The Cultch wants West Coast Reduction’s name on York Theatre
The York Theatre is set to receive a $2-million donation from West Coast Reduction Ltd. if city council approves an amendment to the sign bylaw that would recognize the contribution.
For the Cultch (formerly the Vancouver East Cultural Centre), which operates the newly reopened Commercial Drive theatre, the sponsorship signifies the largest donation in the performance space’s history.
“Most people don’t know this, but they are incredibly generous community supporters and donors, and especially in the East Vancouver neighbourhood,” Heather Redfern, the executive director of the Cultch, told the Georgia Straight by phone. She noted that West Coast Reduction has been supporting the Cultch for 20 years, including acting as its title sponsor for the past three years.
Redfern said the $2-million donation will help the Cultch maintain the York Theatre and contribute to the long-term sustainability of both the York and the Cultch.
“Normally, these larger donations go toward capital costs, so actually building buildings,” she noted. “The fantastic, wonderful, visionary thing about this gift from West Coast Reduction is that it’s actually about sustaining and operating, and that is huge, because those are the hardest dollars in this business to raise.”
But some community members are opposed to the plan to recognize the company’s sponsorship on a sign outside the city-owned theatre. East Vancouver resident Blair Redlin intends to raise his concern at a public hearing next week at City Hall.
“They’re a bad neighbour; they’re a significant polluter. They have made the hottest days of the summer miserable for hundreds of people for many years,” Redlin told the Straight by phone. “It doesn’t seem right to reward them by plastering their name up on the side of a new cultural facility.”
According to Ray Robb, the regulation and enforcement division manager with Metro Vancouver, a total of 469 air-quality complaints were received about West Coast Reduction in 2012, which he said was more than usual. In 2011, Metro received a low of 134 complaints, compared to 290 in 2010 and 452 in 2009.
Robb said most of the odour complaints were filed from northeast Vancouver.
“We have other complaint sources where it travels further, but this is quite localized,” he told the Straight by phone.
According to Barry Glotman, the president and CEO of West Coast Reduction Ltd., the company spends millions of dollars to ensure that the rendering plant—which recycles inedible animal byproducts from the meat-, poultry-, and fish-processing industries—has minimal impact on the neighbourhood.
“We’ve been operating at that location now for 50 years,” Glotman said in a phone interview. “We play a major role, a positive role from an environmental perspective, but, yes, we do understand that some people do complain about the odours, and we take it seriously.”
He added that the $2-millon donation is “not something that the ownership of West Coast Reduction takes lightly”.
“When Heather [Redfern] was putting this together and they were building it and looking for some funding, we just thought it was a unique opportunity to play a major role,” Glotman said. “We think that it’s a great organization. We support a lot of other organizations in the neighbourhood that we work in, and it’s something that we continue to do.”
Some community members, such as arts activist Tom Durrie, are applauding the proposed contribution from the company.
“There’s not a lot of money in Vancouver, private money, going into support of the arts,” Durrie told the Straight by phone. “And so this is what we need, and I think this was very respectful and extremely well done. I have no problems with it whatsoever, and in fact I give them three cheers for their generosity.”
A survey on the issue is being completed, including 500 samplings citywide and 300 in the Grandview-Woodland area, according to Vancouver cultural-services director Margeret Specht.
Under the current proposal, the $2-million donation would be recognized by naming the stage at the York Theatre after West Coast Reduction.
City staff are recommending an amendment to the sign bylaw for the York Theatre to permit “one fascia sign containing reference to their corporate sponsor, and two canopy signs over the main entrance containing automatic changeable copy and reference to their corporate sponsor”.
Out of more than 80 emails and comment forms received on the subject, 74 percent indicated support for the signage proposal, according to a staff report issued in December. Of those who didn’t support it, 13 percent were opposed to the particular corporate sponsor, nine percent objected to corporate sponsorship being recognized on exterior signs, and 10 percent were concerned about the potential impact of the sign illumination on nearby homes.
Jak King, the president of the Grandview-Woodland Area Council, is among the East Vancouver residents opposed to the proposal out of concern for what he called “the commodification” of the street.
“I don’t think we need to sell our signs to companies in that way,” he told the Straight by phone.
But Redfern noted that although “there’s always the odd naysayer,” for the most part the response she has received has been supportive.
“Essentially, it’s been really enthusiastic support from the neighbourhood,” she said. “Some people asking some questions, wanting some more information, but it’s been very positive.”
The public hearing on the proposed bylaw amendment is scheduled for Tuesday (January 21) at 6 p.m.