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Vancouver, Canada, Restricts Self-Storage Development Near Transit

Update 4/20/22 – The Vancouver City Council voted last week to ban self-storage development in some areas near mass-transit stations. In addition, projects in the city’s industrial zones must incorporate mixed-use space, with storage units prohibited from the ground floor. The measure aims to increase jobs from businesses in the city’s industrial zones, according to Chris Robertson, assistant director of the planning department, who noted that self-storage facilities don’t require a large staff.

Prior to the vote, Allan Sutherland, president of General Store-All Mini Storage in Vancouver, said the regulation targeted large developments but would greatly impact independent storage operators, particularly those looking to expand. He countered that his business operates out of a city-leased warehouse and supports small businesses that also use the space.

“A 40,000-square-foot warehouse might employ five to 10 warehouse people,” Sutherland said. “That same size warehouse, with 500 lockers, might provide warehousing for 50 to 100 small companies.”

The requirement will likely create significant barriers for smaller operators, said Reade DeCurtins, principal of Bluebird Self Storage, which operates more than 30 locations in Canada. Mixed-use developments are more difficult to construct, finance and lease, he told the source.


3/04/22 – City officials in Vancouver, Canada, are considering regulations that would restrict self-storage development in industrial areas near transit. The new rules would also require self-storage in any industrial zone to offer non-storage uses on the ground floor, according to the source.

The shift follows recent self-storage projects in prominent areas of the city such as Pockit Self Storage, which is underway near the VCC-Clark SkyTrain Station. The restrictions would affect land in the Mount Pleasant industrial area, the industrial zone south of Marine Drive, and the Renfrew, Rupert and VCC-Clark train stations.

A city-staff report presented to the council this week stated self-storage facilities “pose a threat to intensification in industrial areas.” It also cautioned that developers from other industries find it challenging to compete against self-storage financially for land. Staff conferred with officials in Miami, San Francisco and New York who’ve faced similar issues.

Storage operators have responded by saying the city shouldn’t be too stringent, and called the staff’s review of the industry an inaccurate stereotype. “By having storage within municipalities, it is allowing a lot more small businesses to operate. Storage plays a vital role in a dynamic city,” said Patrick Wood, a broker with William Wright Commercial.

Some storage facilities also provide ancillary services to retailers such as package acceptance. “I visited a couple of buildings in the Downtown Eastside recently and the level of activity was awesome,” said Robert Madsen, a director with the Canadian Self Storage Association and owner of the U-Lock Mini-Storage Group, which operates six facilities in the city.

David Allan, vice president of development and acquisition for Apple Self Storage, which operates more than 35 facilities in Canada, concurred, noting that many storage operators are seeing an increase in commercial tenants. “In an urban center, we’re seeing [storage] become real hubs of economic activity,” he said.

The report noted there are four self-storage facilities under construction and two in development review that are less than a mile from a transit station. Eight were built between 2000 and 2009, and nine have been built or proposed since 2020, the source reported.

Sources:
CoStar, Vancouver Adopts Mixed-Use Requirement for New Self-Storage Projects
The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Looking to Put Limits on Small Storage Spaces

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