Building Booms in Dunbar South


by Carol Volkart, Dunbar Newsletter Editor

Dunbar residents are beginning to see the effects of new city rules encouraging the construction of more housing in low-density areas like ours.

It’s especially evident in the area of 41st Ave. and Dunbar, where construction cranes and “rezoning application” signs are popping up in leafy neighbourhoods of single-family homes.

Most of the projects are happening under the city’s Secured Rental Policy, which encourages five-and-six-storey rental apartment buildings on arterials in low-density areas close to amenities, and four-storey buildings on adjacent side streets.

But new provincial rules will also affect the area. As a result of transit-oriented legislation passed last fall, the bus loop at 41st and Dunbar became a major public transit hub called the  Dunbar Loop Exchange. Eight-storey buildings are expected to be allowed in the immediate vicinity.

Here are some of the projects expected to transform the south end of the Dunbar neighbourhood in the next while:

  • 3449-3479 West 41st Ave. and 5664 Collingwood St.: Construction is already well underway on this six-storey market rental apartment building at the corner of Collingwood and 41st. Approved by city council in 2021, it will be 72 feet high and provide 114 secured market rental units.
  • 3329-3429 West 41st Ave. and 5649-5683 Blenheim St.: This proposal for a 232-unit seniors’ residence, which has drawn significant opposition from neighbours for its height, massing, and shadowing effects, was approved unanimously by Vancouver City Council after an emotional public hearing April 9. Supporters said more seniors’ housing is desperately needed in aging Dunbar, while opponents, many nearby neighbours, said the height of the building will leave them in near-permanent shadow. Originally proposed at 92 feet, it has been reduced to 85 feet with stepbacks on the two upper floors to reduce the problem. All 50 trees on the 10 city lots the building covers will be cut down, along with six of 11 city trees. Another 24 trees on adjacent private properties are threatened.
  • 5650-5690 Blenheim St.: A rezoning application sign on the lawn of a dilapidated, boarded-up house across Blenheim from the seniors’ residence announces a five-storey rental building under the Secured Rental Policy. It recently received rezoning approval in principle.
  • 5650-5690 Blenheim St.: A rezoning application sign on the lawn of a dilapidated, boarded-up house across Blenheim from the seniors’ residence announces a five-storey rental building under the Secured Rental Policy. It recently received rezoning approval in principle.
  • 6081-6083 Collingwood Place: This is one of two controversial five-storey market rental apartment buildings approved last fall for a quiet cul de sac of single-family homes off Collingwood south of 41st. While supporters argued that more such housing is badly needed, many residents told an October public hearing that the 55-foot-high building, which will provide about 30 units of housing, is incompatible with the neighbourhood and urged a different form of development. A key point was the danger of adding more traffic to the narrow, twisting road that services the cul de sac.
  • 6065-6075 Collingwood Place: The bigger of the new projects for this area, this 55-foot-high building will replace two single-family houses with 94 units of housing. The November public hearing was dominated by supporters who argued that it would provide much-needed housing. To get around the traffic issues for this facility, council decided that all vehicular and loading access would be off West 44th.

Besides whatever happens around the Dunbar loop transit hub, there’s obviously much more development to come in this part of the community. Look south across 41st from the development site, and a land-assembly notice stares back. The next six-storey apartment building may be on its way.

Vancouver Plan Implementation – Repeal of CityPlan Community Visions

October 31, 2023                                                                                                                

City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4

Dear Mayor, Council and City Staff

Re: Vancouver Plan Implementation – Repeal of CityPlan Community Visions

The Dunbar Residents’ Association is immensely concerned about the recently released report going to Council on November 1, 2023 that proposes to repeal CityPlan Community Visions. We oppose the repeal. If it is to happen, however, we urge that CityPlan’s key central philosophy of robust community engagement be retained and that all Vision documents be permanently and readily available on the City’s website.

The Dunbar Community Vision was approved by Council in September of 1998 after a year and a half of extensive community engagement and consultation. While that was 25 years ago, our understanding is that Visions such as ours were intended to be living documents regularly updated with community involvement.

The DRA has always been eager to collaborate with the City on changes affecting the community and Dunbar Vision but, over the years, have noticed declining City interest. Now we learn, with only a few days of advance notice and no preliminary discussion, that the Dunbar Vision is to be eliminated on the grounds that it has been superseded by the Vancouver Plan and is supposedly at the end of its original lifetime.

We urge the City to institute a proper engagement process so that Dunbar residents, and all other Vancouver residents, can work with the City in helping meet the challenges of current realities. Whether the work is carried out under CityPlan or the Vancouver Plan, we believe the key to success is ensuring local residents are deeply involved in the evolution of their communities.

Our city is growing and changing and Dunbar residents would like greater opportunities to participate in the continuing development of our city and our neighbourhood.

Yours truly,

Board of Directors, Dunbar Residents’ Association

Public hearing – multiplexes and RS-zoning changes

September 13, 2023

City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4

Re: Public Hearing – Multiplexes and RS-Zoning Changes

Dear Mayor, Council and City Staff,

The Dunbar Residents’ Association wishes to state its opposition to the Multiplex proposal now before City Council. We have long been on record as supporting increased density to our area, but this proposal would allow excessive, overwhelming change without proper consultation with residents.

The information and engagement processes surrounding this proposal have been so poor that most residents aren’t aware of it even to this day. The reality is that not everyone is on social media or avidly following City Council or Shape Your City on the internet. No postcards were sent to affected addresses, so people did not receive any written notice either and are unaware of how severely impacted they soon may be.

While developers were heavily involved in the creation of this plan, community associations like ours weren’t even informed about it. Where were our workshops?

We urge Council to put the brakes on this proposal while a better engagement process takes place. Improve the plan. Then, begin with a small pilot project that tests its effectiveness and impact, and revise it accordingly before instituting something citywide.

The loss of trees and green space, along with parking and infrastructure problems are of major concern, especially when the resulting housing will be affordable to so few. And the plan would incur the demolition of older homes which have long provided affordable secondary suites for seniors, students and young families.

The DRA is a member of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods and supports the points in its extensive submission on this issue. Please refer to CVN’s informative Appendix September 11, 2023.

Please consider our concerns and vote no to a plan that would drastically transform our neighbourhoods without the informed engagement of Vancouver residents.

Yours truly,
Board of Directors
Dunbar Residents’ Association

Rezoning application at 3581 West 30th Avenue

July 10, 2023

City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4

Re: Rezoning application at 3581 West 30th Avenue

Dear Mayor, Council and City Staff

The Dunbar Residents’ Association (DRA) Board writes in opposition to the proposed rezoning application for 3581 West 30th Avenue from RS-5 (Residential) District to RR-2A (Residential Rental) District, to permit the development of a four-storey market rental building at a height of 13.7 m (45 ft.) and a floor space ratio (FSR) of 1.75.

In referencing the Dunbar Community Vision (1998) “Approved Vision Direction 20.1 Community Involvement in Decision Making : Community residents should have more input, and more timely input into decision making about changes in their community, such as development projects, transit planning, street and traffic changes, park design etc.”

The application would set significant precedents for the Dunbar community given that the proposal is for a residential (non-arterial) street. We recommend that the applicant work with the Dunbar Residents’ Association, and in turn the affected residents, to come up with a proposal that works for both the applicant and the Dunbar community.

For example, we believe the Approved Vision Direction 7.1 should be considered. “More housing variety should be provided in Dunbar by rowhouses, four- and six-plexes and duplexes, which have many features of single-family houses but would cost less.”

Timely engagement with community members impacted by development could contribute to better outcomes for liveability in our neighbourhoods.

We appreciate and support the City’s efforts in adding density and a variety of forms of housing in all neighbourhoods and would like to be a partner in these discussions and decisions.

Yours truly,
Board of Directors, Dunbar Residents’ Association

Rezoning application for over-height seniors’ community care facility

July 5, 2023

City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4
Attention: Nicholas Danford, Rezoning Planner

Re: Rezoning application at 3329 – 3429 West 41st Avenue and 5649 – 5683 Blenheim Street for a Seniors’ Community Care Facility

Dear Mr. Danford,

It came to the Dunbar Residents’ Association (DRA) Board’s attention last month through communications with concerned residents in Dunbar that a rezoning application at 3329 – 3429 West 41st and 5649 – 5683 Blenheim for a Seniors’ Community Care Facility was linked to the Dunbar Community Vision.

Having had several conversations with Amica and Pooni Group, we were aware of the proposed project. We were, however, not aware during those discussions that the project was proposed under the 1998 Dunbar Community Vision. We had assumed incorrectly that the project was being proposed under the enabling six-storey Secured Rental Policy, allowing for a maximum height of seventy-two feet. We were also not aware at that time of the project’s proposed height of 94 feet.

Once aware of these aspects of the project, members of the DRA Board began to undertake a careful review of the application and became aware of the project’s proposed height and massing and the significant impact it would have on liveability for area residents, especially those to the north of the project.

Although the application is linked to the Dunbar Community Vision, many aspects of the proposed project depart from its stated intentions.

Vision Direction 9.1 Seniors Housing identifies that “Seniors should have a variety of choices of housing that allow them to stay in the community as they age (e.g., congregate housing, intermediate and extended care).However, with Vision Direction 9.2 Seniors’ Lowrise Housing, “Lowrise buildings (up to four storeys) committed to seniors should be permitted, provided the scale and design fit into the neighbourhood. They should be located near local shopping and transit.

It is in Vision Direction 9.2 that the application departs significantly from the Dunbar Community Vision, specifically in scale and design that fit in to the neighbourhood. Further, although not stated, one would assume four storeys to be in the range of forty feet.

The project’s proposed height of 94 feet, width of 496 feet, and depth of 129 feet, is a substantial change from the properties to the north where houses range in height from 25 to 35 feet and the average lot’s width is 50 feet. This difference in scale is significant.

Further, the design of the project needs to be sensitive to the fact that the lots immediately to the north are on average one hundred feet in depth. The atypical depth of these properties would mean that the shadowing would be even more significant than if their depths were the more-common one hundred twenty feet. The design needs to keep this in mind to maintain the liveability of the properties to

Further, the Dunbar Vision document notes that Seniors’ Housing Rezonings Vision Direction 9.2 “…would be implemented through site-specific rezonings. That means that when a group that is organizing housing for seniors finds a site, they would be able to apply for a rezoning. Each rezoning would be considered in consultation with neighbours.We have learned from the neighbouring owners that there has not been meaningful consultation and they feel that their concerns have been neither heard nor addressed.

This requirement for consultation is restated in Vision Direction 20.1 Community Involvement in Decision Making where Community residents should have more input, and more timely input, into decision making about changes in their community, such as development projects, transit planning, street and traffic changes, park design, etc.

Vision Direction 14.2 addresses Preserving Existing Private Greenery. “There should be more preservation of existing trees and major shrubs on private sites than is now required.” With the current proposal, the adjacent neighbours will experience an irrevocable loss to nature with the proposed removal of seventy mature trees at the back of the property including the wildlife that inhabits those trees. More should be done to preserve existing trees and major shrubs.

As stewards of the Dunbar Community Vision, the DRA Board is requesting the following for the rezoning application with a view to maintaining liveability for those who would be impacted by the proposal:

1. Consultation – that there be sufficient consultation with neighbours who would be affected by this application to ensure that their concerns are addressed. Stefan Aepli, Architect AIBC, SIA, LEED AP, a member of the Urban Design Panel, advocated that there be more study for impact on neighbours.

2. Ceiling height – that the ceiling height for each floor be reviewed. At the Urban Design Panel review on May 24, 2023, Bryce Rositch, Architect AIBC, AAA, FRAIC, architect for the project, specified that nine-foot ceilings would provide sufficient air circulation. The drawings however show an allowance for ten-foot ceilings on most floors.

3. Height allowance for mechanical equipment – with respect to the height required for mechanical equipment, many members of the Urban Design Panel thought that the height allowance for mechanical equipment could be reduced. Reza Mousakhani, P.Eng., CPHD commented that at least a foot could be taken off.

4. Massing – that the overall massing be reviewed with a view to breaking up the massing so that more sunlight can filter to the north. Kai Hotson, Architect AIBC, member of the Urban Design Panel referred to the project as “a big wall.”

5. Setbacks – that setbacks of the building mass to the property lines be increased, most importantly the setbacks to the north, with a view to reducing the impact on neighbouring properties.

6. Shadowing – that minimizing shadowing to the north be a component of a review of height, massing and building setbacks.

7. Fence to the north of the lane – we recommend that the design decisions for the fence be made in consultation with the neighbouring properties, that it be built with environmentally friendly materials, that along with suitable planning it provide privacy, and that it be light-friendly so that light can filter to the properties to the north.

8. Traffic study – that a thorough traffic study be conducted for minimizing congestion and maximizing pedestrian safety, keeping in mind that an increase in traffic would be generated not only by the current proposal but also the six-storey development to the west and the five-storey development to the east.

9. Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) – we recommend that consultation take place with the DRA for input on what contributions would add value to the community.

Yours truly,
Board of Directors, Dunbar Residents’ Association

Let’s Talk About Seniors

by Bruce Gilmour, DRA President

As a very visible presence on Dunbar Street, with my white cane and beautiful companion dog Falina, I get stopped a lot by people who know I’m president of the Dunbar Residents’ Association. Very often, the ensuing conversations are about seniors’ issues – no surprise, since the latest census shows that in our area, more than 20 percent of the population is 65 or older.

For example, in the Stong’s checkout line, someone who identifies me with the DRA says: “Do you want to know what you are missing? There is no dialogue about seniors’ housing and supports.” Outside, a 72-year-old woman stops me on the street to say the removal of her nearby bus stop may force her to leave Dunbar. “The demands on my strength do not allow me to shop and safely return home with what is now a four – when it was a two-block – walk to my closest stop,” she says.

Then, at a recent library session on the resiliency of the elderly in climate extremes, questions arise about the lack of local services for seniors and why they must travel to the Kerrisdale Seniors’ Centre to access them.

One hopeful sign is that the new city council is planning to create a dedicated full-time planning position focusing on seniors. Here’s what I think that planner could do to help:

• Open a conversation with seniors about making Dunbar a “complete community” – as envisaged in the Vancouver Plan – that works for them, as well as for other residents.

• Explore how the city can ensure that street-level retail aligns with the needs of local residents.

• Ensure that transit serves the needs of seniors, including the provision of enough easily walkable bus stops.

• Look at the recreational and cultural opportunities in Dunbar. Do civic amenities like libraries and community centres offer what seniors want and need?

• Ensure streets and sidewalks are designed to serve pedestrians of all ages and abilities. Adequate benches and controlled crosswalks encourage walking and help residents stay healthy and connected.

• Ensure that seniors have ways of staying engaged and informed at the neighbourhood level, whether through websites, social media or printed communications.

The DRA wants your ideas and feedback about how seniors can age well in Dunbar. Email us at

Dunbar’s future is in your hands

dunbar votes

by Carol Volkart, DRA Newsletter Editor

When you cast your vote for the next City Council on Saturday, October 15, 2022 you won’t just be choosing people or parties – you’ll be voting for how Dunbar and the entire city will develop over the next 30 years.
    That’s because this election will also determine whether the Vancouver and Broadway Plans, which set the stage for massive densification throughout the city by 2050, will go ahead as planned, be altered dramatically, or withdrawn altogether.
    For Dunbar, that means you’ll be deciding whether you agree to the prospect of 12-to-25-plus-storey towers in some areas of the neighbourhood, plus much denser development throughout.
    The controversial plans were approved by City Council in June and July after heated public hearings, heavy correspondence to council, and many amendments. However, they will not be implemented until the next council takes office, so their future depends on the people we elect this fall.
    The Vancouver Plan is mostly a “framework” setting out directions for future growth, with many specifics still lacking. The much-further-advanced Broadway Plan, which will be incorporated into the Vancouver Plan, gives a clearer idea of what we can expect citywide if the overall plan proceeds.
    And that is density – lots of it. The Broadway Plan allows 20- to-40-storey towers, as many as three per block, in a 500-block area along the Broadway Corridor, from 1st to 16th, from Vine to Clark Drive.
    The Vancouver Plan is less specific, but a map shows only a small proportion of the city reserved for relatively low-density housing of up to six units per lot. Everywhere else is denser, with apartment buildings and towers of various heights allowed.

A key element of both plans is the disappearance of Vancouver’s 23 traditional neighbourhoods, including Dunbar. Long considered the basic building blocks of the city, they are to be replaced by a handful of generic “neighbourhood types” scattered all over the city.

get out and vote dunbar

    The two plans also dramatically change the treatment of neighbourhood voices. Contrary to past practice, the city did not engage neighbourhood residents or their representatives in planning the future of their areas. Instead, it worked with selected “stakeholder” groups to create the plans, then released them to the general public for input.
    Previous neighbourhood plans created by residents, such as the Dunbar Community Vision approved by city council in 1998 after two years of work by community members, will be repealed, as has already happened in Broadway neighbourhoods. Chief City Planner Theresa O’Donnell has said the old plans are outdated and incapable of dealing with the city’s current challenges.
    What can Dunbar residents expect if the Vancouver Plan proceeds?

  • Our neighbourhood will look very different. Many more and bigger buildings will fill once-single-family lots where trees and gardens flourished. Apartment buildings and some retail will move off Dunbar Street and into what have traditionally been single-family areas. There will be towers.
  • The area we’ve known as Dunbar will become three different “neighbourhood types” – a multiplex area, a neighbourhood centre, and a rapid transit area. The Vancouver Plan map is fuzzy about boundaries, but the two latter categories appear to take up most of Dunbar.
  • The relatively small multiplex area could allow up to six units per residential lot, at heights of up to three storeys. However, six storeys would be allowed for rental apartment buildings or social housingin these areas.
  • Dunbar Street and a vaguely defined area around it will be called a neighbourhood centre. What will happen here is a bit confusing. In late 2021, council got a jump on the Vancouver Plan by approving six-storey rentals on arterials like Dunbar, and four-to-five-storey rental apartments on adjacent blocks.

    However, the newly approved plan appears to allow much higher buildings around the main shopping street. It says buildings of up to 12 storeys will be allowed, with the latter “within a block or two of the local shopping street.” For Dunbar, this would mean west to Highbury and Wallace, east to Collingwood and Blenheim.

  • Forty-first Avenue and an area that appears to run from 33rd to 49th will be a rapid transit area, described as “generally within a 10-minute walk of existing or future rapid transit stations.” For these areas, the plan allows up to 12-18 storeys, with “25-plus in strategic locations.”
  • As a low-density, high-amenity area, Dunbar is a high priority in the Vancouver Plan. Along with most of the city’s west side, it is categorized as an “opportunity area” that can be used to improve equity citywide, one of three main goals of the Vancouver Plan (along with reconciliation and resilience.)

    CityHallWatch, a website that keeps a close eye on civic issues, notes the only party with a stated policy on the Broadway and Vancouver Plans is TEAM for a Livable Vancouver, which says it will withdraw them if it wins a majority. All the other parties have indicated support for the plans through press releases or other methods.

CityHallWatch’s summary of the plans are at:

Thoughts from a Broadway Plan Rally

By Bruce A. Gilmour, DRA President

On Saturday, May 7, I joined a rally at Vancouver City Hall!  I gathered with those curious, concerned, hoping to learn more, or wanting to voice their opinions to the current Mayor and Council about the Broadway Plan and citizen participation in civic democracy. 

Regarding engagement at the neighbourhood level, has the time arrived for Vancouver neighbourhoods to petition Council on what change we are prepared to adjust to in housing mix in the traditional single-family neighbourhoods?  For example, mixed zoning changes one or two blocks off arterials. A housing design plan that provides for single-family, duplex, fourplex, and sixplex housing –market, fixed income, rental, and seniors’ housing and supports.

Would this zoning approach protect views, natural light and trees, sustain form and character, and attract the eight-to-80 demographics wanting active and healthy living?  Let’s have the conversation at the local level to learn what we can live with as we plan for growth and change.  The Broadway Plan rally raised the following questions for me:

  • Affordability – for who?
  • Capacity – are City Council and staff locked into building up without considering unrealized zoning potential?
  • Trust – does getting the plan through before the end of the current Council’s mandate engender trust?
  • Liveability – has a reliable inventory of what residents define as their neighbourhood values been completed?

Turning to the Vancouver Plan, I ask whether it has created the opportunity for engagement and feedback at the neighbourhood level about residents’ definition of liveability.  This would include walkability, retail diversity, accessible transit services, rent controls, green and park space for play, seniors’ housing and supports, and ‘K’ to 12 education.

Does densification of housing supply threaten these neighbourhood values with the introduction of medium (six-storey) to high (40-storey) towers to increase housing stock?  Common thought is yes. 

Housing is needed, but are taller buildings going to preserve neighbourhood values defining liveability?  As often is the case, we did not know what we had until it was taken away – irreplaceable, taken-for-granted values, such as faces at the street level, ambience, mom-and-pop commercial retail diversity, the public realm!

I live in a single-family home where we raised a family.  I experience overwhelming gratitude for living in a friendly, welcoming neighbourhood.  I am incredibly grateful for the neighbourhood values which have meant a positive experience of liveability.  I accept that growth and change are inevitable.  I also understand my responsibility to stay informed, to advocate, and participate in citizen-created forums.

The past two years of COVID ruined opportunities for face-to-face citizen participation.  Consequently, news talk radio interviews, mailouts, print media coverage, surveys, and social media have been utilized to educate and message the taxpayer.  Has the process been effective? Do you feel you have any agency in this far-reaching government-led neighbourhood planning? Has the City put in a checkmark in the community-consultation box?  The jury is out on this decision!  Perhaps more to learn in this fall’s municipal elections?