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.

 

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Victoria & Adanac: A City Response

January 2, 2018

Further to my question the other day regarding the safety of the new intersection design at Victoria Drive & Adanac Street, I have received a response from Ross Kenny, Senior Transportation Design Engineer, City of Vancouver.

“There is a plan for a painted crosswalk and yellow paint on the median, however, we are waiting for the weather to improve before our crews are able to go out and do the painting.  We have heard a handful of complaints regarding the visibility of the median and we are following up with the installation of reflectors on the widest part of the median to make it more visible for drivers.  There was also a short period of time after installation that the street light at the intersection was out, which has now been fixed.

The design of the center median is based on a median design that was implemented 5 years ago at the intersection of Kaslo and Dundas Streets.  There are a number of center medians that were installed on Dundas Street which is similar in character to Victoria.  Generally we hear that the medians have made it easier to cross the street as pedestrians and cyclists only have to ensure that 1 direction of traffic has stopped before they are able to enter the road.  They also cost significantly less than a traffic signal and have the added benefit of slowing traffic, which has been a long-standing request on Victoria Drive.

We will be reviewing the design and making changes to reflect the feedback we receive and using this knowledge on future projects.”

I’ll be passing this on to the residents who wrote to me about this issue.  Anyone who wants to respond directly to Mr. Kenny should write to him at Ross.Kenny@vancouver.ca. I will also keep a watching brief on this and please let me know of any further incidents.


Is The Adanac/Victoria Median Dangerous?

December 31, 2017

Yesterday I received an email from a local resident. She had found me after googling my earlier comments on the new bike-friendly traffic arrangement at Victoria Drive and Adanac Street.

Victoria Drive looking south from just north of Adanac Street which crosses east to west.

My correspondent’s email described an accident she had had at this median:

“My car was ripped apart by the median on Thursday night – dark, raining – I was looking straight at it and didn’t see the curb jutting out. I live in the neighbourhood and have driven by before. I went back today to take pictures. What I think happened was the curb jutting out is so sharp that it immediately shredded my front left tire down to the rim so that the rim broke and caused damage to other parts connecting the axle as I drove by.”

She went on to say that her regular auto shop thought a similar accident had occurred at the same median. Another resident, a near neighbour of the first, told her she had had to swerve more than once when approaching that intersection.

Being neither a car owner nor a bike rider I have no dog in this fight over functional priority. However, I can attest to the dislike of the new arrangement by taxis and Handy Dart drivers, many of whom, coming from the south, now have to perform a four block loop to park near my house.

I have also heard from driver friends of mine: “road is not wide enough”, “never designed for this stupid hazard”, “poorly lit”, and “hard to see,” are the typical comments.

I guess this looked good on the maps to the bikeophiles at City Hall; but evidence on the ground seems to suggest this needs a more detailed look.  How often are these decisions reviewed to see whether practice met theory?


Today In Salsbury Park

October 29, 2017

This morning we went out for breakfast, to the Skylight which is still our favourite. On the way home we stopped for a while in the Park, sitting at the bench surrounded by several trees. The weather was superb —  cool, with bright sun and a clear blue sky, with no need for a jacket yet.

We spent some time collecting acorns for the family of squirrels that visits our patio each day, and then we just sat back and relaxed.  We watched the silent but steady fall of small leaves; some fell down directly, others spun in a tight spiral, seemingly delaying the inevitable, while yet others glided away from a straight path down, landing as migrants across the lawn.  The crows, squirrels and jays kept their distance.

Finally we made friends with a Sirail hound called Stripe. He is a pal of the local three-legged Lucky but is a great deal more affable. A beautiful dog apparently saved from the slums of Bangladesh.

The tiny Salsbury Park is a wonderful place to interact with neighbours of all kinds.


Early Evening On The Drive

July 27, 2017

Turks has been doling out it own unique weirdness for many years now and I don’t stop in there enough. I spent about an hour there late this afternoon and they really do have the best patio on the Drive. In location it is matched by Havana and Fet’s, but at Turks you need only spend $2.60 for a coffee to enjoy the Drive’s street cabaret and the always fascinating happenings at Grandview Park.

I found a seat in the doorway to the patio, half in and half out of the shade.  There I sat and watched and listened and sipped my very good coffee.

This evening, the warm sunshine has brought out to the Park perhaps two dozen street people, travellers, and their acquaintances. There are plenty enough low concrete walls for everyone to sit in the shade; and they talk and smoke dope, play music, dance, dispute, debate, and generally have a fine old time. Passers-by can look down on them, if they must, but these folks keep our Park lively and interesting and are a community we need to embrace. They have no effect on either the children’s playground or the Bike Polo court, both of which remain busy and active.

The “vehicle” types on the street in this hour included cars, buses, small trucks, skateboards, mobility scooters, Vespas, motorcycles and, of course, a lot of bikes.

The range of humanity walking in the sidewalk was even more diverse. I bet that in that hour every colour and shade from across the globe was represented in the passers-by; tall and short, adolescent and elderly, of every gender.  I caught snatches of 8 or 9 different languages — 10 if you include broad American accents.  Dogs of every description also made their appearances, some, it appeared, walking about on their own, while others were delivered by car and handed from one carer to another.

And in the distance, through the trees, the highrises of downtown could be discerned. And I sat with my cooling coffee glad to be here on the Drive and not there in a forest of concrete.


St. Francis Bows To Local Pressure

July 4, 2017

In February, I reported on a public meeting regarding the proposed development of a new parochial school for our local St. Francis of Assisi church to be built on the Wilga gardens behind the current house at Napier and Semlin.  As you can read from the report, there was much criticism of the plan from those in the immediate neighbourhood.

Today I learn from a notice sent by the church that the original proposal has probably been abandoned. They will now plan to redevelop the current school site at Venables and Victoria. There are, they “barriers to building on the current site” but they will work through them before making their next proposal to the City.

I understand City planners were not too keen on disrupting the traffic-calmed neighbourhood around the church with a new school, but the pressure from the residents seems to have played a significant role in the change of heart by church authorities.

 


More on Commercial Drive Vacancies

July 4, 2017

On the last Changes on the Drive edition, I posted a graph of the storefront vacancies on the Drive for the past two years. A commenter noted that if I were to start the graph from an earlier date, I would get a more defined trend toward more vacancies.  The commenter was quite right, of course, and here is the graph for the last five years:

There appears to have been a rash of closures in the first few months of 2015, bringing the number of vacancies to a new level. That new equilibrium has, more of less, been maintained since then.

I would note, just for the sake of consistent methodology, that the retail storefronts in the 2200-block east side were not counted as vacant during the rebuilding of the Marquee building. They began to be occupied in July 2014 after which time the relevant stores were shown as vacant.