The Kettle-Boffo assisted-living/condo proposal at Venables and Adanac in Vancouver’s Grandview neighbourhood flamed brightly a couple of weeks ago, with a number of news articles and radio reports. NIMBY, the schoolyard-quality taunt which is the default put-down of any critic of a nearby development, featured largely in the ensuing debate.

First, an observation. As a species, we are hard-wired to defend turf, and the only thing that trumps that reaction is economic gain. Follow the money – NIMBYs reverse direction and become pro-change when they get the economic incentive to move away (viz. Vancouver west-side homeowners, perhaps?); anti-NIMBYs are almost universally in the property industry, whether as developers, planners, or architects, or they’re theorists who don’t live in the affected area and have no dog in the fight. Ask any wealthy person: “have you had an increased desire to pack yourself in with a pile of strangers?” Of course the answer will be no – wealth buys turf. The people who don’t have the money to buy turf generally defend what little they have.

For readers who missed the news flurry, here is the No Venables Tower website, with their proposal for an alternate way forward; a Huffington Post article sharply critical of NIMBYs “hijacking” and using “disinformation”; a Vancouver Courier article; a lengthy and very good story by Kerry Gold in BC Business; and Frances Bula’s article in the Globe and Mail.

 

kettleboffo

Here’s the image, as imagined by a seagull flying to the poultry-rendering plant a few blocks away. A 5-storey streetwall with what looks like very tall floor-to-floor heights, ground-level retail, the condo block on the right hand side flatiron where The Drive meets Commercial, 30 units and program space for the Kettle’s mental-health/homeless clients, and 200 market condos. It’s all just a proposal at the moment.

Is it possible to criticize Édifice Kettle-Boffo as a project without getting sandbagged? I’ll try.

• Here’s a comparable, at least one that fits into the West End landscape – a screenshot from the blog Changing City.

1177Jervis

Note the composition of it: 28 non-market and 63 condo (mainly 2-bedroom), versus 30 non-market and 200 condos in Kettle-Boffo, which is proposing to use “free land” from the Kettle itself and possibly from the city, which owns the parking lot on the northern portion of the site.

Can somebody please do the math and explain why 1177 Jervis, regardless of its design, seems so much more balanced than Kettle-Boffo?

• Where’s the rental in Kettle-Boffo? This part of Grandview is very heavily occupied with low-rent apartments, with the largest proportion of Aboriginals of any ‘hood in the city, apparently. Wouldn’t a rental proposal help justify the size they’re asking for?

• The streetwall: both Venables and The Drive are narrow, unlike, say, Kingsway and Knight, whose multi-use building has been claimed as a comparison. Five or six tall storeys straight up off the sidewalk will be a gloomy prospect for much of the year for much of the day. Why can’t it be cut in at 3 storeys better to match the nearby buildings?

• The proposed FSR, at 6+, is wildly higher than anything in the neighbourhood. Much has been made of the “precedent” set in the 1970s by the Lions Club Adanac midrise building kitty-corner from the proposed condo midrise, but its FSR can’t be more than 2. It is set back so far from Adanac that a row of mature trees, with 2-foot-diameter trunks, sits comfortably between the building and the sidewalk, and the setback is even deeper on the Commercial Drive side.

Anyone have any other criticisms, or is this all just peachy?

For the neighbourhood, Kettle-Boffo would be an extreme example of spot-zoning, albeit with a laudable aim to partner for a mental-health facility; wasn’t spot-zoning something that Council was going to stop doing by way of adopting orderly planning and listening to neighbourhoods?

The city is putting itself in the position, vis-à-vis all the local apartment-block landowners, of being in a room full of gorillas and having only one banana. If it gives the banana to Boffo, what will it say to the others?