Little Mountain housing development should go ten storeys

Post by Mike Klassen in

7 comments

An approximation of ten storeys on the left in red, while homes would face the park on Lilttle Mountain to the west
An approximation of ten storeys on east side of Ontario street in red, while homes would face the park on Little Mountain to the west

The usual complaint about a development that adds density to a neighbourhood is that it will block light or a view of existing housing. Or that it will attract too much traffic. Or that the requisite public services don't exist for the added density. At the Little Mountain housing site, not a single one of these arguments will stand. There is an opportunity, and an imperative, to increase the density at this site commensurate with the public amenities and transportation infrastructure of this community. What follows are my reasons why.

It is important to remember that this site will create even MORE social and subsidized housing for thousands more people living in the city. As Minister of Housing Rich Coleman stated in his interview with CityCaucus.com, there is a LOT of value in this project that will translate into more affordable homes.

The Little Mountain social housing site has been the cross to die on for activists for years. Even just last week columnist Allen "The Beekeeper" Garr talked about "those poor souls at Little Mountain ... tossed out on the street," which is the kind of rubbish hyperbole usually employed in descriptions by the left. It outright ignores that every single one of the previous residents in this project were:

  1. Provided alternative homes in other parts of Vancouver
  2. Had their moving expenses covered by BC Housing, and
  3. Former residents are being given first dibs on the brand new units that will replace their 50-year old apartments.

So let's stop whining about the folks who've moved from this moribund building and start thinking about the poor souls who should have social housing in Vancouver, but can't because this project is still just a hole in the ground.

Before anyone sets their hair on fire because they only read the title of this post, I'm not suggesting that the whole site be tall buildings. Nor am I suggesting that there be towers, but I'll let the architects figure out whether a slab style building can work. There are single-family residential streets adjacent to the project, and it would be unfair to stand steep buildings higher than four storeys immediately next to them. The sheer size of the acreage where the Little Mountain housing project sits allows for a graduated increase of height moving from east to west.

Just so we can imagine what this might look like I've posted three images from the site, with a solid colour to imagine what ten storeys might look like. The first image you can see above is along Ontario Street, looking south from 33rd avenue. The second is looking west from 33rd Avenue and from the vantage point of the nearby houses. The final image looks from the direction of the park, east back toward the site.

The long edge along Ontario Street faces a steep hill that rises up to the peak of Little Mountain itself. There are no obstructions, other than the mountain itself, which local residents have always had towering over them. When it comes to sunsets on our rare sunny days, they happen just a little earlier in the day for those who live east of Queen Elizabeth Park.

Along this street city planners should abide by the wishes of the Province and the developer to go as high as possible. My arbitrary suggestion is ten storeys at a minimum (some have argued even higher), which is 2 storeys higher than recent public consultations have proposed.

There is an interesting precedent for this kind of development just east of Central Park in Burnaby (see Google Street View). Back in the 1980s, Burnaby city planners wisely began putting in highrises beside Central Park, which stands as a wall of tall evergreen trees next to Patterson Avenue. Now a vibrant dense community next to the Patterson Skytrain station exists. Would anyone shrink this community now?

Let's look at the nearby amenities and Main Street itself. Little Mountain is at the crossroads of one of the most amenity rich communities in Metro Vancouver. It is next to Main Street, the lively strip of restaurants and great shopping that is creeping further south toward 33rd avenue. Little Mountain is at the intersection of three city bike routes. It is beside the huge, shiny new Hillcrest community centre development, with a brand new pool and ice rink. The area is served by two major bus routes, including articulated buses on Main, and it is just minutes from the Canada Line rapid transit station at King Edward.

As I said earlier, Little Mountain's density must be in proportion to its surroundings, and there is no doubt that this site can take a lot of people, and that adding that population will only make this community stronger.

I have no doubt that the Little Mountain housing project will continue to be a political football, and a rallying cry for both left wing activists and NIMBYs alike. In fact I spotted a documentary crew out shooting the site as I drove by to take photos, and I highly doubt they were rooting for Rich Coleman. But if the city is able to get past the inevitable rancor, a great addition to this community will be built which will provide a vital housing legacy for Vancouver and the rest of BC.

7 Comments

I agree with you on Little Mountain. From your description, it looks like a win/win. Good planning.

However, go to City Hall and see what Larco wants to put on the shopping centre site. An ugly jungle with an entrance off Nanton and Yew! Totally out of character with the neighbourhood - not social housing - just for the almighty dollar!

Are you serious!!!!!!!!
With increased density along the Cambie corridor including new height allowances for the brick townhouses and the soon increased density for the RCMP site and the redevelopment of the Oakridge parking lot along with laneway housing along with all the illegal suites that people are putting in this is not a NIMBY issue it is a where do you draw the line for increased density.
I grew up in Vancouver and vividly remember Langara golf course being sectioned off for develpoment and yes I remember the development for Central park into exclusive park condos as family housing was demolished and never replaced.
Unfortunately or fortunately depending on which side you place yourself on this subject this site will become an exclusive gated community like many of the developments in UBC. Why not put in Senior assisted housing along with a social housing componet with a soccer field ( as 2 were lost with the new hillcrest development)A pay parking lot because because whether you like it or not people still do drive and this would help with the increased traffic that a huge development like this will create. Rather than acknowledge that cars still need a place to be developers cry poor and traffic parking pits neighbours against neighbours.
Yes I do believe that Little Mountain Housing should continue to voice their concern for affordable housing ..look at the Olympic village ( so sorry no money )The affordable housing is for families...the average median income for a family of 4 in Vancouver is $44,00 where can your minimum wage earner live?
It seems as the property value in Vancouver increases people have begun to lose there social responsibility and only think of themselves first and what benefits them personally.
I agree this development will be controversial I can already hear the cries of the developers saying that they need increased density to make it profitable ... has anyone thought of why we have by-laws and rules.

Once the development process begins I truly believe that it will all be a facade as there is already a plan in place on someone's desk that has already been approved.
Cynical ? No just reality unfortunately.
This city should be enjoyed by all walks of life not just a certain few that can afford it.

I think 10 stories is just too high. As for your photos with the red shaded area, those might be 6 stories high, they certainly do not reflect a 10 story high building. How about some honest photos? If consultations have agreed on 8 floors, then why do we need more? So the developers can make more money? sorry, I don't really care about them, I care about the neighbourhood. There is no such thing as "eco-density", that is just a cute phrase to make people swallow higher density in their neighbourhoods. There will definitely be parking problems, major increased traffic, etc. and I really wonder how many social housing units there will actually be in the end?

Gail, Minister Coleman says that social housing units at Little Mountain are being replaced "one for one" at the site, which means that a 3-bedroom unit would be replaced with a replacement 3-bedroom unit.

The Minister has insisted that the value in this property is what will fund new social housing at about eight other Vancouver sites. So if we keep things small as you propose, then we can say goodbye to that other social housing.

As for my "red" images – I didn't say they were scientific, just approximations. If you consider the angles they were taken at, and allow for setbacks, etc., then they're not that far off 10 storeys. I'm not trying to candy coat the fact that views will be impacted, or that more drivers will be here. But it's a question of capacity, and availability of transit & amenities. Few neighbourhoods are blessed with as much of the latter as this area is.

Harumph.

Please point out one other example in Vancouver where 10 storeys is below the telephone/hydro wires!!!

Yes density.
But with less dishonesty!

Once again, density in non-downtown spaces is a plan designed to benefit developers and city planners...not the people who live there. The added traffic congestion, the pressure on civic services, and the lowering of quality of life and property values greatly outweigh any revenue benefits to the city.

This neighborhood has already been altered forever by the building of the Canada Line. We now put up with the road raged drivers who have discovered our neighborhood makes a great route to avoid the traffic on Cambie, Main and the dreaded 41st Ave n our block alone we have lost 3 seniors in one year and I'm sure it is due to the stess of the increase in traffic and noise. What will you be doing to us with this increase in density? Leave the site as it is zoned - four stories I believe. No one should have the power to re-zone and change peoples lives forever. This is far to much power given to a small group of people.

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