Changes On The Drive #21

April 30, 2013

It was a bit windy still this morning, but really it was a glorious spring day to walk down the Drive.

The still-being-renovated Far East Building between 6th and 7th doesn’t look close to being finished yet, but they are already advertising a retail outlet on the corner of 7th (where the Van East Cinema used to be) for $48 per sq.foot net.

Among new vacancies this month is the suddenly closed Fresh Slice Pizza shop at 1268.  I say suddenly because it was just advertized for sale at $140,000.  I guess they either sold or couldn’t hang on for a sale as a going concern.  As previewed last month, Ten Thousand Villages at 1204 is also newly vacant.

Older vacancies include 1181 (previously Spank’s Shoes) and 1044 which was Ewaz but is now looking like a junk store with  odd bits and pieces for sale in the window.  The south-side interior of Il Mercato mall is also still empty and, frankly, looking grim.  To help the business owners on the north side of the interior you’d think the mall owner might paper the vacant windows or something.

Closing but not yet vacant  is the Small World Store and Gallery at 2120 Commercial.

small world

There are a number of other Drive businesses for sale this month. These include:


  • Timbre at 2068, on sale for a whopping $299,000!  The lease is about $7,000 per month;


I hear that the Little Nest, just off the Drive on Charles Street, is also struggling after a huge increase in their rent.

On a more positive note, the space at 1748 that has been vacant a few months has now been filled by Lala’s On the Drive, which seems to be an upscale version of Wonderbucks across the street.


Could this be another step in the boutiquization of Commercial Drive?

Mexcal in the 1600-block has also finally opened.  They got a review of their tequilas in the Sun today.

Also newly opened, at 1046 where Tony’s Deli used to dwell, is Five Elements.

five elements

This is operated by the same folks who successfully managed the Mekong Restaurant here for more than a decade.  The new place seems to be a lot more than just a Vietnamese restaurant though.

In its third incarnation — Fettucine’s Cafe to Fet’s Bar & Grill to, now, Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen — the always popular and always inviting home of the Fergie clan is re-opening tonight at 1230 Commercial after major renovations.  There will a separate post about the new restaurant, but for those with a nostalgic bent, here are the three logos they have used over the past twenty seven years on the Drive:

Fets logos


Finally, I notice that Joe Antunes has decided to take a stand against the folks who hang out against the south wall of Joe’s Cafe.  He has published on his windows a letter he has written to the city:

joe's notice


[I want to thank my friend David for keeping his eye out for the real estate listings and passing them on to me.]

See previous Changes on The Drive editions

R.I.P. Lily

April 29, 2013

This morning, quite suddenly, our 13-year old cat, Lily, just upped and died.   She seemed normal enough when I got up this morning but, while lying quietly at my feet as I worked at the computer, she let out a fearful yelp and died within a minute.

Lily 1 copy

She was the most gorgeous pure-white Maine coon cat, and she will be greatly missed.

Clockwork Universe — A Fabulous Opening!

April 29, 2013

Last night the Drive was treated to perhaps the most interesting and well-attended art opening for many years.  This was the steampunk extravaganza called Clockwork Universe curated by Famous Empty Sky at the Havana Gallery and Theatre.

The intimate little space was jam-packed with people, well over a hundred, many of whom wore fabulous costumes in honour of the theme.

show1 copy

show2 copy

show3 copy

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There was a spectacular set of theatrical performances, there was wine, there was excellent conversation.  And the artwork was wonderful, too!

show5 copy

These examples include puppet figures by Diane Wood (with part of Harry Grunsky’s gallery-wide frieze above), “Normal Waking Consciousness Is Entirely Different” by Famous Empty Sky, and “Visionary” by Solange Belleforte.   There are many more fine works on the walls and they will be showing until May 7th.

A perfect Drive event.  Brava!

Perfect Day For Chores

April 27, 2013

Laundry, ironing (all my summer shirts in expectation of something good on the way), and baking bread — perfect activities to use up a wet grey day!

bread 1

Life is pretty darned good.

Dim Sum Special

April 26, 2013

Friday mornings are a very fine time to eat dim sum.  To be honest, any morning is a good time but somehow Fridays seem especially good; the weekend crowds aren’t there so the service is even more attentive than usual and, of course, there is no waiting.  As for the quality of the food, Western Lake is superb any day and any time.

dim sum 1

As usual, I was just too hungry to take a picture before we started in on the feast.  Here we have already had some of the sui mai and the squid with salt and garlic.  What can I say?  It was just too good.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

April 25, 2013

Today would have been my father’s birthday.  He’s been gone more than thirteen years now, but I still miss him.

I miss him especially when I notice that I am becoming him, in small ways — what I like to eat, the way I sit, some speech patterns, some mannerisms.  I am sure that neither he nor I would ever have believed we would converge in this way; we lived so very different lives.

He was always there for me, no matter how much he disagreed with things I’d said or done.  He was always there.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Mark The Spark

April 24, 2013

The current issue of Megaphone — that’s the bi-weekly journal sold by homeless and other disadvantaged folks — has a good profile of Mark (“the Spark”) Irvine who sells the paper everyday at Commercial and Grant.

I urge you to buy a copy.  The paper is an interesting read, is only two bucks, and it really helps the sellers.

We’ll Miss you, Richie!

April 23, 2013

My favourite Richie Havens song: “Sandy”


April 23, 2013


Meadow (2008), TIFF print, 36 x 30

Regional Context Statement: The Next Disaster

April 22, 2013

Vancouver’s Regional Context Statement is the development plan for the entire City for the next 25-30 years.  It will help determine the look and feel of every neighbourhood in Vancouver for generations to come.

Important, yes?  But public consultation, no!  It is coming up before City Council tomorrow, just days after the plan was made available, and — without a lot of public outrage in the meanwhile — will be approved and sent on to a Public Hearing.  Under City rules, once an item is referred to a Public Hearing, Councillors are no longer allowed to discuss it with the likes of you and me — we are silenced, until the Public Hearing.

As we know from long experience with Vision’s administration, Public Hearings are not designed to change the already-agreed policy.  They are a forum where, under very strict guidelines, we are allowed to vent our frustrations for no more than five minutes, and no debate with Councillors is allowed unless they ask questions.  These are public relations exercises, nothing more.  The policy has already been set.

Our only chance to challenge either the content of the Statement or the process under which it is being forced upon us, is to write to by 9:00am tomorrow.  Yes, 9:00am Tuesday 23rd April.  These are the kind of timelines that Vision uses to avoid any public consultation.

My own email read as follows:

“Like many of the residents I speak with every day in Grandview Woodland, I am shocked and outraged that Council is planning to move such an important policy as the Regional Context Statement to a Public Hearing without any opportunity for communities such as ours to question either the content of the Statement or the process being used to force it upon us.

I am obliged to note the impotence of previous “public hearings” to change the mind of decisions already taken by Council and its staff.   This entire process is a hijacking of democratic procedure.

I urge Mayor and Council to delay putting this issue to Public Hearing, and thus to allow interested parties to bring their concerns to Council and staff within a reasonable timeframe.”

If you get a chance tonight or early in the morning, please fire off your own version.

The Pleasure of Community

April 21, 2013

Went out today for an early-ish morning meeting, on a Sunday.  Of course, the place we agreed to meet at decided not to open up that early, so we found ourselves in the comfortable surroundings of Fets for our coffee klatsch.

The five of us had some interesting matters to plan, to discuss, and, thank goodness, we were not all in agreement about everything, so the discussion stayed lively and on point.  It is such a pleasure when a diverse group of people — some with extremely divergent political and social views — can conduct themselves in their differences with good humour and good spirit, and arrive at a workable consensus.

Makes getting up early on a Sunday a real joy.

Earth Day On the Drive

April 20, 2013

It was a beautiful, if somewhat windy, day to celebrate Earth Day on Commercial Drive.

I missed the parade (due to an urgent need to go to Skylight for breakfast), but I strolled over to the Park (having no choice other than to walk up the hill as the buses — with ecological solidarity, I guess — were diverted from the Drive).



There was a goodly crowd when I was there even though it was just getting started after the parade. I wonder how many Earth Day afficionados were downtown at the 420 which was on at the same time.


earth crowd


The Park also hosted a number of booths and stands with all the folks you would expect to be there.  I am glad we can offer them such a fine location in our neighbourhood.

I was interested to see that while the Daily Catch food truck was there, in its usual weekend spot by the Park, they were not open and serving at noon.  Seemed odd to me given the number of people milling around. Perhaps it was the wrong kind of crowd for an expensive paper plate of fish and chips, no matter how sustainable.

Creating a Future for Heritage

April 19, 2013

Last night, in the pouring rain, a good selection of Grandview residents turned out for the monthly Grandview Heritage Group meeting.  We had great discussions about heritage houses, the Shelly’s 4X sign on the Via Tevere Restaurant, and a wonderful presentation about heritage house framing systems.

If you missed it, that’s a shame.  But there’s another one next month!

6th Avenue Elms

April 19, 2013

elms on 6th

These beautiful trees were just hanging out in the Spring sunshine.

How Big Is Too Big

April 18, 2013

That was the title for today’s City Conversations on development in Vancouver held at SFU Harbourview.  The panelists were Councillor Raymond Louie, developer Michael Geller and former Vancouver Planning Director Brent Toderian.  It was a packed meeting, with more than eighty people in a lecture hall designed for far fewer.  I’m glad I arrived early!

geller at sfu

Ald. Louie (hidden behind the computer screen in the picture above) kicked off the discussion by wondering what was meant by “big”.  Did it mean height or mass or density or within a context?  He didn’t say anything wild (except to claim they always listened to the community), but he did manage to suggest that yet another city-wide policy might be useful.

Michael Geller (standing in image above) noted that form should follow fit rather than what usually happens that form follows finance.  When asked why so many buildings look the same, he quipped that developers make sheep look like free thinkers.

Brent Toderian (seated above) noted that virtually all developments coming for approval were too big and had to be talked down.  Design should come first, he said.  However, he also restated his position that density is inherently a good thing.

I’m not sure we learned anything new here: Most of the comments from Louie and Toderian were platitudes; Geller was more entertaining but not really more enlightening.  However, it was a good way to spend the lunch hour and I met several people that I had only known from Twitter before.

The Defeat Of Apathy

April 18, 2013

As the Province heads into an election, and as GWAC heads into a year full of vital business for Grandview, I thought it a good idea to re-post this TED talk that I originally posted a couple of years ago.

In this short video, Dave Meslin explains with compelling simplicity how policies of “deliberate exclusion” work to create an apathetic and inactive electorate — and suggests a way to get us out of that trap.

This is what Civics lessons ought to be about.

Fets 3.0

April 16, 2013

If you are a fan of Fets Bar & Grill, with one of the best-placed patios across from Grandview Park on the Drive, and have grown fond of Paul Archer’s musical murals that decorate the interior, you should be advised that things are about to change.

At the end of this month, Fet’s will close briefly for a complete refurbishment: new interior, new storefront, new signage and perhaps even a slightly new name.  They will, as owner Eric Fergie says, be growing up a bit.

Long-time readers will know that I have been a regular at Fet’s since they moved to their present location last century, and I am sure I’ll miss the Stones, the Beatles, and the wall of great-musicians-no-longer-with-us looking down on me as I eat. But the Fergies are consumate hosts and I’m certain that the new Fet’s will be at least as good and probably even better than the present.

I look forward to seeing it at the beginning of May.

[Here is a look back at Fet’s 1.0]

City Abstract XI

April 16, 2013

city abstract XI_plus

A Magic Bullet For The Housing Crisis?

April 15, 2013

In his column in the Vancouver Sun last week, developer-promotor Bob Ransford floated the idea of eliminating single-family house zoning to allow more units to be built on each lot.  He suggested this was  a magic bullet.

[Mike Harcourt and I] both know we can make traditional single-family neighbourhoods more pedestrian-oriented and transit-supportive by intensifying land use and when we do that, we will be supplying more housing and make home prices more affordable.  How do we do that? Mike simplified the challenge with the two simple ideas that, together, represent that closest thing to a magic bullet.

First, he advocates eliminating traditional single-family zoning across the entire Metro Vancouver region and replacing it with a permissive regulation that would allow all current single-family lots to have up to three dwelling units. Second, he argues we need to abandon our obsession with parking the car by getting rid of on-site parking requirements …

There are approximately 303,000 single detached houses in Metro Vancouver. If we assume only one-third of them currently have a secondary suite, that means there are at least 200,000 lots that could accommodate two more homes and 100,000 could accommodate a third home. So, a half-million more homes could be developed on the existing single-family lots in Metro Vancouver with this simple permissive designation. With a minimum of two people per home, the region could accommodate one million more people without building another apartment tower or another townhouse project.

Implementing ideas like these is the closest thing to finding the magic bullet that will make housing affordable for all and preserve our quality of life.

Somehow that didn’t seem at all right to me, and so I was glad to hear from Elizabeth Murphy, a development expert who also writes regularly for the local media. She supplies a necessary corrective and notes:

1. Vancouver does not have a supply problem. So much supply is being created that there is a glut of empty units being used as speculative investments without housing people who live here.

2. Ever increasing amounts of supply have not reduced the cost of housing and is making things more expensive by inflating land and demolishing the older more affordable stock. More supply does not make it more affordable.

3. The City of Vancouver has already eliminated single family zoning by allowing a main unit, secondary suite and laneway house in most RS zones. If these additional units were allowed to be strata titled rather than secondary suites as they now are, it would just cause more demolition than there already is and create less rentals.

There is no magic bullet!

Michael Kluckner, another specialist on housing in Vancouver, has also chimed in with a valuable perspective:

Bob Ransford (and Mike Harcourt) believe that ridding Metro Vancouver of single-family zoning would help solve the affordability problem. Unfortunately, the evidence in areas that were once single-family demonstrates the opposite. On the 33-foot lots in Grandview, small single-family houses are sold for lot value, about $800,000, taken down and replaced by front-back duplexes which sell for $850-900,000 each. This has been going on for several years now.

Why would any other part of Metro be different, unless Ransford is proposing subdividing, say, Kerrisdale’s big lots into fours or sixes? This is an economy where even a 550 square foot lane house costs a cool quarter million to build.

The moral of the story is that “Building Affordable Housing” is an oxymoron; a better plan is to retain housing, and modify it to meet new circumstances, to keep housing prices as low as possible. Mike Harcourt, with his environmental reputation, should recognize the “reuse” and “recycle” part of this strategy.

This is a good start to a debate that is vital in Grandview these days as we face the prospect of a new Community Plan that will significantly affect the future of our neighbourhood for a generation or more. For my own part, I have to note that Ransford (and Harcourt)’s sweeping idea is fully complicit with Vision Vancouver’s belief that city-wide policies, in which neighbourhood context is simply ignored, are the solution.  This is just a modern version of the “we know best” elitism that we need to throw out of City Hall.

Stone Soup Festival 2013

April 13, 2013

Here is another one for your calendar …

Stone Soup 2013 Poster AB Final SmallFor more information go to: