Why Can’t Boffo/Kettle Answer A Simple Question?

January 26, 2018

A senior member of the Kettle Boffo team that wants to build a massive over-sized tower on the corner of Venables and Commercial Drive loves to retweet on Twitter material regarding “affordable housing,” as if that is important to him. We also know that it is becoming difficult in Grandview to find affordable housing.

So, yesterday, I asked him (and copied to Boffo Properties) a simple question:

“How many of the Boffo condos on the Drive are planned to be affordable under CMHC definitions for median income Vancouver families with minimum legal down payment?”

All of the variables are easy to find:

  • CMHC (and most other) definitions of “affordable housing” consider 30% of gross income to be the maximum of affordable.
  • The latest Stats Can figure (2015) for median family income in Vancouver is $72,662. I’d be happy for them to use $75,000.
  • The minimum down payment in Canada is 5% for the first $500,000 and 10% for the balance above $500,000.

So far, there has been absolute silence from them. I wonder why that is? Could it be that none of the condos will be affordable to the average Vancouver family? If so, how is that helping the situation in Grandview?

If the Boffo Tower is designed for the global luxury market rather than to help house regular locals, that’s up to them, but let’s not have any of the partners suggest this has anything to do with affordability.

What I did get in return for my question was the typical nonsense from the build, build, build crowd. As usual they say that a $651,000 condo (now the median price in Vancouver) is more affordable than a $2 million single-family property. While that is technically true it still doesn’t make the condo genuinely affordable. This argument is exactly the same as telling a working family they should buy an Aston Martin rather than a Lamborghini when what they actually need is a Ford Escort.

 

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What Is Happening With The Boffo Tower?

January 24, 2018

As I was out shopping this morning, I was reminded — by their own sign — that nothing is happening with the Kettle/Boffo Tower project that aims to ruin the stretch of Commercial Drive between Venables and Adanac.

 

It is now almost five years since Nancy Keogh of the Kettle begged and pleaded with City Council to exclude the Boffo Tower from the delays in the Grandview Woodland Community Plan, and it is more than 18 months since Councillor Andrea Reimer forced through an amendment — against the wishes of the Planning Department and thousands upon thousands of residents who had petitioned against a tower — to give Boffo the full twelve stories that they were demanding.  And nothing has happened.

If you visit their website, nothing has changed for well over a year. Absolute silence. No light shining on anything. This is not altogether surprising as they have been essentially silent (to the community) throughout the entire six year process. I am sure they have had a lot to say to Planning and politicians, but locals apparently don’t need to be informed.

They have also been talking among themselves. At least some of the delay is due to serious differences of opinion between the partners — or so we are told by City Planning.

As someone strenuously opposed to the building of a tower on that site (when excellent low-rise alternatives exist that can satisfy the Kettle’s needs), the longer the delay the better. However, there is one worrying issue.  We are told by Planning that the value assigned to the City land for Boffo’s Tower is fixed at the value when they first discussed the idea with the City, perhaps in 2012 or 2013. As we are all aware, land values have increased astronomically over the last five years. That means Boffo is being allowed to buy tax-payer’s property at far below current market value.

Every taxpayer in the City is therefore subsidising the private profit to be made by this developer. That’s a serious problem that needs to be fixed whenever they bother to apply for a development permit.

 

More information on the Boffo Tower disaster can be found on this blog and on the website of the No Tower Coalition.

 


Is The Boffo Tower A Dead Duck?

May 18, 2017

There were some strange goings on at the Grandview -Woodland Community Plan Open House at the WISE Hall last night. This was the second iteration of the duplex rezoning display presentation I wrote about on the weekend.

Several members of the public were advised by a City planner that Boffo had withdrawn from its Boffo-Kettle Tower project at Commercial & Venables/Adanac.  Andrew Pask the CoV planner directly in charge of the GW Community Plan seemed quite upset that his colleagues had “let the cat out of the bag” and claimed he knew nothing about it.

The Boffo-Kettle Tower is the massive for-profit tower project the neighbourhood has been actively opposing for almost five years, but which City Council — no surprise there — pushed through against the residents’ desires last summer (see here and here for the long battle fought).

The residents wanted a height of no more than 4 stories on the site, to match the neighbourhood and the current zoning along Commercial Drive, but the developers claimed they needed 12 stories to make sure they received an unhealthy level of profit. In the final months of discussion, City Planning suggested 9 stories but, at the Council meeting to approve the project, Boffo’s allies in Vision pushed through an amendment re-establishing the 12-stories. The opposition to the tower, using the developer’s own words from public meetings, suggested the final building would be 15 to 20 stories high. No, said the developer; the opposition is just lying.

Now, we presume, the developers tried a bait and switch, pushing for 15 to 20 stories once again, and City Planning pushed right back, well aware of the local fury this would create in Grandview in the run up to the 2018 municipal elections.

Maybe it is all rumour and conjecture; but it will certainly please thousands of residents if it turns out to be true.


The Boffo Tower(s) Revealed

February 29, 2016

Boffo Properties and the Kettle have finally — after many months of nagging – revealed a rendering of their tower at Commercial and Venables.  And it turns out to be THREE towers, surrounded by what appears to be a barricade!

boffo-development-commercial-and-venables

Their rendering is produced in a soft twilight, presumably to give it a pleasant glow, and yet shows itself to be far worse than anything the No Tower Coalition has ever suggested.  It is particularly interesting that, having accused the Coalition of lying about the tower possibly being up to fifteen storeys, they are now forced to admit that the 12-storey version has been “scaled back” from an original 15 storeys.

Frankly, whether it is 15 storeys or 12 is hardly important.  A tower is a tower (or in this case, three towers), and thousands and thousands of local residents have registered their distaste for a tower of any size on the Drive.  Keep the Drive under five, they say, and that’s the way it should be.

The No Tower Coalition has a couple of interesting posts about this.  Worth the read.


The Boffo Tower: Shame and Embarrassment

November 15, 2015

I have in front of me as I type a new flyer put out by the consortium of Boffo Properties and the Kettle in their attempt to sell the neighbours on their proposal  for massive change on Commercial Drive between Venables and Adanac.

The first thought that comes to mind is that this postcard (for it is nothing more) is the developers’ latest attempt to avoid genuine face-to-face community involvement.  I guess when you have all that cash to throw around, the thought of actually meeting with real people seems somehow less attractive than letting your PR company and Canada Post take care of it.

The second thought is: where’s the tower?  The main item in the Kettleboffo proposal is a massive high-rise tower of at least 12 storeys and perhaps more.  But you wouldn’t ever know that from reading the postcard where the tower is never mentioned or alluded to.  It simply disappears from view.

A few weeks ago, the developers sent attractive young people from one of their pricy PR companies to go knock on a few doors in a form of “survey” of local opinion about the project.  They didn’t knock on my door – perhaps they knew better than to waste their time – but I have spoken to a number of householders who were approached.  They all remarked of the fact that the tower was not mentioned by the surveyors until and unless the householders brought it up.

So, that’s at least twice they have made deliberate attempts NOT to mention the Tower. What’s the problem? Are they ashamed of the Tower?  Are they embarrassed to be proposing something that is so out of touch with what the community wants?

The third thought is, why are the Kettle’s current facilities called “aging” in the postcard. The Kettle’s offices and drop-in centre was custom-built for them less than twenty years ago? Since when is a 20-year old building considered “aging”? Have they been terrible managers of the property, failing to maintain it?  Is that another source of embarrassment for them?

Finally, it is worth noting that kettleboffo in their postcard of this week and the Mayor in his letter of September 2015 both used the same term “aging” which, as we have shown, is inappropriate.  Could they both have been reading from the self-same talking points?  Hard to imagine another reason.

The Kettle and its services have been loyally supported by this community for forty years. It is time for the Kettle to recognize its own community responsibilities to those who have been such staunch supporters for so long and, on this occasion, to accept the loud and clear verdict of the community and back out of this awful deal. There are alternatives; the tower is just the lazy way out and one that will cost the Kettle — is already costing the Kettle — community support, now and on onto the future.


Opposition To Boffo Tower Solidifies

May 21, 2015

The unedifying saga of the attempt to build a huge condo tower on the north-west corner of Commercial & Venables has gone on for several years already. Its public life began with an article in the Courier way back in January 2012, followed quickly by a discussion at a GWAC meeting that February.

As early as September 2012, many of us were warning that “a tall — or even medium — tower on the site … would not be appreciated.”  However, the proposed high-rise somehow made its way into the “Emerging Directions” document that City Planning produced, so disastrously, in the following June.  Even though City Planning was quick to agree that “Emerging Directions” showed a disconnect between Planners and residents, and much of it was scrapped (at least temporarily), the monstrous tower at Commercial & Venables remained in the plan and was fed into the Citizens’ Assembly (CA) process.

I recently discussed many of the problems associated with the proposal.

We now find ourselves at the beginning of the summer 2015 and the tower proposal still hangs over us. It will not be repudiated in the CA document heading for City Council at the end of June, and the recent City-run “open house” at the Wise Hall shows that City Planning is still four-square behind this damaging project.

That being said, the opposition to the tower is also still here and is, in fact, growing apace.  It has now solidified into a group specifically opposed to the tower proposal. At a recent group planning meeting, there were multiple and varied reasons for opposition:

  • inappropriate height for the neighbourhood
  • massing and design on a small site
  • intrusion of private profit into the provision of mental health services
  • potential dangers to the neighbourhood of an increase in Kettle clients
  • increased problems for transportation and transit at a poorly served intersection
  • significant changes to the character of the neighbourhood

For all these reasons and more, the meeting was unanimously opposed to the imposition of a tower at that site.

At the same time, the group is keen on moving forward with alternative proposals that will see the site put to best use without any structure higher than four-storeys. A number of such alternatives have already been discussed. The group believes that, if the case is made for an expansion of the Kettle based on its current location, then the needed expansion can be accommodated within the four storey constraints. However, it has to be said, many residents do not believe the case for local Kettle expansion has yet been made, especially in light of the expansion of Kettle services elsewhere recently.

The group will soon move into a public phase, encouraging neighbours and others to share their views on the proposed tower which, if built, will forever upset the character of the Drive and Grandview that we treasure so highly. In the meanwhile, the group will continue to hold a series of internal meetings to determine strategy and tactics.

Any resident who opposes the tower and is willing to contribute productively to the group’s debates can contact me via jakking@shaw.ca and I will make sure your name gets passed on to the group.


The Boffo Tower, Again

May 12, 2015

Last night was the regular monthly meeting of GWAC, and it was dedicated to a discussion of the massive Boffo/Kettle tower proposal for Commercial & Venables. There were so many people in the cramped space that, from the back, I couldn’t count the attendance; my guess is that there were more than fifty.

I have already written a lot about this proposal, and certainly my views were not changed by anything Daniel Boffo or the Kettle representative said last night. The pros and cons from both sides were well aired and while the proposal received some support, what was very clear was that after the years of what many last night called “emotional blackmail” and “emotional extortion” (using the popular Kettle to front a for-profit condo tower), the opposition by many in the community has hardened against this project.

The BIA, through its Executive Director, announced its support for the tower because it conforms to their desire to densify and heighten buildings throughout the Drive.

Petronella Vandervalk, a former GWAC director, made a number of important points in opposition to the project, noting in particular that while the proposal would greatly benefit Boffo and the Kettle, they are offering the general community absolutely nothing for the destruction of views and character and the increase in traffic that would follow this tower building. Nothing.

Daniel Boffo admitted that they are looking for a FSR “in the high 6s” which translates to extraordinary density.  The Adanac Towers, which Boffo et al point to as some sort of precedent, has a FSR of less than 2.5.  He was asked several times why, given the obvious community objection to the height, they didn’t consider a lower-rise alternative.  He simply dismissed this as uneconomic — “the project just wouldn’t happen.”

The Kettle rep (along with a couple of other supporters) claimed that there was no chance of getting government (tax-payer) funds into such a project and we should just hold our noses and go for it.  However, a great many people spoke to their opposition of leaving needed social services to the whims of private business, and there was much talk that the City and the Province should be shamed into providing such amenities for those in need in our communities. Penny Street, for example, noted quite correctly that the Kettle is not a community amenity; it is a health-care service and should be properly funded as such.

Garth Mullins explained, to general agreement, the vicious cycle of (a) needing social housing; (b) paying for the social housing by allowing market condos; (c) those market condos then drive up local housing prices; (d) thus causing a need for more social housing.

Other neighbours raised issues such as the destruction of trees, the need to protect the pedestrian nature of the lanes in that area, problems with crowds of smokers gathering, general safety.  Several others talked about alternative strategies such as land transfer taxes, increased property taxes, land trusts, using the tower for lower-income groups.

Almost at the end, Craig Ollenberger made the important point that the Kettle was staking all their accumulated social capital on an unpopular project and, if it goes ahead, they will forever be linked to an ugly community-damaging tower rather than to the good work they do.

As my views on this project are so well known, I tried to say as little as possible last night, to allow others to have their say.  However, I did note that, first, Boffo wouldn’t even try to build a tower on its own merits and needed the Kettle even to get into the game; and, second, that, just like any CAC based project, the developer should not get any credit because they would pay nothing for the social facility — their buyers would be paying the premium.

It was a tense meeting, with some tears, but, in the end, I suspect that no minds were changed on what someone called “the most agonizing land use decision we face.”  But the opposition to the tower is now firming up and the emotional blackmail is failing.


Deconstructing The Boffo Tower

May 7, 2015

I have written a number of posts about Boffo Development’s proposal to build an enormous tower at Commercial and Venables, most recently about the “open house” last Monday evening. One of the commenters to that piece, someone whose views I generally respect, suggested “this proposed building looks better and has a better orientation than the Lions’ building across the street.” I disagree with that remark so strongly that I feel the need to lay out all the reasons I think this proposal is so bad and should be scrapped.

 

A Retreat From Public Services

To start, let’s look at the way the project is put together. Local developer Boffo Developments wants to build a large market-driven condo tower in Grandview for no reason other than to make profit. No real complaint there so long as we live in a capitalist system. Local mental health support non-profit organization the Kettle Society wants to expand their drop-in services and add some supportive housing options for their clients.  I fully support that.  The issues arise when these two desires are bundled into the same package.

Let us assume, as I believe we should, that the Kettle’s needs are genuine and will, in the long term, help to make life better both for those suffering mental health issues and for society in general.  It is the duty of society to help meet these needs, and this was recently recognized with the 100% tax-payer funding of the Kettle’s new facility on Burrard Street.  We should be shocked that the City/Province has now decided, for this project at least, that these services should rely on for-profit corporations.

The City’s refusal to pay the full tab for these necessary services is an appalling retreat from the progressive attitudes to which Vancouver pretends to aspire.  This is especially upsetting given the photo-ops that Mayor Robertson arranges to state his alleged concern for mental health issues in our City.

 

Height and Weight

In the context of Grandview’s overall scale — generally a low-rise residential neighbourhood — the proposed tower is a monster.  Boffo have not released a final project design yet, but there is an admission that twelve to fifteen storeys will be required to house the 150+ market units Boffo say are needed to pay for the Kettle’s 30 housing units + admin space.

GoogleEarth_Image

Height is clearly a concern to most residents in the area. As mentioned above, Grandview is quite deliberately a low-rise neighbourhood, with two storeys as standard and four storeys as a maximum just about everywhere.  That alone makes this project unacceptable. However, height is only one dimension.  A study of the image above shows that this proposal is massive in width as well as height, with all the concomitant issues of shadowing and disruption of views that cannot be denied even by the proposal’s supporters.

Some supporters suggest that the new proposal merely matches the existing Adanac Towers building that was built about fifty years ago. That is simply not the case.  Adanac Towers is set back off the Drive, is nowhere near the mass of the Boffo Tower, and is surrounded by large mature trees that go some way to ameliorate its disruption to the neighbourhood.

As can be seen, any design of this kind will create a massive and unattractive wall along Commercial in an area where we are used to light and sky. The developers say there will be a passageway toward some kind of plaza west of the building. But a massive wall with a small passageway is still a massive and unattractive wall.

 

Precedent and Block-Busting

Supporters of the Boffo Tower who point to Adanac Towers as a precedent should ask themselves why no other such tower has been allowed for the last fifty years.  Obviously, it is out of scale and unwanted.

A more important concern is the precedent that the Boffo Tower would have for additional high-rises along the section of Commercial between Venables and Hastings.  Once the City gets its way and upzones Hastings for massive buildings, there will be strenuous development pressure to continue that kind of growth in the northern section of Commercial. The Boffo Tower will be a beacon to all those developments. “If Boffo can do it, why can’t we?” will be the whine of Vision’s cronies. This Council regime has shown its inability (or lack of desire) to oppose such criticisms.  The high-rise building creep will begin. That will be good for the developers; devastating to the neighbourhood.

 

Transit, Transportation and Parking

The Community Plan to date has consistently recognized that the #20 bus — the only transit link in that part of the neighbourhood — is already overwhelmed. Adding an additional 300-400 residents at the intersection of Commercial & Venables — plus the increase in the number of Kettle clients, both resident and drop-in — will add further pressure to a system that already cannot cope.

Moreover, adding so many residents and their cars goes directly against all the multi-year efforts to reduce the traffic on Venables/Prior.

The work on the Community Plan has also recognized the lack of parking throughout Grandview. This project will not only add directly to that problem, but will also eliminate one of the few car parks we have in the neighbourhood.

 

Heritage Protection and Performance Space

The Boffo proposal will eliminate the building that most of us still call Astorino’s.  It might not be the prettiest building in the neighbourhood but its importance as a site of cultural heritage is unmistakable.  Thousands upon thousands of residents, most especially those of our important Italian community, have shared important parts of their lives in that building. Its cultural importance is significantly more powerful than, say, the Waldorf which has been protected.

To simply throw away our cultural heritage for private profit is outrageous. Even more outrageous is the fact that senior Kettle staff have actually laughed at such an idea as if cultural history should play no role in the decisions we make.

Award-winning heritage activists have demanded that, at the very least a Statement of Significance be drawn up before any demolition permit be granted on that site.

It is also worth pointing out that Grandview is very short on community space, for both groups and performances. This obvious fact is highlighted by the fact that so many Community Plan and Citizens’ Assembly meetings have had to be sited at the Croatian Cultural Centre, outside the boundaries of Grandview.  Many of us believe that the lack of cultural space adds weight to the need to save Astorino’s.

 

An Alternative Proposal

I am sure there are other objections that could be made about this project (including the politically indelicate suggestion voiced by many over the years, including at Tuesday’s Round Table, that perhaps the Kettle should not expand in this neighbourhood; and the very odd process history of this proposal within the Community Plan) but the above-stated issues are the ones that concern me.

So, if one has no objections to the Kettle expanding its services but one has objections to the proposal at hand, it seems reasonable to suggest an alternative.  The alternative that I personally favour is a City-owned and funded four-storey structure using the Kettle’s current property plus the car park to the north. I believe that a progressive and creative architect could design a building in that space that would meet all of the Kettle’s needs within those constraints.

This proposal would keep the project at a Grandview-appropriate scale and eliminate the need for a private for-profit corporation to be involved in the delivery of such vital services.


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?


TMH at Adanac and Commercial

March 4, 2019

It is almost a year since Boffo and the Kettle — after an extended and popular campaign by the No Tower Coalition — cancelled their plans to build a huge for-profit condo tower on city-owned land on Commercial Drive between Venables and Adanac. The campaign, of which I was a part, was covered in detail on this blog.

Since the cancellation announcement by the developers, various members of the Coalition have continued working quietly on this and other local issues. Now, the Coalition has formally proposed to the City that the site, currently an infrequently used car park, be used as the location for Temporary Modular Housing (TMH) for those in real need. It is, I believe, the perfect solution.  As the Coalition writes, there are many reasons to support the idea:

  • This would be a quick win for the City.
  • It is already City-owned property.
  • This would be using City land for a valid social purpose, not a for-profit development.
  • There is a need for housing for the hard-to-house in Grandview.
  • It would be entirely suitable for around 30 units of SRO-type housing, with a maximum of three storeys.
  • The community will likely not object to three storeys on that site. It’s not a tower!
  • The TMH proposal allows the City to retain control of the land and while providing essentially the same amount of social benefit that would have been achieved with the proposed Boffo/Kettle project.
  • The current council seems to be doing a pretty good job of distributing social housing and services equitably throughout the City. No one neighbourhood should be expected to take responsibility for more than its share.
  • This TMH proposal is the right scale for the community. A 30-unit TMH project would provide secure housing for those who currently need supportive housing in Grandview-Woodland but the project would not be so large that it would draw lots of people in need from other neighbourhoods.

The Coalition is asking its supporters to write to City Council in support of this idea (see the Coalition site for email addresses). I join in that request.


Beware The Resurrection of Andrea Reimer

September 12, 2018

The thing about Dracula is that he never really dies. It doesn’t matter how long he lies cold and dusty n his stone tomb, there is always some idiot who will come along and somehow set him free again to wander the earth on his deadly journey.

That image — stark and fearsome — came into my head last night as I read that, with the sudden withdrawal of Ian Campbell from the Vancouver mayor’s race, Ms. Reimer was contemplating putting herself forward for the job.

I wrote the following about a year ago when Reimer’s retirement from Council was announced. I think it bears repeating.

_________________

 

I came across Charlie Smith’s hagiography of Andrea Reimer from the Straight. It was a hard read for me because my experience of Reimer was so different, so negative.

We started off badly, back in early 2012, when I spoke before Council in opposition to the design of the Baptist Church’s proposed building at First & Victoria. In her self-proclaimed position as Councillor for Grandview, she asked me a few questions after I had had my allotted five minutes. She was arrogant, assumed I knew little of Grandview, and the tenor of her questions clearly indicated a predetermined yes vote for the development regardless of any arguments that might be presented. Things only got worse when the Grandview Woodland Community Plan process began.

A central paragraph in Smith’s column asks us to remember

“Reimer’s credibility with the environmental community, her appeal to residents living in the Commercial Drive–Trout Lake area, her stunning work ethic, and political radar that may only have been matched on council in recent years by Geoff Meggs, who’s left municipal politics.”

Problem for me was that I didn’t recognize any truth in most of those statements about her.

I wondered whether my early experience with Reimer had clouded my opinion of her, allowing me to miss the good she was doing. So I asked a number of my friends and acquaintances whether they had opinions on her years as Councillor. By the time I am writing this, more than half have responded and they are all overwhelmingly negative in their judgement.  Many described her as “manipulative,” and as “an opportunist … only interested in her own career.” None believe that she ever genuinely represented any constituency here in Grandview, and that her demeanour was often “officious” and unpleasant. I share all of those views.

When City Planning’s “Emerging Directions” document became public as a draft Community Plan in the spring of 2013 an uproar of complaint erupted from the residents of GW, most especially as “Emerging Directions” included dozens of pages on rezoning the neighbourhood that had never been raised or discussed in any of the public meetings over the previous eight months. While Mayor Robertson admitted the process had not been a good one, and Planning boss Brian Jackson considered it a disaster, Reimer was still giving interviews praising Vision’s handling of community planning.  At the massive community meeting held in early July that year to protest the Grandview Plan, Reimer came late and hid in the back of  the crowded room. When finally shamed into speaking, Reimer ignored everything residents had passionately spoken about for an hour or more, asking for understanding as she was currently being evicted (which, it later turned out, was something of a permanent status for her).

She was an instigator and heavy supporter of the benighted Citizens’ Assembly process deliberately designed to exclude the majority of Grandview’s residents from participation in a vital community project. On the several occasions that I spoke to Council during the Community Plan period, Reimer (along with Geoff Meggs) generally led the attack on me and GWAC or whoever else I was speaking for. She argued against community representation, calling local groups irrelevant and claiming them to be “unrepresentative”.

When the final Grandview Community Plan came before Council, it was Reimer who proposed a last-minute amendment that — against the professional advice of Planning — granted several extra stories to the highly controversial Boffo Tower monstrosity proposed for Commercial and Venables.

And it wasn’t only Grandview she screwed. After years of discussion and community debate, the DTES Community Plan was brought before Council for approval. It was loyal Vision foot soldier Reimer who, again at the very last hour, showed up with a lot of scribbled pages that changed substantial and substantive portions of the Plan, that no-one had a chance to digest before Vision voted it through …

Wherever she ends up I’ll be glad to see the back of her (except, of course, the Mayor’s chair).


Whose Community Is It?

May 14, 2018

As an architectural and social artifact I have no real issue with high-rise towers.

When I moved to Vancouver in 1979, I lived first at what was then the Plaza Hotel at the northern end of Lions Gate Bridge. I worked as a freelancer and so needed a corporation to invoice my services. My first company was called Twenty-Third Floor Productions, which accurately reflected the position of my apartment. I loved it up there. When North Vancouver became inconvenient for me commuting without a car, I moved to the West End and happily lived amid (though not in) the towering glass and concrete erections.  No, I have no issue with high-rise towers.

In fact, I have often said that if the residents genuinely approved 15-storey towers on every block on Commercial Drive, I would have no problem with that. I would definitely move because that’s not the Drive I want; but the point is that I will always support the right of the neighbourhood to make that decision.

From a planning point of view, I am deeply concerned in particular by the Boffo Tower proposal on Commercial Drive because of what the success of the developer against the expressed wish of thousands of local residents would mean for any concept of genuine neighbourhood control in the future.

It matters not whether we are talking about towers or townhouses or row houses or supported housing or a new transportation option or a change in the use of roads; the issue always comes down to where the power of approval lies.  Right now, the disproportionately asymmetrical power equation of developers + money + a developer-friendly City Council and Planning Department versus ad hoc volunteer groups trying to protect the right of the communities to choose means that the ability of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods to control their own affairs, in matters of zoning and streetscapes, business and housing, is slipping away at a fast and increasing rate.

It is vital that we re-establish the rights of the electorate by pushing powers down to the lowest, most local level.  In terms of municipal policy this means making “city-wide” policies subject to local opt-in or opt-out.  Today, this would mean that the Interim Zoning policies enacted after the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing, land use policies under Transportation 2040, and the city-wide plan currently being devised by the Vancouver City Planning Commission would all be controlled and enacted — or not — by each neighbourhood in Vancouver.

This also means that regional groupings, such as the unelected Metro Vancouver, need to become operational liaisons only with no executive powers concerning local development, and certainly no authority to over-ride neighbourhood decisions through Regional Context Statements and similar.  If necessary, the City of Vancouver should be prepared to withdraw from Metro in order to ensure this level of local control.

And we must oblige the Province to amend the Vancouver Charter so that we, the residents of Vancouver, have full control over the style of council we have, the financial terms under which elections are fought, whether or not we become members of larger groups such as Metro and Translink, and all the powers needed to ensure that we can at least address the pressing crises of unaffordable housing, homelessness, and the low salaries paid to Vancouver employees compared to other large cities in Canada.

In a Twitter exchange with me some while ago, major Vision supporter and developers’ mouthpiece Bob Ransford called “parochial decisions” and “endless debate” a problem.  No, it’s not a problem.  After so many decades of top-down control and crony management, parochial decision-making after legitimate local debate is exactly what we DO want, what this City needs.


815-825 Commercial Open House

April 20, 2018

Yesterday afternoon I attended the Open House presentation for a proposed 6-storey rental building at Commercial & Adanac.

 

I’ve seen a lot worse designs.  There are to be 3 studios, 17 one-bed, 14 2-bed, and 4 3-bedroom suites which seems a reasonable balance.  They are planning 3 commercial units along Commercial, with 23 parking stalls plus 55 bike stands.  They also seem to have taken some care with the green envelope:

 

As I have mentioned in other forums, I have come to almost accept that 6-storeys is the new 4-storeys, and, given what will be its location behind the 12-storey monstrosity of the proposed Boffo Tower, I will not campaign against its height.

However, the very first thing I heard one of the developers’ reps say to someone else as I walked into the presentation room was “No, these aren’t designed to be “affordable” units. The one beds will probably start at around $2,200 [a month].”  And therein lies the crux of my opposition to this specific proposal.

In general, I am opposed to building any more unaffordable housing units until we have provided enough housing that can be afforded by the majority of the working families in Vancouver (as determined by the media family income in this City). More particularly, I am morally and politically offended that this unaffordable development will be going forward under the Rental100 policy that gives massive incentives to profit-driven developers.

Build it as market housing if you must (at least until we get a Council that sets better priorities) but don’t use taxpayers money to fill out the profiteers’ bottom line.

 


Look Out World, Reimer Will Soon Be On The Loose!

December 28, 2017

As one does at this time of year, I was poking through the articles in the “Still To Be Read” folder to see what I had missed, and I came across Charlie Smith’s hagiography of Andrea Reimer from the Straight of October 25th. It was a hard read for me because my experience of Reimer was so different, so negative.

We started off badly, back in early 2012, when I spoke before Council in opposition to the design of the Baptist Church’s proposed building at First & Victoria. In her self-proclaimed position as Councillor for Grandview, she asked me a few questions after I had had my allotted five minutes. She was arrogant, assumed I knew little of Grandview, and the tenor of her questions clearly indicated a predetermined yes vote for the development regardless of any arguments that might be presented. Things only got worse when the Grandview Woodland Community Plan process began.

A central paragraph in Smith’s column asks us to remember

“Reimer’s credibility with the environmental community, her appeal to residents living in the Commercial Drive–Trout Lake area, her stunning work ethic, and political radar that may only have been matched on council in recent years by Geoff Meggs, who’s left municipal politics.”

Problem for me was that I didn’t recognize any truth in most of those statements about her.

I wondered whether my early experience with Reimer had clouded my opinion of her, allowing me to miss the good she was doing. So I asked a number of my friends and acquaintances whether they had opinions on her years as Councillor. By the time I am writing this, more than half have responded and they are all overwhelmingly negative in their judgement.  Many described her as “manipulative,” and as “an opportunist … only interested in her own career.” None believe that she ever genuinely represented any constituency here in Grandview, and that her demeanour was often “officious” and unpleasant. I share all of those views.

When City Planning’s “Emerging Directions” document became public as a draft Community Plan in the spring of 2013 an uproar of complaint erupted from the residents of GW, most especially as “Emerging Directions” included dozens of pages on rezoning the neighbourhood that had never been raised or discussed in any of the public meetings over the previous eight months. While Mayor Robertson admitted the process had not been a good one, and Planning boss Brian Jackson considered it a disaster, Reimer was still giving interviews praising Vision’s handling of community planning.  At the massive community meeting held in early July that year to protest the Grandview Plan, Reimer came late and hid in the back of  the crowded room. When finally shamed into speaking, Reimer ignored everything residents had passionately spoken about for an hour or more, asking for understanding as she was currently being evicted (which, it later turned out, was something of a permanent status for her).

She was an instigator and heavy supporter of the benighted Citizens’ Assembly process deliberately designed to exclude the majority of Grandview’s residents from participation in a vital community project. On the several occasions that I spoke to Council during the Community Plan period, Reimer (along with Geoff Meggs) generally led the attack on me and GWAC or whoever else I was speaking for. She argued against community representation, calling local groups irrelevant and claiming them to be “unrepresentative”.

When the final Grandview Community Plan came before Council, it was Reimer who proposed a last-minute amendment that — against the professional advice of Planning — granted several extra stories to the highly controversial Boffo Tower monstrosity proposed for Commercial and Venables.

And it wasn’t only Grandview she screwed. After years of discussion and community debate, the DTES Community Plan was brought before Council for approval. It was loyal Vision foot soldier Reimer who, again at the very last hour, showed up with a lot of scribbled pages that changed substantial and substantive portions of the Plan, that no-one had a chance to digest before Vision voted it through.

My guess is she is leaving because she has worked out she would not win a knife fight against Raymond Louie to be nominated as Vision’s Mayoral candidate whenever Robertson quits; but I could be entirely wrong. She was very active during the Year of Reconciliation and she has been learning to speak Squamish. I would not be surprised, therefore, to find her working for a FN group, as a lobbyist perhaps.

Wherever she ends up I’ll be glad to see the back of her.


Community Plan Update

November 9, 2017

On Monday evening I attended the GWAC meeting at which planner Andrew Pask gave a form of update on where we are with the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan implementation.  It was a well-attended meeting and not at all raucous as some may have expected.

It is worth pointing first that Pask introduced himself as “the former planner for Grandview”.  It was left unclear as to whether he has gone on to bigger and better things, and whether or not GW now no longer has a specific planner to talk to.

It was clear that Pask wanted to concentrate on how Planning is “saving” affordable rentals in the district. This is happening through the Pace of Change program under which only five applications for demolishing existing rentals will be accepted by Planning in the first three years after the Plan’s introduction (summer 2016 to summer 2019).. It was assumed that most of these would come from the RM zoned areas west of the Drive where the low-rise apartment buildings are concentrated.

Applications for this program to date include the assembly at 11th and Victoria (10 storeys, mixed condos/rentals), an assembly on Broadway just west of Commercial (10-storeys, mixed condos/rentals, public hearing spring 2018, and 825 Commercial (6 storeys with a pre-application open house tonight). Another possible contender for the Pace of Change program is a development assembly at 1535 Grant  where developers are seeking 6-storeys (an early open house is scheduled for 15th November at Lord Nelson School, I believe).

Pask had no idea what would happen to this program at the end of the three years. He said Planning would make recommendations to Council who would then make a decision. It was noted this would be after the next municipal election.

Pask also touched on the Safeway site, the Boffo Tower, St Francis school, and the Britannia Renewal:

As for the Safeway site, he reviewed the arguments for and against the plaza on site, including Safeway’s strong reluctance. No application has yet been made, so we await further developments.

On the Boffo Tower, he agreed that Boffo threatened to shut down the project this spring, and made sure we remembered Planning had approved only 9 storeys but they had been over-ruled by Vision’s Council majority who agreed 12. However, he did not mention the now well-known internal tension between Boffo and the Kettle. He did say they were anticipating a formal application — at last! — within the next couple of months. It is worth noting that I didn’t see (or recognize) a single Boffo or Kettle person at the meeting.

With regard to St. Francis, he noted that Planners had agreed with many residents’ concerns over the redevelopment on Semlin, and it seems the Church is now going back to re-study a redevelopment of the current school site on Victoria.

On the question of housing on the proposed redeveloped Britannia site, Pask made it clear that Planning had little to do with this project at this stage, as most of the land was held by School Board and Parks Board. He did make a case for putting housing on the site but noted any decision is still a long way off, and that no specific number of housing units was being targeted. There was also discussion about “air parcels” (i.e. building on top pf other buildings) and Pask agreed that Council had left “air parcels” undefined. There was also a question of whether the Renewal Committee was using up-to-date demographics as they seemed to be ignoring the growing seniors’ population.

Questions from the audience covered much of the same ground but also included additional concerns:

One resident asked why, if the viaducts were coming down and Venables was being closed, why the Boffo Tower was even considered given the tower residents would be adding traffic. Pask said there was no question of Venables being closed, merely “calmed”.

It was noted by several people that GW remains green-space deficient when compared to other districts in the City and that the Plan didn’t seem to help. Pask claimed the Plan included “extensions” and “improvements” to existing facilities but there were no details, He also made a case for “hard surface” public areas (plazas, closed roads, etc), but the audience clearly didn’t buy that.

The issue of developing the industrial lands was discussed briefly. Pask notes that Vancouver needed to protect the small existing industrial base and that the Plan called for gradual densification of those areas with taller buildings rather than change of use.

The move of St Paul’s hospital to Strathcona, and its effects on our neighbourhood, was raised as was the problem of AirBnB‘s effect on rental availability, but Pask didn’t have specific information to bring on those topics. The issue of planning permissions and how long they took and the massive expense was discussed. Pask said they were aware of the problems and hoped to do better in the future.

All in all it is good to have a planner come and talk about these issues but did we really learn much? I’m not sure we did and, in the end, it just feels like another faux attempt at “consultation and public awareness”.

 

 


My Position on Density in Grandview

July 9, 2017

I am sick and tired of people like Ken Paquette, shill for the Boffo Tower group, and the Abundant Housing people lying about my position on density on my neighbourhood.  Their intellectual integrity is shot all to hell when they simply make things up for their own profit.

I am going to be very clear here so that even small-minded bigots can understand. These positions are my own and do not pretend to represent anyone or any group outside of myself.

  • I both understand and agree with the need for additional density in Grandview.
  • I believe that a doubling, or even more, of density can be achieved certainly without towers, and actually without any building above four storeys;
  • Lot owners currently with SFH or duplexes should be allowed and encouraged (by a reduction in the City’s expensive development procedures) to have three housing units on each lot. This would generally be two suites in the main house and a laneway or similar building.
  • Lot owners of two- or three-storey apartments buildings should be encouraged and even incentivized to add another storey. This is significantly cheaper as land costs are eliminated. Obviously this will not work for some buildings but it would work (as explained to me by professional engineers) for many.
  • No new building above four storeys should be allowed.  Given the increased density allowed by the above, towers would only be required to feed the profits of the developers and, of course, their shills.

The massive increases in density allowed under these proposals mean that Grandview can double in population size while retaining the beautiful human scale residential areas and streetscapes that we have.

Let me repeat, these proposals are mine alone. I do not profess to speak for others.  But those who claim I stand for anything else are nothing but mucky liars.

 


Broadway & Commercial: Another Open House

June 14, 2017

I have tonight received an email about another Open House on the Broadway & Commercial proposed development.  This one is NOT a City of Vancouver event but, rather, is being put on by the developers’ “project team”.

Bing Thom Architects, Westbank the developer, and Crombie REIT (owner of the Safeway site) are “excited to share our initial concept” including “a new form of family oriented housing.” They say they have developed ideas from the Ideas Fair they held at Federico’s Club last year.

Oddly enough, they have put flyers into the mailboxes of the most immediate neighbours (a block or two only I understand) but I can find no other posting about this event and there seems no way to register. However, this is less odd when one notices that the PR company involved is Brook Pooni Associates — famous in our neighbourhood for working with the developer to obfuscate the facts about the Boffo tower project at Commercial & Venables.

The Broadway & Commercial meeting is on Tuesday 27th June at the Croatian Culture Centre.  There will be a brief 15 minute presentation at 6:00pm and the open house formally runs from 6:15pm to 8:30pm. There will not be an official Q&A session, but who knows what questions might be asked?

Hope to see many of you there!

 


St. Francis School Meeting

February 2, 2017

This evening I attended the meeting held in the basement of the St. Francis church at Napier and Semlin. Earlier discussions about the church’s desire to build a new school can be found here.

The meeting was to introduce the project to the immediate neighbours of the church. However, the meeting was well known to GWAC members, people who read this blog, and others, so there were perhaps one hundred citizens in the room from a wider range than the limited geographic area expected. I thought that was a good thing.

There were half a dozen well-constructed display panels explaining the site, the demographics of the current student population, and some general aspects of the project. There was a fairly short speech about the project from a member of the church’s building committee from which we learned

  • that the budget for the school building is $12million;
  • that the church owns the current school site at Victoria & Venables, Wilga garden, and the St. John’s convent site;
  • that the current school site will generate more revenue from a sale than the sale of the garden and St. John’s combined;
  • one option is to rebuild a school at the current site; his will involve a 2 year relocation of the student body during construction, and the sale of both the gardens and St. John’s to pay for the construction;
  • the church’s preferred option is to sell the current school property, using the funds to build a new school on the gardens, demolish St John’s and create a new green space in its place;
  • the new school will have roughly the same enrolment as today — 220 students from 160 families;
  • they want to bring the children closer to the church as a matter of strengthening the faith and increasing community (my words, but I think I got it right).

And then there were questions from the audience. Someone whispered to me that the Church has no idea of the fight they are getting into; and it is certainly true that the tenor of the questions was negative. However, the church was firm that a new school will be built and the discussion is about how that gets done. From the Q & A we learned:

  • that there are no plans to expand the use of the school after school hours beyond the PTA-type meetings that happen today;
  • a majority seemed to favour building on the current site, maintaining St. John’s, and selling Wilga gardens to the Parks Board (though the shortfall in revenues this plan creates was not really addressed, except perhaps that the church should only build what it can afford);
  • that St. John’s is currently used by a number of community groups and that some consider it t have heritage value;
  • that traffic is a major concern, as is any suggestion of changing the traffic-calming regime currently in place;
  • that the current proposal is too massive for a residential area;
  • that all schools in Vancouver are in residential-zoned areas (I haven’t fact-checked that but it was said, and sounds not unreasonable);
  • that the Notre Dame High School project on Renfrew is not an SFA program;
  • that many people believe a phased construction program at the current site would allow the school to continue operating throughout;
  • that a rezoning will be required for the size of the proposed structure.

I found the meeting to be a good start to the process. It was the kind of meeting that Boffo/Kettle should have had but never did. I’m sure neither “side” came away completely satisfied with what was said and done but at least the conversation has begun and is out in the open. By encouraging on-going dialogue, SFA has a wonderful opportunity to teach developers how this process can be improved.

As for me, my inclination is to support the project as proposed by the church, with conditions:

  1. the school is no taller than the church;
  2. the design is actively neighbourhood-friendly;
  3. the green space at St. John’s is a truly public space outside of school hours;
  4. creative effort is put into the traffic issues.

Wilga gardens are not publicly accessible in the sense of being a park; having publicly accessible green space at St. John’s would be a good replacement and better than we have today.  I have reservations about the heritage value of St. John’s. I believe the traffic issues are solvable given creativity and good will on both sides. I would be happy to see density in the form of, say, a three- or four-storey apartment building at Victoria and Venables; that would be a significantly useful addition to the community’s housing stock.

It was interesting to hear the opposition speakers tonight and I appreciate some of their concerns. However, I think the wider community can benefit from this proposal and so it has to be given consideration even if it disturbs a few time-honoured routines that have become entitlements for some.


Lies My Developer Told Me

July 29, 2016

Throughout the long — 4-5 years — debate over the Boffo/Kettle tower, the developer and its lackeys claimed that they had frequently asked the City and the Province for money for their required expansion on Commercial and that the governments had said there was no money for mental health housing.

This same myth — for such it is — was peddled by the Kettle and its developer patrons even as late as this month in the run-up to the Council’s debate on the Grandview Community Plan.  Developer Daniel Boffo claimed: “the Kettle has been looking at options for government funding for over a decade with no progress and no results.”  I am being polite calling that a myth, of course, because that is simply one big lie.

In the last decade, the Kettle has applied for and received government funding for mental health housing units at Taylor Manor; they have built, with government money, their new facility on Burrard Street; and yet more government money has gone into a new facility for the Kettle at 1700 Kingsway.  In other words, the only Kettle project in the last decade that has not received government money is the expansion on Commercial — and the reason for that is quite obvious.

Once the Kettle had snuggled into Boffo’s queen-sized they didn’t need the City’s financial help and so never asked for it.

Of course the City was happy to go along with this charade for a number of reasons:

1) they are a developer-financed and directed-Council;

2) the City Council has zero priority for mental health (or homelessness or affordable housing) except to blame everyone else for the lack of assistance. Their priorities lie elsewhere. Getting Boffo to take over the government’s responsibility was a win in every direction for them;

3) the City has for years wanted a major tower at Venables & Commercial (see discussions with planners back in 2011)l it was in fact the City who engineered the sordid marriage between Boffo and the Kettle in the first place.

This is a precedent-setting disaster in so many ways:  the tower at Commercial & Venables will be just the first of many to blight our neighbourhood over the next decade; the City will now advise NGOs to go looking for private money to do government work (destroying in its wake the very Canadian idea that health care for all is a tax-payer responsibility); years and years of planning and thinking can be overthrown by hastily written ideological amendments thrown into the heap at past the last-minute (this wasn’t the first time we had seen that); more than 4,000 residents expressing their opinion can be ignored at will.

Developers’ profits and crony politics win again — and Vancouver should be the sadder for it.

 

 


Now We Wait and Worry Some More

July 28, 2016

This afternoon, Vancouver City Council approved the Grandview Woodland Community Plan by the not-surprising vote of 10-1 with only Councillor Adriane Carr voting against.

However, not content with the Planning Department’s four years of work, Councillor Reimer had produced a long list of substantive amendments to the Plan that she had conjured together over night. Those amendments — which included allowing the full 12 stories for the Boffo Tower — were approved by majority and so it was this amended Plan that was finally bulldozed through Council.

Councillor Geoff Meggs made it clear he was disappointed in the level of density Grandview would accept under the Plan, and he suggested that we were not carrying our weight. I am certain he will be looking for spot rezoning applications he can help push through against the word and spirit of the Plan, especially around the south end of Commercial.  I am sure most of his Vision brethren will be right behind him.

So,

  • Boffo doesn’t need any genuine public hearings for a rezoning now and I expect them to move swiftly, looking for permission to start digging that big hole every tower needs;
  • how quickly will we see applications along Hastings between Clark and Nanaimo?
  • how quickly will Broadway & Commercial change?  Will tower plans await the subway decision?
  • will the renoviction rate accelerate as rapidly as tenants’ advocates fear with new height allowances?
  • What effect will all this have on the debilitating business and residential rent increases currently afflicting the Drive?
  • Are the folks managing the Britannia Renewal project as upset as they should be that the City has decreed there will be housing on Britannia? And will this Community Plan override any Renewal Plan produced in the future?

An awful lot of intelligent people put an awful lot of effort into trying to help the Community understand what the Plan might meet for them and their quality of life. Outside the strictly-limited boundaries of the Planning process there was an intense debate about height, density, social justice. A great many people got very interested and then got very frustrated by the process that was deliberately closed down, first by the faux “Citizens’ Assembly” and then the year long wait while Planning decided how to spin the Assembly’s requests, refusing to talk with or meet with the neighbourhood during that time.

That being said, I am sadly aware that most people in Grandview will leave their residences tomorrow to head to work or school or recreation and not give a moment’s thought. They might read a report on the hearing in the Metro while they commute, and then turn to the sports pages. In the months ahead they will get cranky about all the building fences blocking sidewalks and smaller streets, but it will be a generalised annoyance only.  Only when the towers are completed at both ends of the Drive will they wonder what was there before.

How do we get to those masses of people and make then understand that they should have some say in the future of their own neighbourhood; and that by having a say they can and will change plans for the better?

The NO TOWER Coalition did a wonderful job with their weekly information tables in Grandview Park. They actually talked with thousands upon thousands of residents and visitors, more than three thousand of whom agreed to sign the petition against the Boffo Tower.  They also did a really good job with getting the signs out and about throughout the community.

But that wasn’t enough to engage the active interest of the mass of the middle class, Vision’s heartland. Vision’s constant polling (they are the only full time party in Vancouver) lets them know if they are in trouble in places, like Grandview, where they need to be strong to maintain a majority in the at-large Council chamber. In this case, they felt confident enough to tear down four years of work by their Planning Department with amendments apparently rushed together overnight. While this hardly compares with the pages and pages of hastily-scribbled last-moment amendments that formed part of the DTES Plan, it shows a constant need for Vision to intrude their ideology onto the technical work of the Planners.

I have written several times before about the assymetric power relationship in which a pick-up team of unpaid untrained and unprofessional(ly qualifed) volunteers goes head to head with a well-funded developer, a plethora of expensive PR agents, compliant mainstream media, and as often as not, the power of the incumbent Council regime. This can only be solved by structural changes to the system and it must include a return to the third-party appeals process that we lost a decade or so ago. I also believe that a ward system is key to most of the needed changes.

However, that is all for the next generation of activists to figure out.