Housing and density debated by West Vancouver mayoral candidates

How to solve transportation problems and whether taxpayers’ money is being spent wisely at the municipal hall were other key topics during Thursday’s debate

Favorite political topics, including what to do about public transit, how to support housing for middle-class workers and whether taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely in West Vancouver, were all aired during the all-candidates forum for mayoral candidates Thursday night (September 29).

Organized by the Ambleside and Dundarave Residents’ Association, the forum walked much of the same ground as that explored by council candidates at the aged people’s activity center two days earlier. A standing crowd, some spilling out into the hallway, came out to watch three mayoral candidates exchange blows. The fourth candidate, Teresa De Cotiis, did not show up.

The issue of housing and how best to provide it to working people in West Vancouver and seniors dominated the discussions.

Housing issues at the top of the debate

The “reverse travel” of people coming from other communities to work in West Vancouver is a leading cause of traffic congestion, said Mary-Ann Booth, who hopes to reclaim her mayoral job. During a tour of West Vancouver fire stations, “I found a firefighter who lives on the North Shore,” Booth said. “Our police chief doesn’t even live here. He can not.

Booth pointed to the council-approved development on municipally-owned land on Gordon Avenue that will combine market condos with subsidized rental housing for workers earning between $50,000 and $150,000, as the type of project that West Vancouver needs most. “If we don’t have that, we’ll be in big trouble,” she said.

Challenger and former mayor Mark Sager debated whether the municipality should provide subsidized housing for people earning in the upper bracket of that income.

“It’s not high on my priority list,” he said, “to give grants to people who make $175,000.”

He added that even if household income increased, tenants would not move out.

Sager also suggested that rising interest rates and construction costs mean the Gordon Avenue project may not be viable and will come back for consideration – a suggestion Booth rejected.

“The project is not going to fail,” she said.

Booth said most rental properties in West Vancouver were built in the 60s and 70s, and the municipality needs to increase its supply if it wants prices to come down.

Marcus Wong, a current West Vancouver councilor who is also challenging Booth for mayor, said he sees projects like Gordon Avenue playing an important role in providing housing for working families.

“Is this the perfect solution? Probably not. But then there will never be a perfect solution,” he said.

Sager said he would rather encourage people to buy homes in West Vancouver than rent them. He said he would like to explore more options like rent-to-own and layering existing single-family lots to do this.

He said he doesn’t think a lot of families “necessarily want to live in a high-rise apartment building. That’s why they’re moving to Squamish or the (Fraser) Valley,” he said.

He criticized market condos being built in an eight-story development at Taylor Way and Marine Drive, wondering if anyone would want to live there.

“The Park Royal towers are already sold out,” Booth said. “What shows you the demand.”

“That’s why 50% of people who buy condos in Lower Lonsdale come from West Vancouver.

Wong said he would prefer post shifts to be encouraged.

If all 10,000 single-family homeowners were incentivized to build a 500-square-foot shed on their properties, it would create a significant increase in available housing, he said.

“Wouldn’t you rather live in this kind of accommodation than in a big tower?” he said, adding that stocks like discounts would be “hidden” discreetly in communities.

Wong said he would also like to see other types of housing models, like co-ops, encouraged.

Mark Sager makes a point in front of a standing crowd that turned out at the West Vancouver Seniors’ Activity Center to watch three of the four mayoral debate candidates. | Jane Seyd / North Shore News

Cypress Village, elevated Inglewood extension

Candidates also addressed some specific development projects.

All three have expressed support for Cypress Village development plans which will see 3,700 homes built over 30 years by British Pacific Properties. The plan includes trading higher density in some areas for the preservation of a large area of ​​Upper Lands near Eagleridge Bluffs.

“I think it makes a lot of sense,” Wong said, adding that he lives in UK properties and current residents have to go to lower West Vancouver for shopping.

Sager and Booth disagreed over backing Baptist Housing’s proposed Inglewood care center redevelopment plan, which will see the reconstruction of the aging Taylor Way long-term care home, as well as nursing beds. privately funded supplemental long-term care, independent living units for the elderly. and “workforce housing” units.

Two out of three long-term care facilities with publicly funded beds in West Vancouver have closed in recent years, Booth said, adding that the pandemic has shown older care facilities are not up to modern standards. . If the Inglewood project goes ahead, the additional density of the privately-funded additional beds will help pay for the state-funded beds, she said, and will come with an investment of $500 million from BC Housing, CMCH and Baptist Housing.

“We desperately need this care,” she said. “We have one of the oldest communities in the Lower Mainland.

Sager questioned the size and scale of the project there, as well as the inclusion of workforce housing.

“We desperately need care facilities,” he said. “Do we need 8- and 10-storey buildings in this neighborhood? I really hope not. I don’t think it’s fair for this neighborhood.

People who work at establishments like this “want to go home to their own families” when their shift is over, he said. “They don’t want to live next to the hospital where they work.”

Wong said West Vancouver needs public care for the elderly. “Thirty percent of our population is 65 and older,” he said. “We have to make sure that we take care of our people.”

But he said he was unsure of the density because the municipality has not completed local plans.

All three said they support maintaining the existing zoning for nursing homes on the sites of the former West Vancouver Care Center and Capilano Care Centre.

Mary-Ann Booth Debate
Mary-Ann Booth makes a point in front of a standing crowd that turned out at the West Vancouver Seniors’ Activity Center to watch three of the four mayoral debate candidates. | Jane Seyd / North Shore News

Concern expressed over Eby’s plan to cancel municipalities

All three also expressed concern over the announcement this week by NDP leadership hopeful David Eby that if he becomes premier, the province will take a more active role in forcing housing development on municipalities.

“I’m very strongly opposed, and we need to take this threat seriously,” Sager said.

“I’m also against these projects and we’ve seen them coming for many months,” Booth said, adding that West Vancouver has been on the province’s radar because “there have been a number of really good housing projects that we’ I refused.

“No municipality in this province will be happy with that,” she said. “If anything, it’s a shot above the arc.”

B-Line to Dundarave not supported

Candidates were also asked if they supported a B-Line bus from Park Royal to Dundarave. Booth – who faced public opposition to TransLink’s original plan – said she would not support it “until the community is ready”.

Sager said he doubted West Van would ever be ready for a Line B extension.

Sager put forward the idea of ​​a smaller-scale “on-demand transit” in West Van.

He criticized Booth for not serving on TransLink’s council of mayors, saying it sends the wrong message about how West Vancouver views transportation issues. He also advocated running a bus in Squamish for commuters to ease congestion.

Spending priorities debated

Both Sager and Wong aimed for what they described as district expenses for “nice-to-haves” before dealing with the basics like traffic lights and potholes.

“I’m not convinced we’re spending our money wisely,” Wong said, citing a district program he described as “teaching people to grow their own food” as an example.

“I’m not sure that’s the mandate of our municipality. We need to prioritize the things in our community that really need to be done – paving the roads,” he said.

He called for a budget overhaul and a redefinition of priorities at the district town hall.

“We have to understand that we have limited resources,” Sager said, adding that people are struggling to pay their property taxes. He pointed to a municipal program that pays to pick up compost and recycling at district parks and a 1% environmental tax as a “signal of virtue.”

Booth defended municipal budgets, adding that the municipality was still recovering from years of “zero per cent tax increases” under previous advice, which meant taking money from the capital budget to pay operating costs and see municipal assets deteriorate.

Other topics discussed in the forum included the need for greater transparency and citizen engagement, what kind of arts center should be built, and where, where a boutique hotel should go and what should be its height, as well as whether there should be a switch to the Blue Bus system.

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WV mob mayors debate
A standing crowd descended on the West Vancouver Senior Activity Center to watch three of the four mayoral debate candidates. | Jane Seyd / North Shore News

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