The No Megatowers at Safeway citizens group that is tracking the overwhelmingly huge, unnecessary, and neighbourhood-busting development at Broadway & Commercial have received some interesting data from the City of Vancouver via Freedom of Information request. They chose a random week — November 9-15, 2021 — and sought details of all the comments the City had received about the project for that time period.
It turns out that 157 relevant comments were received and only 23 (14%) were in favour of the project, while 118 comments were opposed (75%), and 16 were mixed (11%).
Let me repeat that these are official figures from the City.
It is clear that there are significant problems with this development and that it is firmly opposed by a large majority of residents. We can only hope that Vancouver Councilors will understand and consider the depth of this opposition when they come to vote on the development sometime this year.
As advertized, the Commercial Drive Business Society (our local BIA) came to tonight’s meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC). Nick Pogor, Executive Director, gave a presentation supported by Carmen D’Onofrio (President) and Jonathan Williams (Treasurer).
The presentation began with a look at the BIA’s Constitution, and continued with the proposals they made in conjunction with getting another seven year’s license from the City. Most of the ideas were motherhood issues, but the strong desire to maintain and if possible add to parking on the Drive was loud and clear. (An interesting aside was that there is a conflict between a need for more parking on the one hand, and more permanent kerbside patios on the other). They are adamant that they want “no AAA, separated, or painted bike lanes” on the Drive.
They also made much of a regime they call Property Trespass Program. This involves ridding the Drive of the homeless sleeping in doorways or, as they put it “using private property for their own purposes.” This objective — the elimination of a selected class — contrasts strongly with a progressive desire for inclusivity. There was no discussion of the BIA helping the homeless they displace with somewhere else to live.
The possibility of putting retail outlets onto Grandview Park was floated. Just what we need — the commercialization of what little green space we have!
They announced that they would not be supporting the plaza space at Commercial & Grant this year as it was proving too expensive to maintain without additional City support. Treasurer Williams felt the need to suggest that the plaza had attracted “loiterers” as if that was a bad thing. Perhaps he doesn’t understand that “loitering” is what keeps the Drive’s cafe/bar people-watching infrastructure alive.
The BIA did come in for congratulations on the Italian flag crosswalks; they still look good after three years of use. Nick explained that the colours are not paint; they are part of the material itself. Therefore it has worn very well.
The general discussion at the end of the first half of the presentation led quickly to a long discussion about the Safeway development at Broadway & Commercial. Lots of humming and hesitation but the BIA says it does not have have a position yet; that some Drive merchants support the development, while others clearly don’t. On questioning, the BIA had to admit that they had last surveyed their members about Safeway a long time ago, and seemed to agree that a current survey would be useful.
Several speakers spoke eloquently of the danger such a huge development posed for the BIA’s current membership, and the significant negative change on the Drive that will follow if it goes ahead. They were strongly advised not to underestimate the impact.
It was, I believe, a really useful meeting. I hope that the BIA folks take away from it an understanding that we have a lot of well informed citizens here, with clear opinions who take their neighbourhood very seriously.
This will be the decisive year for the future of Commercial & Broadway, and the development that will take place on the Safeway site. This year will see important public hearings on the project and potentially a decision.
As a great New Year resolution, go to the No Megatowers petition and sign it to show your support for local residents having a say in how such an important site will be developed.
Last night, the monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council was devoted to a discussion of the latest revision to the massive development proposal for the Safeway site at Commercial & Broadway.
After a quick historical survey by Steve Bohus, showing that the current proposal is a world away from the one approved in the Citizens Assembly Report, urban design teacher and scholar Erick Villagomez took the group through some of the ways in which the developer’s renderings are deliberately false, misleading, and designed simply to sell the product to citizens and Council members.
“It’s important to recognize that visuals are not value-neutral, they are ‘designed’ products, consciously manipulated through the use of visual techniques and forms of ‘distortion’—camera lenses, choice of framing, sun angles, to name a few—in order to show ‘ideal’ conditions that have limited ties to as-built realities. Urban planners, municipal officials, and decision-makers who are in charge of advocating for the public good and serve as city-building gatekeepers have minimal, if any, knowledge of the degrees to which imagery is manipulated to influence public perception, while those in charge of the production of visuals are neither held accountable nor explicit about the assumptions used to create their images.
Taking the developers’ plan views (which are legally required to be accurate), Erick showed that the renderings are anything but accurate representations of the reality. Focusing on the plaza area, the renderings show it as significantly larger (about 45% larger) than it will be when built:
He also notes that views from E. 10th do not relate to reality in that the Medical Building opposite the development has been eliminated from the images (with a different building substituted in some images) and the street is about double the width of the real thing. This form of manipulation makes it impossible to understand the actual scale of the proposal. This distortion is enhanced by having most of the towers cropped out of the images as here.
This image also eliminates the SkyTrain that runs along the right side of the picture, and shows the plaza bathed in sunlight while in reality this area will mostly be covered in the shadow of the towers.
More details on all these manipulations can be found in Erick’s excellent articles in Spacing magazine — “Decontructing Visuals” and “Deconstructing Visuals 2.0” which I can thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in how developers seek to sell through deception.
The meeting also discussed the lack of affordable housing in the proposal, the fact that the promised childcare centre has been abandoned, the existence of a gated green space not open to the public (against the entire ethos of Grandview’s vibe), and the significant increase in traffic on what is already a heavily congested set of intersections.
This was one of those meetings where GWAC comes into its own — a large group of intelligent and interested residents learning from experts and fully engaged in civic politics. Grandview could well hold the key to success in next year’s Council elections, and prospective candidates would do well to understand our concerns.
For example, one of the selling points of the new revision is a so-called “[r]eduction of building height by one-storey on each of the residential towers,” which makes it seem that the towers will be less tall. However, the reduction in residential space is made up for with changes to the retail/commercial plinth and associated architecture, and two of the towers will actually be taller than previously proposed. To quote their analysis:
“For example, in Tower A, the height from ground to the top previously was 105.6meters (346 feet). It now rises to 113.3meters – a height of 371.7 feet … The retail “plinth” for Tower A previously was 28.1 meters; it now is 29.6 meters. The “plinth” contains two mezzanine levels. It is the equivalent of about 8 commercial storeys, and of 10.8 standard residential storeys. On the roof of Tower A there is 11 meters (36 feet) of height above the roofline – previously there was only 2.5 meters. This all matters in terms of shadowing and mountain views.
The “public plaza” also remains an issue:
“It still runs along the edge of the skytrain line, in its shadow, the trains loudly thundering by. It is not a “sunny, welcoming, delightful and people-friendly civic plaza” as required by the Grandview Woodland Community Plan. Nor is it centrally located in the development … This plaza was so key to the Grandview Woodland Community Plan because it is instead of a park – this neighbourhood has few parks.”
Another very important change in the Revision is elimination of the promise to provide childcare spaces. This not only goes against all previous iterations of developers’ promises but ignores the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan’s specific call for an increase in such childcare spaces as a primary neighbourhood need.
There is still time for you to register your thoughts on this proposal. Go to Shape Your City.
The story so far is here.
Now, the developers are offering two open houses to discuss their latest revision of the development plan. They will take place on Friday 19th November at the Cultch. There will be two brief sessions organized by the developer’s PR company at 9:00am and 10:00am.
There is a VERY limited number of registrations allowed for each session. They claim this is a covid requirement but it also acts to lower the possibility of large numbers of those residents opposed to the development. causing a fuss. Vaccine passports will be required.
If you are interested, please register at www.broadwaycommercial.ca/register as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
Since my post about the new group opposing the appallingly large towers at the Safeway site at Broadway & Commercial, the usual YIMBY crowd has suggested that community groups don’t know what they’re talking about, and that developers/planners know what’s best for us.
For their edification, here is Scot Hein who was head of the design group for CoV Planning and is currently professor in the Masters of Urban Design program at UBC talking about this site:
“We imagined, he wrote, a series of related, modestly scaled low and mid-rise buildings in this scenario … Otherwise, we believed that the appropriate approach to intensifying an already relatively high density community, of what must be seen as “special urban fabric”, was in transitional mid to low rise form.
We absolutely did not support towers outside the focused “Safeway Precinct”. We were instructed to put this plan (in our view based on thoughtful urban design best practice) in the drawer never to see the light of day.
We were then “told” by senior management to prepare a maximum tower scheme which we produced under protest as we declared we did not support such an uninformed approach for the GW neighbourhood.”
Source: “Battleground: Grandview” (p.67-68), quoting comment by Scott Hein at Price Tags, Vision: The end of the residential highrise? 2014 Nov 10
Update: Scot has asked me to clarify that he was supporting two modestly scaled towers for the Safeway site, with lower tower buildings for nearby transitional sites on 10th, which I am happy to do.
The City of Vancouver Planning Department have been keen to put a tower on the Safeway site at Commercial & Broadway since the late 1980s, and community opposition to such a project has been fierce for the same length of time. For those interested in the history of the struggle over that site for the last decade can read the whole sorry business in these columns. It is also covered in detail in my book “Battleground: Grandview“.
The latest version of the developers’ pipedream is even worse than previous incarnations, rising 39 storeys above our human scale low- and mid-rise neighbourhood.
And it has attracted a great deal of neighbourhood criticism. This opposition has now begun to coalesce into an active group that has launched a website.
I urge you to read what they have to say, and to sign up to get involved and/or just to keep yourself informed on this development which will affect our wonderful neighbourhood for generations.