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Developing story: Revised Casa Mia plan meets with resistance

Residents say proposed care facility doesn’t fit into neighbourhood

A revised proposal for the redevelopment of the Casa Mia property in Southlands didn’t satisfy some of the project’s critics who attended an open house Dec. 4.

The Care Group wants the site rezoned from single-family residential to comprehensive development to build a care facility on the property.

The well known Spanish Revival-style heritage home at 1920 Southwest Marine Dr. would be saved and an addition would be built. The facility would house 62 beds — less than an earlier proposal for 92 beds. The building height for the addition is lower than imagined in the earlier proposal. Parking spaces have dropped from 23 to 16.

The mansion is not protected from demolition, so the city is willing to consider a proposal from the applicant to conserve it. The city also sees the need for health care facilities that allow seniors to age in place.

Joe McDermid, a spokesperson for the Southlands Community Association, said the proposal is still “a square peg in a round hole.”

“I still don’t think it fits in the neighbourhood,” he told the Courier.

Jim Hall, a spokesperson for the Arbutus Ridge/Kerrisdale/Shaughnessy vision implementation committee, said his group opposed the initial proposal based on it being an institutional use in a residential area, which is not well served by transit or transportation.

“The architect has done a good job [in the revised proposal] responding to some of the detailed issues with respect to height, loading, facilities, number of units and geotechnical issues,” Hall said. “However, I would expect our position remains unchanged in opposition.”

Some committee members are worried about setting a precedent for development on other large estates in the area. The group will meet to discuss the proposal and come up with a formal position.

Hall noted the committee supported the senior’s facility at Granville and 49th and expansion of Crofton Manor at 41st because those sites are well served by transit.

Southlands resident Sheryl Spencer “adamantly” opposes the project.

She said it’s in the wrong location and it goes against the city’s community care facility guidelines, which call for such facilities to be on transit routes and close to amenities, and it contravenes Southlands’ community plan, which has been in effect since 1988.

“It’s also precedent-setting. If the city allows this single property to be zoned CD-1, [the area] will become open to development,” she said.

Gavin McIntosh, administrator for The Care Group, said the company listened to concerns from the community and advisory committees to craft the new scheme.

In addition to reducing the number of beds and reducing the height of the addition by a floor, the revised proposal preserves the garage on the property and converts it into a dining room, increases the setbacks on the west side of the property and removes changes to the setback on the south-facing side of the site.

While some critics have said they’d prefer something similar to Canuck House, McIntosh said that’s not possible.

“It would be very difficult in Vancouver to run a small-scale facility in the sense that the rates you’d have to charge to operate a facility of that size would be exorbitant. We’re pressed with, in Vancouver, a general lack of free and available space, so land that is left is very expensive.”

He maintains the project is a good fit for the neighbourhood and that it will allow some residents to grow old in their community and make it easier for their family and friends in the area to visit.

The revised plans envision six bedrooms on the top floor of the mansion, while the rest of the house would used for dining, lounge space and activities.

“From a heritage perspective, our proposal designates the exterior of the building. Our goal is to preserve as much of the interior as we can,” McIntosh said.

The Casa Mia proposal goes before the Vancouver Heritage Commission Dec. 9 and the Urban Design Panel Dec. 18.