Changes to Grandview Community Plan

January 20, 2020

There is a public hearing at City Hall tomorrow evening (Tuesday at 6:00pm), item #6 of which of which concerns changes to the Grandview Community Plan.  Specifically:

“To rezone portions of the 2300-block of Charles Street and the 2300-block of Kitchener Street from RT-5 and RT-5N (Duplex and Multiple Dwelling) Districts to C-2 (Commercial) and RM-8A (Multiple Dwelling) Districts, and to rezone portions of the 2400-block of East 12th Avenue, the 2800-block of Nanaimo Street and the 2400-block of North Grandview Highway from RS-1 (One-Family Dwelling) and RT-5N Districts to RM-8A and RM-12N Districts. And to make related Referral amendments to the Grandview, BroadwayCommercial and Nanaimo sub-areas of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.”

The Staff Referral Report notes that a certain amount of consultation has been conducted for “the immediate neighbours”.  However, a number of folks believe that any changes to the long-fought-over Plan need to involve a much wider consultation in the neighbourhood.

This is a public hearing and so if you want to have your opinion heard, you can write to Council and/or book a spot to speak at the hearing.


The Development We Need

January 16, 2020

Rendering Ryder Architecture (Canada) Inc.

Brightside Community Homes Foundation runs two small seniors’ buildings on E. 12th just east of Clark. They currently have 57 social housing units on site.  The Foundation is seeking to demolish the current buildings and erect two larger structures to house more than 150 seniors.

According to an article in the Courier:

“Loyal Orange Manor and Edward Byers House cater to people over 55 years of age. Rents are geared to income. The buildings, which were built in 1962 and 1971, are showing their age and don’t have accessibility features such as elevators, according to Brightside CEO William Azaroff. He said features such as elevators are critical for buildings where people want to age in place.  “Anything added to code over the last 40 years [like a sprinkler system] will be in the [redevelopment],” he added. “So there will be a lot of modern amenities but also universal design standards for accessibility.”

The issue with many developments such as this is what happens to the current residents while the new building is constructed. However, that seems to be taken care of in this instance:

“Azaroff said Brightside is exceeding the City of Vancouver’s tenant relocation requirements. Staff are meeting with current tenants individually to assess their needs and determine where they can be relocated in Brightside’s portfolio of buildings based on considerations such as location and size of unit.  “We’ll pay their costs and an honorarium for them to move. Their rent stays the same in the sense that it’s geared to income,” he said. “As long as their income stays the same, the rent stays the same. When the project is done, they will have the option to move back into that building or they can stay put if they like the unit they relocated to. We want to give them maximum options.”

I believe this is exactly the kind of supported housing development that we need in Grandview.  I hope that the entire community will get behind and support it.  An open house about the project runs from 5 to 8 p.m., Feb. 4, at the Lakeview Multicultural United Church.


Next GWAC Meeting: Discuss Broadway & Commercial

November 2, 2019

The next Grandview-Woodland Area Council (GWAC) Meeting is on Monday, 4th November, and the topic will be the current proposal to build huge towers on the Safeway site at Broadway & Commercial.

 

The proposed towers are significantly taller than allowed under the hard-fought GW Community Plan, and one of the questions has to be — did we waste four years on the Plan if it is simply to be ignored by every developer that comes along seeking greater profit?  Do the views of the residents of GW actually matter?

A brief history of the site’s development can be found here.

There will be a number of interesting speakers.  But most importantly GWAC needs to hear from YOU.  As usual, the meeting begins at 7:00pm and takes place in the Learning Resources Centre under Britannia Library.

 

 


Broadway & Commercial: The Saga Continues

October 2, 2019

 

Now that the developers, led by Westbank, have published their new proposals for the redevelopment of Commercial & Broadway with towers vastly in excess of the Community Plan height guidelines, I thought it might be useful to remind ourselves of the sorry history of this project from 2012 to today.

We begin in 2012 with the awful GW Plan Emerging Directions document. As some of you will recall, the GW Community Plan process began well enough in 2011, with a number of workshops on various aspects of the issues facing Grandview.  When the planners’ first draft of Emerging Directions was published in June 2012, it covered many of those issues and discussions well.  Unfortunately, they formed just a small part of the document. The bulk of the paper comprised CoV Planning’s ideas for rezoning right across the neighbourhood — zonings which had never formed part of any of the consultations to that date. They came to us as a complete surprise. In particular, this was the first time anyone had ever mentioned to us the possibility of a dozen high rise buildings at Commercial & Broadway.

The furore caused by this sleight of hand attempt to slip in zonings that had never been discussed caused an immediate uproar. By early July, the Planners recognized they had gone too far at Commercial & Broadway and so threw together a workshop on that particular area.  This was the first time they publicly recognized the process had failed.  Looking back, we were too confident this workshop meant something; as people who attended talked with each other, we finally realised how stacked the meeting had been with developers.

Much later we would discover that the extraordinary height of the proposed towers at Commercial & Broadway were not the idea of the planners themselves but had emerged after political interference from the City Manager and others in the Vision hierarchy.

For about a year, there was a pause in overt actions by Planning. All four of the Community Plans (GW, Marpole, West End, and DTES) were in serious trouble and Planner Brian Jackson needed time to decided what to do.  On September 25th, 2013, City Council received the Jackson Report on the four Community Plans.  Many of us got to speak for our allotted five minutes.  As a result of the Jackson Report, Grandview received a 12-month extension to the Plan’s schedule, and something called a Citizens’ Assembly that was not defined.

(I won’t go into the travesty that was the Citizens’ Assembly. A great many posts on that subject can be found here.  A significantly more detailed history of the period from the beginning of the Community Plan to the formation of the Assembly can be found here).

Finally, in the early summer of 2016, CoV Planning produced the Grandview Woodland Community Plan. In general, I approved of the Plan though many of the details were problematic and opposed by the community, and many of us continued to be aggrieved by the process. Included in the Plan, bludgeoned through City Council by the Vision majority later that summer, was approval for three towers at Commercial & Broadway to a maximum of 24 stories and a carefully positioned Public Plaza.

We then had a series of BS PR sessions that really gave us few answers. The first was arranged by Brooks Pooni so this was no great surprise.  There was another sponsored by CoV Planning which was equally problematic.  The first was specifically about the promised public Plaza which the developer wanted to move.  We did learn that Safeway, which holds a 50-year lease on the property, has refused to accept the idea of a two-storey store with a smaller ground-level footprint, and that has complicated designs for the developer.

However, it was a heavily engineered meeting: ticketing through Eventbrite, 200 neatly organised chairs, each with a Response form, three index cards for questions, and a pen – we were not allowed to speak our questions.  There were plenty of staff there, presumably on overtime, lots of coffee, lots of cookies. This was an expensive outing, and all because a developer sneezed. The ugly asymmetry of power in this city was rarely more obvious. That being said, a month later Planning admitted that 61% of respondents opposed moving the Plaza.

Then there was the detailed Bing Thom presentation.

 

It was a detailed presentation (though we were still not allowed to ask questions and get public answers) but both the height of the proposed towers (17 to 24 stories) and the position of the Plaza (on the other side of Broadway, under the SkyTrain line) were still significant issues. It was said in the presentation and on the display boards that Safeway required (demanded?) 55,000 sq.ft on a single level (even though their current store is just 33,000 sq.ft), and that parking be no more than one level away from the store. Because of these requirements, they said, it was impossible to include the plaza on site.

That was in June 2017.  Bing Thom had died in the previous December and now Westbank has taken over the project using a new architect.  With their new proposal, we are being asked to accept three towers reaching up from 24 to 30 stories, well in excess of the heights approved in the Community Plan.  While the Plaza has now been moved back onto the site, the proposed design seems less like a public gathering space for families than an enhanced foyer for both the Safeway store and the Skytrain station.

 

I guess we now have to look forward to another series of presentations and a public hearing before City Council signs off. It will be interesting to see the public reaction.


What Value Neighbourhoods?

September 27, 2019

In a post yesterday, I outlined a few of the developments that are altering Grandview beyond recognition.  As if on cue, on Wednesday October 9th, Heritage Vancouver and SFU are hosting a conversation specifically called “What do we do about neighbourhoods?”  To quote their website:

“Neighbourhoods are often positively associated with community. They tend to have a combination of qualities that communities identify with which can make them distinct. These include the people, the types of interactions they have with each other, nature, types of commercial spaces, housing tenure, and public spaces in addition to the type and design of buildings. However, there are conflicting views as to whether this distinctiveness is positive or not.”

In 2016, I was a panellist on one of these “Shaping Vancouver” conversations, and this is part of what I had to say then about the changing nature of the Drive:

“Since that time – for some 60 years – the Drive has been the scene of continuous change. We have had a constant change of people on the Drive – starting with the Italians and the Portuguese and some East Europeans, followed by Central Americans, Jamaicans, those from the Middle East, and a variety of Africans. Not only different cultures and nationalities and languages, but also different sexualities and those of various economic circumstances were welcomed to the neighbourhood.

Each of these groups have left their mark on the patina that is the glory of the Drive today. They have changed building styles, grocery options, street art, food availability, everything; and they have done this over and over again.

And all of these continuous changes have been welcomed, indeed encouraged, by most Drive residents.  And that is because all these changes have been subtle, incremental, and evolutionary within the general envelope of what the Drive is – which is a place of low-rise buildings, 25′ store fronts, and, importantly, local business ownership.

That is how we got to today, and it this same velocity and style of change that will maintain the Drive that we all love. Introducing rapid and intrusive change can only damage what is a highly successful and well-loved neighbourhood.”

My opinion  hasn’t changed.  It will be interesting to hear a discussion on this three years later.  Hope to see some of you there.


The GW Community Plan Starts To Bite

September 26, 2019

It is now about three years since the Grandview Community Plan was bludgeoned through City Council by the pro-development Vision majority. For some while thereafter, it seemed to result in only minor effects on the ground.  However, below the surface, seismic events were building up a head of steam.

Almost immediately, realtors and developers had started to plan for their new future.  As I noted back in 2017, large numbers of Grandview properties were being offered — at hugely inflated prices –“for assembly” by developers. This had an undoubted effect on the house price inflation that has plagued Grandview until the market correction earlier this year.

Then the proposals started piling up. First, the outrageously incongruous Boffo Tower at Commercial & Adanac was approved, against broad community opposition, for 12 storeys. We have only been saved from that disaster by the developer’s refusal to proceed without even greater heights of absurdity, and the current softness of the luxury condo market.

This has been followed by projects on Grant Street, at First & Clark, at Nanaimo & Charles, on E. 11th Avenue, on East Hastings, at Lakeview Church, and at the Safeway site at Commercial & Broadway.

top left: Lakewood; top right Charles & Nanaimo; bottom left E. 11th; bottom right E. Hastings

Top left First & Clark; top right Boffo Tower; bottom left Grant Street; bottom right Safeway site

Do any of these look anything like the neighbourhood we know and love?

My concern is that the avalanche has barely begun.


High Rent Project On Grant Approved

September 17, 2019

The current Vancouver Council continues to disappoint those who worked hard to rid us of Vision Vancouver.  In their latest pro-developer action tonight, they voted 6-3 to approve the highly contentious rental project in the 1500-block of Grant Street. Councillors Carr, Fry and Swanson voted against, while Hardwick and Bligh were absent.

As will be clear from my earlier posts on this topic, I was generally supportive of this project but strongly opposed to the rents proposed, all of which are unaffordable to the majority of Vancouverites. With this approval, tax-payers are subsidising rents for households making well in excess of $100,000 and more a year.

How can that be right?