aanich took a big step in creating its first dense neighbourhood “node” Tuesday night when council approved a 104-unit rental building, geared towards affordable housing.
The brightly coloured project, to be built at the corner of Burnside and Tillicum roads across from Tillicum Centre, was greeted with opposition concerned about street parking and traffic along Albina Street.
The building, which will also include ground-floor commercial space, was approved with a substantial 94-stall parking variance that council says is precedent-setting. Neighbours, however, say it’ll set the wrong precedent and force renters to park on the street.
“We are looking at the beginning of development for major population growth in this node. This needs to set a standard,” Coun. Vic Derman said. He mentioned one speaker, a neighbour supportive of the project, who stressed that “as this node develops, more attention must be given to upgrading the infrastructure around it,” namely parking and pedestrian safety.
“That, in a nutshell, says exactly what council needs to do,” Derman said. “It’s not the job of the applicant to solve these (street parking) issues. It’s council’s.”
According to zoning bylaws, based on the size of the project it should have 165 stalls. The variance allows for only 71.
Al Kemp, CEO of the Rental Owners and Managers Society of B.C., said parking won’t be the issue neighbours think it will become because the majority of the low-income renters won’t be able to afford a car.
Ernie Yakimovich, of E.Y. Properties, agreed to a council covenant – which is standard practice in E.Y.’s other rental buildings – that suites are only rented to tenants with cars when parking is available.
“There is no capacity to have such high density in this area,” said Albina Street resident Nancy Passfield, citing the “test” parking variance that could backfire on her and her neighbours.
Coun. Dean Murdock said he believes that the changed use of the property, combined with a “tremendous” bus pass program offered to renters, will reduce the street parking impact neighbours are concerned about.
Councillors Judy Brownoff and Vicki Sanders voted against the project. Though both said they supported the idea of densification and affordable housing in the area, they said the application wasn’t vetted enough to move forward.
The pair also felt the colours of the building were too bold. Saanich staff agreed, though the other councillors did not.
Ten of the units will be leased to Pacifica Housing to provide lower-end rent starting at $600.
Sharon Hvozdanski, Saanich’s director of planning, says it’s been more than 25 years since council approved an apartment designated for rental housing.