GWAC Releases Statement, Does not Endorse Community Plan

July 18, 2016
Neighbourhood Response to the Draft Grandview-Woodland Plan
On July 11th, the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) hosted a public meeting to review the Draft Grandview-Woodland Community Plan (Draft Plan). While we are pleased that the City of Vancouver continues to refine planning concepts for the neighbourhood to reflect resident concerns, GWAC cannot endorse the Draft Plan. From the feedback we heard from residents on July 11th, GWAC has five overarching concerns.

Our top concern is the rushed timeframe for approval. The timeline for reviewing the plan and presenting it to Council is absolutely inadequate. The Draft Plan was released on June 25, 2016 and is set to go to Council on July 26, 2016. At over 250 pages with multiple sub-areas and policies to consider, one summer month is not adequate to read, digest, discuss, understand, and respond to the plan in its entirety. While proponents of the Draft Plan may argue that there has been enough time spent already, they should remember that it was a rushed plan in 2013 that led to vociferous community opposition. Since that time, both the Citizens’ Assembly and the planning staff of the City of Vancouver have each had almost one year to consider planning decisions in the neighbourhood. By contrast, residents are now being asked to do the same work in a month. Delay the vote until at least November 2016 and create a clear mechanism by which feedback can be incorporated into the Draft Plan before it is presented to Council. This will enable the neighbourhood to respond as well as grow trust between the neighbourhood and the City of Vancouver planning process.

Our second concern is the potential for demolition of the neighbourhood’s most affordable housing, resulting in displacement of renters and the community itself. Repeatedly at our July 11th meeting, families, including single parents, and seniors expressed fear at the prospect of being displaced from their current rental housing. They fear loss of their homes and we all fear loss of our community when renters are unable to find other housing in the neighbourhood within their means. Applying Rental 100 rent rates, which are 50% to 100% more expensive than current neighbourhood averages, will not only price individuals out of particular buildings, but will lead to rise in rent costs neighbourhood-wide by setting new rent floors. Further, those renting in houses that are knocked down have no protections whatsoever in terms of relocation plans and right of return. The City of Vancouver’s policies for rental replacement allow for 2-bedroom units to be replaced with 1-bedroom or studio units. These are unacceptable situations. Adding new rental stock is positive. However, renters in multi-suite houses must be protected. Six-storey heights for rental buildings are unacceptable until such time as rents are controlled and existing affordability is protected. New rental buildings must prevent displacement and therefore must not raise rent rates in the neighbourhood.

Our third concern is the lack of new park space in the Draft Plan. The Draft Plan proposes to add 9500 new residents to Grandview Woodland, a neighbourhood that is already park deficient by the City of Vancouver’s own standards. An increase in park space, proportional to growth, is a minimum requirement. Additionally, existing amenities must be protected in the Draft Plan. Currently, Templeton Pool is referred to as an “anomaly” rather than a valued neighbourhood resource. Further, the renewal of Britannia Community Services Centre (BCSC) appears to be a part of the plan, yet was voted on by the citizens of Vancouver before this Draft Plan was developed and is being directed by the BCSC Planning and Development committee and Britannia Board. The renewal of Britannia must be directed by the community of users and residents.

Our fourth concern is that the Draft Plan surpasses community concerns and even Citizens’ Assembly recommendations about building height and form. Areas of concern include the building heights along East Broadway, particularly around Laura Secord School, areas east of Victoria and north of Hastings as well as along Commercial between Adanac and Hastings. These should be 3 or 4 storeys not 6. The tower heights on the Safeway site will shadow the neighbourhood. The area just West of Grandview Park should be reduced in height to protect an important public viewpoint. Further, existing use patterns and traffic concerns, and in some cases the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations, have been ignored in the Draft Plan. Finally, the Draft Plan does not provide enough information to anticipate building form, including open space, FSR, street wall height, and the definition of infill. This information must be clarified before it is passed by Council. Community input must be respected through provision of full information and incorporation into the plan.

Our final concern is that the Draft Plan gives too much room for developer driven heights and densities that privilege amenity contributions over accountability to residents about neighbourhood change. The Draft Plan has too many “grey areas” that allow for “wiggle room” or developer-driven negotiations about height and density that bypass resident control and even the policies of the Draft Plan itself. These areas include the Commercial/Venables site, sites along Hastings, and much of the Station Precinct, Britannia Woodland, and Cedar Cove areas. The wording in the plan undermines the maximum heights shown in the plan so that in essence there is no limit, leaving the neighbourhood vulnerable to rezoning motivated by developer profit and the amenity dollars that can be gained. While we support housing options for various organizations, the Draft Plan must set firm parameters for development in all areas now and prioritize neighbourhood wellbeing over developer profits and contributions.

Our neighbourhood and homes are not commodities. We can accommodate growth without losing what we love. We expect the City of Vancouver planning process to respect our concerns and the desires we have for our neighbourhood.

Dorothy D. Barkley, Chair Grandview Woodland Area Council
Cindy Brenneis, Grandview Woodland Area Council
Kathleen Piovesan, Grandview Woodland Area Council