Grandview Calvary Baptist Church has plan for East Vancouver lot
Rents of $400 a month for a studio apartment and $600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment may be up for grabs if Grandview Calvary Baptist Church gets its way in a distinctive East Vancouver neighbourhood.
At a public hearing set for Monday (April 16) at 6 p.m. at Vancouver City Hall, speakers will get to give their views on the church’s rezoning application for a piece of land it owns on the southwest corner of Victoria Drive and East 1st Avenue, which is home to a community garden. The proposed development would contain 18 to 20 units of affordable housing and six to eight units dedicated to “an intentional community” for members of the church, who must agree to live harmoniously alongside the low-income renters.
According to the city’s rezoning website, if council approves the application, the property could be upzoned from two-family residential designation (RT-5) to comprehensive development (CD-1), allowing for a four-storey building of 20,258 square feet and 26 housing units. This would double available density to a 1.5 floor-space ratio from an existing 0.75 FSR, according to a city staff report.
A nonprofit housing society, the Salsbury Community Society, is undertaking the project—to be called the Co:Here Housing Community—on behalf of the church. Calvary has been in the neighbourhood since 1908, one block west of the site. Another affiliated partner is the JustWork Economic Initiative, a local group aimed at providing employment to people “facing major challenges and barriers”, according to the same statement.
At a city-sponsored open house in October 2011, 57 percent of the 156 who attended were in favour of the proposal. However, in December the Grandview-Woodland Area Council issued an 11-page letter to the city planning department, the mayor, council, and proponents outlining a number of concerns about the scale and use of the site.
“According to the operating budget, the project could support a mortgage of $350,000…if the rents were $400/month for a studio, $600/month for a 1-bedroom, and $700/month for a 2-bedroom,” stated the GWAC letter, signed by Tom Durrie, Dan Fass, John Flipse, Nati Herron, Eileen Mosca, Craig Ollenberger, Richard Penneway, and Petronella Vander Valk.
“If the SCS manages to fundraise less than $6.45 million, then it will have to take on a larger mortgage, which means increasing the revenue component of the operating budget,” the GWAC letter noted. “Given that rents constitute 83.2% of the current estimated revenues, rents would need to go up, making them less affordable.”
MaryAnn Murray, a neighbour of the site, told the Georgia Straight she has some concerns regarding the configuration of the building and the impact it will have on the surrounding area. “So, the people basically living across the street from it, and right next to it, they are not going to have any sun, because they garden in the front of their house,” she said by phone. Murray added that she concurs with many of the concerns GWAC listed in its letter.
SCS board member Erin Thrift, JustWork board chair Tim Klauke, and Tim Dickau, pastor at Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, penned a reply to GWAC on February 13: “With regards to your concerns about density…we have aimed to keep the number of units on the low end of what is normal in affordable housing projects, while still maintaining the economic feasibility of the project. We have settled on the current density structure in order to maximize housing units without compromising a sense of community within the building and neighbourhood.”
The three also confirmed that, should the fundraising fall through, the rezoning would not carry over to a future project.
“We hope that this realization will put your minds to ease about the concern that the property could be used for other purposes (such as market rental housing) at a future date,” they wrote.
SCS also claimed that the project addresses economic, social, and environmental concerns. While that is the position of the proponents, community members fear what potentially lies ahead in the neighbourhood, which is home to a number of turn-of-the-last-century Edwardian-style single-family homes.