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”.

 

 

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Important Community Plan Meeting Tonight!

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Important GWAC / Community Plan Meeting

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


GWAC and Grandview Rezoning

September 8, 2017

The Grandview Woodland Area Council has written a plea to City Council not to enact the proposed RT-5 zoning in our neighbourhood.

One of the letter’s strongest points concerns affordable housing in Grandview:

“Grandview is a heritage area that is generally intact with the original buildings still existing.  Most of these character houses have been converted to multiple rental units, some legal and some not. These units are important sources of affordable rentals, especially when we are in a housing crisis. Retention of existing rentals is dependent on the fate of our character houses.

Growing through incremental increases of units of conversions and infill as incentives for character house retention is the sustainable way to create more affordable housing options while not losing what we have and without inflating land values. The current proposal allows too many options for new development that undermines this, including lot assembly. The new RT5 zone should be given the same neighbourhood character consideration for contextual design and guidelines as the RT6 in west Mt. Pleasant.”

I urge all residents — and everyone else interested in how the Vision Vancouver Council has destroyed so many neighbourhoods in this City — to read the letter and its attachment in full to gain a proper understanding of the issues we face here.

Unfortunately, given the dominance of the developer-financed majority on Council, I suspect this all too late. As one of the realtors I quoted in my piece from last week stated, this “zoning change is going to council September 21st 2017 to be rubber stamped.

 


The Community Plan & Land Prices

September 4, 2017

It has been just about a year since the Grandview Woodland Community Plan was bludgeoned through City Council by the developer-financed Vision Vancouver majority. The history of that Plan was a long and sorry one, involving as it did a massively engineered lack of consultation and consent from the residents, that has been told in some detail on this blog and elsewhere. But that is history and now we are obliged to deal with the aftermath and protect as much of our grand neighbourhood as we can.

The Community Plan states that “[c]hange must be integrated, gradual, and sustainable and be responsive to the needs of local and city residents.” [page 6]. It goes on to say that “[t]his community strives to be a place where people of all socio-economic levels can live.”  [page 7]. After a full year post-Plan we can look at the real estate listings for Grandview for this week, noting prices and — importantly — the reasons given by the real estate agents for those prices, and see how they match up to the Community Values expressed in the Plan.

  • 1912 E. 8th, $3,599,000: Less than two  years ago, this property sold for what was already considered a premium price of $1,940,000.  Now the price has almost doubled because, as the realtor delights in telling us: it “falls under new Transition Zoning in Grandview Plan. New Zoning will allow up to 1.2 FSR 3.5 storey Rowhouses.”
  • 2325, 2337, 2349, 2371 and 2387 E. Pender: almost an entire block, 5 properties at $2,400,000 each: Priced for “[l]and assembly … The Grandview-Woodland OCP has this land being rezoned for multifamily development… this land development is a can’t miss! “
  • 2037, 2043, 2055, 2061. and  2077 E. Broadway, 5 properties at $3,000,000 each: Part of “land assembly.”

There is more land assembly taking place along East 1st, East 2nd, and East 8th Avenues:

  • 2256 E. 1st, $2,280,000:  “Townhouse development opportunity with Grandview – Woodland Community Plan. There is 6 Lot assembly potential.
  • 2226 E. 1st, $2,150,000:  “Townhouse development opportunity in the heart of Grandview Woodland. Large lots in a great location. New community plan calls for 1.3 FSR courtyard rowhouses.”
  • 1921 E. 2nd, $3,689,000, 1937 and 1948 E. 2nd: $3,200,000 each: “3 adjoining lots with a combined size of 142×122 (all measurements approximate) … This property is located within the Grandview Woodland Community Plan. This is an excellent Development Site.“
  • 1968 E. 8th, $2,398,000: “Land assembly potential, this property falls into the New Zoning approved by The City Hall for Row Townhouses with 3.5 storeys and 1.2 FSR.”

Other sites are also being targeted:

  • 2141 E. Broadway, $2,450,000: “is great holding property as it is in the Grandview-Woodland community re-development plan for potential multi-family zoning … Potential lots assembly.”
  • 2285 Charles, $1,588,000:  “This 33 x 122 foot lot is going to have it’s zoning changed from RS-7 to the new RT 5 duplex zoning allowing 75% SFR. This zoning change is going to council September 21st 2017 to be rubber stamped.
  • 1517 Frances, $2,188,000:Attention Developers and investors! RM4 zoning investment opportunity! … perfect for holding this property until future high-density development opportunities… RM4 zoning permits Duplex – Fourplex developments on its own and likely higher density rezoning possible with assembly. Adjacent to existing apartment building also ripe for teardown.”

 

There are bound to be others: I found these in a quick 20-minute search last night. It is important to note that none of these are dilapidated ancient wrecks. Most are perfectly decent habitable houses built between the 1950s and 1970s.  And in each and every case, the cause of the price inflation is clearly stated — by the realtor, not some wild-eyed activist — as the Community Plan.

With land prices this high, there is simply no way truly affordable housing can be the result. So far, at least, the Community Values proudly expressed with the Community Plan are being honoured only by their absence. Many of us assumed that would be the case; we are now beginning to see the evidence.

 

 


Broadway & Commercial, Again

August 4, 2017

For the last two months I have written quite a bit about plans to develop the Safeway site at Broadway & Commercial.  There are any number of issues with the proposed series of high rise towers and they will be dealt with in due course.  However, what has particularly engaged the local residents is the placement of the large public plaza that the City-approved Grandview Community Plan includes at the site.

The site owners and developers want to remove the public plaza from their land south of Broadway and position it north of Broadway across the Grandview Cut.  You can follow the discussion here, here, and here. Residents’ statements and survey results from the meetings showed a wide majority of opinion against changing the location of the plaza.  It was a surprise, therefore, for a local activist recently to see developer’s drawings still showing the plaza over the Cut, and she wrote to the City wondering whether there is “any point at all to these ‘public consultations’ if the plans are already in the works and going to go ahead no matter what the feedback is from residents?”

Kent Munro of City Planning replied as follows, noting that the developers have not yet made a formal proposal:

“Based on what we heard, and consistent with some of your perspective, city staff have a number of concerns with what this landowner is contemplating for this important site.  Further, City staff have made these concerns known to the landowners and we have informed them that we will not be accepting any application for redevelopment of the site until a proposal that is more consistent with what the Community Plan policies outlined is put forward. If and when an application for development or rezoning is formally received by the city, the typical review process which includes comprehensive notification and consultation with the neighbours would be initiated. [emphasis added]”

That sounds good but, as the activist points out, Munro’s use of the term “more consistent with” is not necessarily the same as “consistent with” the approved Plan. We still need to keep a watchful eye as this progresses.

 


More on the Plaza at Commercial & Broadway

July 2, 2017

At the beginning of last month, City of Vancouver Planning held a “community event” to discuss an idea to move the public plaza promised in the GW Community Plan from a re-developed Safeway site to public land over the Grandview Cut.  It was, as I have discussed, a disappointing affair.

Planners have now released their report on the meeting, along with an analysis of survey results. In the email summary of the report sent to those on the GWPlan list, they note that 51% of all survey respondents voted against moving the plaza. A commentary in the email suggests that

“Generally, responses received from people who indicated they lived within the Grandview-Woodland area were opposed to the alternative plaza location. Responses received from people living outside of the neighbourhood area tended to support of the alternative plaza location.”

But the actual level of residents’ opposition is not detailed in the email.  It is not until page 21 of the detailed report that one discovers residents voted 61% against the move, while only 23% were in favour (the balance were “neutral”).  Neither age nor gender seem to have been statistically relevant in the numbers, although 84% of the 37 respondents who did not give their age were opposed.

It is good to have these numbers available — and Planning should be commended for releasing them. However, given the near certainty of moving the plaza as expressed in the developers’ meeting, combined with Vision Vancouver’s historic reluctance to take residents’ concerns into account where big development is concerned, one has to wonder whether the local opposition will once again count for anything.