Continuing Concerns Regarding the Safeway Site Rezoning Application

VIA EMAIL

January 4, 2022

Attention: Mayor Stewart and Councillors,

In response to the latest revision of the 1780 East Broadway Rezoning Application, the Grandview Woodland Area Council would like to convey our continuing serious concerns related to the proposal.

Nothing has really changed in this “revision”. The public plaza is still no more than a widened sidewalk to serve as the entrance to Safeway, while the real neighborhood plaza is held behind locked gates for the exclusive use of luxury suites in their gated community – the first such gated community anywhere near Commercial Drive, it must be said. The small, narrow public “plaza” is the required compromise to facilitate a near doubling of the size of Safeway to a gigantic sprawling single-level, suburban-style grocery store footprint.

The revision still disregards the Grandview Woodland Community Plan that was carefully crafted by hundreds of community members who spent thousands of hours, working with the City, to create a vision for a dense transit-oriented community that has the potential to be both affordable and sustainable.

The intention of the Community Plan was that a larger number of mid-rise towers would meet the ground at a gracious public plaza connecting the residents to their new community. Instead, the application puts forward a gated community, where the public amenity envisioned by the Plan is locked away so that the affluent new residents need not interact with the poverty that has been created around them.

The revision continues to pose an existential threat to the treasured small businesses on the Drive and the historic residential affordability of the neighborhood, that the City claims to value.

This proposal fails the test of good city-making on so many levels and remains unacceptable to the community in its current form.

This proposal disregards the direction given by the Grandview Woodland Community Plan

Hundreds of community members spent thousands of hours, working with the City, to carefully craft a Plan for Grandview Woodland. Deep and sophisticated consideration was given to how to add significant density to the Commercial-Broadway Station Precinct in line with the need for Transit-Oriented Development.

Rather than relying on a few high-rise developments to provide density, the community planners opted to spread the density throughout the Precinct in a mid-rise form. This decision was based on the inherent lack of affordability of high-rise construction coupled with the unsustainable greenhouse gas emissions embedded in such projects. Mid-rise construction has a much higher potential for affordability and sustainability.

That said, higher built forms were contemplated for the Safeway site, with the intention of offering potential developers an incentive to create a neighborhood center for the newly densified community in the form of “a generous, centrally-located public plaza”.

The Community Plan calls for “a new large plaza as part of the redevelopment of the Safeway site”, “a generous, centrally-located public plaza”, “a central public plaza, with pedestrian paths connecting the plaza to adjacent streets, retail and transit facilities and other public spaces” and a redevelopment scheme that will “improve pedestrian path network connectivity”. The current proposal meets none of these expectations of the Community Plan.

The Community Plan calls for “new housing in buildings ranging from 12 to 24 stories”, a direction already well in excess of the twelve-story recommendation of the Citizens Assembly from which the plan was crafted. The Plan states that “perimeter heights will be generally 6 stories above the retail plinth” and that the “highest forms will be situated adjacent to the Grandview Cut”. Again, this proposal meets none of these expectations.

The Community Plan overtly praises and promotes extending the small-scale retail character of Commercial Drive, yet rather than extend that character east along Broadway, this application offers the blank lifeless wall of a suburban grocery store.

This proposal is an affront to the needs of the community with respect to a redeveloped Safeway site. Without substantial revision, this proposal must be rejected.

Grandview Woodland cannot accept a huge single-level grocery store in the redeveloped site

Despite the fact that the current Safeway is enormous when compared with anything in Grandview Woodland, this application proposes a near doubling of the size of the store and loading area. The application promotes a sprawling suburban grocery store while justifying the proposal as urban transit-oriented development.

The compromises required by such a sprawling single-level, suburban-style retail footprint are too harmful. The sprawling footprint destroys the public realm allowing no pedestrian connectivity through the site. On the contrary, the vehicle ramps servicing the parkade from Broadway compromise pedestrian and cycling safety and comfort in that area to a stunning and unacceptable degree.

The justification that this design is required because Safeway is unwilling to consider an urban grocery store footprint is manipulative nonsense given that the owner of this site is also the owner of Safeway.

The footprint narrows the proposed public plaza to little more than a widened sidewalk to service the grocery store, allowing no real greenspace or area for public gathering. Grandview Woodland gains nothing by this proposal with respect to an improved public realm while the community is asked to accept dramatic exceptions to the direction within the Community Plan.

In order to comply with the Grandview Woodland Community Plan, the applicants must resubmit their design for the large format grocery store to conform to an appropriately urban, multi-level character that enhances pedestrian connectivity throughout the site and an elegant public realm, rather than destroying it. Until this is done, the application must be rejected.

This proposal is a serious threat to affordability within the neighborhood

The project will lead to the destruction of historically affordable housing and treasured small businesses in the surrounding neighborhood and the displacement of our community members. While mid-rise development has the potential to be affordable and have a positive influence on housing availability in the area, the imposition of such a massive density bomb of luxury suites will put unsustainable land inflation and other pressures on the current affordable housing and commercial space in the adjacent blocks and that pressure will undermine affordability across a very broad area of the neighborhood for decades to come. This application must be resubmitted with a focus on mid-rise housing which will enhance affordability, not eliminate it.

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GWAC c/o Britannia Community Centre, 1661 Napier Street, Vancouver, BC, V5L 4X4 E: info@gwac.ca W: http://www.gwac.ca

In summary, this proposal shows the inept and clumsy suburban character one would expect to see in Metrotown rather than the elegant public realm design that we are willing to welcome to Grandview Woodland. The proposal disrupts pedestrian and cycling connectivity, destroys nearby affordability, and offers no significant public amenities while diverging unacceptably from the Community Plan.

The proposal in its current form is not acceptable to the community and must be rejected. Regards,

Craig Ollenberger
President, Grandview Woodland Area Council

cc. Paul Mochrie, City Manager
Theresa O’Donnell, Director of Planning & General Manager of Planning, Urban Design & Sustainability Kent MacDougall, Rezoning Planner