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Bait and Switch at Council, Boffo/Kettle Get Their 12 Storeys

July 28, 2016

Back a whole long one month ago, when the planners released the new Grandview Woodland Community Plan, the No Tower Coalition noted that the height at Commercial and Venables had been slightly reduced to 9 storeys.  At the time, we were somewhat suspicious of the wording, which indicated that additional height and density would be considered if additional amenities could be secured.  We feared a bait and switch tactic: appearing to appease us in the Plan, but going back to the original height (12 storeys) and density (6.6 or so) once the community had quieted down.  Well, unfortunately, we were right.  Today, Council did go back to the original height and density.  However, this was not with community consent.  Indeed, Council went back to the original height and density even though the community clearly opposed it given over 4400 petition signatures, over 300 postcards, and over 110 letters sent in to Council since Saturday, July 23rd alone.

For those who did not attend the meeting or watch the broadcast, Clr Andrea Reimer came forward with a number of amendments to the Plan this morning.  (Interesting how City Councilors can do this, but citizen input doesn’t change the plan in any way!)  One of them was to set the height at Commercial and Venables back to 12 storeys.  Now, whether this means that the Plan was released in bad faith, with no real intention of ever implementing the 9 storey limit on Venables and four along the Drive, or whether this means that Council has total disregard for both the expertise of planners and the desires of the public, is hard to say.  However, all but two councilors voted for this amendment.  The two who did not were Adriane Carr and George Affleck.  For that, we commend them.

So successful had the public opposition been, that several councilors voting for the amendment had to go to great lengths to denigrate the opposition, which included denigrating Clr Carr as well.  Clr Kerry Jang in particular referred to Carr’s amendment to keep the height to 4 storeys at Commercial and Venables as “disrespectful,” saying it “hurts the most vulnerable.”  He went on from there to call it “irresponsible,” finally arguing that debating the best means of funding the expanded Kettle operations is callous and that it reminds him “of the debates we have over suicide netting on a bridge.  Oh it’s only one person, that’s ok, we’ll let ‘em die.”  (Reference at 2:24:40 at http://civic.neulion.com/cityofvancouver/index.php?clipid=3495018,001)

While the impossibility of providing what the Kettle needs with government funding or (gasp) only 9 storeys of condos was reiterated many times over the three days of discussion on the Plan, we have never seen a proforma or other evidence of the funding necessities from either Boffo or the Kettle.  No councilor asked exactly what was meant when Nancy Keough insisted that only with 12 storeys could the project “break even.”  We doubt very much that it meant that Boffo will be working for costs.

We are disappointed that the public was ignored, that the No Tower alternative for the Kettle expansion including 21 additional units of rental housing was ignored, and that the Plan itself was ignored.  But, in addition to that we are outraged that our city councilors, with a few exceptions, are unwilling to consider that funding basic mental health and poverty services through condos sets a terrible precedent for our senior levels of government to keep disinvesting from our most basic public systems.  We are further outraged that some councilors have gone so far as to call any one of us who criticizes projects such as Boffo/Kettle so callous as to want the deaths of the most vulnerable in our society.  This is disingenuous political hyperbole that undermines dissent and ultimately promotes developer greed over social good.

We do not yet know how we will proceed in any future rezoning hearings, but we do know that this loss has been an important one for us, for our neighbourhood, and for our public welfare systems, which desperately need reinvestment.  While many councilors stated that we cannot wait for government funding and therefore have to proceed with the Boffo/Kettle project, we believe that we cannot wait for this Vancouver condo boom to crash to begin reinvesting public money in public services.  Only by sharing our country’s wealth among ourselves, rather than offering it on a platter to developers, will we achieve any real change for those who use the Kettle along with the increasing number of disenfranchised and destitute people in our city.

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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

No Tower’s Alternative Proposal for Commercial and Venables

On July 19, 2016, the No Tower Coalition sent a package of materials to the Mayor and Council members detailing our alternative proposal for the corner of Commercial and Venables.  Our alternative focuses on making sure the Kettle Friendship Society achieves an expanded administrative and program space and the 30 single occupancy units they need.  Our alternative also envisions 21 additional rental units, mostly 2 and 3 bedroom units, in a 6-storey building.  Check out our alternative in the links below, which include:

 


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.

Opposition Growing to Massive Tower on Commercial Drive

July 8, 2015
For immediate release.

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. (more…)

Welcome!

Are you aware that there is a 15-storey tower being planned for Venables at Commercial?

The proposed development goes from Adanac to Venables, between Commercial Drive and Commercial Divide (including Astorino’s, the Kettle, Ace of Suedes, and the pie-shaped City-owned lot to the north) with an 8-storey building on Venables and a 15-storey tower on Adanac.

15 storeys is massive!

The developer is proposing a 150-unit market condo tower!!

  • At an average of just two people per unit, that’s 300 new people.
  • This is not the “gentle” densification called for in the Citizens Assembly’s and City’s recommendations for Grandview.
  • If increased population is shared across the city, Grandview only needs to accommodate 227 new people per year over the next 30 years. We can do this without towers.
  • The proposed tower would be taller than and three times as massive as the Lions, denser than most West End buildings. (The Lions is 2.2 FSR and the proposed tower is 6.8!!)
  • In order to build a tower this dense, the developer intends to build right out to the property lines.
  • The building’s shadows will loom over blocks of our established low-rise homes and gardens.
  • There will be four storeys of underground parking, hundreds more cars, and more traffic on both Venables and Commercial.
  • Grandview will lose its sweeping grand view of the North Shore mountains from Commercial Drive.

We are told we must accept densification in the form of towers in our city, which leads to the destruction of our neighbourhoods.

Is this for the greater good?

  • The population projection for “Greater Vancouver” is for 1,000,000 new people over the next 30 years.
  • Vancouver itself will get only about 170,000 of those.
  • If you divide those by the 25 or so neighbourhoods in Vancouver, Grandview should only need to make room for 6,800 of them.
  • If you divide those by 30 years, we only need to make room for 227 people per year.
  • We can do that easily by relaxing the regulations on laneway houses, basement suites, coach houses, and infills and by approving sensitively-built, maximum four-storey row housing.
  • We do not NEED highrises.
  • We can acheive the density we need with four storeys and under. We can retain the look and feel of our “Edwardian Village,” the Grandview we love, in the process.
  • Copenhagen has twice the density of Vancouver, and almost all under five storeys.

Developers are motivated by profit. They do not care about our neighbourhoods.

The 15-storey highrise being proposed between Venables and Adanac on Commercial would be market, not “affordable”, housing.

That’s not what we need.