Urban affairs journalist and blogger Frances Bula recently noted a heating up of resistance to densification in Metro Vancouver, especially in the City of Vancouver. A consortium of neighbourhood interests called “Liveable Vancouver” is spotlightlighting the controversy in Marpole, where the City government is trying to develop a plan to accommodate a forecast population increase. On a recent visit, we saw many lawn signs protesting against rezoning; a Marpole neighourhood group claims there are thousands.
The City’s current concept would protect Marpole’s significant stock of rental housing; enable townhome construction on many of the residential streets where there is now single-family housing; and allow condo apartments or towers on the arterial streets.
As a resident of distant Maple Ridge, I am way outside the Marpole process. I’ll only suggest that the positions taken by the local government and the resident activists seem predictable. The City says its densification concept is moderate, and geared to gradual change; the resident activists say the City concept is extreme, and the process is rushed.
The Marpole citizens find that the City concept, as expressed in drawings presented at open houses, would result in the rezoning of properties representing 24 per cent of the existing single family homes, or 721 properties, and 39 per cent of existing duplexes, or 321 properties.
I took a Saturday walk through Marpole with two co-tourists, graphic artist Calvin Hutton and Surrey accountant Robert Smarz, a student of real estate. We approached the Granville high street from the west side, walked the length of the shop fronts, and turned west again to have lunch at a good pub restaurant called Hudson’s Landing.
South of 70th Avenue and east of Granville, we passed through a 20-square-block area of rental apartments, some of them coming to the end of their useful life. A lady who was bound for the church rummage sale said she was a long-time resident of one of the older apartment buildings, and not concerned about rezoning, which she reckoned was a problem for homeowners.
West of Granville and north of 70th we saw detached homes. The older houses are being speedily replaced with larger units, constructed almost to the lot lines.
Earlier in 2013, the relatively popular City government surprised the well-organized citizens of another neighbourhood, Grandview-Woodlands, with a plan for tower development. The residents in that neighbourhood fought back and won a delay in their process, and folks in Marpole have done the same; in a late September decision, Mayor and Council have deferred any decision on a general Marpole rezoning to at least late 2014. On the main streets of Marpole, however, there is tower construction already underway — on Granville Street, and on Cambie Street, at the eastern edge of what the City defines as Marpole. These projects are the result of earlier planning decisions made in 2010 and 2011.
New residents of Marpole will find a neighbourhood with some attractive features, including frequent bus transit and a rapid transit line along Cambie. However, we experienced the Granville commercial area as heavy on the small restaurants and hair salons, perhaps at the expense of other services. The sidewalks were also unpleasantly noisy on a Saturday. Granville is the key vehicle connection between Vancouver International Airport and downtown Vancouver; I can’t suggest a solution to the noise problem.
[This is post #21 in our Urban Villages series.]