Author: pennystreet546

Let City Council hear what you think of the Community Plan

Staff will be presenting the new Grandview-Woodland Community Plan to Council at the regular Council meeting on Tuesday, July 26th, starting at 9:30 a.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall.
If you would like to tell Council what you think of the Plan, the opportunity to do that will be at the “Policy and Strategic Priorities Meeting”, Wednesday, July 27th, also starting at 9:30 a.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall. You must sign up to speak before the meeting begins. Just call 311.
To demystify the process of presenting to Council, read the following guide on the Grandview-Woodland Area Council website:

How to Present and Write to Vancouver City Council

Workshop, Tuesday, July 19th

The No Tower Coalition is putting on a community workshop on how to present to City Council and how to write to Councillors.

Please join us at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 19th, in the Board Room at Britannia Centre (in the Info Centre building).

Bring your ideas and questions. Participation isn’t limited to the issues concerning Venables & Commercial. You can talk about anything you have to say about the draft Grandview Community Plan and would like to share with Council.

Hope to see you there!

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.

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.

City Land Key To Funding Housing Alternatives

The No Tower Coalition has already proposed one alternative to the Boffo/Kettle towers (see here and here).  While we have had lots of positive community response to our alternative, we have had only minimal positive response from the press (with the exception of Carlito Pablo in the Straight).

Further, we have had no response so far from City Hall. It seems that city staff have been involved in discussing the Boffo/Kettle proposal for over 5 years. That’s a lot of staff time and effort put into only this one possibility! However, we think it’s reasonable to ask them to put just a little bit of time and effort into considering, sincerely, our alternative.

More than that, we notice that with other social housing projects built recently in Vancouver, the principles and assumptions that guide our alternative are already in use. Two examples, are the Sanford/Kettle building at 1700 Kingsway and the Burn Fund Building at 3891 Main St.

1700 Kingsway – Sanford Housing with Kettle Friendship Society

Built through the Community Housing Land Trust Foundation, it is one of four sites being developed as part of the City’s affordable housing initiative. The Land Trust Foundation has been granted a 99-year lease at 1700 Kingsway. This single site is connected to 3 other sites (The Fraserview Co-op (2 sites) and Tikva Housing Society (1 site) both on East Kent Ave South), all of which together produce enough revenue to generate multiple affordable housing units:

  • The Fraserview Co-op (278 units) has housing close to market rates, providing revenue to the other sites;.
  • The 48 units at 1700 Kingsway will be rented at below market rates and divided between clients of Sanford Housing and the Kettle;
  • The Tikva Housing Society will operate 32 townhouses for low-income families;.
  • Further, the retail lease at 1700 Kingsway will be sold as a prepaid lease, providing additional revenue to all four sites.

Compare the ratio there to the proposed Boffo/Kettle ratio at Venables and Commercial:

  • 278 Co-op units at close to market rates and 80 units at below market rates, including some that will be large enough to accommodate families. Co-op units require a share price, but this is generally much less than a down payment and therefore tend to be accessible to a broader range of people.
  • In the Boffo/Kettle scenario, we get 200 condos and 30 studio-size below market rate units plus program and office space. Not only is the ratio of market to non-market units worse, all of those condos will be sold at new build retail rates, some with premium pricing as a result of fantastic unobstructed views of the North Shore mountains. An overall much less accessible and inclusive project.

Don’t believe us? Check it out for yourself at the Land Trusts website, or see the Vancouver Community Land Trust Foundation_1700 Kingsway pdf.

1700_Kingsway-a

Two views of 1700 Kingsway

Two views of 1700 Kingsway

 

3891 Main St – Burn Fund Building

This site was originally purchased by the City of Vancouver to be used as the new Little Mountain Neighbourhood House. When the City realized it was too small to work for that purpose, they agreed to enter into a 60-year low-cost lease with the Burn Fund. The Burn Fund project has only 8 residential units, but has a large programming and administrative space, similar to that being requested by the Kettle. The total cost for this project is estimated at $15 million.

The City of Vancouver estimated that through the lease agreement the City is providing $1.5 million in capital costs to the project. The Burn Fund did their own fundraising, but also secured $4 million in capital costs from the Provincial government (half from each of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Housing and Social Development). Finally, a retail lease for the ground floor space (3135 sq ft) added revenue of $38 psf or $119,130 annually. The building has been built and now operates.

BurnFundCentre-4

BurnFundCentre-1

Two views of the Burn Fund building

These two project were made feasible because the City of Vancouver provided land through a low-cost lease. Both have retail leases as part of the funding structure. One has other buildings, though not a condo tower, as additional funding sources; the other has a combination of self-raised funds and Provincial government funds to add the needed revenue.

All of these ideas are possible at Venables and Commercial and should be seriously considered as community-friendly alternatives to the highly controversial and unpopular for-profit tower.

The Tower Is Decidedly Controversial

In the two weeks since the No Tower Coalition published its alternatives to the Boffo Tower (see here and here), debate has been lively in the press, on radio, and on the street. With this rekindling of the controversy, the project has confirmed its place among the most egregious examples of developer’s over-reach that we’ve seen so far in Vancouver. The following are just a few of the things that have been said lately.

On the OneCity Party website, Alison Atkinson accurately described the Boffo project as “a development that doesn’t deal with the desperate need for affordable and social housing, and at the same time makes many members of the community angry.” It is, says Atkinson, “another example of market housing that masquerades as a social good.”

On CBC Radio’s Early Edition, longtime Grandview resident John Shayler, explained his objections to the tower. He was able to bring a great historical perspective to the current situation.  Move the slider to 2:39:33 and listen to John make some excellent points.

In the Province yesterday (4th item down), a short letter from Briane Jensen hit all the key points:

“The proposed Kettle Boffo 12-storey project at Venables Street and Commercial Drive will raise land values and house prices and commercial and residential rents, drive out local mom-and-pop businesses and destroy the character and human scale of the neighbourhood. This is where we choose to live, work, play, and raise our families. The quality of life in our neighbourhood is being threatened in the name of corporate profit. Reject this huge development and give The Kettle what it needs in a four-storey format.”

Michael Kluckner, guest-editing Pricetags, did a good job of introducing the Tower project, and that led to a vigorous debate.

Finally, in a more general discussion, the childish taunt of NIMBY (particularly unwarranted in the case of the Drive) is discussed in depth by Naomi Oreskes in this 2014 article in The Washington Post.  It notes that the

“pejorative term NIMBY … shuts down key questions about our democracy: Who gets to decide? Who has the burden of proof? And how should citizens be compensated … There’s nothing wrong with standing up for our own communities, and standing with our fellow citizens who want to preserve their quality of life. Not everything about modernity is worth embracing. We have the right to protect and defend the things we care about. Indeed, it’s defeatist not to.

 

More On Creative Alternatives

The NO TOWER Coalition today issued the following media statement:

 

COMMUNITY PROPOSES VIABLE AND CREATIVE ALTERNATIVE TO MASSIVE TOWER PROPOSAL AT VENABLES AND COMMERCIAL

Vancouver. The NO TOWER Coalition is proposing a viable and creative alternative to a massive three-tower development under discussion in the Grandview-Woodland community.

The alternative would see the City of Vancouver provide available land (a city-owned parking lot on the site) to the Kettle Friendship Society as an outright grant.  The Kettle would sell its existing building (also on the site) and use the proceeds to construct up to 25,000 square feet of community service and housing space, on the land, provided free by the city.

Estimates put the cost of a 25,000 square foot, four-storey structure, with service space and 30 small units of supportive housing at $5.2 million, excluding land costs.  The Kettle’s current building was assessed in 2015 at $2,068,000 million.  The city parking lot was assessed in 2015 at $2,259,000.

“We have looked carefully at the footprint,” says Sue Garber, a NO TOWER spokesperson. “The City of Vancouver and the Kettle together own over half the total square footage of the land in question. With the city contribution, this approach could work very well.”

“We think this is a very viable alternative. And it is much preferable to public land being turned over to a developer for tremendous profit, with so many unfortunate impacts on the neighbouring community.   These lands are currently in community hands.  They should stay that way,” Garber notes.

“This alternative would provide the Kettle what it needs and would spare the Commercial Drive community from the devastating effects of a massive three-tower complex, with associated rising land costs and displacement of nearby rental and non-profit housing.”

The proposal also suggests the adjoining street be permanently closed to car traffic for a pedestrian “piazza” which would extend the low-rise and human scale of Commercial Drive north towards the renovated York Theatre and Hastings Street.

The Coalition also released the following additional notes:

 

Thoughts on Financing the Kettle Alternative:

  • The city would donate the parking lot land to the Kettle (assessed value: $2.259 million).
  • The Kettle would sell its existing building on Venables and use the proceeds to partially finance the construction of a new building (assessed value of Kettle’s existing building and land $2.068 million).
  • Estimated cost (excluding land) for a 25,000 square foot, four storey building to house the Kettle’s needs (on city parking lot) estimated at $5.2 million.
  • The province of BC and the federal government may provide $$ based on the city coming forward with its contribution of land.
  • A lender would be able to lend a substantial amount to the Kettle project, based on the asset value of the city parking lot land and the Kettle land.
  • The city’s donation of the land to the Kettle would kickstart the whole process.
  • Upon completion of the new four-storey Kettle building on the parking lot, there would be a considerable value lift available to the Kettle.
  • The final Kettle building would be an asset of considerable value, likely much more than what they started out with.
  • Going forward and into the future, the Kettle would be “masters in their own house” and in charge of their own destiny. They would not be forever dependent on a developer for their future, and locked into a condo tower they could never modify or change.
  • The Kettle and the city have already demonstrated such a partnership at 1700 Kingsway in Vancouver, where city land was provided for supportive housing for the Kettle. (This building is currently under construction.)

 

Residents Aren’t Hijacking Anything

Some of you may have read the entirely one-sided article in the Huffington Post Canada by a Brad Jones, Vancouver pro-tower enthusiast.  It has infuriated many, including Tak Uyede who has written the following letter to the editor, which we publish with his permission:

I guess misinformation or lack of critical information is running rampant. In fact Mr. Jones, the purported writer of this article, may perhaps be as guilty as those he accuses. To wit:

Mr. Jones appears to have an accreditation as a planner and was a former appointee of the City if Vancouver, but to my understanding, his principal occupation is as a developer. I would therefore submit that the author of this piece should have read “Developer, and Former  Planner. Certainly how his article is perceived once this distinction is made is very germane to this issue and is akin to “chalk and cheese” or “people and profit”.

“For new developments being proposed in both Vancouver and Calgary, information is typically put forward by the developer and the city to communities. But now, we’re seeing community groups releasing their own information to residents. The motive is to try to increase opposition to the project. 

There has in fact been almost no “information” released by the developer or the city in the last two years. The developer in a public meeting (of which there are recorded minutes) stated that there would be a minimum of fifteen stories to make the project viable aka profitable.

In the absence of any hard facts, a scale model was built that conformed to the proposed FSR and Mr. Boffo’s public statement. The scale model is in fact not that dissimilar from the latest press release.

As to citizens making unfounded statements of fact, “based on inaccurate information that is not prepared by professionals, industry experts or city staff”

Both the developer and the non-profit have been asked to meet in a public forum and have repeatedly refused.  In addition, City staff has been asked repeatedly for over a full year until finally citizens requested information under the freedom of information act in July 2015, and were forced to prepay hundreds of dollars to do so. Despite a 30 day mandate to comply, the City only agreed to release the information on this development in December of 2015 – a full four months longer than the statutory requirement.

The developer at this point filed a well timed last minute appeal to block the release of any information and the file has been forwarded to the Provincial FOI office, where no doubt it will languish until the development permithas been passed.   

So, what is this evil developer actually proposing?  That is a very good question as the picture in the article has only been released to the press last week after two years of refusing to tell the community what the built form might look like.

So exactly what is the poor Nimby to think when the developer has previously stated, at various times, that the building would be of various dimensions:

  • Not less than 15 stories, inferring that it might have to be taller to make it “feasible”.
  • Only 12 stories, he never said 15 and the community is exaggerating.
  • As of last week we learn that the development has been “scaled down” to 12 stories from….15, which it never was in the first place

“It would be located across the street from an existing 13-story apartment building.”

It would appear that not only Mr.Boffo but also Mr. Jones has a numeracy deficit in that he conveniently includes the rooftop ventilation equipment as a floor. Thus, at most, it is twelve stories, not 13.  He fails to report that the first floor which houses mechanical equipment and foodservice facilities is actually significantly below grade and has only small windows at ground level.

He also fails to mention that it is not just “an apartment building”:  It was built as a one-off in the 70’s. The “Lion’s Den” was given special consideration as it was and still is a 100% non-profit seniors’ residenceThe funds for the building and the ongoing expenses are carried by a non-profit and there was no density bonus for providing that amenity.

It was built before the City conducted a quarter million dollar community workshop in 2015 where the community concluded that this area should remain four stories.

Also conveniently overlooked is the fact that the Lion’s Den has a modest 2.75 FSR, (or in other words very slender for the amount of land around it). Compare this to the massive 6+ that Boffo will need to build what is ‘feasible”.

And finally, the fortuitous inclusion of the Lion’s Den in every photo conveniently portrays only part of it as towering over the Boffo development. The fact is that view is only available by a drone or passing crow at an altitude of some 300 feet. Indeed the average Nimby walking/cycling/driving by or even sitting on their patios or back yards will see not a brilliant beacon of modern architecture but a monolithic glass and concrete mass that obliterates sun, air and community.

I do not speak for the No Tower group, nor is my response crafted by a highly paid back room P.R. company. I am but one of 3600 “hypocritical, self interested Nimbys” “posing as community representatives”. I believe most of the signatories of the petition know more about this project than Mr.Jones, and at least they speak from the heart, do not hide behind the good works of others, and do not pretend to be who they are not.

There are many more in the community who oppose this development for different reasons, and who can speak more knowledgeably than I. Any number of them would gladly engage with Mr.Jones and would love to know what an expert has to say.

We are but a handful of senior citizens with a folding table, a model made of building insulation, and a couple of hundred bucks of pension money for printing. Yet we seem to be able to at least rattle an entrenched bureaucracy, force a millionaire developer to hire not one but two public relations companies, and bear witness to those who are willing to sell their integrity by attempting to denigrate and belittle those who actually live in this community and have the audacity to speak their mind.

We are bold because we have everything to lose in our community, and nothing to gain but the satisfaction of knowing that we stand for what we believe in, and not for what will profit us.

We appreciate Tak and many others who have written to the press pointing out the errors and distortions in the developer’s advertorials.

Alternatives Explored

The footprint in question comprises four properties, a lane and a street:

Venables location

While we cannot know all of the details of the financial situation of the Kettle Friendship Society and cannot speak for them on this issue, we do see that there are viable alternatives that will benefit the Kettle, allowing the organization to expand, the community to gain additional community space, and preventing 200 high-priced condos in 3 towers from being added to our neighbourhood.  The proposal involves the following:

  • The City of Vancouver provides lot 5 for the Kettle relocation on a long-term lease or as an outright grant.
  • The Kettle could elect to sell its current property or mortgage it along with the city-granted land to raise most of the funds needed for construction of social housing and expanded office and program space. The most recent assessment for the Kettle’s existing property is $2,068,000.  Preliminary estimates put the cost of constructing 30,000 square feet of space for the Kettle – not including the land – at $5.2 million. 
  • With assistance from the provincial government, the municipal government, granting agencies, and the public, the Kettle could add to its own financing capacity, raising the additional funds needed to build 30 social housing units and other needed space within 4 storeys (30,000 square feet, approximately).
  • The city-owned rear lane behind the current buildings (lot 4) could be incorporated into the final footprint as required.
  • The Kettle could potentially remain in its current building, until its new purpose-built structure is complete, avoiding re-location costs and service disruption.
  • The adjoining street (lot 6) would be permanently closed to car traffic and would become a pedestrian-only area with various people-friendly elements such as outdoor seating and other appropriate community amenities. This might take the form of a beautiful piazza, such as the ones pictured below, which will reflect the Italian heritage of Commercial Drive.

PlazaCavana-1

 

Italy-Sorrento-Courtyard

Overall, this proposal provides benefit to Kettle Friendship Society and the neighbourhood around Commercial Drive, leaving only the properties along Venables available for for-profit development.  This development or developments should be kept within the 4-storey height limit that exists in the area.  Minimal land assembly and no upzoning will have less effect on surrounding land value.

Even better, if we could have Federal government investment in more rental and cooperative housing along Venables we could further increase affordability in Grandview-Woodland.

We welcome your responses and other ideas: notower@telus.net

 

A Real Perspective

Yesterday we republished the rendering produced by Boffo Properties.  Today, we would like to give you a perspective on what 12 storeys really means from the point of view of a person standing on the street.

12StoreyandUprising

The renderings produced by Boffo are the “helicopter” view; they don’t give the perspective we will actually experience when walking up and down the Drive.   By contrast, this image does.  It shows a 12-storey tower, based on the only true model Boffo has ever released and Uprising Bakery, which will be right next door in real life.

We continue to call on Boffo to release actual plans, including density, unit size, floor plans, the space that the Kettle will occupy, and the retail cost of those 200 condos so that we know what we’re actually dealing with.  They should also produce renderings that show us the look and feel of the buildings from street view.

For now, we have these.

Alternatives Exist

Our campaign has often been accused of being against supportive housing for Commercial and Venables.  We are not, as we have written before.  We are against the condo tower.  We believe the issue of supportive housing can and should be separated from for-profit development at Commercial and Venables.  We believe that alternatives to for-profit private development exist.

Lewis Villegas sketch_best

Image credit: Illustration by Lewis N. Villegas 2015

For example, the image here is a rendering of a four-storey building on the parking lot at Commercial Diversion, just north of Venables.  This is a potential alternative to the tower.  The building in the rendering contains enough room for 30 studio units of supportive housing as well as administration and program space for staff and service users.

The parking lot is public land, owned by the City of Vancouver.  The City of Vancouver could make this rendering or another four-storey non-profit building possible by giving the parking lot for a nominal fee to a non-profit housing agency, such as the Kettle.  This would reduce the overall cost of the project, making self-financing with mortgages and donations possible.  Better still, such a gift by the City of Vancouver might put pressure on the Provincial and Federal governments to fund construction.   And, it would prevent 12, 10 and 8-storeys of gentrifying condos from being built at enormous profit to the developer, which is, of course, the real reason a condo tower is “necessary.”

If you think our city government should play a bigger role in stewarding this project, such as by selling public land at a nominal fee to a non-profit housing and service provider, write them to let them know and CC us.

If you are also angry that our health and social service systems are increasingly privatized, write your MLA and MP.

Or, send letters to the editor of our local newspapers on any of these issues.

And, if you have other ideas for low-rise (under five-storey) alternatives for the site that provide the needed supportive housing and services, please let us know.  We’d love to get community feedback on this idea and hear yours.  Email: notower@telus.net

The Kettle Boffo Renderings: A Critical View

This image was released on Feb 26, 2016.

Rendering

 

It shows a rendering of what Boffo and the Kettle might build at Venables and Commercial: 3 towers of 12, 10, 8 storeys.  The detailed plans, including density, unit size, and the amount of space provided for the Kettle and its future tenants, have not yet been presented to the community.  However, this rendering has prompted us at No Tower to ask several important questions we thought you might also be interested in considering:

  • Do you want three massive towers rising 12, 10, and 8 storeys at Venables and Commercial?
  • Do you want 200 expensive market condos to flood our neighbourhood?
  • Do you want to drive land prices in Grandview-Woodland even higher?
  • Do you want to put neighbourhood non-profit, rental, and other affordable housing at risk for upzoning and demolition?
  • Do you want even more towers like this in the future?
  • Do you want to see city-owned land turned over to private developers for their profit?
  • Do you want to exempt governments from funding needed social services like the Kettle?
  • Do you want to hand the future of our community over to developers?

IF NOT:

3,500 Sign Petition Against Boffo Tower

The NO TOWER Coalition, formed by residents of Grandview-Woodland opposed to a massive high-rise tower on Commercial Drive proposed by Boffo Properties, announced today that their petition has now exceeded 3,500 signatures.

Almost 75% of those who have signed are from the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood, where the tower at Commercial and Venables Street is being proposed.  The rest are regular visitors who come to the Drive for shopping and entertainment.

Roughly 1,100 people have signed the petition online (http://chn.ge/1JV55mc) and the majority of people have signed the paper version, making their feelings known at the NO TOWER Coalition information table at Grandview Park. This has allowed the Coalition to discuss the proposal with thousands of residents and visitors, to debate the issues, and to collect neighbourhood opinion. Much of that opinion is unwavering in its criticism of the tower which most say will destroy the very character of Grandview-Woodland.

Spokesperson Susan Garber, noted, “Our Coalition’s open and transparent community engagement approach contrasts sharply with the developer’s. They have refused to meet with neighbourhood residents for a genuine exchange of ideas.”

The developers have not held a single community-accessible meeting, and continue to refuse to reveal their plans for the building.  They have, instead, relied on private, closed-door, invitation-only meetings with small groups likely to support them.

“We call on Boffo to let the residents know what their plans really look like,” said Garber.  “They have suggested their design is for 12 storeys, which is way out of step with the neighbourhood.  But Daniel Boffo has publicly stated his business need for 15 storeys and has even suggested he would like 20.  How are we to know just what this would be until they reveal their plans? Our goal is to ‘Keep the Drive Under Five’ storeys.”

The NO TOWER Coalition plans to continue the engagement of our concerned neighbourhood in opposition to this tower. They hope to co-create viable alternatives for the site that will give the Kettle what it needs to provide effective services to its mental-health clients without destroying the character of our neighbourhood.

Trying To Meet With The Kettle

For many months now, the NO TOWER Coalition has been trying to set up a meeting with the Kettle to air our concerns about the Tower. At first, they simply ignored us, refusing to acknowledge our request. However, under pressure from City Councilors they did finally agree to a meeting. Unfortunately, the conditions they attached for such a meeting were unworkable. The following is a copy of a letter we sent to the various City Councilors who had pushed for a meeting:

“As you know, for the past several weeks we have been trying to arrange a meeting with the Kettle to talk about potential non-tower options for the site at Venables & Commercial.

First, we wrote to the Kettle Board of  Directors requesting a meeting, and received no reply. Then, with the help of Councillors Meggs and Jang, we were finally in touch with Kettle Executive Director Nancy Keough and thought we were on track to organize a meeting for Monday, December 14th. Unfortunately, she imposed too many conditions on the meeting:

* Even though we reserved the Board Room at Britannia Community Centre so that we could meet in a neutral place, Nancy refused to meet there and insisted on meeting on their “turf”, a block away, at the Kettle.

* We intended to invite participation of our core NO TOWER Coalition members, probably seven or so people; Nancy stipulated that they would allow us to bring no more than three of our people.

* We had reserved the meeting room for two hours, in hopes that we would have an opportunity to discuss most of our key issues and concerns; Nancy said they were only willing to meet for a maximum of half an hour.

In the end, we said we would be available to meet with them in the Britannia Board Room at the appointed hour; Nancy replied that they would not be coming.

We regret that we have been unable to agree on meeting protocol. Perhaps there will be other opportunities in the new year.

Thanks for your help with this and your willingness to listen to and weigh both sides of this issue, one which is of major consequence to the citizens of Grandview.”

We can only hope that the Kettle and Boffo have a more cooperative attitude in the New Year and that a meeting can soon take place.

Setting The Record Straight

One of the defining features of the NO TOWER campaign has been its openness and willingness to meet with residents to discuss the issues surrounding the Kettle/Boffo Tower proposal. Almost every week since the summer, campaign volunteers have manned an information table at Grandview Park. They have met with and talked with literally thousands of Grandview residents and visitors. They are pleased, of course, that so many are willing to understand the campaign’s position and to sign the NO TOWER petition.  But they have also been troubled by hearing some sadly inaccurate statements, both about our campaign and about the uses to which the Tower will be put.

To clear up any confusion, we decided to interview members of the NO TOWER Campaign planning group to get the straight goods.

Question: The NO TOWER Campaign are a bunch of NIMBYs who don’t support the operations of the Kettle Friendship Society. Is that so?  

BARBARA CAMERON:  Absolutely not.  We have tried to be clear from the very beginning that we support the Kettle and the expansion it feels is required in Grandview. It is the tower form that we oppose. We believe there are a number of alternative options that can give the Kettle what it needs without imposing a tower on an unwilling community.

Question: Is the NO TOWER Campaign against densification in Grandview?

PENNY STREET:  No, that’s not true, While it is a fact that Grandview is already one of the densest neighbourhoods in Vancouver, it seems odd that the City is requiring more density from us. However, we do recognise that the City is growing, and Grandview along with it.  We agree with the general conclusion of the Citizens’ Assembly report that Grandview should grow through gentle densification rather than huge residential towers, and that the density expected in Vancouver over the next thirty years should be shared equitably by all neighbourhoods.

Question:  Some have argued that the NO TOWER Campaign is a group with a single idea, inflexible in its thinking. Would you agree?

TOM DURRIE:  Quite the opposite.  The developers are the ones with a single inflexible idea – that the Kettle can only get what it needs if the community is willing to sacrifice itself on the altar of a high-rise condo tower from Boffo Properties. The NO TOWER Campaign, in contrast, has examined a whole raft of possible alternatives that would allow the Kettle to expand as they need while keeping the Drive under five storeys. Once the Tower plan is finally revealed, we will be bringing forward those alternatives to show that there is more than one way to achieve what the Kettle and the community need.

Question:  What are you hearing on the street about the Tower?

TOM DURRIE:  Speaking with residents at the information table we have heard all sorts of things about the Tower, few of which seem to be accurate. For example, we were told by one resident that they had heard at the Kettle that the Tower was to have “lots” of low-income housing.  The Kettle has confirmed that isn’t true, that only the Kettle’s 30 studios – for use by their mental health clients – will be “low-income.”

PENNY STREET: Just last week a man told us that BC Housing would be running the housing in the Tower. When asked where they got that information, the man said that “the woman at the Kettle” told him.  Again, this is completely inaccurate so far as the Kettleboffo’s published information is concerned.

JAK KING: The community has loyally supported the Kettle and its work on the Drive for the last forty years. This time, people are saying, the Kettle should prove its commitment to this community by accepting and following the community’s loudly-voiced opposition to a Tower.

Question: Is the NO TOWER Campaign opposed to change in Grandview?

JAK KING: Certainly not. One of the great things about the Drive and Grandview in general has been our ability to accept, adopt and encourage change of all kinds. That is how this neighbourhood has become so famously diverse – in terms of language, race, incomes, sexual orientation, food and entertainment. This didn’t happen because we are opposed to change!

BARBARA CAMERON: The key is that the NO TOWER Campaign, along with our friends and neighbours and supporters, want to have a say in the form the change takes.  We should not be forced to accept someone else’s view of how Grandview should change.  This is our community, and the future should be ours  to choose.