Dorothy Lee has lived in a single-family house in Marpole since 1961, raising four children with her husband as they cherished the friendly neighbourhood in south Vancouver.
But the City of Vancouver’s plans to increase housing density in Marpole has Mrs. Lee, 76, worried that a way of life will end. Many single-family houses with patches of grass in the front and backyards will gradually be replaced by residences that will pack in more people, including in duplexes, three-storey townhouses and six-storey apartments.
“I understand that change has to come, but why such grand change? It seems too fast and too much,” she said in an interview. Mrs. Lee was one of more than 900 people who attended a community rally on Sunday. The residents oppose city planners who view Marpole as one of Vancouver’s test cases for urban densification.
Mike Burdick, spokesman for a coalition of residents who are seeking to preserve Marpole’s single-family housing, said the city needs to implement a better consultation process. He is worried that the neighbourhood’s qualify of life will suffer due to a mass rezoning to clear the way for buildings that he believes will be too tall for the setting.
Mr. Burdick said it doesn’t make sense for city planners to encourage the construction of townhouses and apartments smack dab in the middle of areas traditionally zoned for single-family housing. Instead, it would be a better move for the City of Vancouver to selectively approve more residential high-rises to go up on main streets such as Cambie, Oak and Granville, Mr. Burdick said at the Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre, where residents held signs that read Stop Marpole Rezoning.
With single-family lots that are 15.24 metres (50 feet) wide valued at roughly $1.4-million each, Marpole is feeling Vancouver’s development pressure – the trend is to squeeze more units onto valuable land. Marpole’s current population is approaching 24,000 residents.
In May, the Vancouver Vision-dominated city council approved new zoning rules for the Norquay neighbourhood on the city’s east side.
The change is designed to spur developers to construct row houses and townhouses in areas of Norquay that have historically been dominated by single-family houses.
Vision Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer said Sunday that the status quo isn’t an option, and Vancouverites must prepare for increased density, and that includes novel ideas for Marpole and other neighbourhoods not accustomed to big changes.
High-rises along major arterial roads are fine for singles, young couples and even some empty-nesters, but families with young children deserve to have more housing options in the heart of neighbourhoods, Ms. Reimer said.
“No matter what neighbourhood that you’re in, current forms of housing are not affordable for young families and seniors, so it’s a logical option to look at what kinds of housing forms would make sense,” she said.
Fifty-four per cent of single-family detached properties in the City of Vancouver were assessed at $1-million or greater on July 1, 2012.
“When you look at a 30-year community plan for a neighbourhood, it is a lot of change but that is also a lot of time,” Mr. Reimer said.
An update by city staff on the draft plan for land use in Marpole is scheduled to be presented for city council’s consideration in late September.
Marpole resident Bob Ritter said that so far, city officials have paid lip service to community concerns about how the proposed changes will lead to an environment of feeling crowded, including increased traffic. “We don’t want to live in something that feels like the West End,” Mr. Ritter said.