Densifying Grandview

July 21, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I wrote my position on increasing density in Grandview. One of the suggestions I made was:

“Lot owners currently with SFH or duplexes should be allowed and encouraged (by a reduction in the City’s expensive development procedures) to have three housing units on each lot. This would generally be two suites in the main house and a laneway or similar building.”

I am glad to report that a similar suggestion is part of a new proposal before City Council:

“The report also suggests changes for Mount Pleasant and Grandview-Woodland areas (RT zones) that would increase housing options on 4,800 properties. The suggested changes include: increasing the number of homes permitted on a 33-foot lot; allowing laneway homes to be built for rent or sale; and permitting owners of large lots to build four-plexes.”

My own preference would be for these laneway houses to remain as rentals rather than sold as strata.  This would boost that kind of vitally needed stock and provide a steady income to the lot owner rather than a one-time windfall with a house that few could afford to buy.

Apart from the zoning changes proposed, we would see a great deal more movement in this area if the cost of building a laneway house could be made more reasonable. My understanding is that city permits and certain city regulations add many tens of thousands to the cost of building and add months to each project. These need to be trimmed to the least requirements.

In addition, we need to get creative about what we use as “laneway houses”.  For one example, manufactured houses of all kinds can be bought and erected far less expensively than traditional brick and mortar. Another example, suggested by local engineer Eric Philips, would be to take some of the well-built heritage cottages we have on large lots and physically move them to a laneway site elsewhere; this would provide a far-less-expensive laneway house and provide an empty lot for new construction.

Whatever new zoning is approved, the regulations and bureaucracy must allow wide latitude for creative thinking.


What If They Gave A Party ….

July 16, 2017

… and no-one showed up?  That was kind of what it was like at Grandview Park this afternoon.

Today was the first of three Sundays In the Park events that the Commercial Drive Business Development Society (the local BIA) are organising this summer. I am pleased they are taking this initiative but clearly they need to work on their promotion of the festivities.  The event was scheduled for 1 pm to 4 pm and there were, perhaps, less than forty people in the Park at three this afternoon.

I don’t recall seeing any posters for the event on the Drive. I did see some notice in Twitter earlier this week, but that was it.  The weather was perfect — a touch cooler than earlier this week, and with a splendid breeze — and the patios on the Drive were full and bustling with business, but this Zoomba and Salsa party didn’t attract the attention it may have deserved.


Happy Birthday to the Everloving!

July 14, 2017

Today is the everloving’s birthday.  We’ll celebrate with dim sum at Western Lake, and other stuff.

It is also the 101st birthday of Dada-ism, but that is just an apposite coincidence.


Taming The Corporate Tax Dodge

July 12, 2017

Google has just managed to escape paying taxes due in France of about $1.3 Billion. I don’t know how much they paid in legal fees, but clearly on the lawyers and Google investors gained anything from the shell game they play. In honour of the “little” people who pay their taxes every month or year, I have decided to replay the suggestions I first made in January 2016:

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Until we manage to mature into a society that can depend on mutual aid and cooperatives, we have to mitigate the abysmal effects of today’s market capitalism and the supra-national power of corporations.  Over the next few weeks I will be posting a number of ideas of how to fundamentally change the economic system, but today I want to start with the problem of corporate tax dodging through foreign ownership.

Google, Amazon and many other international companies make billions of dollars in revenue from , say, sales in the UK, but manage to pay virtually no tax in the UK.  They do this through foreign ownership — sometimes through multiple countries — and so-called management fees that the UK operation has to pay to the home corporation. It has become a regular scandal in the UK and threatens to do the same elsewhere.

For example, a classic case is brewing in the United States with Johnson Controls. This is a company that, as the Times says, exists only through the generosity of the Federal and state taxpayers.  And yet, it is now planning a reverse takeover with a smaller Irish company.  This will turn Johnson into an Irish company and they estimate saving $150million a year on US taxes while still retaining its location in Milwaukee.

Centre-right politicians have suggested that lowering corporate tax rates will encourage more companies to stay in- house as it were.  That is just an excuse to make the rich richer.  There is a simpler and much more efficient way.

I suggest that corporate income taxes be eliminated completely. They should be replaced by a “license to operate” fee equal to, say, a flat rate of 10% of revenues earned in the country no matter where the head office is based. Simple to understand, simple to manage, and, I suspect, very difficult to get around.

Country of ownership becomes immediately irrelevant, and transfers to an offshore HQ will be pointless for tax purposes. Indeed, they may well create a double taxation situation in which those transfers become taxable revenue in the home country. It also gives corporations the right to NOT operate in any particular country if they choose to forgo the revenues.

Finally, I would make this tax law bullet-proof by including a provision that, should some smart accountant or lawyer find a loophole, then that loophole is closed retroactively.

As I wrote earlier, there will be other ideas on corporate governance in the days and weeks ahead.


Another Take on Commercial Drive Vacancies

July 10, 2017

As readers of this site will be aware, I have been exercised lately about the number of vacancies on the Drive and, more particularly, the length of time some of these vacancies continue.  At the beginning of this month, we had three stores that have been vacant for more than a year, two for more than two years, and one for more than three years. There seems to be no activity on any of these long-term empty stores.

I mentioned this issue to the local BIA and their response was that this was a “global phenomenon” and so, I suppose, out of their hands.

During Car Free Day on Sunday I chatted with the owner of a small storefront in the heart of the Drive that has been empty for nine months. He told me they haven’t had any luck finding a suitable tenant: “And we are only asking $4,500 a month — the going rate.”

There was it seems to me, no thought on what might actually be needed to attract a tenant, maintain the space, pay taxes and mortgages — just that $4,500 was “the going rate.” There was also no appreciation that $4,500 is proving to be the going rate for keeping the store empty and revenue-less.

I’m no economist but none of this makes any sense to me.


My Position on Density in Grandview

July 9, 2017

I am sick and tired of people like Ken Paquette, shill for the Boffo Tower group, and the Abundant Housing people lying about my position on density on my neighbourhood.  Their intellectual integrity is shot all to hell when they simply make things up for their own profit.

I am going to be very clear here so that even small-minded bigots can understand. These positions are my own and do not pretend to represent anyone or any group outside of myself.

  • I both understand and agree with the need for additional density in Grandview.
  • I believe that a doubling, or even more, of density can be achieved certainly without towers, and actually without any building above four storeys;
  • Lot owners currently with SFH or duplexes should be allowed and encouraged (by a reduction in the City’s expensive development procedures) to have three housing units on each lot. This would generally be two suites in the main house and a laneway or similar building.
  • Lot owners of two- or three-storey apartments buildings should be encouraged and even incentivized to add another storey. This is significantly cheaper as land costs are eliminated. Obviously this will not work for some buildings but it would work (as explained to me by professional engineers) for many.
  • No new building above four storeys should be allowed.  Given the increased density allowed by the above, towers would only be required to feed the profits of the developers and, of course, their shills.

The massive increases in density allowed under these proposals mean that Grandview can double in population size while retaining the beautiful human scale residential areas and streetscapes that we have.

Let me repeat, these proposals are mine alone. I do not profess to speak for others.  But those who claim I stand for anything else are nothing but mucky liars.

 


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.