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Several members of the public were advised by a City planner that Boffo had withdrawn from its Boffo-Kettle Tower project at Commercial & Venables/Adanac.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 GW Community Plan Drones On

May 13, 2017

This afternoon, I went to the CoV Planning Open House regarding a proposed change to zoning in the core of Grandview; a change that is designed to increase density while maintaining the look and feel and livability of the central area of our neighbourhood.

I was there about 1:00pm and there were perhaps three dozen residents milling around, looking at the display boards that were set around the WISE Hall. Others kept arriving in the time I was there.  The display boards seemed to be better at communicating than some we have seen, and there seemed to be sufficient City staff available to answer questions.

The purpose of the Open House was to explain the changes being proposed for the central area of Grandview. These are changes that differ from those in the Community Plan and also differ from the proposals suggested last November.  One of the major changes is that this proposed rezoning now takes into account the City’s Character Homes Review protocol.   The following two images are, I believe, the key to the changes (select the images for a larger view).

 

I was pleased to see very detailed boards discussing the various procedures to be followed depending if a house is character or non-character, and whether or not the owner wants to demolish or expand the current property.  All of the boards are available to view at http://vancouver.ca/gw.

I’ll need some time to think about the new proposals, but I was pleased with the comprehensive nature of the displays today.


Community Plan Meetings

May 9, 2017

The Grandview-Woodland Community Plan dog and pony show is back in town!  To quote the planning department’s email notification:

As part of implementation, zoning changes to allow for new housing choices in the community are being proposed. These include two-family dwellings (duplexes), townhouses, and some 4-storey apartments in specified locations. Join us at an open house to learn more about the proposed two-family (duplex) zoning changes, ask questions, and provide feedback.”

There will be two presentations (i.e. a display of presentation boards), both at WISE Hall:

  • Saturday May 13, noon to 3:00pm
  • Wednesday May 17, 5:00pm to 8:00pm

 


Meeting About St. Francis of Assisi School

January 30, 2017

There will be a public community meeting in the Church basement of St Francis of Assisi Church, Napier Street, on Thursday 2nd February at 7:00pm.  The meeting will discuss the church’s plans to build a new school on the gardens at Wilga. They will use funds driven by a sale of their current school at Victoria & Venables.

Some of the background is covered here.  A brief history of the church and its grounds is available here.

There has been significant opposition to the development from local residents and meetings on the issue tend to be lively at least. How does it fit with the new Community Plan? It will be worth the time.

By the way, I have heard from SFA officials that this meeting is NOT a public community event and is, in fact, invitation only for neighbours around the church. However, that is not how the neighbours read the letter they received. I also note that neighbours of the SFA school at Victoria & Venables (like me) — deeply affected by SFA’s plan — do not seem to have been included in this invitation. Perhaps we don’t count in the church’s eyes.

Everyone concerned should show up and explain to the Church that it is not up to them to decide who is and who is not affected by their decisions


The Drive and the BIA

January 10, 2017

Continued decrepitude did not allow me to get to last night’s monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council. The following report, therefore, has been compiled from several people who were able to attend.

The main event last night, was a presentation by the local Business Improvement Association (BIA) to explain how their 2013 Vision for Commercial Drive fits with the 2016 Community Plan.  The primary conclusion from each of those who spoke to me was that in fact the BIA Vision does not fit with the Plan as approved.  I understand, for example, that the GWAC Chair was on several occasions required to remind the BIA that the approved Community Plan accepted four storeys as a maximum height for most of the Drive, not six storeys as the BIA continued to maintain.

More than one correspondent wondered whether anyone at the BIA had actually put the two plans together and compared them. Another, a professional in the field, described their approach to urban planning as “terribly unsophisticated.”

Several people mentioned that the BIA seems to live in its own cocoon, speaking only to their membership (and even then, perhaps, only a selected few). They seem fixated, for example, on bike lanes and parking while other important issues (long-term vacancies in storefronts, some of which are becoming derelict) are ignored.

It seems agreed they would do well to significantly improve their two-way communication with the thousands of residents who are the ones who actually make Commercial Drive what it is.

 

 


The Future Of Commercial Drive

January 7, 2017

Next Monday, the regular monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) will include a presentation from the Commercial Drive BIA.

They will revive their Vision for the Drive developed in 2014 and subsequently rejected (by being ignored) by City Planners (in Emerging Directions), by those concerned with history and heritage, and by the Citizens’ Assembly final report and recommendations.  They will, I am informed, show how this plan “now fits with the Community Plan” of 2016. That should make for an interesting meeting.

For those who don’t recall the first time the BIA came to GWAC with this plan, here is a link to my post of March 2013.

The meeting is in the Learning Resource Centre under Britannia Library and starts at 7:00pm. I hope to be there but this current bout of sickness still has me housebound, so we’ll see.


Rezoning Grandview

November 26, 2016

This afternoon I visited the City Planner’s Open House at WISE Hall to see the plans for new zoning, and thus new housing types, that the GW Community Plan is visiting upon the neighbourhood. I am not going to discuss the approved Plan’s conclusions (there have been millions of words, quite literally, been written about that already) but will concentrate on the process.

Anyone reading this blog carefully over the last four years or so should understand that my issues have never been about housing form or types, new or old. My entire concern — throughout the GW Plan period, and today — is with the process being used to bring change. I said to someone the other day, and it is quite true, that if a fully open and transparent process brought forth a huge tower on every intersection on the Drive, I would accept it (hate it though I might). The GW Plan process was anything but open and transparent which is why it was opposed so vociferously by so many for so long. But the Plan was pushed through and, regardless of how badly we have been treated to this point, we need to ensure that the process moving forward is more open and transparent. Which brings us back to today’s event.

Rezoning and introducing new styles of housing into a community is a complicated business for both planners and residents who may be anxious for the future of their properties. I thought the Planning Department did a pretty good job today of explaining the new zoning areas, and what each type of housing actually meant. The poster boards were clear and full of illustrative detail.

Most importantly, I listened to several conversations in which residents discussed their own very local issues and anxieties with members of City staff — what larger, higher, buildings might do to their own streetscapes. In each of the conversations I heard, the staff were respectful and helpful and, yes, caring about the consequences. Obviously, with general approvals in place already, there is little that can be done to change the new zonings. But this meeting did, at least, try to explain and impart useful knowledge to residents.

Thanks to Andrew Pask and his team.