An Historical Day

March 31, 2015

Out bright and early this morning, to get to the Nikkei Centre in Burnaby by 9.  Michael drove, while Penny and I complained about planning and suburbia.  We were there to witness and cheer on the final student project presentations for the UBC Geog 429 course taught by David Brownstein.

For each of the last few years, Professor Brownstein has linked up his final year students one-on-one with a wide variety of community groups, to conduct a research project suggested by the group and accepted by the student. This was the third year the Grandview Heritage Group (GHG) has participated. The first two years were not entirely successful; but this year we struck gold with Kevin Shackles.

The project he agreed to undertake was a review history of the corner grocery stores in Grandview (not those on the Drive or Hastings) and to track their decline into non-existence.

Kevin really threw himself into this project and met with several of us on several occasions for discussions and suggestions.  His presentation this morning was excellent, polished and focused.  He will be making a more detailed presentation to the next meeting of GHG and we will publish his final papers on our website.  The final paper will include a detailed spreadsheet covering the histories of all the grocery stores that used to colour our neighbourhood.

There were a total of 10 presentations this morning, covering subjects as diverse as the Point Atkinson military park, the history of air pollution in Vancouver, and a study of social divides in northern canneries and fisheries. Good stuff, all of them.

So, a good morning, and I was planning to come straight home and write about it. But in the car coming back, I had a small epiphany about how to handle a particular part of my current research, and as soon as I was home, I was buried deep within the 1901 Census of Vancouver and hardly came up for air until now.

A day full of history, and all the better for it.


Image: Landscape V

March 31, 2015

Landscape V

Night Music: Tell Her No

March 30, 2015

Poem: Exchanges

March 30, 2015


Needle exchanges

are just

stock exchanges     really


stock exchanges

for those


those on the



like over-stretched


in a bare   market


leveraged hedges and

currency options



no different

than heroin from opium


stock exchanges

are just

needle exchanges

juicing up

a different



Image: Greenspace I

March 29, 2015


Night Music: When A Man Loves A Woman

March 28, 2015

The Kettle/Boffo Site: Massing Issues

March 28, 2015

This morning, I attended the presentation by the Kettle Society and Boffo to the Citizens’ Assembly about their plans for the site at Commercial & Venables that would include the Kettle’s property on Venables, the “Ace of Suedes” and “Astorinos” properties owned by Boffo, and the City-owned car park to the north of those lots.

Daniel Boffo fronted the presentation for the developer, with Nancy Keogh leading out to explain the benefits to the Kettle and its population.  Mr. Boffo was reluctant to commit to much detail on issues such as the number of market units and parking particulars, stating on several occasions that the project was still too tentative and conceptual at this stage.

But Ms. Keogh was keen to be specific: about 12,000 feet of custom designed admin and drop in space; about “thirty” housing units for Kettle clients; twelve to fifteen storey building.  This led Mr. B. to suggest that they would need about one hundred and fifty market units to finance the Kettle requirements.  Once again that leads us to a twelve to fifteen storey structure.  They were keen for us to hear the design concepts they were working with, thus drawing our attention away from the height issue.

The design presenter did a fine job of explaining how they wanted to use the eccentricities of the site-shape to play with the mass they needed, whiler creating an attractive streetscape.  They first created a “plaza” area in an area where now the car park stares at Uprising Breads. They then shifted some mass from the south end to the north end of the site. This allows them to use the natural slope down to Adanac while pushing the mass (height) to a point almost diagonally opposite Adanac Towers. The Venables frontage and the Commercial corner would be at the low end of the massing (height).

However, in none of the diagrams she used to explain these concepts, did she ever show a massing higher than about five or six stories. In other words, while perhaps “conceptually” correct, these diagrams did not and do not indicate the reality of the proposal.

The folks at CityHallWatch and others have shown us how easy it is to create accurate models of proposals.  We did not get that today. Instead, we got a PR view, perhaps designed to plant inaccurate images of the proposal into the public domain and thus feed into some future “approval” process.

The Kettle said their presentation will be available at their website, and that a public meeting would be held as soon as possible to cover the same ground.

It is hard for me to believe that any truly representative Citizens’ Assembly gathered as the Commercial Drive sub-area group could support this proposal at anything even close to the proposed size.  There have to be alternatives that will allow the Kettle to improve and grow, while still preserving the low-rise nature of the neighbourhood and the spirit of the Venables Greenway that the Kettle says they adopt as their own.  And here is one:

The City is said to have collected $178 million of CACs that they want to use for social housing. About 5% of that money is all that would be needed to build what the Kettle needs, based on a low rise design on their current property plus the City’s car park.  Given Mayor Robertson’s expressed desire to help solve the mental health issues some of our community suffer, it is hard to imagine a better use of this collected CAC treeasure.

Such a solution provides for the Kettle, advances both mental health and social housing agendas, preserves the low-rise neighbourhood skyline, and allows Boffo to exploit their two properties under the current C2C zoning. What’s wrong with such a plan and why aren’t we planning for it?