Following a conversation that ranged from the history of racist housing policies to the esthetic advantages of living on a cliffside, Monday’s meeting concluded with Coquitlam council approving a 202-unit condo/rental highrise on Pipeline Road.

The 262-foot tall building is earmarked to replace a 1983-era building comprised of 35 purpose-built rentals that currently occupies the site near Lafarge Lake-Douglas SkyTrain station – despite one councillor’s concerns about gentrification.

“I don’t feel like I even understand who’s coming in, nor do I have an understanding of who I’m pushing out,” said Coun. Bonita Zarrillo. “Is this rezoning really helping residents of Coquitlam?”

In response to Zarrillo’s request to understand who the development is will serve, the city’s director of development service explained the shameful history of the development profession.

Government officials and planners have made development decisions that redlined neighbourhoods and barred Black and Asian people from owning homes through restrictive covenants.

Making decisions based on land users – as opposed to land use – has resulted in: “disastrous and incredibly discriminatory results,” Merrill said.

City planners are now obliged to be neutral on the issue of who occupies housing, Merrill said. In what he called a “glib example,” Merrill noted that it would not influence his decision if a developer planned to market their housing project exclusively overseas. 

“We are tasked with looking after land use but not the land user,” he said.

Given the trends of seniors living longer and fewer people getting married, it’s vital to use the land for housing, said Coun. Teri Towner.

She also noted Canada’s immigration rates.

“We are not procreating at a big enough rate to keep the population going,” Towner said.

“It’s about supply. We need housing,” concurred Mayor Richard Stewart.

Stewart recounted getting an email from a resident asking: “How dare you build all this housing?”

“It’s from someone who’s got housing, obviously,” Stewart added.

Noting that some residents objected to the project on the basis of lost views, Coun. Brent Asmundson said that, unless you live on a cliff, “Nobody owns a view.”  

Discussing criticisms about a lack of information being provided to the public, Coun. Steve Kim emphasized the challenge of reaching everyone with your campaign.

“There are still people who haven’t seen Super Bowl ads,” Kim said.

Responding to questions from council, Coquitlam city staff reported sending out 1,274 mailers regarding the application.

Coun. Chris Wilson put the onus on the public to keep abreast of pending development applications.

“If people are concerned about development in the community we need you to pay attention. I’m sorry,” he said. “Please pay attention.”

The breakdown

  • Floor area ratio: 5.55 (the ratio measures a building’s total floor space against its lot size.)
  • 202 residential units
  • Market condos: 136
  • Three-bedroom condo units: 13
  • Two-bedroom condo units: 86
  • One-bedroom condo units: 37
  • Purpose built market rentals: 57
  • Studio and one-bedroom rental units: 34
  • Two-bedroom rental units: 15
  • Three-bedroom rental units: 8
  • Non-market rentals: 9
  • Parking spots: 236
  • Commercial space: 1,071 square feet
  • Applicant: Ledingham McAllister

Cash on the table

Approving the project would mean approximately $7.47 million for the city, including $4.9 million in density bonusing, $2.4 million in development cost charges, and $147,000 in community amenity contributions.

The development requires one more formal vote before construction can begin.