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.

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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.


Today In Salsbury Park

April 28, 2017

Quite the lovely day in the Park today. Warm enough to sit quietly, cool enough not to sweat even climbing the hill.

The blossom trees are just about starting to bloom, and the dandelions are painting the lawn. Beautiful.


St. Francis School Meeting

February 2, 2017

This evening I attended the meeting held in the basement of the St. Francis church at Napier and Semlin. Earlier discussions about the church’s desire to build a new school can be found here.

The meeting was to introduce the project to the immediate neighbours of the church. However, the meeting was well known to GWAC members, people who read this blog, and others, so there were perhaps one hundred citizens in the room from a wider range than the limited geographic area expected. I thought that was a good thing.

There were half a dozen well-constructed display panels explaining the site, the demographics of the current student population, and some general aspects of the project. There was a fairly short speech about the project from a member of the church’s building committee from which we learned

  • that the budget for the school building is $12million;
  • that the church owns the current school site at Victoria & Venables, Wilga garden, and the St. John’s convent site;
  • that the current school site will generate more revenue from a sale than the sale of the garden and St. John’s combined;
  • one option is to rebuild a school at the current site; his will involve a 2 year relocation of the student body during construction, and the sale of both the gardens and St. John’s to pay for the construction;
  • the church’s preferred option is to sell the current school property, using the funds to build a new school on the gardens, demolish St John’s and create a new green space in its place;
  • the new school will have roughly the same enrolment as today — 220 students from 160 families;
  • they want to bring the children closer to the church as a matter of strengthening the faith and increasing community (my words, but I think I got it right).

And then there were questions from the audience. Someone whispered to me that the Church has no idea of the fight they are getting into; and it is certainly true that the tenor of the questions was negative. However, the church was firm that a new school will be built and the discussion is about how that gets done. From the Q & A we learned:

  • that there are no plans to expand the use of the school after school hours beyond the PTA-type meetings that happen today;
  • a majority seemed to favour building on the current site, maintaining St. John’s, and selling Wilga gardens to the Parks Board (though the shortfall in revenues this plan creates was not really addressed, except perhaps that the church should only build what it can afford);
  • that St. John’s is currently used by a number of community groups and that some consider it t have heritage value;
  • that traffic is a major concern, as is any suggestion of changing the traffic-calming regime currently in place;
  • that the current proposal is too massive for a residential area;
  • that all schools in Vancouver are in residential-zoned areas (I haven’t fact-checked that but it was said, and sounds not unreasonable);
  • that the Notre Dame High School project on Renfrew is not an SFA program;
  • that many people believe a phased construction program at the current site would allow the school to continue operating throughout;
  • that a rezoning will be required for the size of the proposed structure.

I found the meeting to be a good start to the process. It was the kind of meeting that Boffo/Kettle should have had but never did. I’m sure neither “side” came away completely satisfied with what was said and done but at least the conversation has begun and is out in the open. By encouraging on-going dialogue, SFA has a wonderful opportunity to teach developers how this process can be improved.

As for me, my inclination is to support the project as proposed by the church, with conditions:

  1. the school is no taller than the church;
  2. the design is actively neighbourhood-friendly;
  3. the green space at St. John’s is a truly public space outside of school hours;
  4. creative effort is put into the traffic issues.

Wilga gardens are not publicly accessible in the sense of being a park; having publicly accessible green space at St. John’s would be a good replacement and better than we have today.  I have reservations about the heritage value of St. John’s. I believe the traffic issues are solvable given creativity and good will on both sides. I would be happy to see density in the form of, say, a three- or four-storey apartment building at Victoria and Venables; that would be a significantly useful addition to the community’s housing stock.

It was interesting to hear the opposition speakers tonight and I appreciate some of their concerns. However, I think the wider community can benefit from this proposal and so it has to be given consideration even if it disturbs a few time-honoured routines that have become entitlements for some.


Meeting About St. Francis of Assisi School

January 30, 2017

There will be a public community meeting in the Church basement of St Francis of Assisi Church, Napier Street, on Thursday 2nd February at 7:00pm.  The meeting will discuss the church’s plans to build a new school on the gardens at Wilga. They will use funds driven by a sale of their current school at Victoria & Venables.

Some of the background is covered here.  A brief history of the church and its grounds is available here.

There has been significant opposition to the development from local residents and meetings on the issue tend to be lively at least. How does it fit with the new Community Plan? It will be worth the time.

By the way, I have heard from SFA officials that this meeting is NOT a public community event and is, in fact, invitation only for neighbours around the church. However, that is not how the neighbours read the letter they received. I also note that neighbours of the SFA school at Victoria & Venables (like me) — deeply affected by SFA’s plan — do not seem to have been included in this invitation. Perhaps we don’t count in the church’s eyes.

Everyone concerned should show up and explain to the Church that it is not up to them to decide who is and who is not affected by their decisions