Dunbar activists relieved about temporary halt to retirement home proposal

Dunbar activist Terry Hislop was relieved when he read Mayor Gregor Robertson’s email on his iPad today confirming city staff has denied a proposed six-storey retirement home on the 4600 block of Dunbar.

The proposal by Pacific Arbour Retirement Communities would have meant a rezoning of the block between 30th and 31st avenues. The complex would have included 111 units on six storeys.

This YouTube video posted by Dunbar Re-Vision shows what the building would look like. 

Dunbar Re-Vision, a group of Dunbar neighbours who had been fighting the proposal since October of 2012, posted the mayor’s email in its entirety on their website on Wednesday.

“City staff carefully reviewed the proposal to see if it demonstrated an enhanced level of affordability. Based on the review of rents, as well as the community response to date, staff do not support the six-storey building proposed for the site,” said Robertson in his email.

Hislop, who lives close to the lot, said he was happily surprised the mayor made “the right choice” and thanked him for listening to the people. He said the neighbourhood and local businesses had been wonderful in supporting the protest.

The fact that the proposed development was a senior’s home had nothing to do with it,” Hislop said. But locals refused the rezoning of the large lot to allowing six to seven storey buildings. The Dunbar commercial zone (which only goes up to 30th Ave.) is now zoned for up to four stories, said Hislop.

Another Dunbar Re-Vision member, Bill Stott, who lives on West 30th Ave., said he’s glad the developer will now have to go back to the drawing board. Stott hadn’t even read the email when I phoned him on Wednesday night. “That’s a thrill. A relief to hear,” Stott said.

Relief only temporary?

Mike Andruff, who posted the email on the Re-Vision blog, said he felt like a terrible burden was lifted of his shoulders. However, he thinks today’s denial means just a temporary setback for Pacific Arbour, which has already invested millions of dollars in the project.

“Apparently the mayor is signalling us in Dunbar and the community at large, he is a little more tolerant towards listening to citizens,” Andruff said.

Andruff said his group researched data that suggest that a large senior’s complex on Dunbar Street might be bound for difficulty. He said the changing demography of Dunbar-Southlands means many seniors might move to care homes in the suburbs, near their children’s homes. Children, who have moved out of the neighbourhood, because purchasing single-family houses has become unaffordable.

Andruff said the “noise” the group created on social media as well as the rally in front of City Hall on November 16, 2012, sent out a signal that the issue was not going to go away.

“These guys are serious, and they have numbers,” is the message Andruff thinks was received by City Hall.

Andruff wanted to clarify that Dunbar Re-Vision is an open-minded group willing to brainstorm with city planners and Pacific Arbour about better locations in the Dunbar commercial zone between 27th and 30th avenues.

He hopes if another open house or neighbourhood meeting is to happen, that even more people will attend, including new residents, many of whom come from Asia. “We are all in the same boat together,” said Andruff, who said he hoped the newcomers would become more engaged.

Update: Meanwhile, reactions on twitter were mixed.

The Vancouver Courier interviewed city planner Brian Jackson and Pacific Arbour’s president Peter Gaskill for their reaction.

Reported by Katja De Bock

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