Coming Soon — the Britannia Library!

July 3, 2020

It was announced today that Britannia will be one of the five branches that Vancouver Public Library system will re-open on July 14th. Hooray!

The other four are the Central Library, Kits, Renfrew, and South Hill; and several other branches will be opened for take-out service only.

It seems to have been a long time since March 16.


Eric Phillips: Neighbourhood Treasure

May 6, 2020

In Japan, they designate a select number of senior craftspeople and artisans as Living National Treasures (人間国宝 Ningen Kokuhō.)  Those so honoured are treated with great deference and this indicates the respect that they have earned in their lifetimes in their particular fields.

In that light, I want to suggest that Eric Phillips be honoured as one of Grandview’s Living Treasures.

I know Eric as an enthusiastic member and organizer of the Grandview Heritage Group, the Grandview Gardening Club, and the Britannia Neighbours. He is also a keen member of an historic car club. In each of these endeavours, he is the first to put up his hand when volunteers are needed, and he puts in the hours needed to satisfy every request. Eric is a man of seemingly Herculean strength, always willing to take on the heavy lifting for an event and doing it with a smile. Moreover, he is keen and eager to share the knowledge that he has.

Outside these organized groups, Eric is known by his friends and neighbours as a man who will help with even the most major repairs and restorations to houses and streetscapes.  And beyond all this he still finds the time and energy to assist his disabled brother.

A generous and kind man, in the years that I have known him I have never heard Eric say a harsh word to or about anyone.  He is truly a man one can look up to as an example of how a good community-based life can be lived.

I was triggered to write this by the erection of a plaque celebrating Eric’s lovely house.

 

Select image for a better view.


Water Restrictions Begin Today

May 1, 2020

Being in lockdown against the virus is no reason to forget our other obligations.  Thanks to City Hall Watch for reminding us that summertime water restrictions are now in place:

Water usage restrictions in Vancouver have come into effect on May 1st. These restrictions will last until October 15th.

Stage 1 of the restrictions limits lawn watering to Wednesday and Saturday (4am – 9am) for even-numbered addresses, while addresses with odd numbers can be watered on Thursday and Sunday, again from 4am to 9am. Watering lawns outside of these hours is not permitted and subject to a $250 fine as stated in the ticket offences bylaw for Phase 1.

The City may move to more restrictive water usage stages (Stage 2, Stage 3 and Stage 4) where fines increase to $500, $750 and $1000 respectively. A chart showing water reservoir levels over the last 4 years is available on MetroVancouver.org.


Another One Bites The Dust

April 20, 2020

The number of virus victims among the Drive’s businesses has grown by at least one:

 

Mark’s Pet Shop at 1875 Commercial has been a part of the Drive community since 1987. It will be missed.

It joins Cabrito, Federico’s Supper Club, and Stormcrow Tavern as businesses announcing their closure in the last few weeks, and the first that is not a restaurant-type. These losses are already too many but we are likely to see many more as the weeks pass.

Finally, I notice that the Miscellany thrift store at 1029 Commercial is completely boarded up and with no sign saying it is temporary. Fingers crossed it is just for security.


Another Shoe Drops ….

April 7, 2020

Federico’s Supper Club, a 20-year veteran at 1728 Commercial has announced its closure.

“The restaurant’s owner, Federico Fuoco, said that in addition to a rent increase, thousands in monthly taxes being paid, and wage increase requests, the COVID-19 pandemic was ‘the nail in the coffin’ for the small business … ‘Now is the time for [small businesses] to get real help. Not deferrals or loans, but real financial help. This is the only way landlords will be able to work with tenants in finding real solutions instead of just letting tenants walk away for good,’ read the statement.”

Fuoco has been a force on the Drive –especially concerning Italian Day — for many years. He ran for City Council some while ago, and is still on the Board of the Vancouver NPA. He has been a leader in the move to “protect” the Drive from bicycle lanes.  His club has staged numerous tribute bands over the years. It will be missed.

Last week Cabrito Cafe announced its closure, and Triple A Grocers was boarded up.

 


The Drive’s First Closures

April 3, 2020

In the last Changes on the Drive report, I noted that it is too early to tell the long term damage the covid-19 crisis will inflict on local businesses.  However, we have now heard of the first closure in this period.

The five-year old Cabrito Restaurant at 2270 Commercial will officially close this weekend.  The tone of the press announcement suggests that the closure was going to happen with or without the virus. The virus, however, has disrupted any plans for a big send-off party.

 

When I was doing the Changes walk last Tuesday, I noticed that Triple A Grocery at 1626 Commercial had closed. When I passed by yesterday I saw that they have actually boarded up the place.  I hope that is just a temporary situation.

 


R.I.P. Sam Buonassisi

March 6, 2020

I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Sam Buonassisi, one of Commercial Drive’s leading businessmen for many decades.  His funeral is today.

Sam purchased the old Magnet Hardware store from Sid Bowman in July 1964. In 1972 he moved the business to the former Royal Bank building at 1575 Commercial where it continues to this day.  Over the years, Sam purchased a number of important buildings on the Drive and became a mainstay in the neighbourhood.

When I was writing my history of the Drive, Sam was always helpful and friendly with background information. I shall miss seeing him patrolling his parking on Graveley.

My condolences to his family.


Community Self Help

December 17, 2019

Several years ago, Coast Mountain removed the bus shelter that used to be on the east side of Commercial by E. Georgia (opposite the York Theatre). This was a grave inconvenience to a tired old fart like me and also because the bus stop is close to a major seniors’ facilities. I wrote both to the bus company and CoV Engineering at the time, without any response.

I happened by there this morning to discover that some civic minded person has come up with a partial homemade solution:

Bravo!


Communities Matter

September 6, 2019

The Strathcona Residents Association (SRA) has issued the following statement regarding the new proposed False Creek Arterial Road, an issue that directly affects Grandview:

“As soon as Oct. 2, City Council will vote on where to put the False Creek Flats Arterial. Even though the Community Panel overwhelming chose the National-Charles (NatCha) option, Prior is back on the table and is likely to be the option recommended to Council by city staff.  Here’s what you need to know:

The Flats Arterial is part of a federally funded National Trade Corridor project. Its primary purpose is to facilitate the movement of shipping containers in and out of the expanding Centerm Port Terminal. The project also includes twinning the current single track, building an overpass/underpass, and then closing off all the remaining at-grade crossings (at Parker, Union, Raymur) to car, bike and pedestrian traffic. This will give CN Rail unrestricted access to the tracks that run through Strathcona and Grandview-Woodland.

The Panel chose NatCha because it routes business, hospital and commuter traffic through an industrial area, it ends at Clark, it works for Produce Row, it doesn’t impact Strathcona Park or the community gardens, it improves access to greenspace and calms Prior. It’s worth noting that City Council has also voted, twice, to calm Prior (and spent over $200K on the Community Panel so the community could make this decision.)

If, despite all this, Prior is chosen anyway, this Federal project will be a one-two punch for Strathcona. ONE: We get all the diesel pollution, noise and safety risk from trains running 24/7 directly beside heritage homes, social housing and the new seniors tower. TWO: Prior Street, which isn’t safe now, will have to absorb all the extra traffic from the closed streets, including 4000 trucks a week going to and from Produce Row.

The big objection to NatCha is that it’s too expensive. The reality is that the Feds are paying for most, if not all, of this project. Which means that this Council vote will be the City’s only chance to get federal funding to ensure that this federal project will be designed and built in a way that mitigates its impacts on our health, safety and quality of life. Communities are the heart and soul of a city and shouldn’t be ignored to benefit big business.

If this issue matters to you, now is the time to act. Click to learn how to Send an e-mail to decision makers. Post on social media or Sign up to speak to Council.  Communities Matter was initiated by the Strathcona Residents Association, but all groups and stakeholders are welcome to join. You can contact us via  e-mail us or join our Facebook Group to get updates.”

While I fully support the SRA (and locals here) on the need to protect and calm Prior/Venables, I am equally opposed to bringing all that traffic and pollution to Clark & Charles.  There is no doubt that much of that traffic will then try to cut through Grandview’s side streets (“rat running” as some of my colleagues call it). The only way to guarantee that not happening will be to block those streets with some form of physical barrier at each intersection along Clark. That, in turn, will block our residents from travelling west as they desire. We are being given the choice of significant traffic on our side streets or limited mobility for ourselves.

I have always argued that any arterial through the Flats should direct eastbound traffic to Terminal and thus onto First, which is already a major arterial by any definition. Others may disagree.  Either way, have your say through the methods mentioned in the SRA release.


The Whiskey War Goes On and On

January 26, 2019

One year ago, I reported on the BC Government’s seizure of $40,000 worth of whiskey from Fets Whiskey Kitchen on Commercial Drive (here, here, and here).  You may recall that, although Fets purchased their whiskey from legal outlets and paid the full price and the full tax on the purchases, they were technically not allowed to purchase from those outlets.  Similar seizures were made in Victoria.

Last June, the BC Government’s own panel set up to look into the issue, recommended changes to the law to allow the kind of purchases that Fets had made.  This month, the Federal Competition Bureau entered the fray in support of Fets, declaring the BC regulations “anti-competitive”.  It is now 12 months since the raid, and more than six months since the panel’s report, but Fets still doesn’t have their whiskey back, and they are still on the hook for legal expenses and potential fines.  According to an article on Whiskey Cast:

“While the other three bars settled their enforcement cases with the province and paid small fines, the Fergies [Fets owners] are still fighting the potential loss of around $40,000 (CAD) worth of whisky and a proposed fine of $3,000. Their hearing has been pushed back to this May.”

I am clearly on the side of Fets in this fight, but regardless of right or wrong, it is crazy that this can drag on so long. As mentioned above, the government’s own panel came up with recommendations six months ago but they are “still under review.”  I certainly don’t believe that government and business should operate in an identical fashion, but, seriously, no business would survive if they took so long to make a decision, especially in this day and age.

Our otherwise worthy AG needs to get off the pot and make this right for a business that has helped the Drive flourish for more than thirty years.

[Hat tip to Nati Harron for the link to Whiskey Cast]

 

 


Our Community Library Thrives

December 1, 2018

Image: Tyee

Almost  four years ago we were delighted to be at the opening of the Salsbury Garden Book House conceived and constructed by our friends Penny Street and Steven Holmes, two of the most active and intelligent neighbourhood activists. Since then, the community library and resting space has thrived, lovingly maintained.

Now it is the subject of an excellent feature article this week in the Tyee.  Well worth the read.

 

 


Broadway Closure This Weekend

June 13, 2018

With First Avenue restricted why not close Broadway as well?

Work on the rebuilding the Commercial SkyTrain station will involve significant traffic closures this weekend and into next week according to a press release published in the Hive.

TransLink says East Broadway between Commercial Drive and Victoria Drive will be fully closed from 9 pm on Friday, June 15 to 8 am on June, 17 to allow crews to remove a temporary work platform used to construct the new pedestrian overpass across Broadway to provide an additional connection between the Expo Line platforms and the Millennium Line platforms.

There will also be a full eastbound closure of Broadway along the same stretch from 11 pm on Sunday, June 17 to 5 am on Monday, June 18 and a full westbound closure from 11 pm on Monday, June 18 to 5 am on Tuesday, June 19 …

Transit passengers are also affected as beginning this weekend on an interim basis, the No. 9 trolley and 99 B-Line bus stops will move to the west side of Commercial Drive to allow crews to rebuild the sidewalks and install a new, permanent 99 B-Line canopy and queuing system.

Due to this construction, the main station entrance this weekend next to Shoppers Drug Mart will be closed, requiring passengers to enter or exit the station from Commercial Drive or the Broadway entrance on the south side of the street.


More on St. Francis School

May 15, 2018

In order to help pay for the new school, St. Francis of Assisi parish is planning to sell properties they already own; specifically the three lots addressed as 1967 Napier Street, known as the St. Clare’s Convent.

 

The asking price is $7,325,000.

There is some hope that the heritage building might be saved through an HRA in-fill development (such as happened with the Jeffs Residence, and Brookhouse), but we’ll have to wait and see how that pans out.


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.


Mo’ Bikes On The East Side

April 23, 2018

As previewed at the last GWAC meeting, we now have more details on the expansion of the MOBI bike sharing system to more of the East side.  The Vancouver Courier reports that:

“Fifteen new bike share stations have been installed in the Mount Pleasant and Commercial Drive area. It’s part of an overall expansion of the bike rental system into East Vancouver that will see another 35 stations in place by summer, for a total of about 50 new stations and 500 bikes being made available in that part of the city.”

In Grandview, the new stations are at:

  • Woodland and 10th
  • Commercial and 10th
  • Commercial and 8th
  • Grandview Hwy (near Commercial)
  • Commercial and 4th
  • Commercial and 2nd
  • Commercial and Grant
  • Commercial and Charles
  • Commercial and Napier

The Courier adds that two more stations will be installed in East Vancouver next week at these sites:

  • Commercial and Adanac (bike route)
  • Adanac and McLean (bike route)

The Mobi by Shaw Go service area now includes the Downtown Peninsula, roughly bounded by Victoria Drive, Arbutus Street, 16 Avenue, to the Burrard Inlet and into Stanley Park.  With the present expansion, they are clearly making sure they catch the influx of commuters at the ever-growing Broadway & Commercial transit nexus.

More importantly, I think it is a signal that this kind of integrated mobility system isn’t going away anytime soon, and will only get better as innovation and feedback drive the process forward.


Closing First Avenue

April 5, 2018

Fortis BC have announced that First Avenue will be closed entirely between Clark Drive and Nanaimo Street for most of the summer for the laying of new natural gas pipes.  The closure will start in mid-June and is scheduled to end on 31 August.

Their notice says we “understand local residents and commuters will experience traffic delays.”  You can say that again!


Free Art Studio: Opioid Crisis

March 19, 2018


Major Development at Clark & E. 1st

February 22, 2018

The block of E. 1st Avenue from Clark to McLean Drive on the north side has been owned by the City for quite some time now, and many of us have wondered what might be its ultimate fate. Now we know. According to a release dated 16th February:

“The Province is working with the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health to build approximately 100 affordable rental homes, as well as a new withdrawal management centre for people seeking treatment for addictions …

A new evidence-based withdrawal management centre within the planned complex will replace Vancouver Coastal Health’s current withdrawal management services facility on East 2nd Ave. It will include a range of enhanced services such as inpatient and outpatient withdrawal management, and sobering and at-home withdrawal management, which are trauma-informed and culturally appropriate …

The proposed mixed-use redevelopment, located at 1636 Clark Dr. and 1321–1395 East 1st Ave., is a collaborative response to the housing crisis and the health-care needs of the community. It will serve low-to moderate-income people, and include a social enterprise space for local residents, focusing on Indigenous healing and wellness through employment and alignment with culturally informed treatment…

The Province, Vancouver Coastal Health and the City of Vancouver will work with existing tenants on site and the surrounding community to share project details. The proposed project is subject to a rezoning approval by Vancouver city council and a development permit approval process.”

I haven’t seen any design plans yet, but this sounds like a very good use for that space.  More information on the project will be posted at BC Housing website.


Important: Overnight Warming Centre Open

February 16, 2018


Grant Street Development: The Neighbours Speak

February 6, 2018

I attended the February meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council last night. There was a full house and a lot of intelligent community discussion.

The scheduled speaker was Malcolm Bromley, general manager of Vancouver Parks. However, for the second month in a row he cancelled his appearance at the last minute.  It is as if Grandview and the east side doesn’t count for anything in his mind. I doubt he will be invited again.

In Bromley’s place, three neighbours of a proposed development on Grant Street, two of whom are professional architects, gave a presentation in opposition to the project as currently designed.

The developer has purchased four lots — 1535, 1545, 1549, and 1557 Grant — and proposes to demolish the 1½ -3 storey heritage houses on those lots and to build a 6-storey secured rental apartment complex of 40 units. Four of the units will be 3-bedroom, 12 of two bedroom, and 24 with one-bedroom.  They claim that this will be a “family-oriented” development even though the majority of units are unsuitable for families with children.

The zoning under the Community Plan allows for a 6-storey apartment building (although formal approval and a public hearing is still required) but the developer will be seeking a number of zoning changes including a significant reduction in parking requirements. They wish to supply just 19 automobile spaces for the 40 apartments.

This proposal is one of the five allowed under the Pace of Change regulations in the first three years of the Community Plan. Because it will be secured rental, the developer will have the Community Amenity Charges (CACs) waived, saving considerable expense.

The presenters have written to the Planning Department with their concerns. They explained that a large 6-storey building in the middle of this block of 2-3 storey houses would be out of place, especially as there is no planned transition between the smaller houses and the apartment building. They note that there are considerable slopes both east-west and north-south, and no lane, making access to the new building and along the narrow Grant Street very difficult, especially for emergency vehicles.  The shadowing of the neighbouring houses is expected to be extreme. There are also issues of noise and the loss of heritage trees.

It was noted that these will be market rentals (one-bedroom suites starting at about $1,800 a month) and so will add nothing to affordability in the neighbourhood.  The four houses being demolished are all currently rentals and most have basement or other additional suites.  It was pointed out by several members of the audience that in Grandview there are virtually no “single family houses”; most so-called SFHs have additional suites and are therefore twice or more as dense as some might think.

Several other audience members called the project a “block buster” which will inevitably lead to more such projects in similar low-rise streets and blocks.

The neighbours are now awaiting the developer to make a formal application to the city for rezoning. The GWAC Board will consider their position on the development.