In the ‘You can’t win’ file this week, Barbara Yaffe’s column in today’s Sun:
The Sun’s columnist has previously highlighted the City’s failure to address the loss of pre-1940 character homes, particularly on the West Side:
Barbara Yaffe: Vancouver becomes increasingly insipid on the streets where we live
City must save our heritage by making old homes easier to protect
Published: Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Other media have also featured Disappearing Dunbar and Beautiful Empty Homes of Vancouver, as well as the many calls for action by Elizabeth Murphy and others active in the Vancouver Neighbourhoods Coalition.
Sooo … in response to community demand, the City takes some interim steps to discourage demolition. You can probably guess what happens. From Yaffe:
City Council earlier this year ordered restrictions on demolitions after public opposition to the widespread tearing down of character homes on the city’s west side. The measures “to identify and encourage retention of pre-1940 character houses” are intended to be temporary as the city was already reviewing its heritage practices, according to a June 2014 report to City Council. …
Now any pre-1940 home with “character merit” — based on criteria such as roof form, front porch, exterior wall materials — is subject to the new, restrictive rules to discourage demos.
But such a designation is a kiss of death, automatically causing property values to plummet.
That’s because any new purchaser of a character-designated house cannot easily knock down and build anew, which is what most buyers these days want to do with older homes. …
Clearly the city’s new character home policy is poorly designed, having been fashioned and implemented without community consultation. Even the Vancouver Character House Network, which opposes demolition of character homes, criticizes the city for failing to consult: “The public needs to be involved.”
The city’s interim measures also reek of unfairness and may have unintended consequences. …
When the many owners of character-designated homes become aware they face a situation similar to that of the Todds, the city is likely to face a backlash, perhaps strong enough to convince a new council to revisit this onerous policy.
The problem with the Yaffe column is not that criticism of the choice is unfounded; it’s the failure to recognize that choices involve trade-offs . And that this was a response to a demand that the City must take action, and quickly, before hundreds more homes were lost – a demand that she herself made.