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.

PR BS for Commercial + Broadway

November 19, 2016

I went to the open house this afternoon at Federico’s Supper Club to see what the folks who control the Safeway site at Commercial & Broadway have to say. It turned out to be a PR trap, a Gary Pooni special.

First, let me say that having an event like this at Federcio’s on a Saturday afternoon was an excellent idea. The space is right in the heart of the Drive, making it convenient for shoppers. I was quite surprised that there was no street signage saying what was going on inside and so the passing trade was missed; I am sure all the people who attended knew about it before hand.

I also have to apologise for previously making some fun out of the idea that there would be face painting and balloon for the kids. It worked out well, and no doubt enabled some parents to come who might no otherwise have been able to leave their kids.

Now for the nitty gritty.

There were a couple of dozen poster boards around the room which attendees were led to read in a particular order. Many of the posters had colourful and attractive images. And many more were filled with aspirational phrases such as “revitalizing the node to match the eclectic nature of the Drive”, buzzwords such as “family housing”, and ideas based on a false history, such as “reuniting” the Drive on either side of the Cut.

There was nothing — nothing — in the way of genuine project information; not even  as conceptual ideas.  And the questions that were asked of the attendees were so broad as to be useless as data except for cherry-picking positive statements. So what was the point of the meeting?

It was, as I said before, a Brook Pooni special. Developers’ PR companies are well known in the city for their style of “community engagement” which attempts to manufacture consent, especially when it is clearly not there. And that is where this meeting comes in.  Pooni and the developers can now say they have had a community engagement, at which xxx people showed up and they collected xxx comments.  Just as importantly, they now have an email database of everyone who signed in.

This meeting met all the needs of the developer and none of the needs of the community. Glad I went, because the cannoli were excellent.

Grandview Zoning — Important Dates

November 18, 2016

For many people, the idea of spending time talking about zoning comes close to waterboarding as an attractive activity. However, in our modern world, zoning is a key parameter for how our neighbourhoods look and feel and work, and that directly has an effect on how we feel. The Grandview Community Plan has suggested a number of significant changes to zonings throughout Grandview. Most of these changes allow/impose “new housing choices” in the form of higher density options.

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will probably understand my take on the Plan. But you will soon have a chance to see for yourself what this all means.  City Planners are holding two open house events later this month specifically to present what changes to zoning might mean.

  • Saturday Nov 26, 1:00pm to 4:00pm, WISE Hall, 1882 Adanac
  • Wednesday Nov 30, 5:00pm to 8:00pm at Croatian Cultural Centre, 3250 Commercial

A useful map of what is approved/proposed can be found on their site.


Broadway & Commercial Reminder

November 17, 2016

Just a reminder that this Saturday, from 11am to 3pm, there will be a “community social” at Federico’s Supper Club, 1728 Commercial, to discuss the future of the Safeway site at Broadway and Commercial.

This is an issue of great importance to the community as a whole and I hope many of you will take the time to drop by. There will be face painting for the kids!