Correspondence

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

Advertisements

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.

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.

“The Boffo/Kettle project … deep suspicion.”

Dana Cromie is a longtime resident of Grandview and has an active interest in our local affairs.  He had heard about the Boffo Tower proposal and, when approached by Boffo’s PR surveyors, told them of his concerns about the project. Daniel Boffo, of Boffo Properties, heard about Dana’ concerns and agreed to meet with him; which they did, for about an hour.  Dana was also given a tour of the Kettle’s current facilities.

After these meetings, Dana gave some serious thought to the proposal and eventually penned a letter to Daniel Boffo, which he has graciously allowed us to publish here.

November 17, 2015

Dear Daniel Boffo and Nancy Keough

Cc: Mayor Gregor Robertson and Council and City of Vancouver Planning Department, the No Tower Coalition

 

Firstly, Daniel, I want to thank you for initiating our meeting; and Nancy, for the very personal tour of the Kettle facilities. I understand the challenges presented to those you are helping and in no way wish to hinder further progress in your endeavours.

After discussing the now-worn topics surrounding the Kettle development with you, and my taking some weeks to muse what, why, and where, I continue to be unable to support this project. There are several reasons why.

The role of the City of Vancouver in this project is clearly larger than expected. This project fulfills several of their objectives at what the City anticipates will be little cost to them. But, there is a cost to selling city land to a project without community support; there is a cost to encouraging developers to manage the growth of community services, and there is a cost to disenfranchising the residents of a neighbourhood. It was disingenuous of the City to over-staff the May 2015 project presentation at the Wise Hall.

Grandview Woodlands in its current state is a highly successful neighbourhood, with sufficient density to permit a sustainable neighbourhood.  With modest development projects, it continues to densify organically within the guidelines of the existing Community Plan. The yet-to-be-finalized new Community Plan will allow for greater density within parameters negotiated between a small portion of our community and the City of Vancouver. This does not mean that the final plan is desirable; it will be a compromise accepted by the community to bring this process to a close. I witnessed first hand the City planning department’s lack of respect for Grandview residents in the initial planning process and I have heard of no reason to expect better. The Boffo/Kettle project was conceived outside this planning process and as such, needs to be regarded with deep suspicion.

Finally, it is difficult to understand the argument that the Boffo/Kettle proposal will not affect surrounding  and uphill land values (densification puts huge upward pressure on land values). Both Boffo and Kettle representatives repeatedly point to the Lion’s Adanac Tower as precedent. How can that logic work for Boffo but not be expected to subsequently be applied for new projects in the future? If anything, a tower will beget more towers sooner. Incidentally, advocates of the Boffo/Kettle project never refer to it as a tower.

In closing, I can only conclude that the City of Vancouver is at fault for encouraging this project to be pursued, allowing it to progress despite being outside the current planning process, despite vocal community opposition and continuing to endorse its validity both as a partner and with the apparent backing of the planning department.

Again, I cannot support this project.

Dana Cromie

a deeply concerned Grandview resident from one of Vancouver’s original families (McFeely)

An Open Letter To Jane Pickering

For many months now, the NO TOWER Coalition, representing the more than 3,200 residents who have signed our petition in opposition to a huge high-rise tower at Commercial & Venables, have been trying to organize a meeting with City Planning.  We have yet to have any success.

On July 13, 2015, we wrote to Brian Jackson, General Manager of Planning, with a list of questions we had regarding the Boffo Tower  project.  Brian Jackson was on holiday and we received a response from Kent Munro, assistant Director of Planning. He merely confirmed what was then believed to be the timeline in response to the Grandview Plan and suggested further discussions would be “premature” at this point.

On July 15, we wrote back to Kent Munro, once again requesting a meeting to discuss the residents’ issues. On July 24, City Planning wrote to members of the Citizens’ Assembly (CA) group saying that Planning “was declining” requests for meetings while they studied the CA Report.  This was finally confirmed to us in a letter from Planning on July 27.

We waited two months and then on September 22, we wrote again to Kent Munro requesting a meeting.  Now, after another eight weeks, we have still received no response, nor even the courtesy of an acknowledgment.

During this past month or so, the Coalition has met with half-a-dozen City Councilors, nearly all of whom have suggested we need to meet with Planning to discuss our issues.  As you can read above, we have tried very hard to achieve this with no movement from their side.  Therefore, we have written again, this time an open letter to Acting General Manager Jane Pickering;

“Dear Ms. Pickering,

The NO TOWER Coalition is a group of citizens concerned with a tower development being proposed for the corner of Venables Street and Commercial Drive. Over 3000 people have signed our petitions against the tower development being considered by Boffo Properties on that site.

We have had meetings with several Councillors regarding our concerns and have been advised by them to meet personally with Planning staff.

We have had correspondence since mid-July with Mr. Kent Munro regarding our concerns about the future of this site and have made many requests for a meeting with Planning staff to discuss this further.

We understand Planning staff are reviewing information gathered at workshops for the Grandview Woodland Community Plan and from the Citizens’ Assembly Final Report and would appreciate the opportunity to discuss, within this review, our concerns regarding Boffo’s intentions for this site. With so many residents of the Community upset about the possibility of a tower being built on this site it behooves the Planning department to listen to the Community now rather than turning a deaf ear and inevitably causing more negative reactions from residents.

We ask that, as the Acting General Manager of Planning and Development Services, you arrange for us to meet with Planning staff, preferably within the next week or two, to discuss our deep concerns about this and to perhaps explore alternatives that are more in keeping with the wishes of the Community.

Thank you for your consideration.”

 

Now, we wait yet again to see if this produces a more positive response.

Lawn Sign Placement

The following letter was sent by the Coalition today:

August 14, 2015

Alan Rockett, Street Activities Branch — Engineering Services, City of Vancouver

Dear Alan,

Thank you for our positive conversation of today, regarding inappropriately placed signs for the NO TOWER Coalition.

We are making every effort to communicate to our supporters and ensure they comply with city regulations as you have outlined them. Today we sent the following message to our supporter list and are posting it to our web site.

“If you do have a lawn sign or are planning to put one up, please ensure that it is not placed on city boulevards (defined as the space between the sidewalk and the street) or on street centre medians, lamp posts, utility poles, street furniture or any other area of city property, including the centre of Boundary Road. Signs may be placed on private property, defined as the space between a house or apartment and the sidewalk.

 Bylaw infringement carries a possible charge of $100 – $300.   Today we spoke to city officials and assured them we will do everything we can to comply with the bylaw and will co-operate fully with the city in this regard.  

 The city has said they will return the confiscated signs to us, and they are grateful for our support and co-operation.

 Please help us comply with city regulations! If you observe any of our sign illegally or inappropriately placed, please let us know by posting a note, with the location, to novenablestower@shaw.ca and we will take immediate action.

 Thank you.

We also very much appreciate the fact that your inspector will inform us of any known violations, so we can take immediate action.

Yours truly,  NO TOWER Coalition