Trout lake resident livid over city's long-term plan to acquire block for park space

The City of Vancouver is looking to acquire some properties along Victoria Drive to expand John Hendry Park and one of the block's residents is not happy about the process.

City intends to acquire property along Victoria Drive to expand John Hendry Park

The City of Vancouver is looking to acquire a row of houses on Victoria Drive (pictured on the right) on the edge of John Hendry Park in East Vancouver. (Google Maps)

A Vancouver resident in the cross-hairs of the city's park acquisition strategy says the policy to increase green space and enhance livability is going to crush his community.

Pete McCormick is a resident of the 3000-block of Victoria Drive which backs onto John Hendry Park, also known as Trout Lake in East Vancouver.

He says the city bought a house on his block a year-and-a-half ago and it has sat empty since — puzzling, he says,  given the housing crisis and the good condition of the house.

"It's a beautiful house," he said. "It was beautifully finished on the outside, and it's a stunning kitchen. It would definitely make the heritage register. It ticks all those boxes."

Neighbour Pete McCormick says the house that was sold to the city, 3030 Victoria Drive, has been vacant for the past 18 months even though it is in good condition. (Tyrone Robinson & Associates Real Estate)

This past week, he says, he found out from media reports the house is actually slated for demolition in order to expand John Hendry Park.

He said he feared other houses on the block — including his own — would face the same fate as soon as they were acquired by the city.

"We found out in the media. That's a disaster to me. It feels Putin-esque. We're going to demolish your houses when we want to and how we want to do it. We're not going to talk to you. We're not even going to check whether that's truly a beautiful community right there," he said.

McCormick says the eight houses on the block are multi-family units with some residents who have lived in their homes for decades.

"This is a tight-knit community," he said.

"If the plan is to have park for the community, it's a completely baffling idea because we are the community and we love this area and that's why we live here."

Listen to resident Pete McCormick on CBC's The Early Edition:

A long-term strategy

Vancouver Park Board general manager Malcolm Bromley confirmed the board had acquired the house on Victoria Drive, and it is scheduled to be demolished, although the specific timing of the demolition has not been determined.

He said it's an anomaly the house is vacant and added it's working with housing agencies for the short term rental of the property, if possible.

As for other houses on the block, Bromley said they're part of a long-term plan.

"We wouldn't buy one property without the intention of trying to leverage more," he said.

However, he said the board would never force people to sell houses or expropriate parks.

"We just look for strategic opportunities and we're patient."

The houses on the 3000-block of Victoria Drive overlook John Hendry Park, a popular East Vancouver green space commonly referred to as Trout Lake. This is the view from the house acquired by the City of Vancouver. (Tyrone Robinson & Associates Real Estate)

He said there's little consultation before acquisition because of the "delicate matter" of acquiring real estate.

"If everybody [knows] we're thinking of buying their houses and then magically, the prices fluctuate," he said.

"We have a responsibility to spend tax dollars responsibly."

Opposition rare

Bromley says it's rare someone is so upset with the park board's park land acquisition strategy which is meant to ensure residents have green space — particularly in dense, urban areas.

The Grandview Woodlands/Cedar Cottage neighbourhood — where Trout Lake is — was identified as a park deficient neighbourhood in the latest park board strategy.

"I've never had, in my experience, people oppose a park space … Most people applaud the efforts and appreciate the foresight of the park board when we strategically buy properties."

He pointed to city parks like Emery Barnes and Point Grey Road that were created over decades through the acquisition strategy.

"People take for granted that the park all along English Bay has been there forever. Well, it hasn't. It was acquired over many, many years of acquiring residential properties, small apartment buildings, demolishing them and turning them into green space." 

With files from The Early Edition