January 6, 2021

No Grand Bargain in Grandview: Conflicting Visions on the Safeway Site

Friend of Price Tags and resident of Grandview, Gerry Stafford (who lives meters from the Broadway SkyTrain station) sends along a notice from the Grandview Wood Area Council – and a comment:

Gerry Stafford: Interesting the automatic assumption that everyone is against the towers at the Safeway site or indeed all towers.  I for one am ashamed that density around one of the busiest transit hubs in Western Canada has not evolved similar to Cambie and Marine or Brentwood.  Yes, this is counter to my personal interest but one sometimes needs to look at the bigger issue.

More on proposal in Daily Hive

The creation of dense pods around transit results in fewer vehicles on the road, but more to the point – with the inclusion of rental and non market housing it allows the poor among us the opportunity to live in a circumstance where obtaining work is feasible.  Those lucky enough to live beside a major transit hub, myself included, can get to most of the Lower Mainland within an hour’s commute by transit.

We need 21st century solutions to the current issues of pending gridlock and climate change.  Densification around our transit hubs is one of those solutions.


Here is Lewis Villegas’s Call to Action:

“On January 11th, I will make a pitch at GWAC—a ‘Call to Action’—to fight for human-scale, west coast urbanism in Grandview Woodland. And to fight against Hong Kong-style tower building on the Safeway site.

There are two reasons we are building towers in Vancouver today: (1) So the 1% can pile up towering profits; and (2) So that City Hall can continue to build the Vision agenda as if nothing happened 2 years ago.

Charrettes deliver a recipe for sustainable neighborhood buildout over the next 50 years. Neighbors come together and participate in delivering both social and affordable housing, and building public places for supporting higher levels of social mixing. All following in the long established and cherished west coast vernacular tradition. Products don’t exceed human-scale, building 3 to 5 stories high.

Like I did for RAMP in Mount Pleasant, in 2012 when we were fighting the Rize Tower, should GWAC choose to host the charrette, I will lead the process pro-bono.

Let’s “Fight the Broadway Corridor Plan” at the Safeway Site. And at EVERY site. Let’s get something better. Much better. Tell staff, and government, “Go back to the Neighborhood.”

The fact is that we just don’t need the density. Colleen Hardwick has shown how Vancouver has been growing by 1% for the past 40 years—towers and all!

At 1% annual rate of population growth, doubling the amount of living space in the neighborhood will provide housing for 70 years to come. It’s an old investment rule of thumb: invest at 1% per annum and double the principal in 72 years.

In the Mount Pleasant charrette we already showed how to double the density building nothing more than the human-scale vernacular, 3 to 5 storeys high.

We will do the same here.

Price Tags prediction: GWAC might not oppose every proposal on the Safeway site that involves towers.  But they absolutely would oppose a proposal to rezone their neighbourhood for enough three- to five-storey buildings to be equivalent to the density proposed for the station area.

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  1. I’d be in favour of “human scale” densification if that would go along with also building roads back to human scale instead of SUV scale.

    Somehow I have the impression though that this is not what they will advocate for.

  2. It is too late now. The City had proper area planning prior to 2000. Since then highrises were built everywhere outside downtown.
    However, I think most people will rather see mid-rises all over Vancouver than having few highrises.

  3. Bizarre to read this on a urbanist blog. It’s entirely unclear to me how this claptrap differs from all the other “I’m in favor of more X, just not this X” concern trolling that is the stock-in-trade of US (and apparently Canadian) NIMBYs.

    Oh, and everyone does know that market rate buildings other than high rises are also financed by investors, and built for profit, yes?

  4. Do people who object to towers object to the thought of “having” to live in one, or just to the thought of “having” to see it on the occasions they happen to walk past? Because both sets of objections are indefensibly nuts. Is there some other weird reason with scant moral or legal standing?

  5. I don’t think that anyone is proposing to build 20 storey towers further up the drive (ie near 1st & Commercial), so I don’t think densification at the transit hub is a threat to athe much larger Grandview-Woodlands area.

    This is a major juncture of 2 rapid transit lines – it should be built densely with both office and residential to make use of the infrastructure. It should be Vancouver’s Bloor and Yonge.
    Even Toronto’s Yonge & Eglinton is being rapidly built out in anticipation of the Crosstown LRT line there.

    For the Safeway site, if the towers were allowed to be built taller with the same FSR, chances are they could have designed better open areas at the base. You can tell by looking at the buildings that they are trying to fit a lot of desnity under a height limit. The buildings cantilever out (bulge out) over their bases in an effort to open up space on the roof of the podium. Those bulges would have been better allocated with taller skinnier towers (but people seem to have a fear of tall buildings).
    Look at the massive plaza at the Amazing Brentwood. If the residential FSR from its two 57 storey towers were squished into four 25 storey towers, then that plaza would probably be half the size.

  6. Most interesting….the dithering continues.

    I can recall, starting in 1997, that I have commented on the public record at least half-dozen times about the shameful policy failure that has led to this paralysis.

    And let’s focus on the consequences of a generation wasted here, regardless of whether the eventual solution is towers, mid-blocks, or something in between. While this interminable debate continues on what may happen, or what should happen, the world moves on. For example, take a drive out to the Township of Langley, south side of the Trans-Canada @ 200th, and you will find in the Willoughby area more density in the form of mid-blocks, townhouses, and other high-demand denser housing forms than has occurred in the CoV over the past decade, other than in those areas immediately bordering the downtown core.

    Just two years ago at an Energy-Transportation Sustainability Forum here in the region, as Moderator, I made the striking point that with the faster land-use choices / implementation in the region’s Burrard Peninsula core, the life could be sucked out of ex-urban development. But that would take a holistic view of how the market, demand and supply interact, although what appears in this particular neighbourhood, in my estimation, is all too familiar.

    Alas, the real problem is NIMTO – i.e. “Not In My Term of Office”, which respectfully, represents self-serving practices that defers and avoids making hard decisions intended to protect future political opportunities.

    So, had some substantive density been developed 20-30 years ago when the Broadway Station originally opened, we would be well along the way on the useful life-cycle of such housing assets. The debate today would instead be what possibly exist next?

    For now, have my attention focuses on City of Burnaby’s Bainbridge Neighbourhood Plan process surrounding the Sperling Station. My bet this area NOT only gets approved soon with range of housing choices, but by the time CoV actually makes a serious and permanent decision about Broadway-Grandview, the Sperling-Bainbridge neighbourhood will already be flourishing.

    Making a slightly wrong choice (known as “don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good”) is far better than making NO choice in the hopes that a better choice might magically appear around the corner.

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