Media

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.

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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 People Speak Once Again

In today’s Vancouver Courier there is an op-ed by a strong supporter of the tower.  You wouldn’t think that would be an article we would point to.  However, the comments (below the article and the glossy ads) by Grandview residents are inspiring, explaining in many different ways why the op-ed is flawed in its arguments and assumptions.

When the people get to speak (as in the hundreds of comments on our on-line petition) they speak well, articulately, and eloquently about their community and their fears about how the tower will damage it.  Even if you don’t want to sign the petition, read what your neighbours are actually saying.

Boffo’s BS

Here is a letter in today’s Courier, which we quote without further comment:

Sorry folks, the claim that the project doesn’t work out financially with lower height” is the usual BS from developers. What it really means is that the lower height won’t give Boffo the full profit it wants to make from this project.

This is not some benevolent offer on their part.  We need a fair taxation system with corporations paying their fare share. The needed services that the Kettle provides are part of our health care system. So why isn’t the government providing it?

It’s absolutely wrong that the only way to provide these services to the most vulnerable amongst us is by allowing a private corporation to make a bundle of money.

And, to make matter worse, every cent that Boffo puts into the Kettle expansion will be tax deductible for them further denying the public purse.”

Concerns Over Development Warranted, Says Geller

a-portion-of-the-site-is-currently-occupied-by-this-two-storey-buildingRespected Vancouver architect and developer Michael Geller has come out in support of the No Tower Coalition’s position on the development of the corner at Commercial & Venables.  In an op-ed piece in the Courier, he writes:

“In this instance, I think we should listen to the opponents since the fact is a development of this size would never be approved if it contained just market condominiums … Once again … we have an example of ‘form following finance’ rather than appropriate community planning and design guidelines.”

In the same article, discussing the pro-tower force’s description of the opposition as NIMBYism, Geller quotes former City Councillor and UBC professor emeritus Dr. Setty Pendakur:

“If we classify any disagreement with development and densification as NIMBY, then we might as well forget about civilized conversation and serious and positive citizen participation.  I remember similar outcries in the mid-sixties and early seventies when we marched against city centre freeways.”

Well worth the read in full.

The Courier Reports On Our Battle

The following is extracted from the online Courier of today:

barbara-cameron“This week, a Grandview-Woodland petition opposing the construction of a tower at Venables and Commercial Drive surpassed 1,000 names. Barbara Cameron, one of the organizers behind the No Tower Coalition, said the names are being collected online and door-to-door. The petition aims to stop a proposal by developer Boffo Properties and the Kettle Society to redevelop land at that location. The proposal includes a 12- to 15-storey building …

The proposal is only in its preliminary stages — it hasn’t been formally filed with the city because the Grandview-Woodland community plan isn’t finalized, so it’s unclear what will ultimately be permitted on the site. Even the Grandview-Woodland Citizens’ Assembly wasn’t able to reach consensus on what height should be allowed, although 16 members signed a “minority report” backing the project.

Cameron said the coalition supports the Kettle Society, but it can’t support a tower. “This is not about the Kettle or its services. This is about changing the streetscape of the Drive,” she said … “[The site] is an inappropriate place for the massive building that they’re proposing. I know the Kettle has explored many options but I think the exploration is not complete yet. There are other ways to create supportive housing than to rely on private developers. It sets a very dangerous precedent to rely on private developers for public health and mental health programs,”

Cameron said. “I just think at this point we have to speak up as a neighbourhood about the actual structure [proposed] and that’s our key focus here — the structure, the imposition of that on to a four-storey streetscape that is very precious to us.”

– See more at: http://www.vancourier.com/news/grandview-woodland-coalition-battles-tower-proposal-1.2000549

The Campaign Begins In Earnest

Since we issued the press release yesterday, many media outlets have been in touch with the campaign and we anticipate good coverage of our concerns.

See, for example, this piece from the “Province” newspaper today; this from 24 Hours; and this from Metro.

The No Venables Tower Coalition is already planning a number of local events to raise public awareness about the disruption a huge tower on that intersection will bring to our wonderful neighbourhood.  Please contact novenablestower@shaw.ca to be placed on the email list for notifications.