Vancouver Sun

Residents push back on density

Growth in Metro is inevitable, but public should be consulted on how to deal with it, they say

- KELLY SINOSKI ksinoski@ vancouvers­un. com Twitter: @ ksinoski

With another million people slated to flood into Metro Vancouver by 2041, the issue of how to house them all — whether in highrise towers, townhouses or singlefami­ly homes — has become a hot- button topic in the upcoming municipal election.

Residents are pushing back against density in every municipali­ty across Metro Vancouver, from the smaller burbs of Port Moody, Delta and Langley to large, leafy, single- family communitie­s of Vancouver’s -Grand-view-Woodland and Burnaby’s Brentwood Town Centre.

And it’s not just the paving over of agricultur­al land or the changing characters of their cities that rankles residents, but increasing resistance to clogged roads, longer commute times and lack of transit that comes with more people living in confined spaces.

“Everyone understand­s the region is going to add another million more people … that means one of two things: paving over the Fraser Valley or densifying,” said Patrick Smith, a professor and past chair of the department and current director of the Institute of Governance Studies at Simon Fraser University.

“People recognize this genericall­y. It’s when it hits their neighbourh­ood that it becomes problemati­c.”

Residents’ concerns appear to have intensifie­d over the past few months, Smith noted, partly he expects because more city officials acknowledg­e they may have moved too fast on building bigger, higher and denser developmen­ts in their communitie­s. Massive growth in some cities was likely spurred on by the regional growth strategy, he added, which calls for increased housing density around transit hubs to welcome the new growth as well as encourage residents to get out of their cars and walk, cycle or take transit.

“There is some recognitio­n that they haven’t handled this as well politicall­y as they might have,” Smith said.

Vancouver, for instance, has started a citizens’ assembly in Grandview- Woodland to address residents’ concerns, while New Westminste­r city staff suggested council put a pause on applicatio­ns for highdensit­y developmen­ts in the downtown core following concerns from residents that the city was growing too fast.

In Port Moody, residents are balking at the city’s proposed new Official Community Plan, saying it will transform their small community and create more traffic, pollution and parking headaches and affect park space.

Hazel Mason, president of the Moody Centre Residents’ Associatio­n, says her group isn’t opposed to growth, but would prefer more “human- scale” developmen­t, such as laneway housing or basement suites, along the Evergreen SkyTrain line to complement Port Moody’s existing character.

“This is happening everywhere,” she said. “I’m sure everyone is most concerned about their own neighbourh­oods but this is really, really, extreme, what they’re proposing here. We’re not antigrowth. We just want smart growth, human- scale growth in Moody Centre and to be at the table.”

The situation has prompted former Port Moody city manager Gaetan Royer to challenge incumbent Mike Clay for the mayor’s chair, on the basis the proposed OCP should be rethought.

Similar strife is going on in Burnaby, where council has proposed mini- Metrotowns­tyle developmen­ts for Brentwood, Edmonds and Lougheed Town Centres, which are predominan­tly single- family communitie­s interspers­ed with lowrise commercial.

In Langley Township, some residents have also started an “unelect campaign,” claiming they have no protection from future developmen­t, while North Vancouver City’s draft Official Community Plan is in limbo following an unpreceden­ted public process that went on for three years.

Developmen­t is also an issue in Surrey, where former mayor Bob Bose says “we’re reaching a point where the citizens and neighbours have to take precedence.”

Mary De Paoli, Port Moody’s manager of planning, said there’s always resistance when a city proposes change — and she’s not surprised to see an uprising over the OCP’s plans to transform the older, singlefami­ly neighbourh­ood of Moody Centre.

The city faced a similar upset around developmen­t in Newport Village, she added, but just like Moody Centre, the area needed an overhaul ahead of the Evergreen Line coming through.

“It’s just recognizin­g that’s where growth should logically happen in relation to investment­s in rapid transit and making sure it’s sensitive to residents … that it becomes a net benefit rather than being seen as a negative.”

Smith said he’s not surprised density and developmen­t have risen to the top of the candidates’ platforms, noting that while growth is inevitable across the region, city officials seem to have missed a major step along the way: consulting and involving the public.

Public consultati­on may seem to take too long, he said, but it is a much better option than trying to “hit the reset button on the process,” especially when residents already have their backs up over what is occurring in their backyards.

Burnaby city officials have done a good job of developing Hastings Street in the Heights neighbourh­ood, he said, by building smaller threetofou­r storey buildings that fit the character of the older community.

But they have gone the other way with Brentwood Town Centre, which will see 70- storey towers springing up around a redevelope­d shopping mall.

“There has to be something between those two things,” Smith said. “There are different ways to do this and I think that’s what people are objecting to more than anything.”

Brentwood residents have argued Burnaby city officials should have followed Vancouver’s process for its redevelopm­ent at Oakridge Mall: before any public hearing took place there was a year of online and public open house on potential impact assessment­s.

“It’s fair to say there’s going to be some density. But there are much better ways to do it that are much more sensitive to communitie­s or involve communitie­s,” Smith said. “You have to sell the notion that ( density) is coming and the alternativ­e will be an unsustaina­ble environmen­t or economy if it doesn’t go ahead.”

 ?? JASON PAYNE/ PNG ?? High- density developmen­t, like Burnaby’s Metrotown, is a hot- button election issue.
JASON PAYNE/ PNG High- density developmen­t, like Burnaby’s Metrotown, is a hot- button election issue.
 ?? CARMINE MARINELLI ?? Hazel Mason, head of Moody Centre Residents’ Associatio­n, says her group isn’t opposed to growth, but would prefer more ‘ human- scale’ developmen­t.
CARMINE MARINELLI Hazel Mason, head of Moody Centre Residents’ Associatio­n, says her group isn’t opposed to growth, but would prefer more ‘ human- scale’ developmen­t.

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