Victoria Park to get new condo rentals (NS News)

Coverage of the Public Hearing for 161 E Keith:

There’s a new tower coming to east Keith Road next to Victoria Park.

A split City of North Vancouver council voted Monday night to approve the 16-storey tower containing 52 strata units and 41 rental units at 161-165 East Keith Road.

The vote passed 4-3 with support from Mayor Darrell Mussatto and his council allies: Couns. Craig Keating, Linda Buchanan and Holly Back.

Debate at the council table pitted the project’s high energy efficiency and replacement of the city’s rental stock against objections over its sheer size compared to the tiny lot it sits on.

Beyond the green building standards and purpose-built rental units protected by a legal covenant, Developer FDG Property Management will pay the city $1.8 million to purchase density from the adjacent city-owned boulevard to the north of the building. The city is also reducing the minimum space between towers from 80 feet to just over 68 feet and the required setback from the property line. FDG must enhance and maintain the boulevard as part of the agreement.

The project will require the demolition of a 12- unit, three-storey walk-up building from 1954 in “relatively poor” condition, according to city staff. The building’s 14 residents will be given four month’s notice before eviction, one month’s free rent, free access to moving vans, boxes and a driver as well as help in finding new accommodations.

The new units will range from 500-square-foot bachelor suites to 1,300-square-foot three-bedroom condos. Rents should be around $2.50 per square foot according to the building’s architect Michael Katz.

Coun. Pam Bookham voted against the project on the grounds that it was “shoehorned” into the lot, and that its biggest impacts would be felt by the people who will face eviction when construction starts. “You don’t address poverty by displacing people from affordable housing or by driving up land values by creating this kind of development potential,” she said.

Mussatto countered that today’s pricey market rentals will be tomorrow’s affordable rentals, especially as older buildings are torn down and replaced, often without rental units at all.

“I’m hoping in 20, 30 or 40 years will be the new low-end of market rental as new buildings come online. I know it’s hard to say but we have to have new rental units and we need these units in the city,” he said.

Couns. Rod Clark and Don Bell joined Bookham’s dissent.

None of the residents who turned out to a public hearing on Monday night spoke in favour of the project, nor did any of the 19 residents who wrote letters to council and 37 residents in the neighbourhing building who signed a petition in opposition.

Among the opponents was Linda Heese, who lives in one of the highrises on the north side of the park, who argued the density council was prepared to grant was three times higher than what the official community plan would normally allow. “It is so far beyond what should even be considered that it is hard to understand why we are even here to discuss this proposal,” she said.

Other reasons given to shoot the project down included that it would swallow up street parking in the neighbourhood, reduce privacy for residents of nearby buildings, encourage other developers to knock down older buildings and that it would be disrespectful to the sanctity of the cenotaph in Victoria Park.

The project received its first reading by council in February 2014 but the public hearing and vote on second and third readings was put off until Monday at the request of the developer.

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