Update for April Fools Day: Careful readers will have concluded that this was a special story for April Fool’s Day. However several elements of the story are entirely true, and the final outcome depends on City Council. True: The heritage house at 1550 West 29th Avenue is under threat of demolition. The remainder is a fictional account of City Council acting to save heritage. But the outcome on this house really depends on decisions to be made during the upcoming Council meetings the week of April 4. (Incidentally, among other items, City Council will be voting to make a bylaw change to retroactively increase their salaries.) Will they act to save 1550 West 29th Avenue from the wrecking ball? Council does have some tools in its toolkit to influence the outcome. Stay tuned.
CityHallWatch has obtained a leaked document from the City about its intention to announce sweeping plans for the protection of pre-1940s character homes all across Vancouver. The existing Heritage Conservation Area (HCA) will be immediately extended to include Second Shaughnessy, an area bounded by King Edward, Oak Street, West 37th Avenue and the Arbutus corridor. A simple bylaw change next week will apparently be back-dated to April 1 to redraw the boundary of the Heritage Conservation Area.
The impetus for the enlargement of the HCA was a result of the public outcry over the possible demolition of a character house at 1550 West 29th Avenue. It turns out the City will use the explanation that threat of the site redevelopment was merely an “oversight” by staff, and the property will soon be designated as heritage. In the internal memo, Samantha Young, from the City’s heritage group, indicates that the extension of the HCA would be introduced at the next Regular Council meeting on April 4th by staff as new business.
A resolution to protect the heritage house at 1550 West 29th from demolition for 180 days will be introduced at the same time. A similar move was previously used to protect the Waldorf Hotel. In the memo, Young advises the mayor to describe saving 1550 West 29th Avenue as a “no-brainer,” and if pressed for more comment, to simply reply “Because this is 2016.”
According to the memo, the City will also speed up plans to roll out the HCA protection for pre-1940s buildings in the West End, Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant, Grandview-Woodland, Strathcona and Fairview. The new rules will eventually extend over all of Vancouver and Metro Vancouver might even adopt the rules for the entire region.
CityHallWatch contacted Jill Drake, spokesperson for CHART (Citizens for Heritage Area ReTention), with this news. She was thrilled by the announcement. “Extending the Heritage Conservation Area to include Second Shaughnessy is a wonderful move. Many character homes in the area were under threat of demolition. We’re relieved and we welcome plans by the City to extend the protection for pre-1940s homes across Vancouver.”
On top of the heritage retention rules, the City will seek to simplify the process for permitting infill housing for providing additional rental suites.
The City will also be setting up an annual fund to assist with the restoration and preservation of heritage properties. The owners of heritage properties will be able to apply for one-time grants. The details of the program are still under development and will likely be based on heritage grant formulas used in other cities.
More news is expected at about noon on April Fool’s Day. [Update: the photos below show the site conditions around the property at 1550 West 29th Avenue]