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Forty Delbrook community residents turned out to a District of North Vancouver Council workshop Tuesday evening January 17th to hear Council discuss a staff report on the potential future of the Delbrook lands. The residents heard a council that is very divided about whether or not to accept the results of an expensive community consultation process.
The Delbrook lands currently house a recreation complex, a childcare centre and facilities for community serving agencies. The recreation component is planned to be moved to the new Delbrook recreation complex (formerly the Griffin Recreation Centre) due to open sometime in the next few months. It is generally agreed the Little Rascals Daycare centre will remain in place while the community agencies are planned to move to a new complex near Lions Gate Bridge.
In 2015 the District paid Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue to conduct a consultation on what Delbrook residents and residents in the broader community wanted to see happen on the Delbrook site. The consultation included on line surveys, a January 2016 “high level” discussion including mainly Delbrook residents and a June 2016 day long workshop where half the participants came from outside the Delbrook Community.
The June workshop concluded that the community wanted a park, community serving amenities for children and seniors and non-market housing on the site, providing that the non-market housing was not paid for by the District. Both the January and June consultations were firm that they did not want to see the property sold or used for market (for profit) housing.
The staff presentation to Council Tuesday night closely followed the recommendations that came from the community consultation. The presentation outlined options for a significant amount of park space, for the continued presence of the tennis courts and child care centre, for a community services facility and for 40 units of non-market housing to be located in the current area of the Queen Street parking lot.
The recommendations are far from a final plan but they received support in principal from three members of Council who spoke to the report. Jim Hanson said he felt the report reflected the will of the community, particularly with the presence of “open, public spaces.” He acknowledged there might be some cost involved but said community governing was about balancing financial and other needs. Mayor Walton said he had been pleased to see the redevelopment of the Griffin recreation complex because he felt the western part of the District which had not received the attention other parts of the District had. He said he was a great believer in parks and said the District needed to work with the community on the issue. Lisa Muri said the District had the finances available for the site, especially since previous borrowing for other projects had been paid off.
Three other councilors took a different position. Matthew Bond questioned whether 40 units of non-market housing was enough. He suggested the possibility of for profit housing being used to support the non-market housing. He asked if a 100 unit development would pay for the 40 units of non-market housing. (Note: if 40 units would be placed in a four story building, 100 units might be a ten story complex, close to one of the original ideas floated for the property of a 12 story complex.)
Robin Hicks said the District had borrowed $28 million for the replacement of the Griffin recreation complex and that if development on the Delbrook site were maximized “we would be debt free.” He said the complex would be healthier if there were an element of market housing. He suggested any park space be limited to only 25% of the Delbrook Lands.
Roger Bassam said the original decision to borrow money for the Griffin redevelopment had been based on an “equity transfer” for money from the Delbrook lands. He too asked how much for profit housing would be needed to support non-market housing. He said he had grown up in the area and never found a shortage of parks. He said the District had a surplus of tennis courts and that there were lots of for-profit child care providers in the neighbourhood. He said the area was “rich in facilities and services.”
(Note: The Discussion Guide for Delbrook lands consultations created for the DNV said, “the Delbrook neighbourhood is well served by District, Natural and Community Parkland, but lacking in Neighbourhood Park-land.” The DNV’s Parks and Open Space Strategic Plan says the recommended minimum size for a neighbourhood park is 2 hectares or 4.9 acres. The entire Delbrook site is only 4.3 acres. One quarter of this would be a meaningless park area.)
Several members of the public were allowed to speak at the close of Council’s deliberations. The first speaker who described himself as a developer said the property was a great opportunity to provide housing.
Diana Bellhouse, a long term member of the Delbrook Community Association described her 50-year fight for parks in the community. She stressed there were no passive use parks in the community and no place for the community to gather.
Other speakers made the following points:
- Council’s policy says that public assembly land may only be sold for the purpose of acquiring more public land.
- In the coming years as the District become denser it will need public spaces for the people in denser housing.
- Other developments in the District, such as the Lynn Valley Library and Parkgate were built without being tied to “equity transfer” from other property in the community.
- What was the purpose of the long and expensive community consultation if Council intend to ignore the results?
- Resources for children and seniors are of critical importance.
- The number of members of the public who showed up to this meeting shows a deep commitment and attachment to the consultation process. “That’s what filled the room.”
One final comment from Lisa Muri. “If we want affordable housing we need to stop tearing down affordable housing.”
You can watch the two hour workshop at this URL: http://app.dnv.org/council/default.aspx?filename=20170117cc&type=MP4&start=0&end=6951
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