White Rock council has gone against staff recommendations and given initial readings for an application for a 13-storey mixed-use building next to Peace Arch Hospital – with the proviso that affordable housing is explored as one of the uses.
The building, proposed by Oviedo Homes for the 1500-block of Finlay Street immediately north of Russell Avenue, would include 126 residences above two levels of retail and office space with a medical/professional focus.
For the project to proceed, it would need a public hearing, followed by approval of an OCP amendment, a zoning bylaw, a major development permit and several restrictive covenants including a community amenity contribution.
At Monday’s land use and planning committee meeting, planning manager Carl Isaak reiterated city staff’s opposition in a corporate report from acting planning and development services director Greg St. Louis.
“Staff do not support the scale and density of the project,” he said. “At 13 storeys, adjacent to single-family neighbours, itwould tower over surrounding homes and sidewalks.”
Isaak said that staff recognized that the building plan involves a profile that steps down from the highest part to match surrounding building heights, and also that the medical focus of the commercial space represented a benefit, but said therewere still “fundamental concerns” with the scale and density of the proposal.
But in a split 4-3 decision (with Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Couns. Helen Fathers and David Chesney opposed), council passed a motion from Coun. Lynne Sinclair to move the project forward for first and second readings, and scheduling of a public hearing, provided “there is a concerted effort to look at affordable housing in lieu of cash from a community amenity contribution.”
First and second readings were given in the regular council meeting later that evening.
Sinclair, noting a “zero occupancy rate” in the city, had argued that affordable rental housing should be considered as one of the uses of the building, considering the height and density proposed.
Coun. Grant Meyer suggested it could be a good use for some of the residential units on the north side of the building, noting they would be adjacent to the BC Hydro substation at Finlay Street and North Bluff Road.
Oviedo representative Sherry Green had said, in response to questions from Sinclair, that given new provincial strata rules, rentals would be possible in the building.
“I think it’s really important,” Sinclair said. “I think I’m sending a strong signal with my vote. It’s clear it’s the only way we’re going to get affordable housing.”
Green had told the committee that a public meeting presenting the proposal to residents had received positive feedback for the building design, by architect Chris Diakakos. She acknowledged that “there were concerns for the height, and we appreciate that.”
Chesney said it was “a lovely building… I’d love to see it in White Rock, but not at this location – I don’t think even the new (OCP) would allow this height in this area.”
Both Meyer and Coun. Megan Knight said they liked the idea of medical office space in the area, with Meyer noting it would provide jobs and be close to existing transit routes.