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In the thinking out of the box department newly minted City of Vancouver Councillor Hector Bremner introduced a motion at Council to rezone West Point Grey as a new zone for rental residences. Bremner was specifically looking at the zoning of the area north of 4th Avenue and west of Blanca which borders the University of British Columbia lands. Why? Because the zoning on that land means that lots must be 12,000 square feet. Minimum. To give you an idea of how massive that is, the normal city lot of 33 feet by 120 feet has 3,960 square feet. This West Point Grey area requires footprints three times the size of the standard city lot. Of course lots of influential people live there too that have no interest in new rental zoning. There are current for sale listings for residences in this area ranging from $14 million dollars to $28 million dollars.
As reported by Matt Robinson in the Vancouver Sun Bremner stated “This is a chance for this council to put its money where its mouth is and … actually take action and say mandated mansions in the 21st century is not more important than creating housing right next to UBC…I saw just how dilapidated and derelict many of them are. The rest are owned by numbered corporations, largely out of country, passing amongst each other to avoid property transfer tax”.
Councillor Bremner says he has reviewed the financials and believes six storey residential buildings would be viable in this location. His aim was to turn 150 acres into rental housing zones with a potential of 10,000 units.  Councillor Bremner’s motion also mentions the fact that smaller units would benefit seniors, housing could be created for UBC students, and that this motion was entirely in keeping with Council’s expressed policy identifying potential changes in low density residential neighbourhoods as a high priority. The West Point Grey Residents Association was not too happy, and suggested that the land price was too high to be used for constrained social housing funding.
In a letter to council, the West Point Grey Residents Association expressed “dismay and opposition” toward the idea. It faulted the motion for lack of consultation and stated that scarce social housing funds would be squandered on purchases of such high-priced land. This does however commence the conversation of  where the City’s new Ten Year Housing Strategy will land, and who will decide the equitable distribution throughout lower density residential areas.
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Comments

  1. Just so I get this right, the idea is to build 10,000 units as far as possible from rapid transit because, well, because?

    1. So John, the Musqueam will be building on a nearly adjacent parcel as possible from rapid transit because, well, because?

      1. Because we have a mayor and mayor council on transportation that did NOT propose a subway to UBC but only to Arbutus. We also mass densification in North Van with zero subways or transit improvements with the result of massive traffic jams on the north shore. Expect the traffic to get far worse once UEL’s block F and Musqueam developments are in.
        Subway should go AT LEAST to Alma. It could go below the Jericho development right by this proposed NW Point Grey location all the way to UBC under 4th / Chancellor Blvd. Then this actually would be a comprehensive overall plan !

        1. Thomas, maybe you forgot that the Mayors Council lost the vote on a referendum to even modestly expand transit. You’re quick to blame politicians and bureaucrats but always hold “the people” up as the best decision makers.
          They said no. They elected an anti-transit provincial government for 16 years.
          So which is it? You can’t build transit without funding

        2. Indeed it is dysfunctional in MetroVan as local councils approve massive developments (with far too few levies) but then push infrastructure costs for it, for roads or transit for example, to senior governments, and then whine if they do not get it.
          Will this mess improve with the new GreeNDP sheriffs in town now ?

        3. Ahem… Thomas. The sales tax was to be collected locally. It had nothing to do with senior governments except they would have collected it for Metro.
          And it case you haven’t noticed, we pay taxes to senior governments to fund infrastructure and services for us. Sheeeesh! You’d think senior governments were generous benefactors.

        4. Senior governments do not determine density. Cities do. As such, cities need to collect more revenue from its ( new and existing ) citizens and/or be more prudent spenders when they increase density. MetroVan cities chose not to. They chose to whine.
          They could have
          A) increased property taxes a lot
          B) increased parking revenues a lot for example on residential streets
          C) they could have levied far far higher transit charges on developments
          D) they could have curtailed the generous wages & benefits of their bloated staffing
          E) they could have increased transit fees which are ridiculously low in MetroVan
          They chose none of it, and held their hand out to province and federal government and complained rather than funding their own created mess. That is where the disconnect lies. Big cities love their CACs and developments. They just don’t love to pay for infrastructure costs created by them. That’s why the referendum was defeated, because A to E was not done.
          Will it change ?

        5. Thomas, I suggest you run for council with that platform and see if you get elected. You can’t change policy without getting elected. As you always like to remind us, “the people” are always right. And they always disagree with you. So good luck.
          Meanwhile, cities increase density because it is fiscally responsible. Some senior governments ram highways down our throats which is fiscally irresponsible.

      2. The difference is that Block F’s right on top of the likely UBC SkyTrain route. Not hard to add a B-Line stop for now until we finally dig out the subway; either way, those residents need only walk downstairs.
        NW Point Grey, on the other hand is completely out of the way. So either a new high-density neighbourhood remains unserviced by rapid transit, or TransLink has to divert the SkyTrain completely off-course for a bunch of apartments in the middle of nowhere.
        Same problem as in America – city council approves new office parks and high-rise cul-de-sacs left, right and centre, and then expects the transit authority to cover all of them with long, windy routes that slow down everybody’s commute. No, it’s best to just have one straight line and put all the density down that line… which WAS the plan, until this came along.

        1. Well…..sort of. It’s only a 20 minute walk from Blanca and 2nd to Trimble and 10th. The 4th bus is right there, which is part of the frequent transit network. It’s bikeable to UBC. It’s not exactly the same thing as building a suburban-style cul de sac, and while I do get your point, a subway stop on the Jericho lands would be even closer to this area and make a lot of sense. It’s not totally crazy.

        2. Not quite – the FTN only covers 4th until Alma, because that’s when the #7 splits off from the #4 to go up Dunbar… and again, the #4 and #84 come only every 20 minutes off-peak or on weekends. If the #44 ever upgraded to an all-day B-Line, or the #4 came every 5-10 minutes, then maybe it could work.
          As for walking, people I know generally like to drive if it takes more than 15 minutes. If they lived here beside the UEL and wanted to go downtown, chances are they won’t bother with either transit or walking.
          //a subway stop on the Jericho lands would be even closer to this area and make a lot of sense.//
          Sorry, I don’t follow. Unless TransLink redirected the subway to 4th, the closest stop would be 10th and Sasamat – that’s a 20-minute walk too.

      1. Those “frequent” transit routes only come every 20-30 minutes on evenings and weekends, and when they do, it’s another 20-30 minutes downtown or to the nearest commercial street. What happens when all the new seniors/students want dinner, groceries or a movie?
        You guessed it – all the new residents will be driving (the exact thing city planners are trying to avoid). It’s like Bremner is trying to violate every rule of transit-oriented design in one go.

        1. …it’s a 15 minute *walk* to the nearest commercial street, and that’s assuming that the sort of density envisioned in the motion wouldn’t be enough to generate it’s own commerce.

        2. Like the “commerce” in Wesbrook/Olympic Village or Marine Gateway? The former is near-dead, and the latter two are pretty much dependent on consumers driving in from outside the neighbourhood.

    2. I’m not sure why the motion is so obsessed with this ultra-rich, ultra-low density block of land. Look at the above orthophoto. The UBC golf course is as large as the block AND Jericho put together, and it’s not already carved up into 8-figure lots. The Musqueam own it, and it doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to figure out the current lower land value will offer a lower per unit area price on housing. Moreover, it could be a prime candidate for a deal with the province and Canada Lands (feds) to provide mixed use development that includes public rentals and some commercial sprinkled about, as well as market condos and fee simple rowhouses. The subway costs would be lowered by using the open land at Jericho and the golf course for a short run of surface SkyTrain or cut & cover in a dedicated corridor.
      With a chronic land shortage in Vancouver, the Musqueam can help by fostering 21st Century transit-based development and higher energy and urban design standards.

  2. I don’t mind rich people buying a bunch of land and putting a big house on it. I just don’t know why we should ban a bunch of not as rich people from collectively outbidding them to build a bunch of condos or rental apartments to live in. The only reason those enormous lots are as cheap as they are is because the zoning protects the owners from competition in the market.
    All in all I’d be happier to see the whole city up-zoned to allow by right townhouses, row houses, and 4 to 6 story apartment/condo buildings in every residential neighborhood in the city. There are lots of mechanisms the city can use to capture some of the value anyway and ensure enough amenities are provided to support the density.

    1. Add’l density will provide more housing but NOT more cheap housing as a SFH house now is $3M for 6000 sqft or so of land, or slightly less in E-Van. As such, more housing ought to happen in E-Van first as land is cheaper.
      The myth of government being able do much to provide more affordable housing without writing a big cheque is of course perpetuated. Best to understand that the time of living in Vancouver cheaply is over !

      1. Additional density provided by the market in the land of mega mansions certainly won’t be ‘cheap’ housing in an absolute sense. In a relative sense to what is there now it will be really really cheap. If you just built luxury condos there and could get the highest price downtown luxury condos have been going for (around $2000/sqft last I checked) a 1000 square foot condo would cost $2,000,000, or 90% less than an existing $20,000,000 house.
        Now you might say that isn’t fair, because the house is bigger than that. And really at those prices 10,000 square feet of condo costs the same as the original $20,000,000 house. If we’re building condos on one of those 150 x 500 lots at 3 FSR we might get 180,000 net sqft built. So $20,000,000 house goes and $360,000,000 of condos arrive.
        Actual cost of building the super luxe condos not including land is maybe $400/sqft which leaves $288,000,000 in ‘land value’. Now the land owner isn’t really going to sell it for $20,000,000 if you can build condos there, that’d be crazy. So lets say the city grabs 50% of that with CACs and the developer and land owner split the rest.
        So now there are 100+ new condos where there used to be 1 house and the city cleared $148,000,000 dollars on the deal and the developer and land owner split the rest. Totally making this up lets say it costs another $48,000,000 to provide infrastructure for this 100 condos, and the city takes the remaining $100,000,000 and puts it into social housing somewhere, or builds 3 new elementary schools, or whatever.
        So the good people of the city got $100,000,000 in direct benefit, 100+ rich families got to live in a beautiful location, and a couple people got rich. Downside is 400 very very rich people now have a few hundred new moderately rich neighbors, but I think we can collectively deal with that.
        This seems like a very good thing to me isn’t it? It is pretty much win-win-win? What am I getting wrong here?

        1. If city suppresses land values by forcing rental they give up lucrative CACs. Is the city willing to do that ? Let’s not confuse rhetoric of “we care about renters” with the realities “we love high CACs and high earning city employees”.
          Unclear is also if the slope stability allows higher density 6-8 story towers in that location. Maybe it doesn’t as it does not at UBC. The slope is very instable !
          Sure, more $2M condos help but if people pay $2M many want a home, even a TH or further out !
          Big cities also need places not only for the rich but also the ultra-rich. This part of V is pne of these enclaves (there are a few more, of course like Shaugnessy, pockets of W-Van, Southland, Kits even ..). If you take them all away it will make Vancouver less attractive to some.
          To me densification starts at arterial roads NOT in teh best neighborhoods in town. For example, along 1st Ave or Hastings as you go east from downtown east side. or along 76 Ave or King Edwards or 41st !

        2. Plenty of small cities will appeal to less well off folks. Big cities are expensive. Vancouver is not at all atypical. To live comfortably in a nice area of Vancouver you need to bring money and likely need to earn money outside the city, like many immigrants or entrepreneurs do. With local wages Vancouver is not all that attractive anymore, unless you happen to live in a rent controlled apartment from the 1990s.

        3. You evaded the question. Do you have any reasons why a city won’t survive without ultra-rich residents? The reality is that we might be much better off without them. And further, that without ultra-rich individuals skewing the cost of everything due to their ability to distort the market (as we have seen so clearly in our local housing market) big cities might be affordable for the people who actually make them function effectively — namely the working majority.

        4. Renters and low income folks pay little taxes. Cities prefer far more cash into their coffers and only middle class, upper middle class and the rich provide that. That is what Vancouver has focused on. Look at the outcry against the Marpole stacked housing project. Who wants it in their neighborhood ?
          Many self induced policies in Vancouver caused the lack of rentals: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/are-vancouvers-policies-working-against-rental-housing/article37353717/

  3. Hopefully this will jolt current Council into repurposing Jericho.
    Broadway is tremendously congested for 7 months a year by the mass shipping of students (and numerous UBC workers) back and forth between a remote western campus and affordable accommodation on the east side; 20-30 kms roundtrip daily. It’s not just time and cost, there’s a huge social impact; imagine the cumulative effects in the results of a study on student’s lost productivity and increased stress.
    Contemporary sustainable planning involves putting destinations close to residents, and, it works vice-versa. The Jericho site (a short, pleasant walk from campus … too short for some to cycle) has the same land area as South East False Creek. With housing dedicated for students, using smaller-sized units and many shared & common areas, a mid-rise building form would accommodate a very high-density population.
    It would remove over HALF of the entire current student commute. It would free-up substantial surface transit capacity, of which we have an obligation to pursue.
    Other cities are crying, “It would be a miracle if we had 90 surplus acres near our University district.” If the rare Jericho opportunity is squandered, it will be looked back upon as a colossal error in TDM and city-building.

  4. The fact that NPA is floating this must mean the have looked at the ownership demographics in the area and concluded there are few votes to be lost. Numbered companies and non-Canadians can’t vote, so why not float it.

    1. One can see this being particularly attractive to the numbered companies and foreign money that owns those rotting banks west of Blanca. Just what they’ve been waiting for – a new area of land assembly. I doubt the condos will be rental, however. Millions dollars views and all that…

  5. After rereading some of the comments I’m struck by a couple things. Maybe it would be better to simply move UBC, rather than leave it in its current location of splendid isolation. We’re going to do it on a smaller scale with St. Paul’s. What about to the Riverview and Colony Park lands? Not only would it free up wonderful sites for housing, but it would help deflate the West Side prices, currently driven by offshore money’s desire to be close to certain schools. It would be far more central and staff could actually afford to live nearby.
    Second, what if this isn’t the courageous attack on privilege it seems, but rather a sly way for many of the offshore owners to cash in on their lots, where SFH sales have slowed dramatically?

    1. There’s probably a few reasons Vancouver evolved into no-fun-city but chief among them was locating our universities as far away as possible and robbing our core of young dynamic energy. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we became aware, challenged and improved the situation since campuses started springing up downtown and language schools became a big player in our core.
      I doubt we’ll ever see the main campuses move – better now to evolve them into urban centres in their own right as we’re seeing a little.
      But moving them to some other remote place makes no sense.

      1. Commercial/Broadway would be a great place for the campus.One could start with a rebuilt Safeway and the space above the skytrains/railway could be put to good use. Walkable, Vibrant. At the intersection of two skytrain lines.

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