Robertson’s Task Force Represents Minority Only

February 8, 2012

The opening paragraph of a Vancouver Sun story on Mayor Robertson’s Housing Affordability Task Force states:

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has drawn deeply on all sectors of the housing industry to represent his new “housing affordability task force” in the hope of finding realistic solutions to the city’s housing problems.

Is that not bullshit or what?

As I understand the latest figures, 55% of Vancouver’s population are renters.  And yet not a single renter is represented on the Task Force. Not one.

The landlords are there, but the renters are not.  The realtors and the developers are there, but more than half the population is ignored, excluded, told they don’t count.


What’s with that?

An Interview With The Courier

February 7, 2012

As a consequence of the publication of my “Encyclopedia of Commercial Drive” this week, I was contacted yesterday to do a brief interview with The Courier newspaper — and here it is already!

The Future of Commercial & Venables

February 7, 2012

Last night was the monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC), and much of the meeting was concerned with the potential development of the northwest corner of Commercial & Venables. The site is currently occupied by Astorino’s, the Kettle Friendship Society’s drop-in and lunch centre, the Ace of Suedes cleaning establishment and a triangle-shaped car park behind the building that is owned by the city.

Two representatives of the Kettle came to talk with GWAC in view of an article in the Courier a few weeks ago that led concerned neighbours to believe a 7-8 storey building was likely on that corner.  Angela Davies and Chris Keough explained that the Kettle had needed more space almost since they purchased their building many years ago. They had made an offer on the Astorino’s building when Leo Astorino and his brother decided to sell up and retire, but were unable to meet the price required

So, they turned to local developer Boffo Properties who apparently have been financial supporters of the Kettle for many years. Boffo has now purchased the Astorino’s site, have an agreement in principle with the Kettle about their property, and are in active negotiations with the Ace of Suedes about their property and with the City about the car park. Their overall plan is to build retail on the ground floor with market-priced condos above. The Kettle would get a space about 50% larger than their current building plus perhaps a dozen non-market residences for Kettle clients.

The Kettle notes that they are not seeking to expand the numbers using their services; they simply need more space to do what they already do more efficiently. They also noted that Boffo has agreed to find them equivalent temporary space for use while the proposed construction goes on.  They noted that they probably wouldn’t have a great deal of input into the design of the building but they assured the meeting that neither the Kettle nor, in their opinion, Boffo would want to build something that did not “fit” with the neighbourhood.

The real question for residents, of course, concerns the size and look of any new development on that important corner. The current zoning is C-2 (standard for Commercial Drive) and the developers would probably seek a change to CD-1 which allows the community voice to be heard. But we may have to wait a while because the developers are aware of the Grandview Community Plan that is about to kick off and it seems they are willing to wait to see what comes out of that exercise. It may well be that the Astorino’s site will be used for community arts’ or similar uses for the next couple of years.

The discussion was broadened to the wider community and it was interesting to hear the views of the Executive Director of REACH. She noted that REACH is in “another dying building” (referring to their offices in the 1100-block of Commercial) but that the costs of building in Vancouver make it impossible for small community-oriented NGOs such as REACH and the Kettle to contemplate their own four storey re-developments without bringing in market-oriented partners.

This was a useful information session by the Kettle folks and I for one want to thank them for being willing to come out and discuss these issues with the community.



“The Encyclopedia of Commercial Drive to1999”

February 6, 2012

My new book is now published!   Take a look at The Drive Press for more information.


The Joy Of the New and the Exhaustion of the Old

February 5, 2012

Some months ago we bought a new sofa online, with delivery in February.  Well, February is here and today is the day they are delivering the new couch.  Great!  Looking forward to it!

However, we still have the old couch that this new one is to replace.  We used to love this old sofa but it has become more than tatty over the years and has to go.  Moreover, it  hasn’t lost any weight.  The steel frame is still as solid as ever and, of course, it is wider than any doors in the house.

So, the joy of the new is preceded by the odd and exhausting task of two not-very-fit 60+ year olds working like navvies to move the old couch out. Once we had figured out the geometry of getting it out of the living room door, I knew we were going to be OK. But it took another full half-hour of labour and struggle to get it to the kerbside.

Sheesh! And now I have to vacuum the place before the new sofa arrives!

Update:  The effort was worth it!


The Day the Music Died

February 3, 2012

It is 53 years now since that dangerous blizzard, that fatal plane ride, that terrible day the music died.

There are two, perhaps three, generations for whom Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens are just names vaguely remembered if at all; that’s fair enough. But I’m old enough for this to have felt like a date of genuine significance and I’m happy to remember their lives and their passing.

Renzo’s Cafe

February 3, 2012

In the previous Changes on the Drive post I mentioned that Renzo’s Cafe is now open.  It sits on a prime Drive location, on the southwest corner of Charles by the Park.  I had a meeting to take on the Drive the other morning and so chose to try it out.

The immediate sense is that one has walked into Prado by mistake.  As at the coffee shop on the corner of 4th, the overall scheme is white (or cream) giving a well-lighted but almost vacant space. The advantage that Prado has is that it is part of the Highland Black and somehow gains some vibrancy from the history of that space. In the case of Renzo’s there is no gravitas-by-association and the overwhelming feeling I had was of an antiseptically clean fish merchants.

It has a huge and imposing coffee machine that dominates, its metallic fascia reflecting the light-coloured counter and adding to the sense of industrial lightness absent any ambience.  Moreover they don’t have any drip coffee and a coffee-primitive like me doesn’t like to have to choose between a super-strong Americano or some milky and pretty concoction.  The service was pleasant enough, though.

Personally, I was hoping for something a lot funkier in that particular space, with color and texture and soft comfortable chairs overlooking the Park.  And I guess we should wait until summer to see what that does to the Park side of the Cafe. It could be great, but right now I am disappointed.

Update:  As later posts will probably have indicated, I have grown to really like Renzo’s and it is now one of my regular hangouts.