Grandview Rezoning Public Hearing

June 13, 2018

The public hearing for the “Increasing Housing Choice” rezoning in Grandview has been set for Tuesday 26 June at 6:00pm at City Hall.

To repeat what I have written before, I approve the addition of a lot more multi-family buildings in Grandview.  However, unless we guarantee through regulation that they can be afforded by the median income family in Vancouver, then let us not kid ourselves that this is helping the affordability crisis.  As I showed in my short video of some months back, these kinds of market developments are not only unaffordable to the majority, they often destroy currently affordable accommodation.

If you are in the mood, sign up for a speaking spot and enjoy your five minutes (no more) of face-time with City Council.

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Important Open House Tonight

June 11, 2018

Tonight there is a formal Notice of Rezoning Open House for the major project proposed for the corner of Clark Drive & First Avenue. It takes place at VCC from 5pm to 7:30pm this evening.

 

This has become a contentious issue in the neighbourhood.  I fully support the project but others have very different views.  A lot of the arguments on both sides have become ideological rather than fact-based, and that, unfortunately, leads to division.

My hope is that this development receives a fast approval and a fast commencement to the project, and that those in the neighbourhood who are opposed will learn to accept that this building is a positive benefit to the community as a whole.


Rezoning Grandview: The Next Step

June 3, 2018

After a couple of Open Houses, and a local discussion at GWAC, the plan to rezone wide stretches of Grandview for townhouses and similar structures along arterials in the neighbourhood such as Nanaimo and E. First is going to City Council on Tuesday 5th June.

The presumption is that Council will refer the report to a public hearing at some point in the near future, which will allow us all to have our five minutes of time to speak our minds.

Personally, I approve the addition of a lot more multi-family buildings in Grandview.  However, unless we guarantee through regulation that they can be afforded by the median income family in Vancouver, then let us not kid ourselves that this is helping the affordability crisis.  As I showed in my short video of some months back, these kinds of market developments are not only unaffordable to the majority, they often destroy currently affordable accommodation.


Clark & East First Avenue Proposal

May 30, 2018

Back in February, I reported on a major new development project happening on the City-owned and barely used block on the north-east corner of Clark Drive & First Avenue.  When it was first announced I stated my support for the concept. Since then, we have seen some preliminary signs and renderings.

It is by any measure a large scale project.  However, for once I think the Planning Department has chosen an excellent spot for such a large building, at or near the lowest point in Grandview, allowing the building to flow sensibly uphill.  With the additional information to hand, I continue to be a supporter and hope that it gets built.  (My only concerns are noise and pollution mitigation at a very busy intersection).

Needless to say, that is not the opinion of a lot of people in Grandview that I know and trust. But this time, I believe they are wrong and making the wrong complaints about the wrong building. I am dismayed to learn, just last night, that even the GWAC Board has taken a position opposing the scale — though interestingly not the concept nor the location — of the affordable housing/detox centre at First & Clark.

GWAC’s regular monthly meeting on Monday June 4th at 7:00pm in the LTC under Britannia Library will primarily concentrate on this development, with a panel discussion comprised of Vancouver Coastal Health, BC Housing, City of Vancouver, and the project architects.  That will be worth hearing.

The City will be holding an Open House about the same proposal on Monday June 11, from 5:00pm to 7:00pm in Room 1236, Building B at VCC 1155 E. Broadway (access of E. 7th Avenue).


Sr. Francis of Assisi School

May 14, 2018

During the first half of last year, we reported on efforts by St. Francis of Assisi church to rebuild their school. They had wanted to build it on Semlin, but community pressure obliged them to rethink and to consider redeveloping the school site they already operate on Victoria Drive. They have now released the first draft ideas of what such a school might look like.

 

These are presumably just drafts at this stage, but they give us a good idea of what might be proposed.

Select any image for a larger view.


Whose Community Is It?

May 14, 2018

As an architectural and social artifact I have no real issue with high-rise towers.

When I moved to Vancouver in 1979, I lived first at what was then the Plaza Hotel at the northern end of Lions Gate Bridge. I worked as a freelancer and so needed a corporation to invoice my services. My first company was called Twenty-Third Floor Productions, which accurately reflected the position of my apartment. I loved it up there. When North Vancouver became inconvenient for me commuting without a car, I moved to the West End and happily lived amid (though not in) the towering glass and concrete erections.  No, I have no issue with high-rise towers.

In fact, I have often said that if the residents genuinely approved 15-storey towers on every block on Commercial Drive, I would have no problem with that. I would definitely move because that’s not the Drive I want; but the point is that I will always support the right of the neighbourhood to make that decision.

From a planning point of view, I am deeply concerned in particular by the Boffo Tower proposal on Commercial Drive because of what the success of the developer against the expressed wish of thousands of local residents would mean for any concept of genuine neighbourhood control in the future.

It matters not whether we are talking about towers or townhouses or row houses or supported housing or a new transportation option or a change in the use of roads; the issue always comes down to where the power of approval lies.  Right now, the disproportionately asymmetrical power equation of developers + money + a developer-friendly City Council and Planning Department versus ad hoc volunteer groups trying to protect the right of the communities to choose means that the ability of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods to control their own affairs, in matters of zoning and streetscapes, business and housing, is slipping away at a fast and increasing rate.

It is vital that we re-establish the rights of the electorate by pushing powers down to the lowest, most local level.  In terms of municipal policy this means making “city-wide” policies subject to local opt-in or opt-out.  Today, this would mean that the Interim Zoning policies enacted after the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing, land use policies under Transportation 2040, and the city-wide plan currently being devised by the Vancouver City Planning Commission would all be controlled and enacted — or not — by each neighbourhood in Vancouver.

This also means that regional groupings, such as the unelected Metro Vancouver, need to become operational liaisons only with no executive powers concerning local development, and certainly no authority to over-ride neighbourhood decisions through Regional Context Statements and similar.  If necessary, the City of Vancouver should be prepared to withdraw from Metro in order to ensure this level of local control.

And we must oblige the Province to amend the Vancouver Charter so that we, the residents of Vancouver, have full control over the style of council we have, the financial terms under which elections are fought, whether or not we become members of larger groups such as Metro and Translink, and all the powers needed to ensure that we can at least address the pressing crises of unaffordable housing, homelessness, and the low salaries paid to Vancouver employees compared to other large cities in Canada.

In a Twitter exchange with me some while ago, major Vision supporter and developers’ mouthpiece Bob Ransford called “parochial decisions” and “endless debate” a problem.  No, it’s not a problem.  After so many decades of top-down control and crony management, parochial decision-making after legitimate local debate is exactly what we DO want, what this City needs.


Multi-Storey Rezoning: GWAC Debate 7th May

May 4, 2018

The regular  monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council takes place next Monday evening, 7th May, at 7:00pm in the Learning Resources Centre under the Britannia Library.

The main item on the agenda will be a panel discussion between Joseph Jones, Betty Murphy, and Jim Lehto on further rezoning plans for Grandview.

In addition to that panel, the GWAC Newsletter this month is full of interesting news about developments in Grandview. Contact GWAC at info@gwac.ca and sign up to get your copy.