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District of North Van approves Capilano University staff and student housing

Half of the units will be exclusively for Capilano University’s students, staff and faculty.
Darwin Properties has proposed housing for Capilano University students and staff, just off campus in North Vancouver | TKA+D Architecture + Design

The District of North Vancouver has approved 315 rental homes, just off campus from Capilano University, half of which will be exclusively for students, faculty and staff.

The project by Darwin Properties at 1310 Monashee Dr., which is occupied by dog kennels today, will include two six-storey buildings centred around a courtyard, with 8,570 square feet of commercial/restaurant space at ground level.

Of the 315 units, 32 will be offered at below-market rates for CapU students. Another 126 will be leased at market rates exclusively for Cap’s students, faculty and staff. The remaining 157 will be open to the general public at market rates.

When it came time to debate the merits and faults of the project, council members kept their comments short and sweet.

Mayor Mike Little acknowledged that students would have liked to have seen more affordable rentals for them, but he said that wouldn’t be feasible without the province or Capilano University buying the land and developing it on a non-profit basis.

“Everything that we could get out of it was going to happen through a voluntary negotiation between the parties,” he said. “Would I like a higher ratio? Of course. But I happen to think that this is going to dramatically improve the flexibility of the university in terms of delivering a quality education, with proper supportive services, including housing for staff, students and faculty.”

Coun. Herman Mah noted that the project has the support of Capilano University’s leadership, despite being off-campus, and added that it would complement CapU’s own student housing project going in just across Monashee Drive.

“I also want to commend the staff for doing a good job of negotiating a strong housing agreement,” he said.

Even without more affordable homes, the project still addresses a district need, Coun. Jordan Back highlighted.

“I think will be a great evolution for everyone up in that area of the community and it’s going to deliver 315 rental homes, which we surely need badly in our community,” he said.

The vote to rezone the property passed 5-2, with Couns. Lisa Muri and Coun. Betty Forbes opposed.

The bulk of council’s debate time however centred around whether the district’s process for vetting the geotechnical safety of the site, which is atop a steep slope over the Seymour River and north end of Seymour Boulevard, was adequate.

Engineers have already signed off on the proposal, but several members of council insisted that the district seek out an independent, peer review of the work, given the history of landslides in the area.

District staff do get second opinions whenever they feel it may be necessary, said Dan Milburn, general manager of planning and permits, which will happen again as Darwin’s proposal goes into detailed designs and permitting.

“The matter is, from staff’s perspective, sufficiently dealt with in the existing powers, and staff’s indication from the chief building official is that that will be a requirement of the subsequent permit stages,” he said.

Still, this particular property shouldn’t be left to staff’s discretion, the majority on council felt, passing a motion from Muri and Coun. Jim Hanson recommending that the approving officer commission an independent peer review, even though it would not have any bearing on council’s decision to rezone the lot.

The new housing is expected to come online in 2027.

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