Grandview Launches the Slow Zone

March 3, 2021

As of today, roads in the section of Grandview bounded by Clark Drive, Grandview Highway, Commercial Drive, and First Avenue have a new speed limit of just 30 km/h, down from the city default on local streets of 50 km/h. This is a trial for what many hope will become a more widespread change in traffic habits in Vancouver.

As the City’s press release states: “Slower motor vehicle speeds dramatically improve safety for people walking and cycling. According to studies completed by the World Health Organization, higher speeds equal higher probability of fatality. For example, when a vehicle hits a pedestrian at 30 km/h the probability of fatality is 15%. The probability of a fatality increases to 50% when the speed is 50 km/h.”

In July 2020, Council approved the creation of the slow zone pilot within the Grandview Woodland neighbourhood. The area was identified by staff as the top-ranked neighbourhood based on: speed, collisions, vulnerable populations, and community amenities (we have so few of these last listed, I’m guessing).

I am all for this. I hope the trial is deemed a success and the slow zone is extended throughout the non-arterial streets in our neighbourhood.


So Who Has All The Books?

December 1, 2020

The Vancouver Library system is seeking a budget increase of $625,000 from City Council to offset unpaid fines. There are apparently 70,000 (!) Vancouver residents unable to use the library because they owe $10 or more in fines. The library would like to forgive those fines but need help to do so. And a great many of them are here in Grandview:

The city’s chief librarian, Christina de Castell said:

[P]eople with lower incomes depend on libraries for access to computers to participate in public consultations related to civic affairs. Yet libraries were mostly closed this year during the feedback phase of the city’s 2021 operating budget. “Council may not have heard these voices,” de Castell said.

“Library staff have been hearing about the barriers of fines for many years ever since we started asking why people didn’t use the library.” She heard from community librarians that reasons for inactivity are related to fear that a patron couldn’t afford to pay a fine, if a book or library materials were returned late. “When it’s a choice between $10 for food or rent, or $10 to pay back library fines, it’s not a choice,” de Castell said.


Update on Grandview Park

November 4, 2020

Further to merchants’ claims and my blog post of yesterday regarding the security status of Grandview Park, I have received the following response from Supt. Michelle Davey of the VPD:


Is Grandview Park a “No Go” Area?

November 3, 2020

There was a very interesting and well-attended ZOOM meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) last night. Most of the meeting was concerned with the concerns of the BIA and its members over security and safety concerns on the Drive.

The BIA and some merchants discussed what they see as ever-increasing numbers of “aggressive” pan-handlers, open drug and alcohol use, homeless people sleeping in shop doorways and on the street, illegal vending, and general lawlessness. They say the problem is now “critical”. There is no doubt about their concern, even though the statistics given at the meeting from the Community Policing Office for early October would indicate that Grandview suffered a tiny number of serious crimes; far fewer than most other neighbourhoods.

They are calling for significantly increased police, by-law officer, and Park Ranger patrols.

The most shocking claim was that Grandview Park — the central hub of the Drive — has been “abandoned” by the City and is now considered a “no go” area for police and Rangers.

There has been no official discussion about that, so far as I know, and I was rather surprised to hear it. I go by and through the Park most days and I don’t see a lot of change; it has been a daytime gathering place — and informal marketplace — for homeless and poor people for a very long time. There were a few tents a little while ago but that was settled by Rangers and offers of housing by a Kettle outreach worker. Perhaps the issues of violence and intimidation happen in the evenings when I rarely visit.

It would be good to hear an official police view on the status of the Park.

Other than increased police patrols, the BIA is proposing to convene a stakeholders’ group to discuss what demands they should present to Council for an improvement in the overall situation. They recognize that many of the issues are mental health related and they are keen to involve agencies of all kinds with the proposed group to ensure that a well-rounded approach is taken.

On other matters, the BIA estimated that local restaurants, bars, etc., have lost 50-75% of revenues due to covid and covid-related restrictions this year, while general retailing has fallen by 30-50% in the same period. They are concerned that any move to shut down non-essential businesses will create a cascading level of closures on the Drive.


Covid-19 Warning for Commercial Drive

September 29, 2020

This afternoon, according to Vancouver is Awesome, Vancouver Coastal Health issued a warning for patrons of the ABRUZZO Cappuccino bar at 1321 Commercial.

The incident occurred between 23 September and 26 September, between 1pm and 3pm.  Anyone who was in the cafe at those times should self-isolate for two weeks.


Grandview in Their Sights Again

September 28, 2020

Thanks to the ever-watchful CityHallWatch, we know that tomorrow’s City Council session (Tuesday 29th) includes a Motion supporting a new Kettle development at Commercial & Adanac.  There are few details about the design of the proposed development, but I am sure that if it is a 3- or 4-storey residential/drop in centre on the current parking lot, it will be welcomed by the neighbourhood.

However, the whole agenda may be thrown off-schedule by an attempt by the Mayor to piggyback his “Making Homes” 6-plex on a lot idea as an amendment to Councillor Dominato’s Motion expanding the failing and misnamed Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Project citywide. The arguments can be complicated by arcane procedural requirements and once again CityHallWatch has done the hard work of deconstructing what this is all about. They start with Dominato’s Motion:

  • “If the idea is approved, it would mean that out-of-scale apartment buildings with multiple dwelling units, without onsite parking, could be built anywhere in Vancouver.
  • Housing options should be determined through neighbourhood-based planning through the comprehensive Vancouver Plan. Not through random spot rezonings, which would create major precedents everywhere.
  • Spot rezoning do the opposite of creating order and certainty. They create uncertainty for the community and developers, and undermine local area community plans or visions.
  • Options for strata ownership will inflate land values and undermine rental incentives.
  • Increased development pressures cause more displacement, demolition of character houses, and loss of existing affordable housing and suites.
  • The MIRHPP program already sets major precedents with applications for developments that are too large for their surroundings. The MIRHPP program should be cancelled. Not expanded for even larger buildings.
  • Former CityPlan demonstration projects (referred to in the motion) were only for housing types and locations approved in each Community Vision and only for one project per neighbourhood. The text of the motion actually gets that wrong.”

Mayor Stewart’s amendment to allow multi-plex lots citywide:

“would undermine character retention and rental incentives while increasing development pressures leading to demolition of existing homes and displacement of current residents … his proposal risks inflating land values, therefore making things less affordable overall.”

The Dominato Motion and the Stewart Amendment are opposed by the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods.


Community Policing Office is Hiring

September 18, 2020

 

The Grandview-Woodland Community Policing Center is looking for a part-time volunteer coordinator.

The Grandview-Woodland Community Policing Centre is dedicated to providing crime prevention assistance and education to the Commercial Drive corridor and surrounding area.  Reporting to the Executive Director, the primary role of a volunteer coordinator is to recruit, train, and schedule and oversee the work for our volunteers.  Do you have a passion for helping others, enjoy working in a team environment, and looking for a flexible schedule?

Email us your resume today at recruitment@gwcpc.ca


Development at Charles & Nanaimo

September 9, 2020

The latest proposed development that seeks to break free of the few restraints imposed on developers by the Grandview Community Plan is for a 6-storey apartment building at Charles & Nanaimo in a zone that is supposed to have a maximum of four storeys.

In addition, as the local Friends of Nanaimo Group notes:

“The Plan required that Nanaimo redevelopment occur only where it backed onto north-south alleys to limit intrusion into the neighbourhood. The new 6-storey proposal for Charles and Nanaimo does not back onto a north-south alley. The entrance/exit for vehicles in the square block spot rezoning is the east-west alley. On the west side, this alley ends at Lord Nelson School’s front door.”

The Friends report that the Urban Design Panel reviewed the Charles Street proposal and expressed “sufficient concern” that the developers had to revise their proposal.  However, even after the revision, the proposal kept its relative mass and height, and City Planning appears to be encouraging this enterprise.

Now, the Friends suddenly learn, the final decision by City Council will be made after a public hearing on September 15th, 2020.

Here is what you can do to help prevent this new attack on what we reluctantly agreed to in the Community Plan. Register either online or by phone (604-829-4238) to speak at the Public Hearing. You may speak either on the phone or in person. The registration deadline is 5:30 p.m., the same day as the hearing, September 15th, 2020.

Or you can send a comment directly to the Mayor and Councillors at https://vancouver.ca/your-government/contact-council.aspx.


Slow Streets

September 7, 2020

Some of Grandview’s streets are part of a small network called slow streets where traffic calming measures are in place to encourage walking and cycling.

City Council has asked staff to reallocate up to 11 per cent of Vancouver roadways for things like slow streets; therefore, the City of Vancouver wants to hear from residents about this initiative.

They would like residents to complete the slow streets survey.

“We’re trying to get feedback on them, kind of how they’re going, what they’re seeing out on the streets, are they working for them, are there improvements they’d like to see?” said Paul Storer, director of transportation for Vancouver. “Did we miss some streets that really should be identified? That’s going to inform some of what comes next.”

Storer said the biggest complaint about the slow streets so far is that there is still too much vehicle traffic on them. This month staff will add more signs and barriers to try to further reduce traffic.


Havana Closes Temporarily

September 2, 2020

The always popular Havana Restaurant at 1212 Commercial has closed for a while as they deal with an employee testing positive for covid-19.

After hearing from the staff member on Monday, the restaurant voluntarily closed. No re-opening date has been announced at this time.


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]