Good Density

February 9, 2018

There are a group of people (Abundant Housing, et al) who camp out on Twitter and other social media outlets demanding more and more density as the solution to Vancouver’s housing crisis. I absolutely agree we need to densify. But I have noticed two things about these twitterers:

  • their only solution is to build new buildings;
  • affordability is of no account;

They are wrong on both counts.

It is clear from Stats Can’s numbers and all the analysis people like Andy Yan have conducted that supply is not the issue here. Even Gregor Robertson in a deathbed conversion has agreed that supply is not the primary problem and our General Manager of Planning says we have spent a decade building the wrong things.  With 25,000+ empty housing units in the City, and tens of thousands of more units in the pipeline, any attempt to blame lack of supply is simply ludicrous.

I will make one exception to that statement:  housing for very low- or no-income  people has been sorely lacking for a decade, probably because it makes so little profit for the developers.  The City and Province are slowly beginning, albeit with some problems, to deal with that with their modular housing schemes. We need to do a lot more, but at least a start has been made.

The crisis is primarily for the middling sort, the regular working Janes and Joes of Vancouver; the folks who are hard-working productive employees but only make at or below the median wage in Vancouver (which is a notoriously low paid City).  These build-build-build types don’t seem to give a damn about these people. They are quite happy to build condos and townhouses and even apartment blocks that the majority of people cannot afford.

The only people who benefit from such buildings are the developers themselves, speculators, and those who already have houses to sell to finance the purchase.

We need to look at ways that can provide decent housing for the median folks, and we need to do it fast or they will simply move out of the city and take their vitality and talents with them. We can do this by encouraging owners of single detached houses to provide at least two and hopefully three households on each lot. This encouragement could come by relaxing the extraordinarily onerous, expensive, and time-consuming regulations the City imposes today on both in-house suites and laneway houses. We need to legalize all the “illegal” suites and encourage their refurbishment and expansion.

Such increases could easily double the density in Grandview, for example (as opposed to the 30% increase envisioned in the Community Plan). And this will be many times less expensive than new building as land costs will be irrelevant.

Finally, while this crisis lasts, it is incumbent on the City to ensure that City-owned land is sold/used only for genuinely affordable housing and not sold or handed over to developers for unaffordable condo towers and the like.

Density is a good thing, but only if regular local people can afford to buy what is built.

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GW Community Plan Open House

January 28, 2018

Yesterday I attended the Open House put on by CoV Planning Department concerning rezoning for new building types with the Community Plan. I was there around 1:00pm and the WISE Hall was packed with people. It was so busy in fact that it was difficult to get decent shots of the display boards, so I apologise in advance for their quality (selecting an image will at least get you a bigger picture).

The new zonings concern the eastern half of Grandview, and specifically Broadway, First Avenue, Hastings, and the entirety of Nanaimo from Wall to Broadway and beyond.

 

There are no surprises here as the approved Community Plan was clear about most of these changes. However, the display panels do give a lot more detail on FSR and similar technical matters.

 

The Open House will be repeated on Wednesday evening from 5:00pm to 8:00pm

 


The Rio Theatre For Sale

January 27, 2018

The Rio Theatre, just west of Commercial on Broadway is being offered for sale as a development site.

Select image for a larger view

This comes as no great surprise, given its location in one of the major development areas identified in the Grandview Woodland Community Plan. It would be great to see the theatre, or something like it, incorporated into whatever is built there in the future.  The Rio has served the neighbourhood since 1938 and, with the massive increase in population density planned for Broadway & Commercial, we need to retain entertainment and similar facilities to service those new residents. After all, Man cannot live by condos alone.


Grandview Rezoning Open Houses

January 19, 2018

The City of Vancouver Planning Department is hosting two open houses at the end of this month:

“As part of implementing the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan, the City of Vancouver is proposing zoning changes to allow for new housing choices in the Grandview-Woodland community. The changes would allow for rowhouses, townhouses, 4-storey apartments, and 4-storey mixed-use in specified locations.”

Both of the open houses will take place at WISE Hall, Adanac & Victoria.

  • Saturday 27th January, noon to 3pm
  • Wednesday  31st January, 5pm to 8pm

Display boards will be available for view on line from 29th January at http://vancouver.ca/gw.

Do come to one of these and ask questions and discuss the changes the City wants to impose on our neighbourhood.


Community Plan Update

November 9, 2017

On Monday evening I attended the GWAC meeting at which planner Andrew Pask gave a form of update on where we are with the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan implementation.  It was a well-attended meeting and not at all raucous as some may have expected.

It is worth pointing first that Pask introduced himself as “the former planner for Grandview”.  It was left unclear as to whether he has gone on to bigger and better things, and whether or not GW now no longer has a specific planner to talk to.

It was clear that Pask wanted to concentrate on how Planning is “saving” affordable rentals in the district. This is happening through the Pace of Change program under which only five applications for demolishing existing rentals will be accepted by Planning in the first three years after the Plan’s introduction (summer 2016 to summer 2019).. It was assumed that most of these would come from the RM zoned areas west of the Drive where the low-rise apartment buildings are concentrated.

Applications for this program to date include the assembly at 11th and Victoria (10 storeys, mixed condos/rentals), an assembly on Broadway just west of Commercial (10-storeys, mixed condos/rentals, public hearing spring 2018, and 825 Commercial (6 storeys with a pre-application open house tonight). Another possible contender for the Pace of Change program is a development assembly at 1535 Grant  where developers are seeking 6-storeys (an early open house is scheduled for 15th November at Lord Nelson School, I believe).

Pask had no idea what would happen to this program at the end of the three years. He said Planning would make recommendations to Council who would then make a decision. It was noted this would be after the next municipal election.

Pask also touched on the Safeway site, the Boffo Tower, St Francis school, and the Britannia Renewal:

As for the Safeway site, he reviewed the arguments for and against the plaza on site, including Safeway’s strong reluctance. No application has yet been made, so we await further developments.

On the Boffo Tower, he agreed that Boffo threatened to shut down the project this spring, and made sure we remembered Planning had approved only 9 storeys but they had been over-ruled by Vision’s Council majority who agreed 12. However, he did not mention the now well-known internal tension between Boffo and the Kettle. He did say they were anticipating a formal application — at last! — within the next couple of months. It is worth noting that I didn’t see (or recognize) a single Boffo or Kettle person at the meeting.

With regard to St. Francis, he noted that Planners had agreed with many residents’ concerns over the redevelopment on Semlin, and it seems the Church is now going back to re-study a redevelopment of the current school site on Victoria.

On the question of housing on the proposed redeveloped Britannia site, Pask made it clear that Planning had little to do with this project at this stage, as most of the land was held by School Board and Parks Board. He did make a case for putting housing on the site but noted any decision is still a long way off, and that no specific number of housing units was being targeted. There was also discussion about “air parcels” (i.e. building on top pf other buildings) and Pask agreed that Council had left “air parcels” undefined. There was also a question of whether the Renewal Committee was using up-to-date demographics as they seemed to be ignoring the growing seniors’ population.

Questions from the audience covered much of the same ground but also included additional concerns:

One resident asked why, if the viaducts were coming down and Venables was being closed, why the Boffo Tower was even considered given the tower residents would be adding traffic. Pask said there was no question of Venables being closed, merely “calmed”.

It was noted by several people that GW remains green-space deficient when compared to other districts in the City and that the Plan didn’t seem to help. Pask claimed the Plan included “extensions” and “improvements” to existing facilities but there were no details, He also made a case for “hard surface” public areas (plazas, closed roads, etc), but the audience clearly didn’t buy that.

The issue of developing the industrial lands was discussed briefly. Pask notes that Vancouver needed to protect the small existing industrial base and that the Plan called for gradual densification of those areas with taller buildings rather than change of use.

The move of St Paul’s hospital to Strathcona, and its effects on our neighbourhood, was raised as was the problem of AirBnB‘s effect on rental availability, but Pask didn’t have specific information to bring on those topics. The issue of planning permissions and how long they took and the massive expense was discussed. Pask said they were aware of the problems and hoped to do better in the future.

All in all it is good to have a planner come and talk about these issues but did we really learn much? I’m not sure we did and, in the end, it just feels like another faux attempt at “consultation and public awareness”.

 

 


Important Community Plan Meeting Tonight!

November 6, 2017


Important GWAC / Community Plan Meeting

November 3, 2017

Comoe to the meeting and find out where we are at after four years of effort.