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New West council supports apartment’s plan to convert parking to living spaces

What's happening at city hall
An apartment building on Seventh Street is proposing to convert parking spaces into studio units.

An apartment in the Brow of the Hill neighbourhood will get to convert parking spaces to new residential units but council wants the owner to address some outstanding complaints.

On Monday, council supported a development variance permit (to vary off-street parking) and a housing agreement for a project at 322 Seventh St. The owner wants to replace nine existing parking spaces with five new studio residential units in the existing 55-unit residential rental building.

“We have received some correspondence about some complaints regarding unfinished construction work, issues on sidewalks, things like that,” said Coun. Mary Trentadue. “I am certainly supportive of this project, supportive of additional rental housing, but I would like to know that we can kind of hold the building owner to account with regards to the past construction issues and anything that may occur out of this new project.”

Emilie Adin, the city’s director of development services, said staff will take a close look at the situation. She said the city has a construction impacts coordinator, who coordinates these kinds of complaints and the city’s response.

“We can certainly take a closer look, not only at the situation going forward, but look in a bit of a forensic way at what has occurred to date,” she told council.

Trentadue said she would appreciate that response by staff.

“I think it’s fair to the community to know that anything that is sort of left from the past is resolved in advance of this new work being done,” she said.

A tenant of the building urged council to reject the development variance permit, citing negative impacts on the building’s tenants. Since moving to the building in November 2018, she said the site has been a construction zone – with construction fencing being erected around parts of the property, and debris and rubble being left throughout the property.

“There has been a port-a-potty in the front yard since Feb. 1, 2020, which is in a direct line of sight for me when I’m in my living room. I also get to view multiple passersby using this facility. There has been no compensation for these disruptions,” said the tenant in a letter to council. “I think it is grossly unfair to expect the tenants of this building to continue tolerating this kind of disruption and for it to continue with new construction. The parking lot would undoubtedly be largely taken over by construction equipment and materials.”

Several neighbours also wrote to city council, expressing concern about the loss of parking in an area where it’s already a “struggle” for residents to find parking. One resident expressed concern the project is a “money grab” that could potentially result in the creation of tiny living spaces that aren’t affordable.

According to a report to council, each of the new studio units would range in size from 352 to 388 square feet. The project would reduce the number of off-street parking from the 51 spaces currently provided (all for residents, none for visitors) to 42 spaces.