Month: June 2016

Major Concerns about the New City Proposal for Venables & Commercial

The City presented its own concept for Commercial and Venables to the Citizens’ Assembly. It contains less density overall, a tower of 9 storeys on Venables and maximum 6 storeys on the north half of the site. This sounds like an improvement, but actually doesn’t answer the concerns of the No Tower Coalition.

  1. 9 storeys is still too high. We want human scale.
  2. There is no substantial public or green space added to the plan. Our neighbourhood is park deficient.
  3. This still adds expensive, high-end condos to a low-income and renter-predominant area of the neighbourhood. We want protection against rising land value and rent rates.
  4. City planners are already warning their scenario has a “funding gap” that will make it impossible to meet the Kettle’s needs without more density.
  5. We fear a bait-and-switch tactic, taking us back to the height and density we originally rejected.
  6. The City’s plan will still require a spot rezoning. We oppose all spot rezonings as they diminish community control and government accountability.

Let Council and planners know what you want at Commercial and Venables! Complete the City’s questionnaire about the Grandview-Woodland DRAFT Community Plan. Check out the next two posts, below, to get ideas.

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The City’s Proposed New Concept for Venables & Commercial…

In the draft Community Plan, the City has crafted a new proposal for Commercial and Venables. This is in contrast to the “Developer Concept” that’s been promoted by KettleBoffo for some months.

Below are two renderings that were shown to the Citizens Assembly and media this week. The pink one shows the KettleBoffo proposal; the yellow one shows the City’s new alternative.

While the height and mass are somewhat reduced in the City’s proposal, the Community Plan says it could be possible to add considerable height and density if the developer says it can’t get enough profit to provide the Kettle what it needs. This could, we fear, put us right back where we began, with an unacceptable multi-tower complex.

See our next post for a description of the kind of development we envision for the site, that would satisfy both the community’s and the Kettle’s needs on a human scale.

 

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Design Principles for our Human Scale Alternative Plan

We have long argued that there are feasible alternatives to the KettleBoffo proposal for Venables and Commercial. Our group has worked with planners and architects to create a set of design principles that form the basis of our alternative vision for the site. These can be found here: Commercial and Venables – Design Principles 20june2016

Calling neighbourhood activists “NIMBYs” shuts down debate and stifles real solutions

We need to debate whether our rush to up-zone and redevelop the whole city is driving up the cost of real estate.

The term NIMBY is increasingly being used against neighbourhood-based activists opposing development.  Calling people “NIMBYs” has proven an effective way to shut down discussion and stifle debate.  While global capital and speculation in our real estate market is a factor driving up prices, enabling that is our rush to up-zone and redevelop every inch of the city with new condo towers.

A flashpoint for NIMBY name-calling is the No Tower campaign in Grandview-Woodland, where many see the Boffo/Kettle proposal as bringing needed density to the neighbourhood.  But, for the proponents of the No Tower position, the supposed NIMBYs here, the ripple effect of rising land values and rents if we allow 200 market-priced condos into a relatively low-income, high-rental area of the neighbourhood is not worth 30 additional social housing units.  We might add 30 social housing units, but at what cost to the other low-income and vulnerable renters in the immediate vicinity of the tower?  As many activists in the Downtown Eastside, Marpole, and the West End will tell you, building new, both condo and rental towers, in this market, has been a recipe for skyrocketing land value, rent, and displacement of low and modest-income residents.

Vancouver City Council already approves more new development than is needed for population growth.  In this market, where speculation reigns, large-scale up-zoning of neighbourhoods raises rather than lowers housing prices.  Density is driving up the cost of land, which is driving up the cost of housing.  The best affordability will come from controlling speculation, building within current zoning for the most part (current zoning is already enough to accommodate the influx of population according to the City’s own report), and respecting the rights of citizens to have a say in their own neighbourhoods.

Resorting to ad hominems rather than promoting healthy debate only fuels the capacity of development promoters to set the terms of the debate, something that will ultimately undermine the very city we all care so much about.

Press Release: Package Released After Mayor’s Refusal To Meet

Vancouver 6th June 2016. In anticipation of a pending decision on the future of Venables and Commercial in Grandview-Woodland, the NO TOWER Coalition today delivered a comprehensive package of material to City Hall.

It contains:
• 220 pieces of correspondence to the Mayor and Council
• before/after photos of what the potential tower would look like
• copies of the coalition’s 4,297 signed petitions against the proposal
• details of a viable alternative for the Kettle Friendship Society

“We are extremely disappointed that Mayor Robertson has refused to meet us, despite repeated requests,” says Barbara Cameron. “It’s his public duty to listen carefully to constituents.” The citizens of Grandview-Woodland are keeping a close watch on their elected representatives and city staff, as they await the next version of the community plan on June 25.

“City planners have told us no decision has been made yet about this corner,” says Cameron. ”That’s why it’s so important to send a strong message now, that a massive tower complex is not needed and not wanted on the Drive.”

The coalition’s postcard campaign has been running for two months, with many thoughtful messages to the Mayor and Council from Vancouver residents against the tower idea. The online petition also contains many strong comments and can be found at: http://www.tinyurl.com/ndc89xt

With new federal and provincial dollars now available, a viable alternative is possible for the Kettle on city-owned property to the rear of the site, notes the Coalition. This option would require the donation of city land. There are several recent city precedents for this approach.

Building the BOFFO/Kettle proposal would have a devastating effect on the neighbourhood, with more possible towers, further upward pressure on land prices, and loss of nearby affordable housing. The Coalition supports the overall goals of the non-profit sector to provide for the neediest in society, but not at the expense of an entire community’s wellbeing.

The Mayor Refuses To Meet; Coalition Responds

Mayor's response to NO TOWER Coalition Steering Committee-1

Mayor's response to NO TOWER Coalition Steering Committee-2

The Coalition responded:

 
The NO TOWER Coalition
c/o notower@telus.net

June 6, 2016

Dear Mayor Robertson,
We received your letter of May 30, 2016, in which you decline to meet with the NO TOWER Coalition to discuss concerns related to a proposed multi-tower development for Commercial Drive and Venables and Adanac in Grandview-Woodland.

We are extremely disappointed that you have refused to meet with us. As one of our elected representatives, it is your public duty and your democratic responsibility to listen carefully to all your constituents. And over the past year we have met with ten members of Vancouver City Council. Why not you?

We note that you recently apologized publicly for not being more open and accountable to the citizens of Vancouver. We hope that going forward, you can honour that sentiment. We also recall that on September 25, 2013 you specifically directed your planning team to bring forward a proposal for a “substantially reduced height” for this specific proposed development, and that staff report back on this matter by the end of 2013. Still, almost three years later we have no indication of what the result of that request might be. Can you tell us?

The citizens of Grandview-Woodland are keeping a close watch on their elected representatives and the city staff under their direction, as we await the release of the next iteration of our community plan. Our community expects nothing less than an honest and responsive community plan, one which has heard the community’s concerns and has acted upon them.

In the past 12 months we at the NO TOWER Coalition have actively engaged with our community about the proposed BOFFO/Kettle project. We have held over 130 hours of community information sessions at Grandview Park. We have spoken to thousands of residents and visitors who wish very much to discuss this proposal and to learn more about it.

We have made a model of the proposal, and adapted it as more information became publicly available. We have developed before and after images of the proposal, based on the developers “renderings”, to indicate the realistic changes in our current low-rise streetscape this proposal would bring.

We have crafted at least one viable alternative for the Kettle Friendship Society and there may be many others. We have gathered over 4,000 signatures against the proposal on our petitions, and “NO TOWER” lawn signs are to be seen everywhere in the neighbourhood.

All this is in sharp contrast to the city’s resounding silence. You, along with the developer have steadfastly refused to meet publicly with the citizens of our community to specifically discuss this proposal.

In your letter to us, you reference the need for our group to lobby the federal and provincial governments for funding to support affordable housing for the non-profit sector. We note that the BC Government has recently issued a RFP to the community asking for proposals for new provincial dollars available (up to $50 million in 2016–2017 “for affordable housing for people in greatest need” — BC Housing news release April 14, 2016).

Additionally, the federal government recently announced its Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Funding Program. Both these initiatives are proof positive that federal and provincial dollars are on the table for the asking. In fact the city holds the key. By contributing its land (the north parking lot) many dollars could be unlocked, giving the Kettle what it requires.

Recently Heritage Vancouver held a well-attended symposium entitled “What’s So Special About the Drive? The very fact of such an event attests to the major role Commercial Drive plays in the cultural and economic vibrancy of Vancouver. It is one of our very special high streets and much loved by many. A tower such as the one proposed by BOFFO/Kettle and originally supported by the city, would bring many unwelcome changes to the Drive, including loss of nearby social housing, further increases in land and rental prices and a further loss of housing affordability. Surely you realize the negative impacts this development could have on our community.

While we support the overall goals of the non-profit sector to provide for the neediest in our society, this must not happen at the expense of an entire community’s well being.

Sincerely

Barbara Cameron
Penny Street
Kathleen Piovesan

The NO TOWER Coalition
notower@telus.net