Vancouver's Grandview rift intensifies as residents rebuke new plan

Vancouver's Grandview rift intensifies as residents rebuke new plan

The light industrial area on East Hastings between Commercial Drive and Clark Street in the Grandview Woodland neighbourhood in Vancouver, B.C Tuesday July 19, 2016.

The light industrial area on East Hastings between Commercial Drive and Clark Street in the Grandview Woodland neighbourhood in Vancouver, B.C Tuesday July 19, 2016.PHOTO BY RIC ERNST

There is a rift in East Vancouver, the depth of which started to become apparent Wednesday during a public hearing on the city’s new Grandview-Woodland community plan.

As scores of residents stood to tell councillors what they thought of the plan, many had pointed words for neighbours whose vision of community did not align with their own. The loud clapping and odd jeer offered in reply gave the sense that the planning process could become as bitter as it has been protracted.

There’s a lot to digest in the 30-year plan, which is before councillors for decision this week. It provides for an injection of 9,500 new residents, 7,000 new homes and towers as high as 24 storeys — numbers that would dramatically change any Vancouver neighbourhood.

For some who spoke, the increased density and height is unpalatable. For many others, insufficient or unsuitable housing for themselves, their children, and those with no fixed address is of far greater concern.

Among those in the latter camp was Noam Dolgin, a homeowner and tenant who lives a few blocks from Commercial Drive and Broadway.

“The under-utilization of this site seems short-sighted and out of alignment with this city’s green goals and housing goals,” he said. The plan calls for buildings of six to 10 storeys near the major transit hub with the exception of a large development at the existing Safeway site. The previous version of the plan called for more density.

“Unfortunately, I believe the plan is too focused on appeasing the desires and fears of a small portion of the current community while sacrificing future residents and the city as a whole,” Dolgin said.

Despite his concerns with the plan, he said the status quo of declining population and rising housing prices was unacceptable.

“In order to preserve the Drive’s funky nature, we must ensure there’s enough housing for all, or it’s the funkiest among us who are first to lose out,” Dolgin said, drawing hearty laughter.

There were other dramatic touches as speakers emphasized their points.

David Carman unfurled a handmade scroll related to plans for six-storey apartment buildings at major intersections on Nanaimo street and tossed it — along with a pile of other documents — into a waste bin.

“I appreciate it’s no easy task to formulate a plan with so many considerations, however … I don’t believe the new community plan achieved the balance it claimed it was going to strike,” Carman told councillors, eliciting applause. He said added congestion and ongoing construction would “throw the whole neighbourhood into upheaval.”

Many speakers offered impassioned pleas of support for the 12-storey Kettle Boffo development proposal. The city’s plan calls for fewer stories, which the partners say would leave a huge funding gap for the non-profit Kettle Society’s proposed 30 units of social housing and renewed drop-in centre, which serves an estimated 2,400 area residents.

Jill Atkey, who spoke on behalf of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, said it would be unwise to rely on other orders of government to fill that gap. “There’s not enough money to fund the housing we desperately need, so allocating those dollars to a project that is viable without it doesn’t make any sense.”

Eileen Mosca gave perhaps the most balanced words of support for the plan that were heard Wednesday.

“Is this plan flawless? No. Does it give me everything I ever wanted to see in a plan for my community? No. But I think such ideal plans only exist in an ideal world. And in the real world of Grandview-Woodland I think this plan is about as good as we can expect of a document crafted by human planners with input from human residents,” Mosca said. 

The hearing continues Thursday.

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