Housing At Britannia — Important Meeting

September 19, 2017

This coming Thursday, September 21st, there is a very important forum on the question of whether there should be housing on the re-developed Britannia Community Center site and, if so, what kind of housing should be contemplated there.

A week or so ago, Elizabeth Murphy wrote an opinion piece in the Sun that opposed housing of any kind on the site. This led to my own argument, more or less in favour of the idea with certain conditions, and a very spirited email exchange between a number of interested parties. Now, it is the broader community’s turn to have a say.

This particular debate about the future of a vital community resource is perhaps the most important we will have in this neighbourhood this decade, and I urge everyone interested in the future of Grandview to attend.

I would also urge that this debate be continued in the broadest possible sections of our community through public gatherings, email chains, and other means, rather than be delegated to a small and perhaps unrepresentative (though worthy) group who are able to attend certain committee meetings.

Finally, we must ensure that the decision on whether or not to include certain types of housing at Britannia be a genuinely community-wide decision, made by a plebiscite or some other form of all-resident participation.

In the meanwhile, I again urge everyone to attend this forum and make yourself heard.

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Major Road Disruption at Commercial & Broadway

September 15, 2017

Upgrades to the Commercial Skytrain station will start to impact drivers and bus users starting today, according to a report in the Province.

The installation of a new overhead walkway across Broadway will involve a massive crane sitting in the road, blocking a sidewalk and some traffic lanes. The #9 and #99 buses will have temporary stops other than in their usual places from today until October 1st.

“The weekend of Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 is when drivers will really feel the pain. Broadway will be closed completely so that a crane can be erected in the middle of the road. The two cranes will move the largest piece of the walkway, which weighs 13,600 kilograms, into place over the road.  “It’s a pretty significant disruption, obviously, to Broadway as we do that, but it’s necessary to make that lift take place,” said Matt Edwards, manager of engineering project delivery. Drivers are encouraged to avoid the area while detours are in effect.”

 


Housing at Britannia?

September 11, 2017

Elizabeth Murphy has written another of her pieces in the Vancouver Sun. On this occasion, she is noting with horror the possibility of using public spaces, such as parks, to build housing in Vancouver.

I agree with many of the points she is making, including her thesis that the driving dynamic behind this movement is the desire to centralize, taking control from the locally based community centre associations, that was pushed forward so aggressively when Penny Ballem was City Manager. I also agree with her praise for new amenities that have been developed to include housing, such as the Strathcona and Mount Pleasant libraries.

However, when it comes to the redevelopment of Britannia, she has the history wrong and draws inaccurate conclusions from that faulty reading.  She blithely records that, during the development of the Britannia site in the 1970s that “housing was moved off the site.”  In fact, 77 houses were expropriated and demolished for the Community Center, many with barely grudging assent from the owners as recorded in Clare Shepansky’s definitive history of the removals. To this must be added 40 or 50 more that were torn down in the original building of Britannia School and the subsequent expansions in the 1950s primarily for playing fields.

It is entirely wrong to suggest, therefore, that the Britannia site has historically been a public asset. It was for many decades a thriving residential neighbourhood. The community could make a good and valid argument that we deserve to recover some of the housing that was lost to us in the 1970s, especially today when the need for affordable housing in Grandview is becoming acute.

It would seem to me that at this early stage where plans are not yet drawn up that we could take cues from the developments cited earlier in Strathcona and Mount Pleasant and possibly have the best of both worlds. The current green space could be preserved while a new library, gyms, pool, and schools could be designed with housing above (keeping, of course, to a maximum four-storey height). Let’s get creative!

I have not yet made up my mind whether I support the notion of housing as part of Britannia’s necessary and welcome redevelopment, but an inaccurate and revisionist history does a disservice to the people of Grandview and adds nothing to the debate.


GWAC and Grandview Rezoning

September 8, 2017

The Grandview Woodland Area Council has written a plea to City Council not to enact the proposed RT-5 zoning in our neighbourhood.

One of the letter’s strongest points concerns affordable housing in Grandview:

“Grandview is a heritage area that is generally intact with the original buildings still existing.  Most of these character houses have been converted to multiple rental units, some legal and some not. These units are important sources of affordable rentals, especially when we are in a housing crisis. Retention of existing rentals is dependent on the fate of our character houses.

Growing through incremental increases of units of conversions and infill as incentives for character house retention is the sustainable way to create more affordable housing options while not losing what we have and without inflating land values. The current proposal allows too many options for new development that undermines this, including lot assembly. The new RT5 zone should be given the same neighbourhood character consideration for contextual design and guidelines as the RT6 in west Mt. Pleasant.”

I urge all residents — and everyone else interested in how the Vision Vancouver Council has destroyed so many neighbourhoods in this City — to read the letter and its attachment in full to gain a proper understanding of the issues we face here.

Unfortunately, given the dominance of the developer-financed majority on Council, I suspect this all too late. As one of the realtors I quoted in my piece from last week stated, this “zoning change is going to council September 21st 2017 to be rubber stamped.

 


The Community Plan & Land Prices

September 4, 2017

It has been just about a year since the Grandview Woodland Community Plan was bludgeoned through City Council by the developer-financed Vision Vancouver majority. The history of that Plan was a long and sorry one, involving as it did a massively engineered lack of consultation and consent from the residents, that has been told in some detail on this blog and elsewhere. But that is history and now we are obliged to deal with the aftermath and protect as much of our grand neighbourhood as we can.

The Community Plan states that “[c]hange must be integrated, gradual, and sustainable and be responsive to the needs of local and city residents.” [page 6]. It goes on to say that “[t]his community strives to be a place where people of all socio-economic levels can live.”  [page 7]. After a full year post-Plan we can look at the real estate listings for Grandview for this week, noting prices and — importantly — the reasons given by the real estate agents for those prices, and see how they match up to the Community Values expressed in the Plan.

  • 1912 E. 8th, $3,599,000: Less than two  years ago, this property sold for what was already considered a premium price of $1,940,000.  Now the price has almost doubled because, as the realtor delights in telling us: it “falls under new Transition Zoning in Grandview Plan. New Zoning will allow up to 1.2 FSR 3.5 storey Rowhouses.”
  • 2325, 2337, 2349, 2371 and 2387 E. Pender: almost an entire block, 5 properties at $2,400,000 each: Priced for “[l]and assembly … The Grandview-Woodland OCP has this land being rezoned for multifamily development… this land development is a can’t miss! “
  • 2037, 2043, 2055, 2061. and  2077 E. Broadway, 5 properties at $3,000,000 each: Part of “land assembly.”

There is more land assembly taking place along East 1st, East 2nd, and East 8th Avenues:

  • 2256 E. 1st, $2,280,000:  “Townhouse development opportunity with Grandview – Woodland Community Plan. There is 6 Lot assembly potential.
  • 2226 E. 1st, $2,150,000:  “Townhouse development opportunity in the heart of Grandview Woodland. Large lots in a great location. New community plan calls for 1.3 FSR courtyard rowhouses.”
  • 1921 E. 2nd, $3,689,000, 1937 and 1948 E. 2nd: $3,200,000 each: “3 adjoining lots with a combined size of 142×122 (all measurements approximate) … This property is located within the Grandview Woodland Community Plan. This is an excellent Development Site.“
  • 1968 E. 8th, $2,398,000: “Land assembly potential, this property falls into the New Zoning approved by The City Hall for Row Townhouses with 3.5 storeys and 1.2 FSR.”

Other sites are also being targeted:

  • 2141 E. Broadway, $2,450,000: “is great holding property as it is in the Grandview-Woodland community re-development plan for potential multi-family zoning … Potential lots assembly.”
  • 2285 Charles, $1,588,000:  “This 33 x 122 foot lot is going to have it’s zoning changed from RS-7 to the new RT 5 duplex zoning allowing 75% SFR. This zoning change is going to council September 21st 2017 to be rubber stamped.
  • 1517 Frances, $2,188,000:Attention Developers and investors! RM4 zoning investment opportunity! … perfect for holding this property until future high-density development opportunities… RM4 zoning permits Duplex – Fourplex developments on its own and likely higher density rezoning possible with assembly. Adjacent to existing apartment building also ripe for teardown.”

 

There are bound to be others: I found these in a quick 20-minute search last night. It is important to note that none of these are dilapidated ancient wrecks. Most are perfectly decent habitable houses built between the 1950s and 1970s.  And in each and every case, the cause of the price inflation is clearly stated — by the realtor, not some wild-eyed activist — as the Community Plan.

With land prices this high, there is simply no way truly affordable housing can be the result. So far, at least, the Community Values proudly expressed with the Community Plan are being honoured only by their absence. Many of us assumed that would be the case; we are now beginning to see the evidence.

 

 


Next GWAC Meeting

September 3, 2017

On Tuesday evening, 5th September, the Grandview Woodland Area Council will hold its regular monthly meeting at 7:00pm in the Learning Resource Centre under Britannia Library.

The main speaker this month will be ELIZABETH MURPHY who will be discussing the City’s proposed rezoning of Grandview Woodland “and how it could affect your neighbourhood and your street.”

Ms. Murphy has a long professional background in housing in Vancouver. She was a founder and former City Council candidate for Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV), and has a bully pulpit with regular columns in the Vancouver Sun.  She also knows Grandview well because, although a longtime resident of Point Grey, she owns a number of rental properties in our neighbourhood.

I have worked closely with Ms Murphy over the years, most especially on the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods. She and I have clashed many times over the details of zoning and what I see as the necessity of more density in GW, but there is no doubt she is an interesting and knowledgeable speaker. I know that both of us agree that towers are neither required nor wanted in this community.

Regretfully, I will have to miss this meeting as I have an operation at St. Paul’s that day; but I believe it will be a very worthwhile evening and I encourage everyone to attend and make the GWAC Board aware of your own views.


Changes On The Drive #73

September 1, 2017

I had a medical appointment at 7 this morning so, when that was done, and after a lazy breakfast, I was able to complete my walk on the Drive in the coolness of the early morning. It was very pleasant and all finished by 9.

The building at 2211 Commercial is still for sale, and that at 2058 is still for lease, though Universal Technologies and the Bon Bon Laundry respectively are still operating.

Kokopelli Hair at 2048-2052 Commercial is celebrating its twentieth anniversary on the Drive. Well done to them!

The Precious and Few consignment store at 1928 seems to have bit the dust. There were workman inside today apparently beginning a full renovation.

Olivieri’s, the First Ravioli Store, at 1900 Commercial has been sold and is now Easy Shop.

I notice that the old “First Ravioli” signs are still on the windows, so there is some continuity, and it looks to be the same inside as I recall. I believe I saw the lady who used to run this working in Bosa last week. Meanwhile, the old Waves coffee shop at 11858 is still vacant, and both the “For Lease” and “Leased” signs have disappeared.

I learn from a correspondent that the Mediterranean Food store at 1842 Commercial has changed hands. Jack Elmasu, the owner for more than 40 years, is staying on for a while to train the new owners in the business. My correspondent was also gracious enough to forward me this interesting article about the store and Jack Elmasu from 2011.

The Babylon Tea Shop at 1740 is still not open. It has appeared to be ready for more than a month, but “Opening Soon” is still the situation.

Mezcaleria at 1622 has new menus, it is reported.

The Libra Room is still very much closed and shuttered. However, I noticed this month (perhaps I missed them before), signs on the windows saying “Now hiring for all positions”. Is that a hopeful sign?

City Bistro at 1268 has closed already. The “opening soon” sign was up longer than the restaurant itself.

I never got to eat there. I tried to go with a Hungarian friend a few weeks ago but they were unexpectedly closed on a Thursday night.

Finally, it seems that this is the last month for Bosa on the Drive. They are planning to move back to their newly rebuilt premises on Victoria at the end of the month. It will be a real shame to lose them off the Drive.

Closures and vacancies on Commercial this month include: 2283 (3 months), 2285 (3 months), 1928 (1 month), 1801 (8 months), 1740 (11 months), 1735 (4 months), the former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato Mall (32 months), 1606 (13 months), 1500 (10 months), 1447 (7 months), 1303 (11 months), 1268 (1 month), 1108 (40 months), and 902 (28 months).

Previous Changes on The Drive editions.