Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail in an article entitled “It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see such stupidity about Vancouver’s affordable rental housing market” weighs in on the City of Vancouver’s Council majority nixing a planned 21 rental unit project at 4575 Granville Street, which would have abutted an eight bed hospice. This rental project was under the auspices of the City’s Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning (AHC) policy. As it is a rezoning, it requires the associated public hearing to garner residents’ comments, as well as Council’s approval.
Council voted 7-4 to reject the rental housing proposal, and the voting did not go along party lines. There was a litany of reasons for this choice, including items like developer profit margin and parking capacity that could have been been negotiated with the Directors of Engineering and Planning.
Mason observes “those who didn’t want to see a rental project go up in this neighbourhood used the hospice as a pretext, saying construction would have been too disruptive for those using the facility.”
Mason also states “Rental townhomes are precisely what the city needs. There are an increasing number of small, rental apartments, but not anywhere near enough units for people with families. That’s exactly the need this project would have filled, yet council killed it in a moment of fantastic short-sightedness. (One councillor thought the underground parking lot being proposed was too big. Seriously).”
Price Tags publisher and former City Councillor Gordon Price was blunt on the turning down of this rental project by local residents who used the hospice as a fulcrum for defeat. Gordon in his Price Tags post blasts that this City Council indicated:
‘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.”
I have a unique perspective on hospice care. In the 1980’s I was involved in the confidential acquisition of property for an AIDS hospice on Granville Street.
I was the health planner for Dr. John Blatherwick, who was the City of Vancouver’s Medical Health Officer. I also worked with Dr. Blatherwick on the Mayor’s Task Force on AIDS. The Granville Street hospice location was originally purchased because it was accessible and affordable (cheaper in those days on a busy street). The initial hospice use for people with AIDS was originally kept confidential because of potentially adverse neighbourhood reaction.
Years later residents in the same area have used the Vancouver Hospice Society’s Granville Street hospice location as a reason to generate worry about the proposed neighbouring rental project which was designed by an architect well known for sensitive contextual design and solutions.
In the three decades since the time when so many young people died of AIDS, hospices and hospice care are unfamiliar to many people, and discussing hospice location and use is now a sensitive topic. Instead of looking at how to best locate or structurally build hospices for the most positive outcome for hospice users, existing hospices have appeared to want to limit what can be built around them. Unfortunately current land use plans do not allow for that, and that may be something that municipalities need to consider. In Vancouver hospices are classified as a “Community Care Facility Class A” and are a conditional use requiring Director of Planning permission in a neighbourhood. They must integrate into the area and not cause “undue impact”.
It’s no surprise that the owners of the nixed rental housing property at 4575 Granville Street adjacent to the hospice have now announced that they would be pursuing the construction of a 12,000 square foot single family mansion on the site. That development will cause construction noise and disturbance to the hospice~the difference is that the neighbourhood gets their decades old familiar context of an oversized single family house.
Tom Davidoff of the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business sharply points out that by not allowing rental housing here that this Council has just reinforced single-family zoning~“This has been the position of council for a long time, to protect these single-family neighbourhoods and to be extremely sensitive to the affluent homeowners [who] oppose development near them.”
Not much appears to have changed.
Images: Daily Hive & Glacier Media