Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens is located on Russell Place in Port Alberni. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

City of Port Alberni approves five-storey expansion at Tsawaayuus-Rainbow Gardens

Neighbours voice concern about traffic, loss of green space in wake of decision

Tsawaayuus (Rainbow Gardens) Care Facility in Port Alberni will be expanding again, despite concern from neighbours.

Port Alberni City Council agreed on Monday, Feb. 24 to issue a development variance permit to Westcoast Native Health Care Society. This permit will allow the society to construct a new, five-storey apartment building with 39 units of housing for low- to moderate-income seniors.

John Jessop, the project manager for Westcoast Native Health Care Society, said on Monday that the society originally planned to build a three-storey structure, but a geotechnical investigation looked at the load-bearing capacity of the site on Russell Place and discovered that there is only “a limited area” where construction can take place. Jessop said the plan is to reduce the footprint of the building and increase the height in order to keep the same number of units.

“We’re kind of forced into a difficult situation,” he said.

This would be the third expansion for Tsawaayuus (Rainbow Gardens). The first two saw new long-term care beds and independent living units open in late 2019.

READ MORE: Tsawaayuus-Rainbow Gardens opens first of two expansions in Port Alberni

Multiple neighbours spoke in opposition to this project on Monday, saying they have been impacted by the construction and the loss of green space. Others expressed concern about parking and traffic in the neighbourhood.

The new development will include one parking stall for every three units—a total of 13 parking spots—as well as eight extra stalls.

Councillor Debbie Haggard proposed bringing the neighbourhood concerns to a future Traffic Advisory Committee meeting in order to find some solutions.

“I don’t want to turn down 39 units of affordable seniors housing for things that we can work with and have solutions to,” she said.

Cindy Solda, the acting mayor on Monday, also expressed her support for the development.

“When I see seniors who cannot afford the rents that are out there nowadays…I have issues with that,” she said. “There’s a lot of seniors…that have no place to go. We have a housing crisis in Port Alberni. We want to move forward and help these people.”


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