Dunbar Re-Vision

An Open Letter to the General Manager, Planning & Development, City of Vancouver | December 31, 2012

Dunbar StreetDear sir:

When considering a proposal for a zoning/land use change, how does one weigh the interest of a business, in relation to the interest of the homeowner?

I cite the case of the Pacific Arbour Retirement Communities’ Letter of Enquiry for their proposed land use for the 4600 block of Dunbar Street. This comes at a time when the City appears to be focused on increased land use density, in the interest of housing affordability.

Our community based Dunbar Vision Plan calls for land use of the nature proposed by Pacific Arbour to be built to a maximum of four stories in the village of Dunbar (commercial area).


Your planning group, in weighing this proposal, obviously will look to the adjacent commercial area for context. They will see one story commercial  zoned structures lining Dunbar, offering plenty of viable commercial potential. What might be less evident is the economic viability of this current land use. Businesses in Dunbar face the retail challenges of a changing buyer demographic, of big box retailers in the suburbs, and more recently a greater assault on “bricks and mortar” establishments, online, in home buying eg. Costco Online. Existing Dunbar businesses are dealing with an ever increasing rental burden, in the face of declining sales.

Is the commercial sprawl to the 4600 block of Dunbar warranted, when common sense suggests a revitalization of the existing commercial area is necessary, even crucial, to avoid a pending economic ghettoization of Dunbar Street. Even the City, as a landlord,Dunbar Apartments has its retail space at 16th and Dunbar  vacant since the building opened back in September. (Perhaps the wisdom of ground floor retail could be reconsidered for a seniors residence in the village given existing vacancy rates.)

Should the homeowners in and around the 4600 block of Dunbar be subjected to land use change in their neighbourhood, for the sake of a business proposal which is clearly in the wrong location? The fact that this concern has managed to assemble a parcel of land should have less significance, than the need for revitalization in the village proper. One can merely walk through the village to see that the proposed development located within the village would fit like the proverbial “hand in glove”.

Land use policy has long term implications for the community. It should not be based solely on how and where the simplest land assembly was achieved. We strongly urge your decision making group look at the community’s changing socio/economic fabric. The Dunbar Vision Plan reflects a keen sense of the community’s needs, and it wisely directs future development to the village.

Will your decision making be guided by practical land use policy, or by political will?

Mike Andruff

Dunbar Re-Vision



  1. I agree our retail is in dire straights! I think the poor walkability of our neighborhood and the fact that the majority of residents rely almost exclusively on cars for transportation is a big part of the problem. Increasing walkability is really good for business. I left a comment on another post that doesn’t look like it went through, so I’ll repeat myself here:

    I think reducing reliance on cars in Dunbar would improve our neighborhood. Perhaps we could start with the Pacific Arbor low rise – reduce requirements for building expensive parking in exchange for a shorter building!

    The PA building would also increase density in Dunbar, too, which is good from a retail and environmental perspective! Plus, it’s on the main drag through the neighborhood instead of a side street, so it fits in better.

    Comment by susannah — January 8, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

  2. Very well stated Mr. Andruff. We are a caring community that does want senior housing. Dunbar residents do accept greater growth and higher buildings. Just not higher than the community plan which allows 4 stories, which is 4 times the height of our many existing 1 story businesses. It is a reasonable, progressive community plan that should not be dismissed. Dunbar residents do encourage and accept new businesses but not sprawled into current residential areas when the current buisness zoned areas are so greatly under developed, and as stated, even the brand new commercial rental on 16th and Dunbar has been vacant for quite some time. I give Mr. Andruff much credit for putting forth such a level headed and considerate letter. Dunbar residents are not saying, “not in my back yard”. They are saying, “Welcome but please respect our community”. Many of the unsympathetic comments I have heard towards Dunbarrevision, speak only of Dunbar residents fighting any change in our neighbourhood. Again, we are embracing change. An acceptance of 4 story buildings in our existing business areas represents a four fold increase. This is not a community resistant to change but a community that wants it’s views to be respected.

    Comment by Kevin — January 15, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

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