OUR PERSPECTIVE: August, 2015
The NO TOWER Coalition is actively campaigning against a proposed tower at the corner of Commercial and Venables in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood of Vancouver.
As a means of obtaining massive density and height approval, the Developer, Boffo Properties, has partnered with the Kettle Society, which provides services for the mentally ill. The proposal is entirely out of scope with the surrounding community.
This approach is not community building. It is community destruction. We have gathered over 2,000 signatures on our petition against the project, and opposition is growing. We call on those involved to abandon the idea and go back to the drawing board with a low-rise option for Kettle expansion, in keeping with the character of our neighbourhood.
HERE’S WHY WE VIGOROUSLY OPPOSE THIS PROJECT
NEIGHBOURHOOD AMBIENCE AND CHARACTER
- Boffo’s massive tower proposal would be very destructive to the people-friendly ambience and streetscape of Commercial Drive. Keep the Drive under five!
- An alternative low-rise proposal for the Kettle, which DOES NOT include a tower, must be fully explored. The Kettle has obtained city, provincial and foundation funding for their other real estate ventures in the past. We suggest those same funding bodies should come to the table in this instance.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND NEIGHBOURHOOD DENSITY
- This proposal is being characterized as “affordable housing” (D. Boffo, Vancouver Province July 10, 2015). This is FALSE. The 150 to 200 high-end market condos in the proposed tower would NOT be “affordable”.
- There would be a possible 30 units of housing for Kettle clients, but not for other low-income or homeless citizens. Just how long would these units be retained as supportive housing? They could be converted back to market units at some point in the future. We do not know.
- If approved, the 150 to 200 new market-priced condos would add massive and unnecessary density to the neighbourhood, with associated congestion, parking and transportation problems.
- Grandview-Woodland is already one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Vancouver.
- Adding 150 to 200 luxury condos will NOT alleviate the housing affordability crisis in Grandview-Woodland. It will make it worse. Expensive new buildings increase land prices, putting further pressure on neighbouring sales prices and rents. (Unneeded Density Can Kill Affordability, GW Area Council news release July 15, 2015.)
- The Grandview-Woodland Area Council is concerned that existing affordable rental stock will be lost as up zoning for towers in our neighbourhood increases. We agree. This tower proposal is part of that destructive trend and should be blocked.
- The addition of increased space for the Kettle is being characterized as a public “good” provided by the developer. It has also been characterized as “a public amenity contribution”. Both assertions are false.
- The developer’s main motive is profit, not community wellbeing. Partnering with a community group is a manipulative way to buy support for a destructive proposal.
- As partners in the development, the Kettle would receive space for mental health services, which is NOT a public amenity. Services for people with mental illness should be publicly funded. The Kettle must seek alternative options.
- Relying on developers to provide public services, in exchange for highly profitable height and density bonuses is a dangerous trend and must NOT be allowed.
LACK OF OPENNESS AND TRANSPARENCY
- It is likely city staff have held numerous meetings with the developer on this proposal. Yet a recent city open house on the matter, made absolutely no mention of the specific Boffo proposal. There were no models or proposed drawings. Why not? This is NOT an open and transparent approach to community planning.
- We call on the city to come forward and discuss this specific proposal with the community now, to hear our concerns, and to explore low-rise alternatives before making any decisions.
- Meanwhile, the developer is being unclear about the proposal. Daniel Boffo has referenced a tower with a possible twelve storeys, fifteen storeys, and even twenty storeys. Sometimes he refers to “150” condos. Other times he says “150 to 200”. This is a manipulative game designed to keep the community guessing.
- Recent drawings of the proposal created by the developer’s architect, are being widely circulated. But the drawings are also described as “for general direction only”. They do not represent a final plan.
- With views only from above, the developers’ drawings never show the true height, mass and scale of the proposed tower. There is no “elevation view” at ground level, to show the real height of 15 or 20 storeys in perspective. This is dishonest and misleading in the extreme.
- The nearby Lions building is shown in these drawings as 14 storeys. In fact it is only 12 storeys, is well set back from the street and comprises 100 per cent subsidized rental housing for low-income seniors.
- This Lions building has a 2.2 floor space ratio (“FSR” is used to calculate interior density.) The proposed tower would have an FSR of 6.8 according to Daniel Boffo. This is more than three times as dense.
- We call on Boffo Properties to come forward and openly discuss their exact plans with the community.
EXPLORING VIABLE ALTERNATIVES
- Recently the City of Vancouver made a new request to the province to come to the table and partner with the city for affordable housing. The city proposes to offer some of its land holdings to be used along with possible provincial funds.
- We support this call by the city. This very solution could be used at Commercial and Venables where there is a city-owned parking lot. The Kettle already owns its own building on the site. A collaborative approach with the city could produce a low-rise option for the Kettle that would not include a private developer. THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS TO BE EXPLORED!
- City owned land should not be sold outright to developers for luxury high-rise condominiums. This city land is a community resource and should only be used for community good.
JULY 15, 2015: STATEMENT FROM THE COALITION
Neighbourhood concern is gaining momentum in Grandview-Woodland against a proposed condo tower at the corner of Commercial Drive and Venables Street.
Door-to-door canvassing, leafleting, and an information table at Grandview Park, in the heart of the Drive, are having a big impact on the campaign. Today, our No Tower petitions (online and on paper) have passed the thousand mark. No Tower signs are appearing on homes and businesses in the neighbourhood.
Recent media coverage of our concerns appeared in The Vancouver Province, 24 Hours and Metro News last week, and in the Vancouver Courier today. Meanwhile, the No Tower Coalition has responded to misleading comments in those reports made by Daniel Boffo of Boffo Properties, suggesting the development will provide “affordable” housing.
The No Tower Coalition strongly disagrees, noting that the development proposal as it stands, would provide primarily market housing — 150 market-priced condominiums.
The so-called affordable housing referenced by Boffo would in fact be supportive housing for special needs individuals with mental health issues and would not alleviate the housing affordability crisis in Grandview-Woodland.
The coalition reiterates that services for people with mental illness are part of Canada’s social safety net and should be publicly funded, in ways that do not have such a negative community impact.
Giving private developers inappropriate density and height bonuses in exchange for providing necessary mental health services would set a dangerous precedent and should not be allowed. We are encouraged by the support of the eminent Vancouver architect and developer Michael Geller for this position.
The coalition is also critical of Boffo Properties for failing to put their plans clearly on the table. Daniel Boffo has referenced a tower with a possible fifteen storeys, twelve storeys, or even twenty storeys, at various times in the recent past. The coalition calls on Boffo officials to come forward and publicly disclose their exact plans to the community.
JULY 8, 2015: OPPOSITION GROWING TO MASSIVE TOWER ON COMMERCIAL DRIVE
Vancouver. Concerned citizens of Grandview-Woodland are moving to block a project being proposed by the developer Boffo Properties at the corner of Commercial Drive and Venables Street.
Boffo is proposing a massive development for this site, including a 15-storey tower with 150 market condo units and an eight-storey tower with expanded facilities for the Kettle Friendship Society, including 30 units of supportive housing for Kettle clients.
“We want to emphasize that we are not opposed to the Kettle or its valuable services for people with mental health concerns,” said spokesperson Barbara Cameron. “We strongly support the Kettle and its work”.
“Yet the key point here is that a massive and dense, high-rise tower would be completely out of context with our low rise, people-friendly and much-loved Commercial Drive community and extremely destructive to the neighbourhood. The Kettle should get expanded facilities, but not at such a cost to its neighbours.”
The No Tower coalition is active and now has over 800 signatures on its two ongoing petitions against the tower proposal. The group will continue to lobby vigorously for practical alternatives to the project, without a tower.
“We absolutely reject the argument that all possible sources of funding for the Kettle have been explored,” Cameron said. Just today Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang noted “the provincial government has to continue to invest in housing and begin a second phase of development where supportive housing is built on city property.” (Vancouver Courier July 8, 2015.) The City has a key piece of available property at the Venables/Commercial corner, which could be put into play for the Kettle.
Services to people with mental illness are part of Canada’s social safety net, the No Tower group emphasized. They should be publicly funded, in ways that do not have a negative community impact.
Giving private developers inappropriate density and height bonuses in exchange for providing necessary mental health services would set a dangerous precedent. It should not be allowed.