A proposal by an East Side church to build supportive housing near East First Avenue and Victoria Drive is being opposed by nearby residents concerned with the size and nature of the project.
“Unfortunately, we don’t trust the church,” said neighbour MaryAnn Murray.
Neale Staniszkis Doll Adams Architects submitted an application to the city on behalf of Salsbury Community Society, a nonprofit associated with nearby Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, which owns the land.
The public can speak to the rezoning at city hall April 16.
The proposal would rezone three lots—now parking lots and a community garden—that permit a total of seven dwellings, to allow a four-storey building of 26 units. Eighteen to 20 of the units would be for low-income tenants from the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood who need supportive housing. Six to eight units would be for community members.
City staff recommend council approve the rezoning on the condition that building’s proposed height be reduced from 50 to 45 feet. Building heights of 35 feet are currently permitted. Staff also suggest the design of the building needs to be compatible with the historic, residential character of the neighbourhood.
Tim Dickau, pastor of Grandview Calvary, says Salsbury reduced the height of the building by five feet to the proposed 50 feet. “It is an appropriate place to build a building that’s five feet to 10 feet taller than the other houses because it is at the bottom of hill and it’s on the corner of two busy streets,” he said.
Johanna Suttor-Doerksen, Salsbury’s community housing director, says the facility wouldn’t be financially viable or meet the needs of residents if its size had to be reduced. The society wants to offer a range of apartment sizes and a kitchen and garden where people from different backgrounds could mingle.
But Murray says the further five-foot reduction recommended by city staff doesn’t go far enough. The residents note the rezoning would allow a building that’s double the permitted size. They want the roofline to match area homes.
The Grandview-Woodland Area Council penned a lengthy letter of concern to the city about the project. Residents convinced 25 Commercial Drive business owners to sign a petition and have appealed to four city councillors.
The residents want written assurance the supportive housing building with large common space on the main floor wouldn’t include programs that serve potentially disruptive people beyond the building’s residents, or programs that could draw more vehicles to their busy streets.
Murray said past programs at the church for people at risk have resulted in problems with inebriated and aggressive visitors who were denied entry to the programs. She said the visitors would litter, fight and on at least on occasion accost a neighbour. She said one tried to break into her home while she was there.
She added the church wanted to provide a rehabilitation program for drug addicts years ago and wouldn’t back down to opposition until a city planner advised the church not to advance the plan.
The neighbours want future programs clearly laid out in the management agreement.
City staff report of 196 responses to the proposal, 57 per cent were in support and 39 per cent were opposed.
The public hearing starts at West 12th and Cambie at 6 p.m.