gas emissions,” he wrote.

The policy also aims to create more supply for elderly residents looking for smaller housing options to replace their existing single-family homes.

Under the proposed policy, single-family homes will be still be permitted, but there will be a new allowance for six-storey multi-family buildings with a floor space ratio (FSR) density of up to 3 FSR, with the stipulation that these developments will include secured market rental housing, social housing, or senior housing.

Parking stall minimums will be eliminated on properties located within 800 metres of a frequent transit stop and for secure market rental housing, social housing, and senior housing.

Massive mansions on Belmont Avenue in northwest West Point Grey. (Google Maps Streetview)

According to the motion, the municipal government currently does not permit homes on lots smaller than 12,000 or 18,000 sq. ft. in northwest Point Grey. As a result, home prices in the area typically range between $20 million and $40 million.

Bremner provides the following reason for adding NWPG to the City’s three-year housing strategy to densify single-family neighbourhoods: “Displacement of low-income residents is of primary concern, and is exceedingly unlikely to occur in wealthy areas such as NWPG.”

All the while over the last few years, the Vancouver Westside has been experiencing a demographic shift, with young people and families leaving the area for more centralized and urbanized neighbourhoods.

A proposed six-storey building at the northwest corner of West Broadway and Alma Street. (Henriquez Partners Architects)

But the pendulum could swing back as density is coming in neighbouring areas.

Major redevelopments on the nearby University Endowment Lands, Pacific Spirit Regional Park, and the Jericho Lands could add tens of thousands of new residents to the Vancouver Westside area.

Additional pressure for densification in the neighbourhood could come from the eventual extension of the Millennium Line to UBC.

And in the distant future, UBC’s 120-acre University Golf Course will also be redeveloped. A covenant included in the provincial government’s 2007 treaty with the Musqueam First Nation states the site must remain as a golf course until 2083.

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Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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