Arbutus, an affluent residential neighbourhood in Vancouver’s West Side, extends from 16th Avenue on the north to 41st on the south and from Mackenzie Street on the west to Arbutus Street on the east. A mature community with stately homes on large lots between tree-lined streets interspersed with quiet neighbourhood parks and with clear views of the nearby mountains to the north, Arbutus in the middle of Vancouver’s west side has easy access to Downtown, the University of British Columbia, Pacific Spirit Regional Park, and the seaside areas of Kitsilano and Jericho Beach. Most of the population of about 16,000 live in single-family homes. Neighborhood schools are Prince of Wales Secondary School, Carnarvon Elementary School, and Trafalgar Elementary School, which conducts a French immersion program.
Ironically, this affluent neighbourhood was once the “Asthma Flats” in the late 1800s and early 1900s, little more than a swamp traversable by plank walkways. As in much of Vancouver, the Canadian Pacific Railway brought commercial and residential development to Arbutus Ridge after 1888, when the province turned the area over to the railroad. The Arbutus line remains adjacent to Arbutus Street throughout the east side of the neighbourhood though now abandoned and unused. Arbutus Ridge became a municipality of the City of Vancouver in 1929
Mackenzie Heights in the southwest corner of Arbutus Ridge was in 1912 the first area of the community to start large-scale residential development. Not until the 1940s did developers haul sand from False Creek to fill in the Asthmas Flats for construction of property improvements on the bottom lands.
High Property Values
The single-family home at 2805 West 19th Avenue may look like a bungalow but in fact has six bedrooms and two bathrooms on three levels. A good home and investment, the house has a full basement with a two-bedroom suite which could bring in substantial income. Built in 1942, the 2,310-square-foot home lists for $1.598 million. Annual property taxes are just over $6,000.
Many shops and amenities are within walking distance: a Starbucks coffee shop, Choices Market, La Buca Italian Trattoria, Trafalgar’s at Sweet Obsession, and the Jamaican-inspired Patty Shop. The home is close to Prince of Wales secondary and Carnarvon and Trafalgar elementary schools, and to transit stops just steps away.
Canadian Pacific Controversy
The Arbutus Corridor is marred by train tracks that have not seen a train for years. Cyclists and environmentalists lobby for conversion of this 11-kilometre strip to use as a greenway. The Canadian Pacific Railway owns the land but the city won the legal right to determine land use zoning in a 2006 court decision. The city’s long-term 2040 Transportation Plan describes the Arbutus Corridor as “an east-west barrier.”
Canadian Pacific has asked more than 15,000 people and businesses to remove any property along the train tracks in the Arbutus Corridor as it continues its review of the rail line. No trains have used the line since 2001. The City of Vancouver, which has the last word on use of the corridor, says it is against a return of heavy rail, but residents fear that Canadian Pacific may intend to resume it.
Community Vision Plan
In November 2005, the Vancouver City Council approved the Arbutus Ridge-Kerrisdale-Shaughnessy Community Vision Plan, which seeks to retain the historic and mature character of the area and to further improve the community by: