Critics decry Grandview-Woodland development plan

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      A proposal that could bring mid- and high-rise towers to the Commercial and Broadway area is drawing criticism from residents in the neighbourhood.

      Jak King, president of the Grandview Woodland Area Council, told the Georgia Straight that he was shocked when the city released an “emerging land use directions” map for the area, including proposed plans for high-rise and mid-rise buildings next to Commercial-Broadway Station, row houses along Nanaimo Street, stacked townhouses along East 1st Avenue, and increased heights along East Hastings Street.

      “We’ve been speaking to the planners for almost the last year, and not once did land-use or rezoning proposals of the kind they’ve just issued come up in any of those discussions, so that when the emerging directions book and the accompanying map showed up on the first of June, it was really quite a shock to everyone, most especially for those who have been involved in the process,” he said by phone. “While we understand the need for some level of densification, this is just really going far too far.”

      King said the area council is calling for the draft plan to be significantly delayed to allow for “substantive engagement” with the neighbourhood.

      Meanwhile, former Grandview-Woodland resident Fernando Medrano, whose children go to school in the neighbourhood, has described the planning process as “a bit stealthy”.

      “I think as we’ve seen in the last few kerfuffles around Mount Pleasant and Chinatown, the city is trying to push building heights and densities that are just beyond what the neighbourhoods can tolerate,” Medrano stated.

      Chris Roine, who has lived in the community for about 20 years, said he’s concerned about the proposal to allow four- to six-storey buildings in some areas along Nanaimo Street, and three- or four-storey townhouses near parks in the area.

      “We think that that’s really inappropriate and we think it would totally undermine and change the character of the neighbourhood,” he said in a phone interview. “City staff have already
      acknowledged that we have the lowest amount of green space per resident in the city, and they’re just going to be cramming more people without any plans to increase the green space.”

      Roine also expressed concerns about the planning process. The city began holding events associated with the plan last spring.

      “They had a series of community meetings over the last year and a half, and they…seemed specific,” he stated. “They wanted to talk about heritage and talk about affordable housing and tons of different issues, and it wasn’t evident from those meetings that what was in the cards was this major densification proposal.”

      Resident Kristina Spring echoed Roine’s concerns, calling the process “quite deceiving”.

      “They’re saying ‘oh we’ve been consulting with the community for a year’, but the signs they put up said things like come out and let us know how you feel about community gardens…but it didn’t say here’s a map of what our intentions are for rezoning your community, get us some feedback,” she said. “Once they proposed that, they gave us 30 days. And I’d still say probably 10 percent of the community knows about it.”

      Part of an “emerging land use directions” map detailing proposals for the Grandview Woodland area. (The complete map is linked in the article text above.)
      City of Vancouver

      Matt Shillito, assistant director of community planning for Vancouver, said the city is arranging some “additional steps”, including a workshop focused on the proposed plans for the Commercial and Broadway SkyTrain area on Saturday (July 6) at 10 a.m.

      “We’ve certainly heard the concern about the timeline, and we’re looking at what we can do to do some additional steps to make sure there’s enough conversation and dialogue about the plan, particularly around Commercial-­Broadway, where the most concern has been raised,” he said in a phone interview.

      Shillito said community-planning workshops focused on a range of topics, including housing, transportation, and arts and culture, and looked at various sub-areas where development might take place.

      The Grandview-Woodland Area Council is inviting the public to discuss the city’s draft plan in the meeting room above Eastside Family Place (1655 William Street) on Monday (July 8) at 7 p.m. The group is also gathering signatures for a petition calling for a delay of at least six months on the draft plan to allow for public input.

      “I think there is a realization we have to densify to some extent, not this sort of extent that the planners are talking about,” King said. “I think had we had the option to discuss different ways of dealing with that rather than been given a plan that’s kind of a take-it-or-leave-it option, that would have been so much better.”




      Jul 3, 2013 at 3:31pm

      I'm a resident here, and quite frankly the plan is ridiculous. There was virtually no consultation regarding rezoning the neighbourhood, and with only a month to push back, the timeline is ridiculously tight. Currently it looks like there will be a 1 month extension coming.

      With a 2014 election looming, my thoughts are that the mayor and council are pushing this hard to use the rezoning and densification of the east side as campaignable items to hoist they're flags on next year.

      I can say that those who are informed about the plan are all against it in its current form. Nobody here questions the need for density, but building condos and rezoning single family lots into 3-4 unit townhomes will do nothing for the neighbourhood's character, affordability (such as it is), or market rental affordability. And pushing all this development in areas that are transit unfriendly will only create more traffic on an already traffic and parking-stressed area.

      I hope they realize that this is the type of plan that could cost them their votes if any of them plan on running again.


      Jul 3, 2013 at 4:23pm

      I also live in this area. What's wrong with this? Why not add a bit more life into the area?
      "I can say that those who are informed about the plan are all against it in its current form" = Nimbys.
      "but building condos and rezoning single family lots into 3-4 unit townhomes will do nothing for the neighbourhood's character, affordability (such as it is), or market rental affordability."
      Adding MORE dwellings will not affect it's affordability?! Increased competition will bring prices down. And they will be newer and better units.
      "And pushing all this development in areas that are transit unfriendly "
      It's a 15-20 minute cycle to get downtown along bike lanes and we will have the UBC train opening in 2017\20 or so.


      Jul 3, 2013 at 5:09pm

      The assistant director of planning mentions a meeting scheduled for July 6. Everyone I know who has attempted to register in the past two days has been told, by email, that the 'extremely limited seats' have been allocated. Why are the seats extremely limited? If the seats need to be limited, why not just add another community meeting to accomodate the interest by residents? Despite it being summer, there are many concerned citizens wishing to speak to planning staff about the proposed plan.

      Why won't the city offer notice of the meetings in the major languages of the neighbourhood? Why won't they offer transportation to the many seniors who live in this area and are interested in attending but don't have a way of getting there? At time of writing, the location of the meeting is not public. How can you plan to go to a meeting if you do not have an idea of where it is? What about offering interpreters for groups of folks who feel more comfortable in their first language?

      Based on the plan promoted by the City, neighbours have been getting disruptive visits by folks working for developers and speculators. These folks have been telling residents that 'this is your last chance to sell', 'your home will just be taken over by the city for the new developments', 'your neighbour is selling, why do you want to be the only one who isn't' and other deceptive information. Imagine the worry this has generated.

      Brian - more dwellings in Vancouver, over the last decade, have not resulted in housing being more affordable. There is no promise, in the plan, that these will be rental units or social housing. And as for the UBC train - there has not been a commitment by any level of government to this particular transit idea. It is just that - an idea that is being studied.

      And, Brian, comments about density and worries about the forms being proposed by the City (not residents) is not NIMBY-ism... since when did dissent equal rejection? We live in a democracy right?

      Compared to many neighbourhoods in Vancouver, this neighbourhood has a great deal of density and it will welcome more. The folks commenting here, to the City and in other forums are trying to balance the need for more housing, more density with keeping those aspects of this neighbourhood that make Grandview Woodlands such a lovely and unique place to live.


      Jul 3, 2013 at 5:44pm

      Robertson is taking you all for a ride, I hope you realize now. You voted for him, so quit it with the whining and eat your kale and ride your bikes. You've all made the Drive and Mount Pleasant the most annoying place to live.

      From, a born-and-raised Vancouver resident and 20 year Mount Pleasant resident.

      Gene Logan

      Jul 3, 2013 at 8:58pm

      Stupid idea

      This has nothing to do with Nimby. This kind of development doesn't fit with the character of the Drive at all. Why not put a Granville-like entertainment district in Dunbar then? Same diff! What's next, re-branding like they tried in Hastings-Sunrise, because some developer (London Drugs) thought the "East Village" would sell more condos? Have these "planners" even visited the area ... and actually talked to residents and Drive supporters?

      And just because there's going to be increased density doesn't make it a good idea. So stop with the guilt-tripping about denying people affordable housing. We all know those promises are about as worthy as Stephen Harper's commitment to tackling climate change.

      Really stupid idea. Why is it taking this council so long to figure this out?


      Jul 3, 2013 at 9:29pm

      Developers and Council do not care what the residents of this city think. The Mayor asks citizens to engage City Hall. Yet when the opportunity comes, the City limits the engagement. It's all a game. If you don't live in Point Grey, Shaughnessy, or Southlands, you have no voice.

      Just the way it is with this Mayor, and his visionless cohorts.

      Evil Eye

      Jul 3, 2013 at 10:15pm

      Vision(less) Vancouver = unsustainable city. Want highrise development, then just slide that stuffed plain brown manilla envelope under the door!

      Moonbeam and mini-Meggs make a good comedy act, you know, the joke about "vote for us, we are the people's party"


      Jul 4, 2013 at 11:55am

      vancouver has a declining population yet gregor wants to keep building high density. he has helped ruin a once great city. half our condos sit empty,some neighborhoods sit 20 % vacant with grass growing 2 feet high...all owned by offshore speculators. its a shame- but if people actually start challenging gregor and vision vancouver ( clearly a bad vision ) rather than just thinking about their paper profits on their houses and condos , we may actually be able to save whats left of these great family neighborhoods. we dont need more building, we need foreign ownership regulations.

      the Pope

      Jul 4, 2013 at 12:48pm

      Just another fascist move by Mayor moonbeam and his posse...

      Andy Longhurst

      Jul 4, 2013 at 1:30pm


      Demonstrate where new housing developments have resulted in greater affordability. This is the great myth peddled by developers, planners, and politicians - that the supply (any amount) of new housing will always drive rents/prices down. This is absolute rubbish. Unless it is new NON-MARKET housing, this never occurs.

      Senior CoV planners even acknowledge that we could never build enough supply in the city for this neoclassical economic assumption to work. What simply results is that older, more affordable rental stock gets demolished to make way for new, more expensive rentals and condo developments that only wealthier households can afford. This processes (known as gentrification) displaces lower-income households, many of whom have called this neighbourhood home for years and years because of the older, affordable rental stock. There are currently no regulatory instruments available (except a very weak rate-of-change bylaw) to prevent the loss of existing affordable rental stock and the current (more affordable) rental rates.