Community

Sunny Day In The Park

Info Table

The No Tower Coalition community outreach table was out in the sunshine at Grandview Park again today. Volunteers shared old and new information about the proposed tower at Commercial & Venables, and collected a lot more signatures on the petition. Support for a non-tower alternative continues to build.

Advertisements

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.

 

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:

The Side Streets In Fall

Napier Street

The fall is such a beautiful time along Vancouver’s side streets; bright sunshine, colourful leaves, and deep blue skies accentuating our glorious streetscapes.

This particular fall, the lawn signs for the NO TOWER campaign are adding to the display, springing up all over to celebrate the community’s rejection of a high-rise tower on the Drive.  If you want to join this blooming trend, please email us at no.tower.lawn.sign@gmail.com.

More Of What the Community Is Saying

Thousands and thousands of residents and visitors who love Commercial Drive and the neighbourhood vibe, have already signed our petition against the Boffo Tower and calling for a more community-friendly alternative.  If you haven’t signed yet, you can do so at Grandview Park next Friday afternoon or, perhaps more conveniently, online at our petition site.

One of the advantages of the online site is the ability for you to leave a comment, explaining why you personally think a tower is inappropriate for the Commercial & Venables intersection, and for our neighbourhood as a whole.  Here is a selection of recent comments:

— “Not only do I live in this neighbourhood but I have a business here as well. I have seen what development like this has done to other neighbourhoods and do not want this for mine. Commercial Driive is one of the few neighbourhoods left in this city where there is some diversity, but if this sort of development is allowed to go through unchecked we’ll just be Kits East soon.”

— “As a resident of this enjoyable neighbourhood for 28 years, I do not approve of this proposal to drastically change it by building this monstrosity. Please stick to the original community plan of four-storey zoning.”

— “A low rise option would suit the drive much better…having a clear view of the mountains is the beauty of Vancouver as a city where tall buildings are concentrated in one area. The Drive as a community is a quirky place to live and a high rise doesn’t suit the neighbourhood.”

— “This is a terrible, terrible idea and needs to be stopped. This entire area is already zoned for 4-story buildings and very few are presently that large. We have lots of room for densification without changing the zoning at all.”

These are just a few of the hundreds of comments left by residents.  The real question is: Why isn’t the developer (and its supporters) listening to what the community is saying?

 

 

Dispelling False Rumours

Over the last few days, at least three people have let us know that they cannot support our campaign because “lots” of low-income housing will be made available in the Boffo Tower. Other than the “up to 30” units for the Kettle’s mental health clients we were not aware of any such low-income housing being made available; and they are certainly not mentioned on the kettleboffo website. A message to the developer, Daniel Boffo, for clarification remains unanswered at this time.

However, the Kettle’s Director of Community Services was more forthcoming on Twitter last night, and he confirms that he knows of no low-income housing in the project other than the rooms set aside for Kettle clients.

So now we are clear: the Boffo Tower project will include 150-200 high-priced condos, “up to” 30 studio units for the Kettle, and no low-income housing.  What is less clear is how this rumour — which seems designed to gather support for the Tower — got started. Someone had to tell these people the inaccurate information; the mystery is who?

Quiet On Stage, Busy Back Stage

The NO TOWER campaign may seem to have entered a quiet period right now, but don’t be fooled by the surface calm; there is a lot going on beneath.

Our public information booth at Grandview Park has been missing this last couple of weeks, due to the onset of Vancouver’s famous rains. However, we keep an eye on the weather forecasts and try to pick our days.  We will be there on Monday 9th, for example, from noon until 4pm. Stop by and chat if you have a minute or two.

At the booth, we have spoken with literally thousands and thousands of residents and visitors. We would venture to suggest this exercise has been the most community-rich and community-involved campaign since the Freeway days. Most of the 3,200 signatures we now have on the petition have come from these personal contacts and conversations.

We are also in the process of completing delivery of our informative flyer to every household in Grandview. Without the money and the PR agencies that the developer has been using (in the absence of any other community outreach), this is a labour-intensive task for volunteers.  We hope to finish the delivery soon.

We are happy to report that the number of NO TOWER lawn signs continues to grow. Unfortunately, we also have to report that a number of our lawn signs continue to be vandalized and stolen throughout the neighbourhood, Several more were taken in just the last few days. It seems this childish behaviour is likely to continue for as long as we campaign.

If your sign goes missing, or if you want to order a lawn sign, please contact us at no.tower.lawn.sign@gmail.com and we will be glad to help.

This has also been the season for meetings. Members of the Coalition have already met with a number of City Councillors to make sure they are hearing the results of the conversations we are having with the community. Efforts are still being made to arrange a meeting with City Planners, though we have been rebuffed by them to date.

The Coalition is also in an extended dialogue with the Kettle regarding a meeting.  We hope to have that resolved soon.

Finally, the Coalition continues to develop a positive wing to the campaign, by exploring the possible alternatives for the Venables-Commercial-Adanac site that would allow the Kettle to expand and yet stop the imposition of an unwanted tower on the neighbourhood.   We refuse to believe the Kettle, the developers, or the Mayor when they say a highrise tower is the only way forward. Our researches into the literature and governmental regulations, and meetings with experts in related fields, have convinced us that there is a range of possible alternatives — and that a condo tower is simply a lazy profit-driven way out.

These ideas take time to develop and our meetings continue.  More to come.

What The Community Is Saying About The Boffo Tower

At our online petition site, hundreds of members of our community have left comments discussing why they oppose the Boffo Tower proposal at Commercial & Venables.  Here is another selection of those comments (names are redacted here but can be found on the site):

“I don’t agree with the height and the density of the property. It is not in keeping with the neighbourhood.”

“A low rise option would suit the drive much better… having a clear view of the mountains is the beauty of Vancouver as a city where tall buildings are concentrated in one area. The Drive as a community is a quirky place to live and a high rise doesn’t suit the neighbourhood.”

“This tower is out of character for the neighbourhood, far exceeding zoning expectations for the area. It seems as though The Kettle has been put in the horrible position of acquiescing to a plan that provides it with a fraction of the total space while acting as a wedge for tower development in a neighbourhood that isn’t zoned for it. Characterizations of opponents as NIMBYS who don’t support The Kettle’s important work are absolutely wrong. We’d like a solution that supports Kettle (which has been a valuable neighbour for many years), while serving the community.”

“This Commercial Drive neighbourhood is not the appropriate place for generic tower-type densification that would take away from the eclectic character of the area. A smaller, more creative design needs to be considered.  This is not what the neighbourhood needs. Besides being incredibly ugly this type of development would alter/ruin the heritage low rise feel of The Drive. This is poorly thought through and a very bad idea.”

“While I support the Kettle and the good work it does, I do not believe that necessary public services such as this should be paid for by developers in return for lucrative up-zoning of their properties. I am opposed to spot re-zoing in any case – any re-zoning should be done in the context of an integrated, community-driven and community-friendly neighbourhood plan.”

“This is a terrible, terrible idea and needs to be stopped. This entire area is already zoned for 4-story buildings and very few are presently that large. We have lots of room for densification without changing the zoning at all.”

“This project stands outside the planning process for Grandview, and the City is biased towards the development. Boffo’s projects downtown are great, but they are luxury buildings. The limited-term social housing tied to this project cannot, and should not, be used to justify this unwelcome vanguard of change.”

“Too high!!”

“I don’t want The Drive densified and commercialised!”

“We have enough hideous new buildings in this town. Commercial drive doesn’t need to change.”

“I know we can do better things with the space than a tower!”

These are from your friends and neighbours, many of whom are long-term residents of the Commercial Drive area. The proponents of the tower continue to denigrate these folks as NIMBYs as if protecting and enhancing one’s neighbourhood is a bad thing.

In contrast, we praise them — and the thousands of others who have supported this campaign — as heroes standing up against a corporation that seeks only its own profit.

Onward To 4,000!

This afternoon, at our regular information table in the sunshine at Grandview Park, we secured the 3,000th signature on the petition opposing the Boffo Tower.  Here is that very moment:

3000th signature

The gentleman, whose name we withhold for privacy reasons, said that he was signing because he “was concerned about the changes to the neighbourhood” that the tower would bring.  About 40% of the commenters on our online petition have said the same thing, and it is what we hear time after time at the info table.

3,000 signatures, 3,000 taxpayers, 3,000 voters expressing their opposition to the tower.  Will the developer and its allies listen?  Will City Council?  We can only hope that the clearly expressed views of this community count for something at City Hall.

And if 3,000 doesn’t do it, we are on our way to 4,000 now!

Onward Against the Tower!

Our petition against the tower has now grown well beyond 2,700 signatures.

After talking to scores of local residents and collecting a lot more signatures today at our information table at Grandview Park, it is pretty clear that we will exceed 3,000 in the next short while. That’s a lot of citizens’ voices and a lot of voters who will demand their say when the public hearing comes around if the developer decides to proceed against the community’s clearly stated aspirations for the neighbourhood we love so well.

We can hope that the developers and their allies  see the folly of their proposal and withdraw it. But until then, we continue to move forward.

Visit Us On Saturdays In the Park

As many of you will know, we have been setting up our information table in Grandview Park every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon for several weeks now.  Through contacts at those tables we have met and spoken with literally thousands of residents and visitors.

The campaign has gained immeasurably from these face-to-face discussions collecting nearly 2,000 signatures there alone, collecting ideas from folks that have advanced the campaign, and being encouraged by the responses we have received.

Just as importantly,we have helped develop a sharper appreciation of our neighbourhood and a fuller understanding of the issues surrounding densification, affordability, and building form.

We have no hesitation in contrasting our open and transparent community-based approach to the developer and their allies who have hunkered down in their offices, allowing high-priced PR agents to act for them.

Now that summer is drawing to a close, we have decided to concentrate on Saturdays in the Park for the next while. We will be in our usual spot in the Park on the Drive from 1:00pm to 5:00pm each Saturday (other than in torrential rain) until further notice.

Please come by and chat:  we love the interaction, the dialogue, and the community spirit that these conversations generate.

A Case For Keeping Space and Air

In the late 1890’s, Professor Edward Odlum stood at the site of Woodland Park. He must have caught his breath at least once as he stood among tree stumps and pulled in the smell of lumber, mountain air, ocean and the season. At that moment, in that place he said, “Oh, but this is a grand view!” The historic preservation of that moment has become the heritage of this place where we live. In a later political move, the name of this place was changed to Grandview-Woodland. But the woodlands had long since been desecrated and nearly forgotten.

In a recent article, developer Daniel Boffo was quoted as saying that the 12-15 storeys above ground at Commercial Drive and Venables is “not being used. Is nothing but air.” I had such a strong response to his comment. I knew that our community was being misperceived and dismissed as inconsequential. That was some weeks ago. I can’t shake the dissonance that wells up in me when I consider his sentiment.

At the northernmost tip of the diversion at Commercial and Adanac Street, there is a stand of trees, sort of grubby trees, but they provide good shade and some shelter from the gentler rains that fall on us. At the base of one of those old trees, a rose bush has made a home for some years. As rose bushes go, it’s rather pitiful. It’s leggy and doesn’t leaf much. But it does send up mighty, tremendous branches that reach the top of the tree. And there, each late spring, giant pink roses appear in the treetop, grinning up at the sun. They appear to have some claim to be there. They do not fail.

If I, or anyone, is standing at that same place at the right time of early evening, we can see the rooks gather and convene their parliament for the trip back to Burnaby.   They do that, and they permit us to watch. Every evening.

At that intersection, cool breezes come down the slopes on the North Shore, across the inlet and along Commercial Drive. That air and the path it travels cools us on summer days that can be too hot. We can see The Sisters/Lions from there. We watch for snow on the mountains, see if fog is rolling in or out; we can feel the seasons change. And later we witness the baring of trees and nests in their branches. The smells of fresh-baked bread and coffee roasting are carried through that air.

This is to tell you that the space, the empty air above Astorino’s and the diversion, is occupied. It is being used. It is more than air. It is an extraordinary inheritance. It is the gateway to the grand view and I believe we have a right to speak for it. It is purpose built. We speak to preserve it as an integral part of our heritage.

— This is a Guest Editorial from A Woman of A Certain Age

Now We Are Thousands

We now have well over 2,000 signatures on our petition that opposes the massive tower proposal at Commercial & Venables.  The vast majority of these are Grandview residents, and most of the others are frequent contributors to the economy of the Drive.

Both the visiting shoppers and the residents agree that a massive tower is inappropriate for the Drive and should be opposed.

In addition to the signatures, several hundred residents have left comments on exactly why they signed the petition. You don’t have to sign the petition to read the comments, but reading them will inspire you with their deep sense of community, and their obvious desire to have an important say in what happens to our neighbourhood.

If you haven’t yet signed up to join the thousands in the No Tower Coalition, we urge you to do so today.

Party Moves To Woodland Park!

The No Tower Coalition’s street party on Sunday to celebrate the Drive that we love, and to oppose the massive towers that will forever change it, moves to the wider open spaces of Woodland Park!

Party UpdatedThe No Tower Coalition issued the following statement this afternoon:

 Community Gathers At Rally To Oppose Massive Towers On Commercial Drive

Concerned citizens of Grandview-Woodland will gather next Sunday at 10:00am to celebrate the neighbourhood we all love, and to oppose an oversize project proposed by developer Boffo Properties at the corner of Commercial Drive and Venables Street.

Boffo is proposing a massive development for the site, including a 15-storey tower with up to 200 market condo units and an eight-storey tower with expanded facilities for the Kettle Friendship Society.

The No Tower Coalition had planned to hold a street party on the site of the tallest of the proposed towers. Mindful of concerns expressed by the Kettle’s Executive Director that an outdoor gathering so close to the Kettle might be misconstrued by their clients, the Coalition has decided to move the party to Woodland Park.

“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. In that regard, we have listened to the Kettle’s concerns about our rally. In turn, we can only hope that the Kettle will now listen to the thousands of local residents who believe that the tower is an unwanted and inappropriate intrusion into the low-rise neighbourhood that is Grandview Woodland.”

The party at Woodland Park, at Adanac Street and Woodland Drive, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, 16th August, will include free coffee, lemonade, cookies and muffins, activities for kids, and a balloon raising to demonstrate the extraordinary height that the developer wants to impose with its towers on Commercial Drive.

The No Tower Coalition is active and growing, with more than 1,900 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. All the members and supporters of the Coalition oppose the building form of the tower and the changes that will bring to the Drive. For many, there are deeper concerns.

“We absolutely reject the notion that mental health services should be delivered at the whim of a for-profit private corporation,” said Coalition member Tom Durrie. “Giving private developers inappropriate density and height bonuses in exchange for providing necessary mental health services sets a dangerous precedent. It should not be allowed.”

Services to people with mental illness are part of Canada’s social safety net. They should be publicly funded, in ways that do not have a negative community impact. The No Tower Coalition points out that similar NGOs in the neighbourhood have recently expanded without resorting to private developers and massive development.

What The Community Says About The Boffo Tower

As most of you know, we have been collecting signatures on our petition opposing a large high-rise tower at Commercial & Venables.  We have well over 1,800 signees at this point.   Most have signed the paper petition that we circulate at meetings and our information tables; but more than 600 have signed online.

The online petition allows signees the opportunity to explain why they have signed. There are now hundreds of such comments, and we would encourage everyone interested in community opinion to read them. To ignore them is to ignore the voices of the neighbourhood.  Here is a selection of some recent comments:

“As an urban planner, and Grandview resident, I believe we need contextual densification. These tower proposals do not meet the needs nor desires of this community. ”

“A tower is an awful idea and will kill the soul of the drive.”

“This size of building is not what this neighborhood needs to increase density. It would be an eyesore.”

“This is NOT how one funds important social services.”

“This type of structure would completely change the character of the neighbourhood and does not provide for green space and other necessities that any development would require – to densify is one thing to sell out to developers in such a way that neighbourhoods are negatively impacted is a different thing all together.”

“I want to preserve the character of our neighbourhood. A tower would not fit with the structures here and if it’s not going to include affordable housing, it’s definitely inappropriate.”

“I live here and do not believe a massive 15 storey tower should change this residential area with condos. This will be the 1st for more to come. This area was ment for lower income people. That has already changed but this would be a disaster for Commercial Drive area.”

“Approval of the 15-storey Boffo tower at Venables / Adananc and Commercial Drive would act as the thin edge of the wedge, which would see ‘out of character to the neighbourhood’ towers become the new Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood development standard. Through our opposition let us ensure that won’t happen.”

“To see this tower and the cancer of condos spread my heart breaks. This is not right for our community, expand the Kettle with government funding, don’t let developers get their way!”

 

These are just a few of the hundreds of comments made by Grandview residents in opposition to the Boffo Tower and in favour of sustained funding for the Kettle from all levels of government.

The Momentum Is Quickening

Regular readers will know that the No Tower Coalition has been operating an information table at Grandview Park each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon for some weeks now.  Along with information and discussion, we have offered the residents of Grandview the chance to sign our petition opposing this inappropriately massive tower. We have collected dozens of signatures each day.

But last Friday we collected more signatures than we have ever done before on a single day.

This week also saw a record number of lawn and window signs being set up, a record number of names being added to our Supporters’ List, an ever-growing list of hits on the website, and a petition signature list that is approaching 2,000 names. The campaign’s momentum is gathering speed at a rapid pace.

Many thanks to the folks in Grandview Woodland who have shown their support for our Keep The Drive Under Five campaign.

Genuine Community Participation

For the last two weeks, in blazing sun and, yesterday, in pouring rain, volunteers of the No Tower Coalition have been manning an information table at Grandview Park for three hours each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon.

NVT in the Park

At the table, we have collected hundreds of signatures for our Petition. But more importantly, we have talked to those hundreds of Grandview residents and many others. We have listened to their concerns about unwanted development in the neighbourhood, collected their ideas for alternatives to towers, and given them information about this high-rise project that so many had not heard of before.

As citizens keen on developing and enhancing this beautiful community we all call home, we believe strongly in openness and accountability – from us, from our elected representatives, and from developers and organizations that seek to radically alter our neighbourhood. Getting people information, encouraging them to talk one on one and in groups, with us and amongst themselves, as happens at our Grandview Park table, is key to genuine community participation in the future of Grandview and the Drive.

We’ll be back in the Park next week. Please stop by and chat