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Will B.C.’s blanket upzoning 'destroy' Metro’s 'best neighbourhood'?

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The most desirable neighbourhood in Metro Vancouver is threatened by the provincial government’s mass upzoning, says the mayor of Richmond. View this email in your browser W — INFORMED@PINION Curated by Dharm Makwana A student from India is dead following a shooting in south Vancouver late Friday night. Chirag Antil, 24, was found dead inside a vehicle in the area of East 55th Avenue and Main Street at about 11 p.m. Police did not say whether the homicide is believed to be gang-related. No arrests have been made. ` (Jason Payne / PNG) Will B.C.’s blanket upzoning 'destroy' Metro’s 'best neighbourhood'? Q Douglas Todd b The most desirable neighbourhood in Metro Vancouver is threatened by the provincial government’s mass upzoning, says the mayor of Richmond. Steveston, an historic township of about 6,000 people at the mouth of the Fraser River, came out on top when British Columbians were asked to name the “best neighbourhood” in Metro Vancouver out of 192 communities. But Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie is convinced the B.C. NDP’s decision to force municipalities to approve fourplexes to sixplexes on virtually all single-family lots in the province will have “a dramatic effect on the character of Steveston,” which is adjacent to a popular shopping village and fishing harbour. “You will have many more people. You will have parking nightmares. You will have infrastructure challenges. You’ll have no public hearings. It will dramatically affect not only the physical neighbourhood, it will affect the quality of life in the neighbourhood," says Brodie. The province’s sweeping legislation, which Brodie and other mayors complain was rammed through without consultation, amounts to “vast overreach, of really historic proportions, without any controls,” he said. The attractive, low-rise historic towns of Fort Langley and Ladner will also be harmed by the blanket upzoning of neighbourhoods, said Brodie. Provincial Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon disagrees. If developers end up building sixplexes in Steveston, they will only go up gradually, he said. And, anyway, the neighbourhoods immediately adjacent to Steveston already have multi-unit complexes. "They've already got townhomes in Steveston. I don't understand why a few single-family homes going to sixplexes would be a major change to the character of the community," Kahlon said. The Richmond mayor first raised alarms in February about Steveston when he said B.C.’s upzoning “will destroy a fine neighbourhood.” That is when he was on a panel titled “Housing the Next Million British Columbians” at a Union of B.C. Municipalities conference, where officials said record population growth is a “massive problem” for housing in B.C. Emphasizing Richmond has for decades approved dense housing projects in specific neighbourhoods, Brodie bemoaned how the province’s broad new legislation does not require developers to provide off-street parking for sixplexes. “On each lot, you’re going to have up to six units. There are no parking minimums required. And because of the relatively small size and configuration of the lots in Steveston, for the most part there’s no laneways. You’re going to have a completely different neighbourhood than when you started.” Brodie doesn’t like imagining how low-density neighbourhoods, such as Steveston, which average 10 houses on one side of a typical city block, could “end up having 60 residential units on that same one side of the block.” For his part, Kahlon played down the parking conflict. While the B.C. government waived the requirement for off-street parking as a "good thing," to encourage people to use transit and lower the cost of a dwelling, Kahlon said the reality is most developers will provide parking anyway, because "they know the unit won't sell without a parking spot." Brodie, a lawyer who was elected to council in 1996 and as mayor in 2001, is not alone in his concerns. Many civic politicians and Metro planners appreciate the NDP’s attempt to push for more housing, particularly of the affordable kind, but still argue a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not the way to go. Long-time Richmond councillor Chak Au is among those who worries that blanket upzoning could negatively change Steveston, which in 2020 won the popular vote in a CBC Radio contest, with locals saying it has a friendly, small-town feel unlike most Metro communities. “Steveston’s rich heritage, cultural diversity, vibrant fishery and agricultural activities could be jeopardized by ongoing over-development,” said Au. “The new house-massing legislation disregards the threats faced by communities like Steveston.” Under the legislation, roughly 1,000 detached lots in Steveston are now zoned for sixplexes. That's because they are within 400 metres of a frequent-transit line (defined as service that runs every 15 minutes during regular hours) on Seventh Avenue. Even though the boundaries of the community of Steveston are often imagined more broadly, city staff draw Steveston township narrowly — as No. 1 Road to the east, Chatham Street to the south, Seventh to the west, and Steveston Highway to the north. When Kahlon refers to how Steveston already has apartment blocks and townhouses, most of those complexes are east of No. 1 Rd. or west of Seventh Ave., which puts them just outside Steveston's official boundary. Although some critics on social media have accused Brodie of being a NIMBY, an opponent of increased density, for trying to protect detached properties, he says Richmond has grown a significant amount since he was first on council. “We’ve never been handcuffed by expectations of low density. We’ve always assumed growth. We’ve always taken our share,” Brodie said, referring to approving the construction of hundreds of medium-size apartment towers, condominium buildings and townhouse complexes. The population of Richmond is now 230,000, he said, compared to 148,000 when he was first elected. Two out of three Richmond residents are immigrants or non-permanent residents. “We encouraged rapid transit and transit networks. We want to build housing in those areas. So if someone wants a single-family home in a single-family area, what’s wrong with that?” Much of the so-called “single-family zoned” neighbourhoods of Richmond, Brodie added, already allow larger properties, such as those with 60-foot frontages, to be subdivided for two homes, with one suite each. Instead of province-wide upzoning, Brodie believes the government should have worked with municipalities to set new housing targets and then let cities decide how to reach the goals. “The B.C. government shouldn’t prescribe the solution for everywhere from Victoria to Dawson Creek. It’s not going to be the same.” For his part, Kahlon fully agrees Richmond has done its bit for density. He has praised the Richmond mayor in the past for providing "a classic example" of how to upzone for apartment blocks and townhouse complexes while "having it look well in the community." And while Kahlon appreciates Richmond council "doesn't want another level of government pushing them to get more housing," he argues the problem is that other mayors are telling him, "Everything is fine. Nothing needs to change. If you talk to people throughout Metro Vancouver, they'll tell you it's not fine. It's not affordable, and we don't have enough housing." That said, Brodie has been joined by Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley and others in saying upzoning will not lead to more affordable dwellings for Metro Vancouver, which last year Demographia ranked the third most “unaffordable” region out of 94 when comparing mean household incomes to house prices. Richmond's longest-serving mayor has learned that simply increasing housing supply does not reduce prices. “In the past 10 years, the number of new residential units in Richmond has exceeded population growth by over 50 per cent," says Brodie. "You would think that would make things less expensive. But during that same period the cost to buy a home in Richmond rose by 77 per cent. And incomes stayed roughly the same.” Drawing board DK TSK! ToK! CANADIANS! The ANSNERTo £ e 1N INTerfereN(e 15 o EASY AP So obVioiS! No tlecTioNS ! rs I - $ D ] | Voices Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke and her council majority are still hoping that they can keep the RCMP through a court challenge, set to go ahead April 29. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth insists that is not in the cards. The province is confident of winning the case. Even if it doesn’t, he insists it would still leave the final decision on policing services up to the province. He sounds very sure of himself. But one is reminded of all the times in the past that he and the New Democrats maintained they had created the conditions to end the stand off. They’ve failed repeatedly to bring closure. *** On Feb. 1, 1993, Gary Bettman was named commissioner of the National Hockey League. Three months and nine days later, the Canadiens won Lord Stanley’s Cup for the 24th time, defeating Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings, four games to one, writes Postmedia contributor Jack Todd. From a Canadian perspective, Bettman’s tenure has been downhill ever since. What we’re reading • Sarah-Jean Craig: Let's fix Canada's nursing shortage before it gets even worse • Warren Kinsella: Liberal Party of Canada can only be saved by Justin Trudeau's departure • David Staples: 'Mega-intellectual PR machine': Professor blasts gigantic funding of Trudeau Liberals climate narrative • Kevin Klein: Government transparency crumbles under Manitoba NDP rule, a call for accountability • Josh Freed: Spain is a nightlife paradise Readers’ choice • B.C. signs agreement handing over title to Haida Gwaii • Armoured house hits market near Naramata • Toxic drug crisis rages on 8 years after B.C. declared public health emergency Advertise with us © 2024 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved. 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