A Great Sucking Sound

May 17, 2019

This is one of the most important weeks of the high-end art market. Estimates for sales at the various New York shows this week exceeded $1.5 billion, and I was planning to write something each day.  However, along came the $91.1 million shiny toy

 

… and the whole thing seemed pointless.  I have had my say about Jeff Koons before and I haven’t changed my mind about the waste of it all.

It has been an interesting week in New York and perhaps I’ll be in a better mood to write about it tomorrow.

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And …

May 17, 2019

In my earlier piece about demolitions in Grandview, I forgot to mention that the immediate consequences of the trend to demolish old Edwardians and replace them with duplexes are to reduce density and increase  housing costs — absolutely contrary to the shrill claims of the build-build-build brigade.

For the block on Venables that was being discussed, we have firm knowledge that the two houses already demolished housed twelve people. They have all been displaced.   The four duplex units that will take their place will generally have no more than two people living in each, for a total of, say, 8 people.  That is a 33% reduction in density.

The affordable rentals will be replaced by $1 million+plus price tags. If they are put out for rent, I would be surprised if they were offered at less than $3,000 a month — that’s a 100% increase in the cost for someone used to paying $1,400 or $1,500 a month to live in that space.

An earlier example of this same issue happened when townhouses came to Adanac.

We would do a let better by allowing and incentivizing current owners to increase the number of units on their lots, adding internal suites, laneways, etc. This will increase density while retaining the current neighbourhood look, feel, and scale.  It will reduce costs both by eliminating the need for land acquisition and reducing the bureaucratic burden (especially for heritage homes) that makes such renos and improvements almost impossible these days. It will increase affordability by creating incentives for rents to remain at income-suitable levels. A further benefit would be an increase in work opportunities for smaller local builders who could handle projects of this size.

Whether you agree with these specific ideas or not, it should be clear we cannot keep doing what we are doing, even with a so-called new Council..


The Effect of A Bad Planning Process on Our Neighburhood

May 17, 2019

Last  night was the May monthly meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group. As usual it was two hours of lively informed comment and discussion on a  wide variety of topics.  These included upcoming heritage tours and programs, an excellent presentation from a group looking to put together a history of Clark Park, and an exquisite piece of historical detective work by Neville revealing the history of 1906 Grant Street.

We also looked at the plague of demolitions that are this summer’s blight on Grandview. In particular we looked in depth at a single block on Venables where five older houses are being (or have already been) demolished this month. In most cases, stately and adaptable Edwardian buildings are being replaced with cookie-cutter back-and-front duplexes. There are serious issues both with why this is occurring and the effect they will have on the long term social fabric of the neighbourhood.

The houses being demolished generally started life as single family properties. But they were large and spacious and their interior structure allowed them to be configured to suit multiple uses. The single family house often developed into a multi-generational home, then perhaps into a rooming house or complex of individual suites, and many saw further use as a renovated SFH with a basement suite helping the mortgage.  Families and neighbour community were encouraged by this kind of architecture.

The replacement duplexes, with their lack of basements and attics and their fixed regular patterns discouraging or inhibiting family growth, are designed for the modern two-person tech couple isolated within their own cells and digital networks. Families and community groups are being replaced by “household units.” This is a fundamental and unwelcome change in the social fabric for a family-friendly residential neighbourhood such as Grandview.

As part of the overall debate, we kicked around ideas about why this happening. A generally accepted view is that the planning and development process has been so damaged in Vancouver (we have all heard of relatively trivial projects taking years to complete through the bureaucracy and with tens of thousands in fees attached) that developers are deciding against innovation and are sticking to templated duplex designs they can get through the process with a minimum of fuss and delay.  There still seems to be a market for these at around $1.4 million per half-duplex and a slightly lower profit margin is preferred to the risks of serious delay with any other kind of development proposals.

Should we really be changing the nature of our communities just to suit a failure of competence in the planning process?

 

Update: see also: “And …”


Image: Buddha Sleeps

May 17, 2019


The Grandview Database

May 15, 2019

I have not been writing here as much I would like, but I really have not been idle.  My recent (and continuing) heavy bout of researching for a new book has allowed me to collect a great deal of information that is of value to the Grandview Database project of the Grandview Heritage Group.

A new edition of the Database was published today.

If you have an interest in a Grandview address, or in a Commercial Drive business, say, take a look at the Database, search for the address you want, and see what historical data we have on it so far.


Image: And The Trees Danced

May 15, 2019


Image: Bold Colour #2

May 13, 2019