Open House at Britannia

February 27, 2017

This coming Saturday, March 4th, between noon and 4:00pm, the folks who are working on the Britannia Renewal project are holding an Open House and Ideas Fest.  They want you to see the groundwork they have laid for the project and to actively solicit your ideas and feedback.

The updating of the Britannia site is almost certainly the most important project our neighbourhood will undertake this generation. The site contains two schools, gyms, a swimming pool, a library, facilities for seniors and childcare, playing fields, offices, and community spaces; it is the very heart of Grandview and changes there will affect us all in one way or another.

I hope many of you attend and make sure your voice, your opinion, is heard. This really is important.

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.

The Future of St. Francis of Assisi School

October 4, 2016

At last night’s well-attended monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) the sole item on the agenda was a presentation by a group of neighbours opposed to some parts of a plan to expand the private St Francis of Assisi School.

The St. Francis of Assisi church (SFA) has been an important component of Grandview’s community since Franciscan monks took over J.J. Miller’s grand mansion and gardens at Napier and Semlin in the 1920s.  Michael Kluckner has written a good piece on their history, and the GHG site has some interesting images of the house here and here.

For many years, SFA has run a private school at the northeast corner of Victoria and Venables. It educates 220 students in ramshackle premises without a real playground or gym. It was reported that SFA spends up to $100,000 a year bussing the kids between the school and the church grounds where they can exercise.


SFA now have a plan (not the first time) to expand their school and provide better facilities for their students. Their website suggests two options, of which the first is their preference: (1) sell off their property where the school currently is, and use the money to build a new school on the Wilga Gardens part of the church property on Napier; I believe this also involves demolishing their St John of Shanghai property across the street from SFA and turning that into a playground (possibly open to the public after school hours).  The second and less preferred option is to sell the St John property and use the money (plus additional fundraising) to rebuild the school on Victoria.

Beyond the options laid out on their website, little is known about the project. It is understood they have engaged designers, and have sent a Letter of Inquiry to CoV Planning. Father Gino has also been heard to suggest that the new school, if built at Wilga, will be “no higher” than the church — so, about 40-45′ in height.

I misunderstood the purpose of the meeting last night, believing we would have a presentation by SFA which would likely turn into a Q & A session with both opponents and proponents. I was mistaken: this was all about the opposition to building on the Gardens, and I have to say that I am disappointed that SFA were not invited to share the stage and give their point of view.

The neighbours were well prepared, have educated themselves on various planning topics, and gave a good account of themselves and their desire to see the school rebuilt on Victoria. I was a lot less impressed by their desire to maintain the luxury of having the Gardens near them (which reeks of the dreaded N word) than I was by their understanding of the traffic issues that re-siting the school in a residential and traffic-calmed area would entail.

During the Q&A session that followed their presentation it was suggested the neighbours simply ask Father Gino for a copy of the Letter of Inquiry (which will give a great deal more data on what they want). It is a private document and he may refuse, but the assumption is they will want community approval and may be willing to open up at this early stage.  It was also suggested they make their opposition known to the higher echelons of the archbishopric, and to start a major social media campaign.

All in all it was a useful meeting. However, I have to repeat that I am disappointed SFA — who are an important and vibrant part of our community — was not given the opportunity to state their position. The neighbours sought GWAC’s support for their opposition; however it was clearly too early for that without a lot more information.

Development of St. Francis of Assisi

September 29, 2016

The next monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council takes place on Monday 4th October at 7:00pm in the Learning Resource Centre beneath Britannia Library. The topic this month is the plan for development of properties owned by St Francis of Assisi Church east of Victoria Drive.


There will be a number of speakers, and the proposal can be studied at the St Francis School website.

This discussion is another example of how the current GWAC Board is bringing forward issues of direct interest and concern to our neighbourhood.  This is such an invigorating change from some of the obstructionist do-nothing Boards of the recent past.

Britannia Secondary Is Saved!

September 16, 2016

At the Vancouver School Board meeting last night, all the trustees voted to remove Britannia Secondary from the list of potential school closures. This will cheer a whole community when they find out about it this morning, I am sure!

Here is what the Vancouver Sun had to say about the meeting:

After a four-hour meeting spent discussing all 12 schools on the possible closure list in detail, a majority of trustees said they wanted to remove Britannia — an east side school that is surrounded by a community centre — from consideration.

Several trustees said they were surprised to see the school on the list, given the number of vulnerable students and aboriginal students that attend the school. The indication was a recommendation by the majority of trustees, but the full board will still need to vote on the list on Sept. 26. However, since all trustees were present, the committee recommendation will likely stick.

Most of Britannia is not at high risk in an earthquake, however one section of the school is at high risk.

The Vancouver School Board is considering closing up to 12 schools, but the list won’t be official until approved by the board on Sept. 26. Final decision will be made in December.

What a wonderfully pleasant surprise with which to start the day!

Britannia: The Case Against

September 13, 2016

The Vancouver School Board has now published the detailed staff and technical reports on the Vancouver schools that are under threat of closure.  The full set of reports can be found here.

Specifically, the 32-page Report on Britannia is here.

The staff recommendation is that Britannia Secondary be moved forward toward closure. Britannia’s staff, students, and programs will be moved to Templeton. The Britannia building will be used in future as temporary space for other schools undergoing seismic upgrading.

However, the bureaucrats are looking only at technical and financial issues. As last week’s meeting made abundantly clear, Britannia Secondary is far more than just a school to Grandview — and we are determined to keep it.

Saving Britannia — Next Step

September 12, 2016

For those of you who have been following the campaign to make sure that Britannia Secondary School is not closed during this latest phase of BC Liberal nihilism (see here and here), the next step (if you have already written letters of protest) is the Vancouver School Board meeting this week.

At 5:00pm on Thursday, the VSB will meet in the large gym at Tupper Secondary, 419 E. 24th.

The only item on the agenda is a report on “Schools Considered for Potential Closure” and they are obviously expecting quite a crowd. However, I wonder why they start the meeting when most working parents will not be available?

The final decision will be announced on 26th September.