More On Creative Alternatives

The NO TOWER Coalition today issued the following media statement:



Vancouver. The NO TOWER Coalition is proposing a viable and creative alternative to a massive three-tower development under discussion in the Grandview-Woodland community.

The alternative would see the City of Vancouver provide available land (a city-owned parking lot on the site) to the Kettle Friendship Society as an outright grant.  The Kettle would sell its existing building (also on the site) and use the proceeds to construct up to 25,000 square feet of community service and housing space, on the land, provided free by the city.

Estimates put the cost of a 25,000 square foot, four-storey structure, with service space and 30 small units of supportive housing at $5.2 million, excluding land costs.  The Kettle’s current building was assessed in 2015 at $2,068,000 million.  The city parking lot was assessed in 2015 at $2,259,000.

“We have looked carefully at the footprint,” says Sue Garber, a NO TOWER spokesperson. “The City of Vancouver and the Kettle together own over half the total square footage of the land in question. With the city contribution, this approach could work very well.”

“We think this is a very viable alternative. And it is much preferable to public land being turned over to a developer for tremendous profit, with so many unfortunate impacts on the neighbouring community.   These lands are currently in community hands.  They should stay that way,” Garber notes.

“This alternative would provide the Kettle what it needs and would spare the Commercial Drive community from the devastating effects of a massive three-tower complex, with associated rising land costs and displacement of nearby rental and non-profit housing.”

The proposal also suggests the adjoining street be permanently closed to car traffic for a pedestrian “piazza” which would extend the low-rise and human scale of Commercial Drive north towards the renovated York Theatre and Hastings Street.

The Coalition also released the following additional notes:


Thoughts on Financing the Kettle Alternative:

  • The city would donate the parking lot land to the Kettle (assessed value: $2.259 million).
  • The Kettle would sell its existing building on Venables and use the proceeds to partially finance the construction of a new building (assessed value of Kettle’s existing building and land $2.068 million).
  • Estimated cost (excluding land) for a 25,000 square foot, four storey building to house the Kettle’s needs (on city parking lot) estimated at $5.2 million.
  • The province of BC and the federal government may provide $$ based on the city coming forward with its contribution of land.
  • A lender would be able to lend a substantial amount to the Kettle project, based on the asset value of the city parking lot land and the Kettle land.
  • The city’s donation of the land to the Kettle would kickstart the whole process.
  • Upon completion of the new four-storey Kettle building on the parking lot, there would be a considerable value lift available to the Kettle.
  • The final Kettle building would be an asset of considerable value, likely much more than what they started out with.
  • Going forward and into the future, the Kettle would be “masters in their own house” and in charge of their own destiny. They would not be forever dependent on a developer for their future, and locked into a condo tower they could never modify or change.
  • The Kettle and the city have already demonstrated such a partnership at 1700 Kingsway in Vancouver, where city land was provided for supportive housing for the Kettle. (This building is currently under construction.)



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.

Alternatives Explored

The footprint in question comprises four properties, a lane and a street:

Venables location

While we cannot know all of the details of the financial situation of the Kettle Friendship Society and cannot speak for them on this issue, we do see that there are viable alternatives that will benefit the Kettle, allowing the organization to expand, the community to gain additional community space, and preventing 200 high-priced condos in 3 towers from being added to our neighbourhood.  The proposal involves the following:

  • The City of Vancouver provides lot 5 for the Kettle relocation on a long-term lease or as an outright grant.
  • The Kettle could elect to sell its current property or mortgage it along with the city-granted land to raise most of the funds needed for construction of social housing and expanded office and program space. The most recent assessment for the Kettle’s existing property is $2,068,000.  Preliminary estimates put the cost of constructing 30,000 square feet of space for the Kettle – not including the land – at $5.2 million. 
  • With assistance from the provincial government, the municipal government, granting agencies, and the public, the Kettle could add to its own financing capacity, raising the additional funds needed to build 30 social housing units and other needed space within 4 storeys (30,000 square feet, approximately).
  • The city-owned rear lane behind the current buildings (lot 4) could be incorporated into the final footprint as required.
  • The Kettle could potentially remain in its current building, until its new purpose-built structure is complete, avoiding re-location costs and service disruption.
  • The adjoining street (lot 6) would be permanently closed to car traffic and would become a pedestrian-only area with various people-friendly elements such as outdoor seating and other appropriate community amenities. This might take the form of a beautiful piazza, such as the ones pictured below, which will reflect the Italian heritage of Commercial Drive.




Overall, this proposal provides benefit to Kettle Friendship Society and the neighbourhood around Commercial Drive, leaving only the properties along Venables available for for-profit development.  This development or developments should be kept within the 4-storey height limit that exists in the area.  Minimal land assembly and no upzoning will have less effect on surrounding land value.

Even better, if we could have Federal government investment in more rental and cooperative housing along Venables we could further increase affordability in Grandview-Woodland.

We welcome your responses and other ideas:


A Real Perspective

Yesterday we republished the rendering produced by Boffo Properties.  Today, we would like to give you a perspective on what 12 storeys really means from the point of view of a person standing on the street.


The renderings produced by Boffo are the “helicopter” view; they don’t give the perspective we will actually experience when walking up and down the Drive.   By contrast, this image does.  It shows a 12-storey tower, based on the only true model Boffo has ever released and Uprising Bakery, which will be right next door in real life.

We continue to call on Boffo to release actual plans, including density, unit size, floor plans, the space that the Kettle will occupy, and the retail cost of those 200 condos so that we know what we’re actually dealing with.  They should also produce renderings that show us the look and feel of the buildings from street view.

For now, we have these.

Alternatives Exist

Our campaign has often been accused of being against supportive housing for Commercial and Venables.  We are not, as we have written before.  We are against the condo tower.  We believe the issue of supportive housing can and should be separated from for-profit development at Commercial and Venables.  We believe that alternatives to for-profit private development exist.

Lewis Villegas sketch_best

Image credit: Illustration by Lewis N. Villegas 2015

For example, the image here is a rendering of a four-storey building on the parking lot at Commercial Diversion, just north of Venables.  This is a potential alternative to the tower.  The building in the rendering contains enough room for 30 studio units of supportive housing as well as administration and program space for staff and service users.

The parking lot is public land, owned by the City of Vancouver.  The City of Vancouver could make this rendering or another four-storey non-profit building possible by giving the parking lot for a nominal fee to a non-profit housing agency, such as the Kettle.  This would reduce the overall cost of the project, making self-financing with mortgages and donations possible.  Better still, such a gift by the City of Vancouver might put pressure on the Provincial and Federal governments to fund construction.   And, it would prevent 12, 10 and 8-storeys of gentrifying condos from being built at enormous profit to the developer, which is, of course, the real reason a condo tower is “necessary.”

If you think our city government should play a bigger role in stewarding this project, such as by selling public land at a nominal fee to a non-profit housing and service provider, write them to let them know and CC us.

If you are also angry that our health and social service systems are increasingly privatized, write your MLA and MP.

Or, send letters to the editor of our local newspapers on any of these issues.

And, if you have other ideas for low-rise (under five-storey) alternatives for the site that provide the needed supportive housing and services, please let us know.  We’d love to get community feedback on this idea and hear yours.  Email:

The Kettle Boffo Renderings: A Critical View

This image was released on Feb 26, 2016.



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?


3,500 Sign Petition Against Boffo Tower

The NO TOWER Coalition, formed by residents of Grandview-Woodland opposed to a massive high-rise tower on Commercial Drive proposed by Boffo Properties, announced today that their petition has now exceeded 3,500 signatures.

Almost 75% of those who have signed are from the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood, where the tower at Commercial and Venables Street is being proposed.  The rest are regular visitors who come to the Drive for shopping and entertainment.

Roughly 1,100 people have signed the petition online ( and the majority of people have signed the paper version, making their feelings known at the NO TOWER Coalition information table at Grandview Park. This has allowed the Coalition to discuss the proposal with thousands of residents and visitors, to debate the issues, and to collect neighbourhood opinion. Much of that opinion is unwavering in its criticism of the tower which most say will destroy the very character of Grandview-Woodland.

Spokesperson Susan Garber, noted, “Our Coalition’s open and transparent community engagement approach contrasts sharply with the developer’s. They have refused to meet with neighbourhood residents for a genuine exchange of ideas.”

The developers have not held a single community-accessible meeting, and continue to refuse to reveal their plans for the building.  They have, instead, relied on private, closed-door, invitation-only meetings with small groups likely to support them.

“We call on Boffo to let the residents know what their plans really look like,” said Garber.  “They have suggested their design is for 12 storeys, which is way out of step with the neighbourhood.  But Daniel Boffo has publicly stated his business need for 15 storeys and has even suggested he would like 20.  How are we to know just what this would be until they reveal their plans? Our goal is to ‘Keep the Drive Under Five’ storeys.”

The NO TOWER Coalition plans to continue the engagement of our concerned neighbourhood in opposition to this tower. They hope to co-create viable alternatives for the site that will give the Kettle what it needs to provide effective services to its mental-health clients without destroying the character of our neighbourhood.

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.

Setting The Record Straight

One of the defining features of the NO TOWER campaign has been its openness and willingness to meet with residents to discuss the issues surrounding the Kettle/Boffo Tower proposal. Almost every week since the summer, campaign volunteers have manned an information table at Grandview Park. They have met with and talked with literally thousands of Grandview residents and visitors. They are pleased, of course, that so many are willing to understand the campaign’s position and to sign the NO TOWER petition.  But they have also been troubled by hearing some sadly inaccurate statements, both about our campaign and about the uses to which the Tower will be put.

To clear up any confusion, we decided to interview members of the NO TOWER Campaign planning group to get the straight goods.

Question: The NO TOWER Campaign are a bunch of NIMBYs who don’t support the operations of the Kettle Friendship Society. Is that so?  

BARBARA CAMERON:  Absolutely not.  We have tried to be clear from the very beginning that we support the Kettle and the expansion it feels is required in Grandview. It is the tower form that we oppose. We believe there are a number of alternative options that can give the Kettle what it needs without imposing a tower on an unwilling community.

Question: Is the NO TOWER Campaign against densification in Grandview?

PENNY STREET:  No, that’s not true, While it is a fact that Grandview is already one of the densest neighbourhoods in Vancouver, it seems odd that the City is requiring more density from us. However, we do recognise that the City is growing, and Grandview along with it.  We agree with the general conclusion of the Citizens’ Assembly report that Grandview should grow through gentle densification rather than huge residential towers, and that the density expected in Vancouver over the next thirty years should be shared equitably by all neighbourhoods.

Question:  Some have argued that the NO TOWER Campaign is a group with a single idea, inflexible in its thinking. Would you agree?

TOM DURRIE:  Quite the opposite.  The developers are the ones with a single inflexible idea – that the Kettle can only get what it needs if the community is willing to sacrifice itself on the altar of a high-rise condo tower from Boffo Properties. The NO TOWER Campaign, in contrast, has examined a whole raft of possible alternatives that would allow the Kettle to expand as they need while keeping the Drive under five storeys. Once the Tower plan is finally revealed, we will be bringing forward those alternatives to show that there is more than one way to achieve what the Kettle and the community need.

Question:  What are you hearing on the street about the Tower?

TOM DURRIE:  Speaking with residents at the information table we have heard all sorts of things about the Tower, few of which seem to be accurate. For example, we were told by one resident that they had heard at the Kettle that the Tower was to have “lots” of low-income housing.  The Kettle has confirmed that isn’t true, that only the Kettle’s 30 studios – for use by their mental health clients – will be “low-income.”

PENNY STREET: Just last week a man told us that BC Housing would be running the housing in the Tower. When asked where they got that information, the man said that “the woman at the Kettle” told him.  Again, this is completely inaccurate so far as the Kettleboffo’s published information is concerned.

JAK KING: The community has loyally supported the Kettle and its work on the Drive for the last forty years. This time, people are saying, the Kettle should prove its commitment to this community by accepting and following the community’s loudly-voiced opposition to a Tower.

Question: Is the NO TOWER Campaign opposed to change in Grandview?

JAK KING: Certainly not. One of the great things about the Drive and Grandview in general has been our ability to accept, adopt and encourage change of all kinds. That is how this neighbourhood has become so famously diverse – in terms of language, race, incomes, sexual orientation, food and entertainment. This didn’t happen because we are opposed to change!

BARBARA CAMERON: The key is that the NO TOWER Campaign, along with our friends and neighbours and supporters, want to have a say in the form the change takes.  We should not be forced to accept someone else’s view of how Grandview should change.  This is our community, and the future should be ours  to choose.

The Spot Rezoning Moratorium Revisited

The Spot Rezoning Moratorium concept is a reminder that the campaign against the Boffo Tower is also part of a more general move toward community control of development within their own neighbourhoods — a movement fought tooth and nail by developers, speculators, and some at City Hall.

A Spot Rezoning Moratorium disallows lot rezoning for a set period of years after the implementation of a Community Plan. In other words, the social contract implied by an agreed Community Plan cannot be broken for a reasonably long period of time.  Several groups and individuals, including the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC), Our Community, Our Plan (OCOP), and the NO TOWER Coalition pushed for the adoption by the Citizens’ Assembly (CA) of a Ten Year Spot Rezoning Moratorium. We were pleased to have obtained the endorsement of both of Grandview’s MLAs, Jenny Kwan and Shane Simpson, for this proposal.

Kwan Simpson Endorsement

One group, at least, within the Citizens’ Assembly took up the idea and pushed it forward.  However, the idea slipped through the bureaucratic cracks and never made it into the final report.

A Spot Rezoning Moratorium, or some other mechanism for achieving the same result, is the only guarantee that our Community Plan will actually be adhered to. Without it a developer could come with an application to the very next Council meeting after the adoption of the Plan, apply for and be granted a spot rezoning, thus entirely negating the years of “consultation” and negotiation that went into the Plan.

Expediency will win out.

“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)

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

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?



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.

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 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!