The first proposals for laneway housing under the new West End plan are coming forward.  And the first objections.
From West End Neighbours:

… ask yourself, is this what you expected when the City said “laneway housing” was coming to the West End?

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Here’s the site:

Comox

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A low-rise rental building is being proposed for a parking lot – no demolition or evictions required – after the completion of a community planning process that took more than a year of public input.  And yet the list of complaints is longer than ever.  Such as this:

It appears these projects can be approved without a Public Hearing, as a result of adoption of the West End Community Plan.

In other words, it is not a spot rezoning that requires a public hearing.  Ironically, it was complaints about spot rezonings that led to the West End planning process in the first place. ( As planners learn very early in their careers: No matter what option you propose, it will be the wrong one.)
Nonetheless, lane infill is the most innovative and potentially the most transformative initiative in the new West End plan – something I was reminded of when I took a shortcut down a lane between Burnaby and Harwood Streets, east of Bidwell:

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Lane

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Here is what we might lose if these sites were replaced with housing (though under the current bylaw, not all are eligible.)

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Note the shear amount of empty asphalt – because one of the biggest complaints about this kind of change will be the loss of existing parking.

If that argument prevails in the face of (a) declining car use, and other options such as car-sharing, (b) increasing demand for rental housing, (c) inability to develop elsewhere without demolition or displacement of existing tenants, then … well, what?  In that case we are not a serious people, our expectations are disconnected from reality, and our demands are petulant.

Comments

  1. I think these proposals are bigger and higher than people thought they would be.
    I was involved in the process and some of the walking tours with planning staff. People were concerned then with the heights that were being talked about and the loss of light for existing residents.
    I think raising concerns and issues is fine.

  2. These are great proposals and I hope they go through. i think the people that are opposing this are seniors who are afraid of the changes coming to the West End and probably deep down inside fear these developments will bring attention to the area, make it more attractive to newcomers and ultimately raise the level of popularity and interest thus driving them out.

  3. If the thing weren’t so ugly, it would be less of a problem. Like the Alexandria, this building has a parapet at the top of the wall that adds height for absolutely no reason. When height is an issue, there should be an attempt to ameliorate, stepping back, using sloped roofs and gable ends, not stupid parapets. It’s architectural sloth. There are plenty of heritage houses under threat that could be moved to these parking lots and variously added on to and joined together that would be better than this thing.

    1. There was a Brent Toderian article linked to recently that made an analogous point about high rises: it depends on which bloody high rise. If they were all like the Montparnasse, no one would ever be in favour of them.

  4. The sad thing is that the first rendering really highlights the regression that has happened – the new building is so small compared to the older one. The new building should be the same as the older building on the adjacent lot.
    This isn’t really a laneway site when it’s as big as the parent parcel.
    I’ll bet that the existing heritage apartment block was intended to be expanded onto the site in future, but never was.

  5. It’s all very well to say that the only thing lost is asphalt, but if 60% of that asphalt is filled with cars each night, where are they expected to go? Anyone who tries to find street parking in the West End knows how that story ends.

    1. My building has 17 parking spots for 12 units, and there are 5 cars in it at night. Car use is declining in general, especially in the face of car shares. So, “where are the cars supposed to go” ? In to the history books as a curiosity of mid to late 20th century civic design.

      1. John, many Westenders cheap out of paying their landlord extra for the parking in their building and buy a permit, which is why there is so little available street parking in the area.

  6. Anything is better than surface parking. Surface parking is one of the worst, if not the worst land use. Better would be housing ( rental or ownership, subsidized or market ) , a park, a school, bushes/trees … And to get consensus is hard. Car use on both of its state, driving and parking, is far too cheap in Vancouver.

  7. “So long as the Vancouverites fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people – greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are.”

  8. This type of thing has been happening in Strathcona for awhile now. What was the backyard of a corner lot, now has three small houses in it. They tend to be in a similar or complementary style so it responds to the need for density without changing the feel of the neighbourhood and have now blended in nicely.
    I used to be against them but have changed my mind as I see now it’s okay after all.

  9. Here’s a personal angle: my son, daughter-in-law and their new baby live in the apartment in the first picture that is losing its parking lot. They would love to live without a car but they need one for their restaurant business. If those parking places are not replaced, street parking, already scarce, will be almost impossible to find. He will have to pay to park somewhere not nearly as close= major inconvenience, added cost (unless his rent is reduced to compensate him).

    1. Exactly my point Peter L. I lived west of Denman once and even with a permit parking was often blocks away, no fun on a rainy November night. And as the West End gentrifies you will find more owners/renters with at least one weekend car.
      IMHO many buildings give an appearance of a huge drop in car requirements simply because there are so many temporary international students living in the older, crumbling West End towers.

    2. Using a land value of $5M an acre in the west end, or $125/sq ft and using 6 x 20 ft or 120 sq ft for a parking spot I arrive at a land price of $25,000 for a parking spot, more, say $40-50,000 in higher zoned areas. Using 5% interest rates or return expectations I arrive at $1250-2500 per year as the very minimum a public parking spot should cost. Does it ? Not to my knowledge. Anything below that is a subsidy by the tax payer. If people want their car, they ought to pay fair market value for driving and parking it. Do they today ?

      1. It is also interesting that the land the featured parking lot is on is worth $1,650,000 (2014 assessed land value * 47.5% lot coverage). Between 13 parking spaces, that means each takes up about $125,000 worth of land. Renting out a piece of land worth that value should cost quite a bit.
        We can and previously did make these parking spaces artificially cheap. But should we prevent new housing from being constructed to achieve that goal?

    3. Imagine yourself in the shoes of a home owner wanting to build a laneway house…
      and having your basement tenant going to complain to city hall, because he could not park his car on your property anymore…(what you have offered as a courtesy, not a right of course).
      ...All of this while the tenant’s father is also going to City hall to explain that resident of the nearby street, such as York street, don’t need parking..and can bike to their restaurant business…

  10. To answer your question, no, this is not what I expected for laneway infill. I expected something more ground-oriented and pedestrian friendly. My mistake.
    BTW, I also didn’t know that pre-zoning was also approved along with the WE Plan. Very interesting.

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