Viaducts, Traffic, and Community Engagement

April 30, 2019

The May monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) takes place next Monday at 7:00pm in the Learning Resources Centre room under the Britannia Library.  This is a very important meeting to discuss massive traffic issues facing Grandview over the next decade.  As per their email notice:

 

 

Most of you probably know that the idea of removing the viaducts has a long history.  There is some community support for the demolition but much of the impetus comes from Vision Vancouver’s need to satisfy their developer supporters by providing more land for their profit.  There has been significant opposition to the demolition from East Vancouver and areas east of us who consider the viaducts a primary and convenient access to the city. I suspect we have not yet heard the end of this battle, especially if this still-newish Council can finally show their muscle and start directing the Vision holdovers in senior City staff positions rather than simply acquiescing to whatever the bureaucrats propose.

However, the survival or not of the viaducts is intimately connected with the question of traffic east of Gore, and how that traffic will affect Grandview.  This was the issue that Vision Vancouver (interested only, I believe, in the development aspects) could never solve. They eventually decided to use a so-called Community Panel to cover their asses on the decision.  From what I hear from the GWAC rep who attended, this Panel was as pointless as the Citizens Assembly they foisted on us during the Community Plan.

Given both the history and the importance of the viaducts/traffic issue, Monday’s meeting should not be missed!

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Picking On The East Side’s Schools

April 1, 2019

In 2011, I published “The Drive: A Retail, Social, and Political History of Commercial Drive.” It covered the period of our history from 1935 to 1955, and the political story that it told was that Vancouver’s east side in general, and Grandview in particular, were treated by the Vancouver powers like unwanted step-kids; and that whatever advances we made here were entirely the result of our own efforts.

I was vividly reminded of this today as I read Aaron Leung’s excellent opinion piece in the Tyee entitled “A Rigged Game: School Closures in Vancouver.

Leung’s article discusses the Vancouver School Board’s long range facilities plan.

“[T]he report evaluates the feasibility of consolidating schools to remove “surplus capacity.” It identifies 16 elementary schools, three annexes and six secondary schools that could theoretically be closed, and their population moved to neighbouring facilities. All but two of them (Point Grey and Prince of Wales) are on the east side.”

In other words, virtually all the suggested closures are of east side schools.

We went through this same exercise in 2016 and the communities affected pulled together to complain and to stop — or, it seems, just delay — the unbalanced closures then proposed.  Clearly, the School Board has not learned anything of value from that previous attempt to damage the east side.

Not only does the VSB propose disrupting and damaging our communities in general (for these schools are important neighbourhood centres), more specifically they are aiming at special needs students who are clustered in large part on the east side of Vancouver.

 

Leung concludes his cri de coeur with the following:

“The Vancouver School Board needs to take an equity-based approach to its long-range facilities plan. Instead of a simplistic “surplus space” model, the board needs to look at many socioeconomic metrics, the needs of school populations and the role of communities — and its mission.  Consolidating — closing — schools where there is a higher population of students who need additional support does not uphold the board’s education goals. If the Vancouver School Board trustees are committed to reconciliation and social justice, they should go back to the drawing board.”

I would go much further and reverse Christy Clark’s decision when she was Education Minister to allow elitist parents to register their children in any school, regardless of where they live. That is one of the primary causes of the inequity we find in Vancouver schools today.  If you live in a neighbourhood, you should help support that neighbourhood by sending your kids to the neighbourhood schools.


Green Words But Less Green Actions

March 14, 2019

Coun. Adriane Carr of the Vancouver Greens Party is getting publicity for suggesting last week that the City’s Rental100 program designed to incentivize developers to build purpose built rentals should be over-hauled at some point in the future.

While it is good news that she has finally joined the ranks of the converted, she gives no credit whatsoever to the scores of activists and others who have made public their concerns with this program since it was first introduced as Son of STIR seven long and expensive years ago, and who have actively campaigned against it in two civic elections.

Moreover, she has consistently voted in favour of every unaffordable project subsidised by the City taxpayer and brought forward by Planning since the last election.  She has done this, she says, out of a sense of “fairness” to developers working within the Rental100 system, and she intends to continue her largesse with our money until Planning — in their own good time — roll out changes to the program.

She is ignoring the fact that Rental100 is and always has been nothing but a giveaway to the developers, to the tune of many thousands of dollars per suite, and has failed completely to deliver housing units that are affordable to the majority of Vancouverites. She knows full well that this is a program rigged up by a politicized staff back in the day to favour the developers and to give Vision a positive talking point but which has proven to be a desperately unfair situation for Vancouver tax payers and low income workers.

Why is she worrying about the unfairness to developers and ignoring the unfairness to the rest of us?

If she and her party cannot bring themselves to vote against projects that they claim they disagree with, they should at east abstain. More importantly, she and the other Councilors need to tell Planning they have, say, three months to come up with a plan that actually helps the crisis we are in for low-income housing. It is time Council stamped its collective feet and insisted on reclaiming control.


TMH at Adanac and Commercial

March 4, 2019

It is almost a year since Boffo and the Kettle — after an extended and popular campaign by the No Tower Coalition — cancelled their plans to build a huge for-profit condo tower on city-owned land on Commercial Drive between Venables and Adanac. The campaign, of which I was a part, was covered in detail on this blog.

Since the cancellation announcement by the developers, various members of the Coalition have continued working quietly on this and other local issues. Now, the Coalition has formally proposed to the City that the site, currently an infrequently used car park, be used as the location for Temporary Modular Housing (TMH) for those in real need. It is, I believe, the perfect solution.  As the Coalition writes, there are many reasons to support the idea:

  • This would be a quick win for the City.
  • It is already City-owned property.
  • This would be using City land for a valid social purpose, not a for-profit development.
  • There is a need for housing for the hard-to-house in Grandview.
  • It would be entirely suitable for around 30 units of SRO-type housing, with a maximum of three storeys.
  • The community will likely not object to three storeys on that site. It’s not a tower!
  • The TMH proposal allows the City to retain control of the land and while providing essentially the same amount of social benefit that would have been achieved with the proposed Boffo/Kettle project.
  • The current council seems to be doing a pretty good job of distributing social housing and services equitably throughout the City. No one neighbourhood should be expected to take responsibility for more than its share.
  • This TMH proposal is the right scale for the community. A 30-unit TMH project would provide secure housing for those who currently need supportive housing in Grandview-Woodland but the project would not be so large that it would draw lots of people in need from other neighbourhoods.

The Coalition is asking its supporters to write to City Council in support of this idea (see the Coalition site for email addresses). I join in that request.


Better Tech For Less Money = Better Transit

February 13, 2019

Any regular reader here knows my opinion of the proposed Broadway subway line. I am against it for so many reasons.  Not the least of which is that an underground subway is far and away the most expensive method of construction, especially with the outdated SkyTrain system.

My concerns are magnified when I see stories such as this one about transit development in China:

 

A related story in the Metro from 2017 notes the Chinese engineers suggesting that this system will cost just 20% of the cost of traditional trams — let alone the inflated cost of an underground SkyTrain.

Clearly there are alternatives — different technologies, significant alteration of traffic patterns on Broadway, flextime for scholars, housing on the UEL, etc etc etc — and I am convinced that with the rush to juddgment on the SkyTrain subway we are heading towards making a decision that will negatively affect transit across the City, business on Broadway, and housing affordability for many years into the future.


Vision Redux At Clark & First

February 10, 2019

For about a year now I have reported on — and fully supported — a major development at Clark Drive and First Avenue  (see here, here, and here).

 

My support for this project has put me on the opposite side of the barricades to most of those with whom I have campaigned on projects in the past, and I have, to be frank, been shocked by some of the NIMBY rhetoric used by a vocal minority of the opponents.  My support, let me make clear, was based a number of factors:

  • the location of the project, at the lowest point of Grandview, combined with the immediacy of the already existing Clark Drive arterial and light industrial 6-storey zoning, made the height of the proposal unproblematic in my view;
  • the integration of detox services seems reasonable to me, and I have yet to see any reliable police statistics to suggest that an increase in crime is to be expected;
  • there is zero heritage value to the lots being used;
  • most importantly to me, it would supply about 100 truly affordable housing units at a point in time when we are facing a critical shortage of available units meeting that criteria.

The press release issued on 16th February 2018 specifically stated that the residential part of the project “will serve low-to moderate-income people.”  Now, a year later, we hear a different story.  According to an article in the Georgia Strait this week, City staff have decided that there will be 90 housing units of which half will be rented at “private rental market rates for Vancouver”.  And even with that, they still recommend that BC Housing be forgiven the $1.9m of development cost levies they should be paying.

This puts a completely different perspective on the project for me, and I have to ask, why?  There are literally thousands of market rental units in the pipeline already; what purpose would these 45 units serve.  We don’t need them. But we do need what we were promised — a supply of genuinely affordable housing for the 50% of Vancouverites who are trying to survive on median or lower incomes.

If our shiny new City Council approves the staff report as is, then one has to wonder if they have already fallen under the thrall of Vision’s private-sector-favouring staff as recent development approval decisions seem to suggest. They can still show some spine by rejecting this report and returning the entire project to its social housing roots.

 


Blurred Vision Again on Broadway Subway

January 23, 2019

Translink has formally decided to scrap any idea of people-and-cost-friendly Light Rapid Transit for any part of the journey along Broadway. They have confirmed their love affair with the more expensive Sky Train system for the line all the way through to UBC, though why this is news amazes me; their decision on this was made many years ago. I went to more than one presentation where it was clear this was the only path they were examining.

Many of us, I believe, had hoped that once we had rid our city of Vision Vancouver and their crony capitalist buddies that this crazy but developer-friendly idea might be scrapped.  Not so, unfortunately. Our new Mayor, a one-for-one substitute for Gregor Robertson — no doubt encouraged by Geoff Meggs from his seat of power in Victoria — is all for the big towers and the expensive hole in the ground.

It will be a boon to UBC, I guess. But will they kick in any cash from their huge endowment?  Not a chance. It is we taxpayers who alone will be obliged to cough up the whole sum.  It will be billions and billions of dollars out of our pockets, funds that could be better used to significantly improve transit right across the city, not just on a one trick pony.

Rapid transit all the way to UBC is a good idea, of course, but the subway (especially underground — an idea done just to please the elite of westside Vancouver who don’t want a far less expensive elevated rail) is the worst possible option as I have written several times before.  Our new City Council is sounding a lot like the last bunch.