British Columbia

Density or waterfront views? West Vancouver mayoral candidates debate development

The debate around development in West Vancouver — balancing housing and business needs with a desire to maintain the community’s waterfront charm — is front and centre in the upcoming municipal election.

Each week until election day, CBC’s The Early Edition looks at a key issue in different municipalities

A view from Dundrave Park in the District of West Vancouver (District of West Vancouver)

The debate around development in West Vancouver — balancing housing and business needs with a desire to maintain the community's waterfront charm — is front and centre in the upcoming municipal election.

"We want to see thoughtful density," said Stephanie Jones, the executive director of the Ambleside-Dundarave Business Improvement Association.

"Different height buildings, interesting architecture, public art — all of these things are really critical to create a neighbourhood and thriving business community."

She's hopeful the Oct. 20 election will bring change.

Three of the five mayoral candidates for West Vancouver (left to right) Christine Cassidy, Mark Sager and Mary Ann Booth debate what should be done about the municipality's development. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

Mayoral candidates debate

Each week until election day, CBC's The Early Edition  is looking at a key issue in different municipalities that voters want to see addressed.

Three out of five mayoral candidates from the District of West Vancouver, selected for their track record of significant civic engagement or with strong public support, have different ideas about what needs to be done.

"We do need redevelopment and what we've been doing isn't working," said Mary Ann Booth, who's currently a city councillor.  

"We need to put our jewel [waterfront] on display."

Booth has a clear idea of what the waterfront could like like: an "attractive European village" vibe, she said, and that means no more highrises in Ambleside-Dundarave.

Christine Cassidy, also a city councillor, would also restrict development. She favours banning development south of the tracks along the West Vancouver waterfront.

"The number one reason that West Vancouverites say they wish and want to live in West Vancouver is the fact of the natural beauty of our waterfront," Cassidy said.

"I do not want any further building to increase our footprint on our Ambleside waterfront public lands."

Stephanie Jones, the executive director of the Ambleside-Dundarave Business Improvement Association, said she wants to see development along major transit corridors in West Vancouver. (David Horemans/CBC)

Housing worries

For Mark Sager, who was the mayor from 1990 to 1996, that kind of development debate misses the mark.

"There is no land south of the railway in West Vancouver that has any development potential.That is a non-issue," he said.

Instead, he wants to see a push for more affordable housing in West Vancouver.

"We need housing for the people who work in our community — our teachers, our police officers, our firefighters," he said.  

He suggested some of the land currently used for the six gas stations in the municipality could be used for more affordable housing instead.

'Never been an affordable community'

Cassidy said she avoids the term "affordable housing" when it comes to development.

"West Vancouver has never been an affordable community, it has been a community of middle-class and upper middle-class individuals," said Cassidy.

Booth disagreed. "West Vancouver has never been affordable? That is simply not true.

"West Vancouver was a very middle class community — a teacher could afford to buy a house."

She pointed to a recent council proposal to use district land for subsidized housing for nurses, teachers, police officers and other municipality workers.

"This is a solution that we are moving towards," she said.

"It will start to make a dent."

With files from Rohit Joseph and The Early Edition.

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