Sebastian Zein is concerned about a plan for 67 units of market housing with ground floor retail space in his Kitsilano neighbourhood.
Zein is not against the development proposal. He just wants to see more density as the neighbourhood becomes part of the growing transit corridor that will soon explode with SkyTrain expansion to UBC.
“I really think we should be looking at 12 storeys minimum,” he said.
MCMP Architects has submitted a development application to the City of Vancouver for a four-storey, mixed-use building on West 4th Avenue at Macdonald Street. The proposed height of 49 feet, which includes a requested relaxation of approximately four feet, is “within current city zoning,” according to James Tod of JTA Development Consultants.
Zein, who works as an urban analyst, doesn’t fault the developer — MCMP Architects is proposing the maximum allowable height in the area’s low rise landscape — but he said if current zoning rules reflected housing demand, the site would house a tower.
WATCH: (Aired March 4) Vancouver councillor proposes rezoning freeze along Broadway corridor in wake of SkyTrain expansion
“I think the problem is with the rules, that don’t treat central transit hubs like 4th and Macdonald like the central parts of the city that they are,” Zein said. “We shouldn’t be keeping people out of parts of the city like this.”
Already a key stop for bus service to UBC and downtown Vancouver, the area adjacent to the Broadway corridor is only expected to grow.
The six-kilometre SkyTrain subway extension from VCC-Clark Station to Arbutus Street is approved and funded, with an estimated price tag of $2.83 billion.
An eventual seven-kilometre SkyTrain link to UBC’s Point Grey campus was approved by the Mayor’s Council last month after Vancouver city council voted to back the extension in January.
A 2013 KPMG study done for the city and UBC found that the employment and population of the UBC/Broadway corridor would grow by 150,000 in the next 30 years.
UBC economist Tom Davidoff told Global News greater density is called for with the additional SkyTrain link.
WATCH: Coverage of the UBC SkyTrain extension on Globalnews.ca
“One way to go, of course, is to really pile density on the arterials,” the Sauder School of Business associate professor said.
Davidoff said the city’s choices are eight or more storeys on main routes in Kitsilano, or more moderate density up to four storeys in current residential zones.
“Say townhomes throughout the single family neighbourhoods today, and then expand a little bit more density along the arterials as well,” Davidoff suggested. “Probably a mix of the two is what makes the most sense.”
When asked if the current low rise landscape along the West 4th and Broadway transit corridor from Arbutus to UBC was going to be able to accommodate growth over the next 50 years, Vancouver’s mayor told Global News that any future Kitsilano density decisions will be done with public consultation.
“The main thing is that we have to make sure that the planning is done right for the community, to make sure that we’re listening to people and make sure that any future development is reflective of demand in the city,” Kennedy Stewart told Global News.
Zein says he’ll still be supporting the project “because it’s Kitsilano, and people will find a way to NIMBY against even a modest no-rezoning development proposal.”
But he fears sites like this one will be vastly underutilized over the next half century — unless rezoning applications for taller buildings are entertained.
“We really need to be throwing the door open to places like Kitsilano that are close to downtown, where you don’t need to have a car, where you don’t have a large carbon footprint, where you can walk to all your amenities,” Zein said.
“Right now were doing the opposite.”