City Council voted down a 21-unit rental townhome project for Shaughnessy by a 7-4 vote.  The ostensible controversy was the adjacency of a  hospice, which threatened to close if the project was built – a dubious outcome, given that many hospices exist in much less pleasant prospects.  The reality: Shaughnessy was threatened with higher density, and with rentals – unpleasant prospects for a community that is synonymous with exclusivity.  And they spoke up.

There was a lot of debate, a lot of angst, a lot of rationalizations.  But the most important message coming out of council, whether deliberate or not, is this: ‘No matter what we as councillors say, no matter what policies we pass, no matter what support you get from staff, no matter how great the need we acknowledge, none of that really matters.  If enough of the residents complain, we will protect the status quo.’

North Vancouver District sent a similar message to the development community and housing advocates with their rejection of the Delbrook affordable-rental project – a more egregious case to be sure, but similar in outcome.  ‘Nothing is good enough if the neighbours object.’

The message is devastating for developers who believed council was sincere in wanting to encourage secure market-rental projects and more choice of housing in existing neighbourhoods.  But the impact is more significant when considering the upcoming city-wide planning process.  Council just clarified that they are shifting to the conservationist end of the Bushfield-Prest chart.

Regardless of their rhetoric, desires, intents or instructions with respect to the goals of the plan, in the face of opposition to the outcomes the majority will likely side with status quo.  Those in threatened neighbourhoods can now breathe more easily, knowing that regardless of process, they need only prepare for battle when intent is translated into proposal.

When Jean Swanson votes against rental unless it is social housing, when Adriane Carr votes against new housing unless it is ‘affordable’, when Pete Fry, Michael Wiebe and Sarah Kirby-Yung say they’re for denser development but not today, when Colleen Hardwick wants to give communities a de facto veto, when Rebecca Bligh favours the comfort of the dying over the needs of the living, they’re sending the same message as the conservationists in North Vancouver: ‘We don’t believe the housing crisis is all that serious.’

Necssary acknowledgement, then, to Melissa De Genova, Christine Boyle, Lisa Dominato and Mayor Kennedy Stewart who struggled with the issue and in the end voted in favour.



  1. I’m torn on this one. Density is absolutely appropriate to that stretch of Granville, but residents seized the hospice’s objection as a means to quash it. That said, I’ve lived next to a construction site and it would be terrible for people in palliative care to have to endure that. Would anyone want that for their dying parent or grandparent?

    The upside might be they can only use that argument once along Granville, so council may feel more pressure to approve the next proposal. That said, townhomes like those across from Vandusen Garden on Oak would be a better design fit for this neighbourhood.

  2. I have no issue with the notion of a such a development in Shaughnessy, but you are suggesting that the workers and professionals at the hospice spoke against it because they were somehow beholden to wealthy Shaughnessy owners who did not want such a thing in their backyard. Is that really what you come to think of these hospice workers? They care for the dying by day and at night, they go and lie to council because really, they are bought out by Shaughnessy millionaires? Really? I give the hospice workers a lot more credit than that. In fact, I trust their judgement about how it will impact the dying and their families.

    I believe also that they were denied the ability to build a larger hospice due to planning restrictions, so it seems a bit rich that this development now would get the right to build something way more massive than a second story. That’s not the principal issue, but just saying.

    1. My understanding is that it was the hospice owners, not the workers, who were pushing the envelope on the site next door, a site they originally sought to purchase but couldn’t finance. Planning restrictions weren’t really the issue.

    2. Thank you, David! I am one of the hospice staff, and we definitely do not associate ourselves with any aspect of NIMBY-ism. Our one and only concern is (and always has been) the well-being of our patients and families. We know, better than anyone, what type of environment is required to provide the basic elements for end-of-life care. We also know that this proposed development – which would have required a massive excavation & construction only 25 – 30 feet from the hospice walls – would have created disruption to that point where our clinical team could not provide an adequate environment for end-of-life care. This doesn’t even address the access issues that would result from the narrow (shared) one-car alleyway, or the fact that townhouse residents could see the transfer of bodies from their patios and rooftop decks!

      So many facts have been misconstrued in the post-vote media. Thank you again for being a voice of reason, and for seeing this for what it truly is!

  3. What’s the point of an entirely at-large council if they’re going to cave to every parochial entitlement? How is this different from Chicago’s ward system? Isn’t the purpose of an at-large council to promote the needs of the whole city? Maybe not.

  4. Here’s the main issue, causing huge delays thus cost: why do city councillors even vote on a tiny 21 unit building? This ought to be delegated to planing dept, assuming zoning is in place. We need FAR faster approvals and thus fewer delays.

    Time is money!

    1. “Time is money”

      The empty and erroneous platitude that got us in this mess in the first place.

      Nothing would benefit humanity quite so much as a long pause to reflect on where we are and how to address that embarrassing reality.

      1. Yes, and that reflection on part of planning departmens and city councils across the nation, but especially in Vancouver, causes HUGE price increases as these waiting costs, often with numerous revisions, cost a lot of money and thus, cause huge prices of well over $1200/sq ft for even a basic condo these days in Vancouver. It is not quite so bad in other MetroVan cities, but Vancouver delays are THE WORST, although due to stream lining and less building it has improved somewhat last year

        Add time to assemble 3-5 lots for a typical 6 storey wood frame building, and a decade from acquisition of first lot to occupancy is not at all unusual. Time is money indeed, and as such “affordable housing” can happen only on city owned land or land trusts, with CAC elimination and relaxation of the building code.

        Where is the task force, btw, to reduce building code complexities ?

        Not only is time money, but also complexity & regs !!

          1. The point is FAR TOO MANY RULES, too much government, too many regulations, too complex a building code, too long an approval cycle. That is the VERY point my (young?) friend !

            A 21 unit rental building, assuming the zoning is in place, should not even be before council. It should be auto-approved without any hearing.

          2. I agree with Thomas if it fits the zoning regulations and gone through city staff then it should be auto approved. The public has already consulted on the zoning regulations.

    2. They aren’t pushing through projects so their wasting money; unfortunately that’s all it’s about.
      Do you care about affordable housing for the average person.
      I think not it’s all about money ; developers.
      Destroyed what Vancouver was years ago.
      Very quaint and relaxing and peaceful…
      Greed and corruption destroyed this city; such a shame…
      Hate to see this city in years to come..
      At least this government cares and is on top of the money laundering

  5. There is no crisis in Vancouver except a crisis of the mind. Canada is an enormous country. No one needs to live in Vanvouver. No one. If everone moved on to another town or city in Canada and the population of Vancouver went to zero it would not matter.

    1. That is true. Yet most people move to Montreal, GTA or Vancouver region. Why is that ? [hint: people like to move to areas where there are amenities and people they are familiar with ]

      Shall we force immigrants to spend some time, say 5 years in SK, MB or AB first ?

      1. Wanting to move somewhere does not equal a crisis. World War 2 was a crisis. The Great Depression was a crisis. This is about some people wanting do drink their latte’s in a particular suburb of a particular city.

    2. No.

      The more educated you are, the more specialized. Specialized jobs are scarce. Many simply don’t exist in smaller centres.

      Recently I read that the same person doing the same job can be paid 2x to 3x as much if doing it in a major centre (New York, San Francisco, etc.) compared to a small city. This isn’t fantasy money. There is productivity in density.

      You might think that, with the Internet, knowledge and creative work could be done anywhere. But it isn’t done everywhere. I think the reason is clear. There are no diverse resources (e.g. timber, iron, coal, fish) pulling these jobs across the land. There is only one resource that matters: people. People with ideas, people with capital, people with connections. One resource: one principle of concentration. And concentration is a self-reinforcing.

      Personally, I think this is bad. It amplifies inequality. It isolates social groups. It fuels tribalism, misunderstandings, and hate. I wish it were otherwise. But it isn’t. It is a powerful logic. For all the knowledge economy’s many faults (and few benefits), we in Canada don’t get to make the rules. (Though we are fortunate in a sense that we never fully industrialized, so to date have been less hard-hit by the transformation.)

      The solution isn’t to pretend that place and density doesn’t matter. I think that rather than making existing cities denser, we should expand density outwards, sprawling the city into the suburbs, rather than sprawling the suburbs into the countryside. This can offer more opportunities to more people. My other idea is to reduce that great engine of inequality: education. But that’s another story.

  6. The only argument against this project is the basic planning one — there is no walkable community there, no commercial, and no likely chance of there being one. So you would be just creating a pod of about 45 car-captive people with an energy-intensive lifestyle. Unless the city is going to add density at crossroads and build villages, the idea of “adding rental” and “adding density,” regardless of its affordability, is just adding to the planning mess. Don’t even suggest that people would use the Granville bus for their daily needs!

    1. If you think 29th and Granville is too car-dependent, I’d like to introduce you to the rest of the province. The forests of my Fraser Valley hometown are literally being replaced with cul-de-sacs, and you’re going after townhouses on a bus route 24 minutes to downtown?

    2. This is only a 20 minute walk from shops at Arbutus Villlage or South Granville. Might be longer for someone older but there’s also the proximity to the Arbutus Greenway. As Reilly says, this site is far more accessible than most of Metro Vancouver. And why not use the #10 bus for your daily needs?

    3. Car use is indeed far too cheap in Vancouver, in both its states: driving and parked. Only once it is far FAR more expensive will we see more bus, train, LRT, motorbike, e-scooter or e-bike use. We need a carrot AND a stick to get people out of their cars.

      Once it costs $15 to take a car from W Van over 2-3 bridges and various busy arterials to the airport you will see more train or bus use. More on congestion pricing here: If it is $2-3 only it won’t change much. I am surprised, for example, you can drive to the airport for free to pick people up or drop them. Why not charge $5 for every car and it includes 30 min parking/waiting for free ?

      E-shopping now also fairly inexpensive so car is less and less required in Vancouver. Not so much further out, say Surrey or Delta or even N Van, but Vancouver could easily reduce cars by 50% today. Easily.

    4. I lived in a mansion at King Edward and Granville for two years. Before one concludes that I was once wealthy, the mansion was carved up into rooms, most forced to share bathrooms. That and the party animals upstairs motivated me to move out to another rental apartment.

      My point is that I took the Granville bus to and from work downtown everyday. It’s a great bus service with excellent frequency and solid connections at every major arterial crossing. Rentals have, do and must fit in to neighbourhoods like Shaughnessy, if not in the core then at the edges where transit is very good.

  7. I think the occasional “No” is needed to reset Council’s and Staff’s understanding of housing issues. There is an implied argument being made in this piece that neighbours should have no influence over a project, and that everything should be granted approval despite it’s response to context because it contains housing and density. If it’s social housing, better still. These ways of thinking need a hard reset. Staff don’t always support a project, per se, so much as be compelled to deal with it. Some staff, at early days of an enquiry simply don’t have the strength to offer firm advice but ought to do so. The fact is, if an application comes in, it needs to be processed good or bad, support or not. Where does the real problem lie? It’s the policy. (And the politicization of the planning project). Which one is this…. the Affordable Housing Choice Policy? Projects under this policy seem to work on the east side (case and point, Victoria Dr., and Fraser) but are less likely to succeed on the west side. Once again, a City Wide plan is needed with pre-zoned areas and good neighbourhood planning, as MK suggests above. (This will also solidify land cost). The bottom line this project doesn’t fit in it’s context. I can think of countless other places where this project would be better located, but not here. Not until there is a plan that is studied and says otherwise. Until any of those spots are gone, there’s no need to approve this one at this location. We’re not that desperate yet and need to stop acting like we are. The conversation on this topic needs to shift focus.

    1. Jack, yours is the same old creme de la creme argument regurgitated time and time again by residents of the West Side. This site is literally minutes from downtown which makes it more than suitable for a townhouse development. You won’t be so lucky and get a hospice sitting beside the next proposal. We need more density, you’re not special, get over it.

      1. You know nothing about me. I live on the east side. You’re missing the point. There’s no plan in place.

  8. The backchannels say that staff worked extensively with the hospice, the development owner’s architect and some local residents, basically bending over backwards to accommodate the concerns and to follow all the rules. All for naught because of the Creme Concerns of folks who supported the hospice’s unreasonable point of view.

    One view that really galls me is the inference that the “idillic” character of the site and quiet operations of hospices should have the right to dictate limitations to other’s perfectly legal property rights, as though the hospice is entitled to exclusivity. This is not the quiet respite of the core heritage precinct fronting Osler and The Crescent; it faces roaring Granville Street for gawd’s sake! Further, my father died in a noisy, crowded public hospital. My mother died in a noisy, subsidized care facility where she lived for 12 years overlooked by three-story apartments on two sides and a major arterial on another. The hospice arguments do not hold any value for people like me, and I suspect that is the majority view.

    The hospice owners initially tried to purchase the property from the family but couldn’t raise enough money. Now, as Guest points out, the family whose efforts to develop their lot were kiboshed by councillors playing favours with a small number of their constituents are going to build to the max allowable footage for a 12,000 ft2 home without a single care about construction noise. There will be no debate on council about it because the house is already allowed by the current zoning.

    I was recently sent a link to this excellent piece on NIMBYism from McSweeney’s, an American publication. How it does ring true!


    “Friends, neighbors, it’s good to see all of you. I know you, you know me, and just seeing all of your faces at this city council meeting reminds me why I love living in this town. Because I feel comforted by stasis and regularity, both fed by ignorance, and which combine to perpetuate injustice. […]

    “I am grateful for the opportunity to speak tonight, and I look forward to contributing to our robust debate by making claims that are floating in an ether of confusion, prejudice, and unearned authority. […]

    “Our town exists in a fog of mystery and enigmatic strangeness, and nothing that happens outside city boundaries should have any bearing on how we govern or exist. […]

    “I’d like to conclude my remarks with a NIMBY rant about how, first of all, we should not take any action on global climate change, because making a carbon sacrifice [to make our urbanism more efficacious through density] is something we should outsource to people whose lives would be more greatly affected by that carbon sacrifice. And, second, we need to preserve the character of our neighbourhoods, by which I mean prevent immigrants and people of modest means from buying or renting near where I live.”

    1. If it’s fits the zoning then all projects ought to be auto-approved. City council needs very good reasons to not approve it. That is the issue: why is private land developed by private enterprise forces to get any approval ? Just build it. Imagine how much cheaper and plentiful housing would be if no approvals at all were required !!

  9. I can’t agree more that our city needs housing. As a person living next to a building under construction I also can’t agree more with the hospice. Our building has been literally been excavated to the buildings edge, we have structural damage, shifting and cracking of interior walls. If there is an earthquake we slide into a pit and the city has no issue with that. The developer is very nice and polite and then violates the very same noise bylaw that they said they wouldnt violate again. They’re very sorry after the fact, but it coincidentally only happens on the night before a major pour. The city has seemingly no power to make the developer follow the rules or be a decent neighbour. And to the developer the piddling tickets or “talkings to” are meaningless. So yeah. And as many folks have pointed out here this development can be built in lots of other places so I don’t fault the hospice for using every means necessary to stop the development beside them. After my current experience I will do the same if I’m ever not able to just leave after my lease ends.

    1. If your engineer finds structural damage to your building as the result of construction activity or poor shoring and excavation, then your lawyer has a strong case. Anecdotes about slipshod construction practices are not an appropriate measure to stop all construction everywhere next to existing residential.

      The irony is that there will still be two years of construction noise and inconvenience next to the hospice, now in the form of a 12,000 ft2 house for the family who owns the site. To think they were planning to live in two of the condo units before council hit them on the head with a Creme hammer.

  10. Couldn’t agree with you more, Gordon! I couldn’t believe when I heard this was voted down… I actually thought this Council was looking to tackle the affordability crisis. Yes, perhaps this is but one of many projects this Council has otherwise approved elsewhere and throughout Vancouver, but the reasons for denying this one… dubious at best. If Council has passed a rezoning policy (Affordable Housing Choices Interim Policy) indicating higher density, rental housing along a major transit corridor, then go ahead and deny approval of a project that falls squarely under that policy, what is a developer(s) to do other than sit back and wait till council figures itself out and actually sticks to this policy?

    Shame on the residents of Shaughnessy… perhaps flexing their ‘muscles’ one last time before they wake up to reality? An example of NIMBY and NOTE (Not Other There Either) at it’s best. I can only imagine how CoV Planning Department staff are feeling (or reeling!) after this vote.

    1. Indeed.

      I voted for all three Green Party members on council as well as Jean Swanson. I now regret it. Swanson’s reasoning is understandable, but any thought that she would be less myopic and ‘one issue’ with council service evaporated. She may well vote against any and all housing proposals that do not contain subsidized units for the next three years. That is completely unrealistic.

      I am surprised by Mellissa de Genova’s support in defiance of her fellow NPAers’ rejection. Bravo!

      With the Greens it is obvious they are cheesily playing for West Side votes instead of standing up for their principles. Just how green is voting down perfectly reasonable multi-family rental housing with the direct consequence of getting a single family house six times the size of the average house? Their excuses are weak and pathetic. To think this is normal practice for Adriane Carr with respect to her long voting record dominated by one word: No.

      Given this vote, I would encourage One City to run a full slate of candidates next time. Their’s is the most reasonable record so far and it’s obvious they have their eye on the big picture issues. I wish I could say the same for Kennedy, but it took him so long to make up his mind under the bald pressure of wealthy NIMBYs that one can predict he may slip up on other projects under similar pressure, no matter how much good value the project may have.

  11. Now a new mansion is proposed. ONE family is better than 21 ?

    Why is this even on the city council agenda – THAT is the big topic to be debated ?

    I’d say: if it is zoned, ANY proposal ought to get approved by city planning department unless there is a major reason not to, any material, any height, any shape, any colour .. developers are smart enough to build what sells or rents, it does not need a planning dept to approve it. THAT delay and THOSE many riles and regulations are the main reason it costs so much to build here. It needs to be auto-approved in 99%+ of cases !

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