616 & 640 Sixth Street in New Westminster are two buildings next to each other that are looking to get rezoned. The developer wants to replace the two two-storey commercial buildings with a building that will have over 12,000 square feet of street level commercial, 142 market strata residential units, and 95 secured market rental residential units. It will also have a 1700 square foot public plaza at the corner of Sixth Street and Seventh Avenue.
The building will be located along the Crosstown Greenway, which runs along Seventh Avenue. It’s also situated directly on the Frequent Transit Network (106 between New West and Edmonds), is two blocks from a second bus route on the FTN (123 between New West and Brentwood), and is a block from four other bus routes, all of which connect to seven SkyTrain stations. It’s located in New Westminster’s Uptown neighbourhood, which is an incredibly walkable location that includes grocery stores, doctors, dollar stores, restaurants, dentists, local and small businesses, and a wide range of other shops and services.
In short, it’s a perfect location for more homes for more neighbours.
But unfortunately one of the business owners who would be displaced (but would receive reduced rent, financial assistance for relocation costs, and relocation assistance through the developer’s network of commercial brokers) has started an anti-housing pro-“build nothing” group that likes to say NO to everything on Facebook, and he’s trying to rally his troops to go to the public hearing on June 24 to say NO to more homes for more neighbours. One of the things they’ve latched onto is the separate entrances for the rental and strata units in the proposed building, and they’re going to use this (and probably the typical arguments about traffic or views or noise) to try to convince Council to put a halt to this development.
My views? Here’s the letter I’m sending to Council outlining my views.
Dear Mayor and Council,
My name is Brad Cavanagh, and I am a resident of New Westminster. I am writing to you in support of Zoning Bylaw Amendment No. 7997, 2019 regarding 616 and 640 Sixth Street.
New Westminster, like the rest of Metro Vancouver, is in a housing crisis. The recent minor dip in housing prices has in no way alleviated this. Housing prices are still unaffordable for everybody but the rich. Rental vacancy rates are at historic lows. Rental housing is largely unstable and a source of concern and stress for a huge number of our neighbours. We need to build more secure rental housing, and the proposed development at 616 and 640 Sixth Street will help deliver this.
With 95 secured market rental units, 41 of which are 2-bedrooms and larger, this development will provide stable housing for more families and, more importantly, help reduce some of the competition for similar, older units in our city. 142 market strata units will invite 142 more families to our neighbourhoods and city, where they can enrich our urban landscape. How many of the 237 families will open new shops in our city? How many will open new restaurants? How many will bring new cultures and new experiences? How many will volunteer in our festivals, or start new non-profits? Our city is enriched with each new person and family who moves here, and this development will continue that enrichment.
The proposed development is in the Uptown neighbourhood, one of New Westminster’s most vibrant and walkable. It boasts restaurants, small and local businesses, doctors, grocery stores, dentists, and a wide range of other shops and services. The location is directly on the Frequent Transit Network linking residents to two SkyTrain stations, and with five other bus routes within two blocks, residents can get to any one of seven different SkyTrain stations. It is also located on the Crosstown Greenway, which allows for easy bicycle access to four elementary schools and one middle school. There will also be four car share parking spots for families in the neighbourhood who decide to go car-free or car-light. Transportation is not a problem with this proposal.
The only sticking point with this proposed development is the separate entrances for strata and rental units. It must be noted that in the proposed development there are essentially two buildings within the same envelope. If the proposal had two separate buildings, there would be nearly no controversy over the separate entrances, and this was exactly the case for the development at 813 Carnarvon Street, where two buildings were built for different residential tenures with separate entrances, yet there was little discussion about this, if any.
Now is not the time to stop sorely needed housing to address this issue. City Staff has already begun researching the topic of separation of common areas between different residential tenures, and I would ask that City Council make this formal and ask City Staff to continue to research the topic with the intention of writing clear policy in this area for future developments. Staff should continue to look to Vancouver and neighbouring cities, along with others across British Columbia and Canada, and learn from their experiences to develop a policy that treats all residents respectfully and fairly, regardless of how they live.
I ask that you approve Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7997 and also direct City Staff to continue to develop policy surrounding separate entrances, amenities, and common areas for different residential tenures in future developments.
If you would like to write a letter about this proposed rezoning, you can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to mention Zoning Bylaw Amendment No. 7997! And please do read the material as well, there’s a lot of interesting information in there that I didn’t even touch upon, like how the commercial spaces are going to be flexible and resizable, or how electric vehicle charging infrastructure will be built for every residential parking spot, or how there will be a total of 316 bicycle parking spots!