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.

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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.


815-825 Commercial Open House

April 20, 2018

Yesterday afternoon I attended the Open House presentation for a proposed 6-storey rental building at Commercial & Adanac.

 

I’ve seen a lot worse designs.  There are to be 3 studios, 17 one-bed, 14 2-bed, and 4 3-bedroom suites which seems a reasonable balance.  They are planning 3 commercial units along Commercial, with 23 parking stalls plus 55 bike stands.  They also seem to have taken some care with the green envelope:

 

As I have mentioned in other forums, I have come to almost accept that 6-storeys is the new 4-storeys, and, given what will be its location behind the 12-storey monstrosity of the proposed Boffo Tower, I will not campaign against its height.

However, the very first thing I heard one of the developers’ reps say to someone else as I walked into the presentation room was “No, these aren’t designed to be “affordable” units. The one beds will probably start at around $2,200 [a month].”  And therein lies the crux of my opposition to this specific proposal.

In general, I am opposed to building any more unaffordable housing units until we have provided enough housing that can be afforded by the majority of the working families in Vancouver (as determined by the media family income in this City). More particularly, I am morally and politically offended that this unaffordable development will be going forward under the Rental100 policy that gives massive incentives to profit-driven developers.

Build it as market housing if you must (at least until we get a Council that sets better priorities) but don’t use taxpayers money to fill out the profiteers’ bottom line.

 


Yet More on Demolishing Affordability

March 29, 2018

The short interview I gave on CBC Radio this morning is now up and available online:

http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/the-early-edition/episode/15532947.

My segment starts at 1:41:30.  I hope the GWPlan folks listen!

 

 


More on Demolishing Affordability

March 27, 2018

 

 

On Thursday morning at 6:50am I will be speaking with Stephen Quinn on CBC Radio’s Early Edition about my research on Demolishing Affordability in Grandview.

Update:  The time has been pushed to 7:10am (I get to sleep in!)


Demolishing Affordability

March 24, 2018