More on TMH at Commercial & Adanac

March 22, 2019

As reported earlier, the No Tower Coalition has been suggesting to City staff and Councillors that the virtually-unused and City-owned parking lot at the corner of Commercial & Adanac would be a perfect site for a Temporary Modular Housing (TMH) project.

I understand City staff have nixed the idea, saying the site is unsuitable, presumably on the grounds of size. I believe that is just nonsense.  Steve Bohus, a GWAC Director, has produced concept renderings showing that a 40-unit TMH — extrapolated from the existing footprint of the 52-unit TMH at 898 Main Street — is perfectly feasible for the property suggested.

Given that we have here a neighbourhood group requesting a TMH in their district (contrary to the City’s experience in some other neighbourhoods) along with a genuine need for such housing, and a suitable property already owned by the City, I think it is incumbent on City staff to explain what their plans are for this site and why those plans would be better for our residents than a TMH; and it is equally incumbent on each Councillor to demand those answers.

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GWAC AGM 2019

March 17, 2019

The Grandview Woodland Area Council, the oldest established and one of the most active of residents’ associations, held its Annual General Meeting today at Family Place, About three dozen members were present.

After brief reports from the current Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary, the election of directors took place.  Four current directors (Dana Cromie, Craig Ollenberger, Steve Bohus, and Susan Briggs) agreed to stand again, while Penny Street was nominated from the floor.  All directors were acclaimed and will be the officers for 2019/20.

Cathy Low of Save Our Neighbourhood Parks gave a useful speech about the current Parks Board policy of replacing genuine green turf with synthetic rubber surfaces. She is in particular concerned with the plans for Clinton Park, a two block park in the north east of the neighbourhood.  Parks Board planning has one block of the Park to have the grass stripped out and replaced with synthetic material suitable for soccer pitches.  My understanding is that that section will be fenced off and only made available to paid licensees. This is, as Cathy says, privatizing our greenspace.

Cathy notes that teams from across Vancouver will book times to play and that teams waiting to play on the new surface will use the other half as a practice pitch while they wait.  Thus, the entire park will be lost to the general public.  Moreover, the increase in car traffic will significantly disrupt neighbourhood parking.  The group has a Facebook page and a petition at the link given above.

The eastside in general, and Grandview Woodland in particular, are already deficient in greenspace. It seems nothing but crazy to take away the little we already have. These seems like an issue that would fire up the Greens but Cathy’s interactions with Green Parks Board members has been quite the opposite.  We know how that feels.

The balance of the meeting was a presentation by Patrick Beattie and Duncan Higgson of the Portland Housing Society regarding their history with Temporary Modular Housing (which has lately become an issue here).

There were several important takeaways from the discussion;

  • housing is a key component of the health care continuum for opiod and other substance abuse treatments;
  • providing housing results in significant cost savings compared to long term health care without it;
  • compared to the 5 years of planning, bureaucracy, and building of regular bricks and mortar buildings, TMH can be designed, manufactured, delivered, and opened in five months;
  • TMH, built in BC, are designed for a 50-year life span and each TMH facility can be moved inexpensively from one site to another as need arises.

All in all a useful meeting.  It is a shame that only 30+ people came. The No Tower Coalition, the OCOP group that was active during the Community Plan exercise, the Grant Street and First Avenue projects have proved that large groups of people can be activated for specific projects and issues.  We have yet to successfully educate the general populace that these “single” issues are actually part of a planning and development continuum that are best looked at in a wider perspective, the kind of perspective that an organization such as GWAC and, even more broadly, the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods can present.


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.


Real Parks Or Phoney?

February 12, 2019

I was impressed by the following which I am quoting from the latest Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) newsletter:

“The Clinton Neighbourhood Committee (CNC) recently asked for GWAC support and advice in its effort to raise awareness of its opposition to a synthetic sports field proposal for the Clinton Park, north of 1st Avenue, between Kamloops and Slocan Streets. Synthetic sports field have financial and environmental costs including: loss of earth-based green space which is habitat for worms, insects, and birds; insertion of synthetic pellets which require top-up three times a year; and landfill and total replacement every ten years. Aside from environmental issues,

CNC explained that synthetic fields are fenced and available only to pre-booked sports groups, a stipulation that removes them from public access. Thus, this formerly open, grassed space ceases to be a public park. “Greenest City” indeed. There are already 11 synthetic sports fields in Vancouver, with more to come. Many believe that “improving” existing parks without creating new ones in neighbourhoods slated for densification is a flawed use of resources.

For members concerned about loss of any of our limited public green space in East Vancouver, we recommend visiting the Clinton Neighbourhood Committee’s Facebook page OurNeighourhoodParks for more information and a link to their petition.”

This all ties in, I believe, with CoV Planning’s push for “plazas”, “public squares” and similar unsatisfactory substitutes for real grass and dirt parks.  Concrete and convenience (for them) substituting for fresh air and freedom. The proposal for the plaza at Commercial & Broadway — an expanse of concrete surmounted with noisy elevated Sky Train tracks (no expensive cut and cover subway for us, we are just Eastsiders after all) running almost continuously. Does that sound like a relaxing place to repose with your family for a while?

We are starved of green space and we should insist that CoV Parks Board encourage the development of more genuine dirt and grass parks in Grandview and elsewhere in East Vancouver.


Reminder: Public Hearing for 815-825 Commercial

February 11, 2019

This is a reminder that a public hearing on the proposed redevelopment of 815-825 Commercial (and 1680 Adanac) is scheduled for 12th February at 6:00pm at City Hall.  That’s tomorrow night.

The proposal is for a 6-storey mixed use development with commercial at grade and 38 rental units above. There was an open house for the project last April after which I stated my support for most aspects of the design and the mix of apartments proposed.

 

However, I objected to the project in the end, having noted the following at the open house:

“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]’.”

The notice from Vancouver Planning says quite specifically that the units will be “affordable”, but the development documents say they will be “market”.  As we have seen in so many recent developments, City Planning seems to think that $2,200 is affordable for a one-bedroom apartment.  I don’t, and I am sure that the 50% of Vancouver workers who get paid median incomes or lower will also disagree.

If you have concerns or interest, please make yourself available to speak at the public hearing.


Vision Redux At Clark & First

February 10, 2019

For about a year now I have reported on — and fully supported — a major development at Clark Drive and First Avenue  (see here, here, and here).

 

My support for this project has put me on the opposite side of the barricades to most of those with whom I have campaigned on projects in the past, and I have, to be frank, been shocked by some of the NIMBY rhetoric used by a vocal minority of the opponents.  My support, let me make clear, was based a number of factors:

  • the location of the project, at the lowest point of Grandview, combined with the immediacy of the already existing Clark Drive arterial and light industrial 6-storey zoning, made the height of the proposal unproblematic in my view;
  • the integration of detox services seems reasonable to me, and I have yet to see any reliable police statistics to suggest that an increase in crime is to be expected;
  • there is zero heritage value to the lots being used;
  • most importantly to me, it would supply about 100 truly affordable housing units at a point in time when we are facing a critical shortage of available units meeting that criteria.

The press release issued on 16th February 2018 specifically stated that the residential part of the project “will serve low-to moderate-income people.”  Now, a year later, we hear a different story.  According to an article in the Georgia Strait this week, City staff have decided that there will be 90 housing units of which half will be rented at “private rental market rates for Vancouver”.  And even with that, they still recommend that BC Housing be forgiven the $1.9m of development cost levies they should be paying.

This puts a completely different perspective on the project for me, and I have to ask, why?  There are literally thousands of market rental units in the pipeline already; what purpose would these 45 units serve.  We don’t need them. But we do need what we were promised — a supply of genuinely affordable housing for the 50% of Vancouverites who are trying to survive on median or lower incomes.

If our shiny new City Council approves the staff report as is, then one has to wonder if they have already fallen under the thrall of Vision’s private-sector-favouring staff as recent development approval decisions seem to suggest. They can still show some spine by rejecting this report and returning the entire project to its social housing roots.

 


Public Hearing for 815-825 Commercial

January 30, 2019

A public hearing on the proposed redevelopment of 815-825 Commercial (and 1680 Adanac) is scheduled for 12th February at 6:00pm at City Hall.

The proposal is for a 6-storey mixed use development with commercial at grade and 38 rental units above. There was an open house for the project last April after which I stated my support for most aspects of the design and the mix of apartments proposed.

 

However, I objected to the project in the end, having noted the following at the open house:

“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]’.”

The notice from Vancouver Planning says quite specifically that the units will be “affordable”, but the development documents say they will be “market”.  As we have seen in so many recent developments, City Planning seems to think that $2,200 is affordable for a one-bedroom apartment.  I don’t, and I am sure that the 50% of Vancouver workers who get paid median incomes or lower will also disagree.

If you have concerns or interest, please make yourself available to speak at the public hearing.