Despite residents speaking out against overcrowding, more traffic and pricier housing, city council voted unanimously last Wednesday to pass amendments that will implement parts of the Marpole Community Plan. This would rezone some arterial streets such as Granville and Osler from one- and two-family dwellings to permit townhouses, rowhouses and four-storey apartments.
Council approved the new 30-year plan for Marpole last April. It includes plans for 6,800 new home-ownership units, 835 rental units and 1,085 units of social housing. It also calls for expanded park space, enhanced walking and cycling routes and upgraded community facilities.
Despite the vote, NPA Coun. George Affleck said discussions on how to apply the Marpole plan in practice will go on.
About 50 Marpole residents attended council, and after their anti-densification struggles of the past two years, most of the speakers sounded tired and half-resigned to the neighbourhood’s new reality.
Marpole Residents Coalition spokesperson Mike Burdick supported the amendments but with reservations. “Do I want it? No. Do I approve it? I guess so.” He worries that thousands of new residents will bring a massive and dangerous rise in automobile traffic, especially around the Gateway project at Cambie and Marine Drive.
Resident Gudrun Langolf said it could have been worse: “At least the new houses aren’t condo towers — we don’t need any more of those phallic symbols.”
Other points were repeatedly raised: urgings that the Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre should be upgraded but remain at its current location, fears that rare old houses might be torn down around Osler Street, complaints that “pre-zoning” details will be worked out in staff meetings and not at full council, and worries that the touted “affordable housing” is far too pricey to be called affordable. One resident said to applause, “How can a student afford a $885,000 townhouse?”
One lone Marpole resident voiced another outlook. The streets seemed too quiet and empty, Ignatius But told council, and he yearned for more excitement and activity in the area. The 21-year-old has lived in Marpole for 10 years in a four-storey condo near 59th Ave and Columbia Street.
Many councillors appeared disturbed by some residents’ complaints about pushy realtors badgering elderly Marpole homeowners to sell their houses. One resident said her 84-year-old mother has been called so often that she is afraid to answer the phone or the door.
Matt Shillito, assistant planning director, said “absolutely no one is required to sell their homes,” and complainants should call the B.C. Real Estate Council.
Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs wondered how newly bought properties on the Cambie Corridor can be kept in use. Stevenson said he sees offshore speculation and absentee ownership in Coal Harbour and the West End, but not so much in Marpole. Shillito agreed: “There is a big demand to buy and rent such townhouses, and the Marpole area is geared more for local families, so buildings are less likely to be left vacant.”
Despite their dim view of the Marpole plan, a few residents changed their view of the planning process and voiced some gratitude for it.
City planners did a good job of consulting, even for renters, and seemed to respond to two years of protest by scaling down the original high densification plan, they said.
“When I got a personalized card in the mail to come to this meeting, I almost jumped for joy, because in the past only homeowners got such notices,” said Langolf.
© 2015 Vancouver Courier