Social housing absent from draft principles for renewal of Britannia community centre in East Vancouver

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      A public meeting will be held next week about the future of a major community hub on the east side of Vancouver.

      Built during the 1970s, the Britannia Community Services Centre is up for renewal.

      As part of the redevelopment, the City of Vancouver wants social housing included in the recreational, cultural, and educational complex.

      The seven-hectare site in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood is managed by the Britannia Community Services Society, in collaboration with the city, park board, library board, and the school board.

      The nonprofit’s planning and development committee will hold the meeting Tuesday (November 15) from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the centre’s Rink Mezzanine Room.

      There, the committee chaired by Susanne Dahlin will present a set of draft principles for the renewal of the site, which is located west of Commercial Drive and Napier Street.

      “These principles work to increase green space in the community, preserve views across the Britannia site, emphasize the importance of a public and open consultation process, and preserve Britannia’s public land for public community centre uses,” opens the two-page document.

      The paper lists eight draft principles that are “meant to be a baseline, not an endpoint, for all discussion of the renewal of Britannia”.

      Number one on the list is to increase green space at the site. The document notes that the city has identified Grandview-Woodland as a park-deficient neighbourhood.

      Item number six makes a reference to a portion of the new Grandview-Woodland community plan approved by council in July this year.

      The city-approved plan identifies Britannia as a special site. A portion of the plan reads: “Seek ways to mobilize air space parcels in the Britannia site to achieve plan objectives for social housing through co-location with other public facilities, provided there is no loss of green space.”

      However, social housing was not mentioned in the draft principles prepared by the planning and development committee of the Britannia Community Services Society.

      Going back to the sixth draft principle in the committee’s paper, the item states, “Prioritize all parts of the Britannia site, including potential air space parcels, for community centre, school, library, and green/open space use.”

      The document goes on to explain: “Due to the significant increase in density planned for the neighbourhood with the finalization of the new Grandview Woodland Community Plan, and the small number of new public amenities planned for the neighbourhood, especially park space, we cannot accept that existing amenity space be turned over to private uses. Rather residents of this neighbourhood, old and new, will need to maximize the uses of existing amenity space for public use.”

      The Straight sought a comment from committee chair Dahlin. She emphasized that no final decisions have been made about Britannia.

      “We will look at the possibility of housing at the site, whether or not that fits into it, and whether or not we have enough space,” Dahlin said in a phone interview.

      According to Dahlin, one option to make space for social housing is for the city to acquire properties adjacent to the community centre site.

      “We’re not closing any doors,” Dahlin said. “We actually would like to see if in the future there could actually be even more land assembled for the site, but we don’t know that at this point in time.”

      She related that the Britannia Community Services Society is working with the city, park board, library board, and school board through a partnership committee that will decide what will happen on the site.

      With respect to the city’s interest in seeing non-market rental housing at a renewed Britannia, Dahlin said this about her group’s position: “We’re open to discussion and negotiation at this time.”

      Britannia has a gym, ice rink, and pool. The complex also has a library, and elementary and secondary schools. 

      The school board owns 70 percent of the land. The remaining 30 percent of the property is owned by the city.

      Dahlin noted that the current masterplan for Britannia does not include housing.