Is Coquitlam sacrificing livability for affordability?
That question was at the forefront Monday evening as Coquitlam council debated the merits of a 120-unit apartment project earmarked for Tyndall Street near Burquitlam SkyTrain station.
The project – which consists of two six-storey buildings connected by a lobby – is unacceptable in its current form, according to Coun. Robert Mazzarolo.
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“It should still be livable, or as livable as possible,” Mazzarolo said.
Mazzarolo objected to the inclusion of 100-square foot bedrooms.
“You can get a single-bed in there. You’ll be hard-pressed to get a double,” he said.
The development is set to include 51 one-bedroom units and 30 studio units. The studios range from 385 to 450 square feet. The project’s 12 three-bedroom units are projected to be between 929 and 981 square feet.
The city should prioritize two- and three-bedroom units, according to Mazzarolo.
One square foot in a multi-family building costs between $700 and $1,000, noted Mayor Richard Stewart.
If the bedrooms are bigger, the cost will go up, the mayor said, adding that similar-sized bedrooms are common in Coquitlam.
“I don’t want us to get bogged down on some of the market decisions that have to be made,” Stewart said. “Obviously, if a developer found that they couldn’t sell units that had 10-by-10 bedrooms, they would make them bigger.”
Relying on market decisions will result in an influx of studios and one-bedroom units, Mazzarolo said.
“I’m very loath to say that we should let the market dictate all our decisions here,” he said. “If we strictly left this up to the market . . . we would not see three-bedrooms units. . . . This application demonstrates it.”
Mazzarolo and Coun. Teri Towner differed on who the market might be for the project’s studios.
For many seniors, a small studio with a nearby elevator offers an ideal way to “age in place,” Towner said.
Mazzarolo said that had not been his experience.
“I have not met one senior that said they wanted to live in a studio apartment,” he said.
While Mazzarolo was the only councillor who voted against sending the project to public hearing, several councillors expressed misgivings about the project.
This development could end up pitting the public against investors, cautioned Coun. Dennis Marsden.
“This just screams to me, this is rife for the small investor or mid-size investor to come in . . . and snap up three or four or five units,” Marsden said.
Coun. Matt Djonlic voiced a similar concern.
“With condo studios, these are going to go purely to investors,” Djonlic said.
Djonlic implored the developer to re-assess the project, possibly adding lock-off units.
Stewart reminded his colleagues that the project complies with city standards. (Coquitlam allows for a maximum of 30 percent of units to be studios.)
“We’ve told the industry: please bring us plans that meet this set of rules. And when they do, we shouldn’t say: ‘We didn’t mean that, we meant a different set of rules,” Stewart said.
Located amid single-family homes on Tyndall between Como Lake and Jefferson avenues, the development would be about a 700-metre walk from Burquitlam SkyTrain station. An eight-storey project is set to be built to the east of the project.
The project includes 143 parking spots, including 125 stalls equipped for EV charging. Part of the development would include a new collector road.
Cash on the table
If approved, owner and applicant Quantum Properties Arcadia LP would owe the city approximately $3.043 million in development cost charges, community amenity contributions, and cash for the city’s child care reserve fund. Additionally, Quantum is expected to pay for $132,000 worth of transit passes to help manage transportation demand.
Council voted 8-1 to send the project to public hearing. The development requires two more votes from council before moving into the construction phase.