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At the turn of the century, the area from Burrard to Alma Streets was a dense, wild-life-filled forest, in spite of earlier logging. A salmon canning factory at the foot of Macdonald Street was once unable to cope with the "hundreds of thousands of salmon" caught in 1900.
During the summer, dozens of vacationing tent campers -- many from the city's fashionable West End -- lined Kits Beach, then called Greer's Beach after one of the area's earliest settlers. East of the beach area was the Kitsilano Indian Reserve, on the site of today's Vanier Park. The Coast Salish village of Snauq was located on the shore of False Creek, slightly to the east of the Museum-Planetarium Complex.
The CPR (which owned most of the land east of Trafalgar), the B.C. Electric Railway's streetcar line along 4th Avenue to Alma, and the Burrard Bridge built in 1932, all played a role in opening up Kitsilano. However, Kitsilano was not fully developed south to 16th Avenue until the late 1940s. During World War II, most of the old estates and many single-family homes along the slope above Kitsilano Beach were converted into rooming houses. They remained that way until the 1960s, by which time the area had become popular with university students and young people from throughout North America.
Kitsilano residents have a long history of community involvement. As early as 1907, Kitsilano citizens lobbied for sewers, tram service and other infrastructure for their community. A rezoning of the slope above the beach to allow apartments raised residents' concerns over the future of their community. Further changes in the 1970s, and again in the 1980s, prompted City Council to initiate local area planning programs involving Kits residents, local business people and City staff.
In the past three decades, there have been numerous physical changes in the Kitsilano area. The most dramatic have occurred in the apartment area, where most original houses have been replaced by new apartment buildings. In the duplex/conversion areas of Kits however, residents have been working hard to restore and preserve the character homes which make the community so distinctive.
Concentrations of Craftsman-style houses can be found in the area bounded by Macdonald, Stephens, 5th and 6th Avenues. A virtually intact row of "California Bungalows" can be seen on the south side of 5th Avenue between Bayswater and Balaclava.
In recognition of the special quality of these (duplex/conversion) areas, City Council has adopted changes to the Zoning and Development By-law to assist the retention of older character homes. These changes include:
Another community landmark is the tiny Arbutus Grocery at the corner of 6th Avenue and Arbutus Street. The building has a boomtown facade and an unusual corner entry. It was built in 1907 by Thomas F. Frazer and is one of the finest old grocery stores in the city.
Detailed information on the city's heritage and a complete list of heritage buildings is available at City of Vancouver Heritage.
Additional information is available through the City of Vancouver Archives.
Kitsilano has had a number of planning programs from the 1970s onward including:
A planning program in the early 1990s did an extensive review of the RT zones The resulting RT-7 and RT-8 zones place a strong emphasis on retention of older, character buildings, as well as on design control of new buildings. At the same time, the Arbutus industrial lands were replanned as a new residential neighbourhood for about 2,250 people, through the Arbutus Neighbourhood Policy Plan (1993) and subsequent CD-1 and C-7/C-8 zonings. Much of the development in the area, as well as the greenway system, is complete. The Kitsilano Traffic, Cycling and Parking Plan (1992) made recommendations on cycling routes and traffic calming throughout the area.
In the early 1990s, the Secondary Suites Program dealt with whether residents in the single family area between Broadway and W 16th Avenue supported rental suites, and resulted in RS-1S zoning for suites in that area. In the late 1990s, as a result of the RS Zoning Program, RS-5S which includes design review was adopted, covering the same area.
In 1995, Vancouver City Council approved CityPlan: Directions for Vancouver. CityPlan is a citywide plan that will guide City decisions on programs, priorities and actions through 2021. CityPlan provides general directions for a range of topics and issues in which the City is involved including neighbourhood centres, housing variety and affordability, neighbourhood character, services, safety, arts and culture, public places, economy and jobs, transportation, environment, downtown development, financial accountability, and decision making. [CityPlan]
The Community Visions Program is a component of CityPlan that provides each community with an opportunity to look into its future, determine its needs and aspirations, and set a course that is consistent with CityPlan. Community visioning is being implemented in areas where there has been little or no previous community planning.
Kitsilano has undergone extensive community planning and will not be part of the Community Visioning process. It may be included in a "re-visioning" process in the future.[Community Visions Program]
The zoning types found in Kitsilano are listed below.