WeLoveKits Statement on the Rezoning Application Decision for
3084 W 4th Ave & 2010 Balaclava Street
VANCOUVER, BC – March 11, 2021 – For the past two years, WeLoveKits has taken up opposition to the rezoning application at 3084 W 4th Ave & 2010 Balaclava Street. WeLoveKits has opposed the project because we believed the design proposed by the developer was an inefficient design. The proposed building had a number of design flaws that were not compatible with the neighborhood or with the objective of providing affordable housing. With only 16,000 rentable square feet in a 21,000 square foot building, 25% of the space was dedicated to non-rentable space, contributing to an oversized and inefficient building.
We developed a more efficient and innovative design which we called the Balaclava Option, a stacked apartment and townhome-style building with 4 above-ground stories, and with room for adequate setbacks and greenery. The Balaclava Option was a design built in collaboration with respected urban designers and the developer, which we believed demonstrated a thoughtful, ground-oriented, “missing middle” form of development that was economically feasible, a better fit, and was supported by the community. The Balaclava Option had the added benefit of providing the developer 87% of the rentable square feet that they were requesting, simply by removing some of the inefficiencies of the building that they were proposing.
For the two years leading up to the public hearing, we frequently attempted to communicate our issues to city staff. However, regardless of our communication to staff, staff informed us at every stage of the process that they had already decided to recommend this project to Council in its existing form, and that’s exactly what happened. Had staff listened and attempted to address our issues, they could have had a neighbourhood coming out in support of the application instead of what is being described as a “marathon” 11-hour public hearing of voices in opposition.
We also made attempts to talk to councillors. About half of the councilors agreed to meet with us, the rest ignored us completely. Mayor Stewart and his staff for instance never returned our calls or emails in a two-year period. Keep in mind we represented over 600 people at that point.
Councillor Hardwick was the councilor who took the strongest interest in our issue. From the very beginning, when most of the other councilors were ignoring us, she spent time on the phone with us, provided helpful suggestions, offered to do site visits, and took time to understand the alternate form of development that we were proposing, the “Balaclava Option”. We felt that Councillor Hardwick was a thoughtful and well-informed politician with the best interests of the community at heart.
In the end, our concerns were not recognized by council in any meaningful way. City Council voted unanimously - with the sole exception of Councillor Hardwick - to support the application. Several councillors tacked an amendment on at the end to make it seem like Councillors were listening to the community but the amendment was worded so vaguely that it made no material difference. The vote passed 10-1.
It was very disheartening that our efforts were largely ignored and as we eventually found out, unappreciated by some councillors. A few days later, a local newspaper interviewed one of the councilors and published an article entitled, “Vancouver Councillor Questions Drawn-out Approval Process for New Rental Housing”. By framing the process as “drawn-out” it was implied that the community was somehow wasting the councillor’s time. Councillors have also been active on social media touting this case as a victory. We ask, what kind of a victory is it for the city, if it leaves our neighbourhoods defeated? We think these types of troubling perspectives do not reflect the ideals necessary to provide an unbiased, unprejudiced, and fair public hearing process for the city.
While we were not successful at this public hearing, it is the residents of the City of Vancouver who have lost the most. Our case represents a lost opportunity for the city to collaborate with the neighbourhood and the development industry to find innovative forms of “missing middle” secured rental housing that could have been suitable for this site and other small sites. We all want to increase the supply of affordable housing . We hope that Councillors do not continue to side solely with the development industry in their pursuit of affordable housing in Vancouver. Instead, we hope they recognize that their citizens can also be part of the solution. The sort of innovation and engagement that produced the “Balaclava Option” is not something to be discouraged, but rather, something that the City of Vancouver should cultivate and encourage in the ongoing creation of Vancouver’s Citywide Plan.
WeLoveKits is a community association of renters and home owners who live in the neighbourhood of Kitsliano, Vancouver, BC. WeLoveKits focuses on long-term and short-term change through direct action and the organizing of community. WeLoveKits engages in community building, community planning, direct action and mobilization, the promotion of community change, and, ultimately, direct democracy. For more information please visit www.WeLoveKits.org
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3095 W 5th Avenue