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Vancouver city hall kills 'thin street' proposal for Marpole

300 residents gather in opposition to plan

The city has abandoned a proposal to pilot a 'thin street' in Marpole in the face of neighbourhood opposition.

Residents learned about the prospect of a "thin street" being introduced on a stretch of Ash Street between 59th and 64th about 10 days ago after the city sent a letter to 20 affected homeowners. The Ash Street proposal was included in the recently released draft Marpole Community Plan.

Creating a thin street involves dividing a street in half and creating new building lots on one side and a narrower "thin street" on the other. The building lots could be used for affordable housing or park use, according to the city. The thin streets concept was one of the ideas submitted to the re-THINK HOUSING ideas competition in 2012, which was held as part of the mayor's task force on affordable housing.

Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said at the time that thin streets wouldn't go in without "community buy-in." Staff were directed, however, to explore the possibility of thin streets in neighbourhoods whose community plans were being updated, such as Marpole, and to find out if there was interest and acceptance.

Community opposition in Marpole was swift - residents organized a meeting last Friday that attracted about 300 people, according to Nizar Assanie, one of the Ash Street residents who received a letter from the city about the thin street proposal.

"All the neighbours were taken aback," Assanie said Monday afternoon, hours before an open house on the Marpole Community Plan started and before he learned the thin street proposal was being abandoned.

Assanie told the Courier the vast majority of residents he'd spoken with weren't even aware the Marpole Community Plan was being updated and more than 300 Marpole residents had signed a petition asking the city stop the planning process on a thin street pilot on Ash Street and eliminate any thin street planning on all streets in the Marpole area.

Matt Shillito, assistant director of community planning, told the Courier the thin street idea had been raised in general during previous Marpole housing workshops, but a specific location hadn't been identified until recently.

Staff had to complete technical work before determining where it was feasible.

"It's clear from the reaction that it's not something that Marpole residents want to see us pursue, so we're just in the process now of notifying people that we aren't pursing the idea in the plan," Shillito said Monday afternoon.

About 170 residents have also signed a letter addressed to Mayor Robertson asking for further consultation on the community plan due to neighbourhood concerns about rezoning.

"This plan has been put together with almost no consultation and almost nobody in our neighbourhood is aware of this plan. I request that the city stop any planning on the Marpole Community Plan until the residents of our neighbourhood of approximately 24,000 are given a real opportunity to review and consult on the plan," the letter states.

City staff started working on the community plan more than a year ago. It deals with subjects including transportation, land use and development, parks and open space, heritage and culture, sustainability and public amenities and facilities, and will guide change in Marpole over the next 30 years. Consultation has included workshops and open houses. Staff also collected feedback online.

"We've had an awful lot of different kinds of events. There was widespread awareness of the plan in Marpole," Shillito said. It's when you get to the draft plan stage that people perhaps pay more attention than they have up until this point."

In addition to Monday night's open house, one is scheduled between 5 to 8:30 p.m., June 26 at Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre.

Staff then hope to analyze feedback and bring the plan to council for consideration in the fall.