Notes To January Meeting

We had another full house for our monthly meeting on Thursday, and it was an interesting one.

  • Eric Phillips continued his marvelous Mechanicals and Materials series, this time with a lively discussion of what and how to keep records of your house. Using his own home as an example, he talked about property records, such as building permits, ownership and residency changes, and making an inventory of building components, such as mouldings, tiles, fireplaces, original paint colours and wallpaper designs, etc. He went on to explain the value of documenting, with images preferably, renovations made, including discoveries exposed during such renovations. He closed with ideas for maintaining these records in what he thought could be a House Manual.
  • We then discussed changes in various buildings around the neighbourhood including Brookhouse (becoming ever more derelict), Rob Wynen’s old house (in which the interior has been gutted, and the Brandon Block in the 1700-block of Commercial Drive where building/renovation work in the basement and the upstairs apartments is ongoing. The impending sale of both the Odlin Block in the 1600-block and 2064 Commercial were mentioned. The latter is being sold with the assumption that the 1945 building will be demolished.
  • Michael Kluckner led a very informative discussion on how heritage buildings are evaluated in Canada, in general, and in Vancouver in particular.  He went through the creation of Statements of Significance and how those documents are evaluated and edited, and he also explained in detail the scoring system used to give buildings an A, B, or C in Vancouver’s Register.  He closed by discussing current efforts to formalize building descriptions, mainly through roof styles.
  • It was noted that the deadline for applications for the City of Vancouver Heritage Awards is 2nd February.
  • Penny Street circulated the old photographs that Ron Segev found within the walls during renovation of his house at 1746 E. 3rd.
  • We briefly noted that our heritage plaque at Via Tevere has essentally disappeared through reaction with elements in the atmosphere.  We will endeavour to find a more permanent replacement.
  • Finally, we briefly discussed another intervention on behalf of Grandview heritage into the still-ongoing Community Plan process.  Jak will circulate the 2012 document that we sent to the City in advance of the Plan.
  • Our next meeting will be on the third Thursday of February in the Britannia Boardroom at 7pm.

Update to January 15th agenda

We will be talking about the following items at our meeting this coming Thursday from 7-9 pm in the Britannia boardroom:

• Eric Phillips will be talking about his “old house hope chest.” The presentations on wood (and on the 1960s rec room) have been postponed.

• Michael Kluckner will explain the system for Evaluation of Heritage Buildings, as described in the previous post below.

Vancouver Heritage Awards nominations, as described below.

• Penny Street will talk about photos recently brought to our attention by Ron Segev, who found them while renovating a house on 3rd.

• We will put together a plan to replace the deteriorated information sign at the Shelly’s 4x/Via Tevere site at Williams and Victoria.

• Discussion on the sale of the Bosa Building on Victoria Drive and implications thereof.

• Citizens Assembly progress will round out the evening.

Next meeting on January 15th, 7 pm …

… as always in the Britannia boardroom just past the Napier Greenway on the north side.

Happy New Year! The Grandview Heritage Group was founded in 2011 and is an informal group interested in both the past and future of the community. Everyone is welcome.

Agenda items so far:

• The biennial Vancouver Heritage Awards nomination process is underway with a deadline of February 2nd. There will be discussion of whether local projects ought to be nominated and how to proceed.

• Michael Kluckner will be giving an overview of the evaluation of heritage buildings in the city: how they get nominated for the heritage register, the Statement of Significance process, how they are scored and placed into A, B and C categories. For those who want to bone up on the subject in advance, go to the following links:

- To view the heritage register and some background information, go here. A more interactive (but incomplete) map is here.

- To study the scoring methodology, use this link.

Eric Phillips will be adding another presentation to his “Mechanics and Materials” series on the ins and outs of vintage houses, this one probably focusing on plywood. There may in addition be, subject to time, a brief look at How to Build a Rec Room c. 1960.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you inherited one of these beauties in your Grandview house, this may be the source.

• Blair Redlin reported that the Bosa Building at 562 Victoria Drive has been sold; the Montessori school in the same building at the north end is apparently closing. Fifteen townhouses are going in on the old grocery store site across the street that has been vacant for many years, and more townhouses and other forms of condo have replaced the affordable rental housing on sites along Adanac. We will discuss the future of grandfathered commercial uses on Victoria Drive and the other issues, such as rentals and affordability.

• There will doubtless be some discussion of the Citizens Assembly and the continuing saga of the Grandview area plan.

• Previous meetings have featured information on the city’s Heritage Action Plan. One part of it that may eventually have some meaning for the single-family areas of Grandview (i.e. the southeast part of the neighbourhood with RS zoning) is the pending policy to discourage demolitions of “character houses.”

Here’s the main document on that part of the plan. Below are the paragraphs that may eventually have an impact on Grandview.

Pre-1940 Character House Assessment across the rest of the City
Action 6 of the HAP directed staff to amend the RS (single family) District Schedules (zoning regulations) using the RT District Schedules as a model to encourage retention. Pending the completion of the HAP, staff have established an interim procedure for considering development applications involving pre-1940 houses. Staff are now seeking further information from inquirers proposing to demolish a building of potential heritage or character value. The first step in the process now includes a determination of whether the existing building is of character merit.

Staff have prepared a bulletin outlining the interim character assessment procedure (Appendix C). The procedure utilizes a date (pre-1940) threshold as an initial criterion. Then staff will review a number of surviving, prescribed character features such as:

  the authentic or period massing 

  roof form 

  front porch 

  exterior wall materials 

  window openings and frames and details.


These character criteria are currently utilized in a number of zoning districts (RT-3, RT-7/8, RT-10, RM-1 and RT-11). 
This interim approach is now being applied in zoning districts where the character criteria does not currently exist (i.e. RS-3, RS-5, etc.), and where conditional zoning provisions can be used to incentivize character preservation such as increased density, or height, or changes to setbacks . These conditional zoning areas represent approximately 23% of the one and two family zoning areas in the city (see Map 1) located generally in Arbutus, Dunbar and Kerrisdale.

This interim strategy does not apply to outright zones (e.g. RS-1), which represents approximately 77% of the one and two family zoning areas across the city, or for development applications utilizing the outright provisions of the applicable district schedule. As set out in the HAP, this approach will be studied further by the consultants to determine its applicability to all single family zones.

For a pre-1940s building deemed to have character merit or listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register, an owner could choose to either retain the building and seek relaxations to facilitate the building’s conservation, or if they choose to demolish the character or heritage building, the owners will be advised that the Director of Planning may not consider the conditional provisions of the applicable zoning by-laws and that the outright provisions of the zoning may apply. Where buildings do not have character merit, the building may be demolished and the conditional aspects of the development application may be considered. There may be some limited circumstances when the demolition of a character merit building will be considered by the Director of Planning. For example, if a property is underutilized (a small building on a large site) which could result in large additions that would impact the character value of the original building; or if the building is structurally unsound (confirmed by a registered structural engineer.

The HAP will review zoning provisions and incentives to encourage retention of character houses including the consideration of strata titling. Presently, strata titling is permitted in some RS (single family) zones. For example, in RS-2 and RS-4 it can be done for infill dwellings and two-family dwellings, and in RS-6 and RS-7 for infill dwellings which are uses that can be permitted on a conditional basis. In addition, sites subject to a Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) can also include strata titling as part of the incentive to encourage building retention and rehabilitation. As part of the HAP work to be completed, consideration will be given to expanding the ability to allow strata titling of properties in other RS zones when character houses are being retained. Furthermore, additional incentives such as increases to floor area (for existing building and or laneway house), extra units and relaxation of other regulations to encourage retention will be considered.

Eric Phillips on Asbestos in Older Houses…

Almost any house built prior to the 1990s will contain some asbestos. This WorkSafe BC link will show you some of the more common places and give an overview of asbestos in the home.
It is interesting that the diagram uses a relatively modern house as its example. Asbestos, as the miracle do-anything product, came into full prominence after our houses were built, but there will still be some asbestos used either during original construction or during subsequent renovations/maintenance. The most common places to find materials which may contain asbestos are in vermiculite insulation (one common brand name is Zonolite, which looks like small brown popcorn), “popcorn” textured ceilings (sometimes called Spray-Tex), duct tape (asbestos tape was used to seal joints on hot-air ducts and also on furnaces and fireplaces), asbestos-board siding, flooring, drywall & fillers, and electrical boxes. We had a local Grandview example where asbestos was found in the plaster as well but it was not clear if it was in the original plaster or came from post-construction renovations (filler with asbestos). The reason for the asbestos concerns is that once disturbed, the fibres will stay airborne for a long time and the long-term consequences of inhaling them will not be immediately evident. To confirm I was not misleading you, I talked to a carpenter friend who has been through the working-with-asbestos course and he gave a few examples. He had a job of re-placing some old flooring. The 9×9 tiles and the adhesives almost certainly contained asbestos. To avoid the cost of dealing with their removal, the tiles were left undisturbed and were covered with floor-leveling compound and then with sheet flooring with the edges sealed. An engineered wood floor could also have been used with the same sealing precautions.
How do you know for sure if there is asbestos in a material to be removed during renovation? Testing in the only way to know for certain. For example, I have some vermiculite insulation in my attic. If I simply wanted to increase the amount of insulation, I could have added more insulation on top but since I needed to move some to get access to wiring, I took some samples to a lab and had it tested. Although my insulation does not look any different from any other vermiculite I have ever seen, it did not contain appreciable amounts of asbestos. While on that topic, if you are planning a renovation, someone in our ad hoc group is completely renovating their house and therefore had samples analyzed but found the City would not accept self sampling and required sample collection by a certified testing group. This is contrary to the information provided on the City’s website.

Eric Phillips
“Amateur House Mechanic”, Grandview Heritage Group

Meeting Notes from November 20th

A full house of about 25 for our November meeting…

• Our Geography 429 student, Kevin Shackles, introduced himself to the group. He will be working on a project in the Spring to map the old grocery stores and other commercial storefronts of “back-street” Grandview (that is, not The Drive, not Hastings Street) and investigate their histories to try to determine the ethnicity of the owners, the length of their tenures and any other information that can be gleaned from archival sources. At the end of the project, we should have a complete picture of this largely vanished aspect of our community.

Realtor David Campbell, who has lived and worked in Grandview for about 35 years, talked and answered questions about the real-estate market here, focusing on the heritage buildings that are in such high demand from new buyers. He noted the shortage of supply of new listings because people are staying put in the neighbourhood, resulting in bidding wars for the few old buildings that come on the market. He described how people who bought into Grandview wanted to reside here – i.e. they aren’t investors living elsewhere – and how many buyers have good incomes and little fear of the huge mortgages they have to assume. The current “tear-down value” in the neighbourhood is around $900,000, he said, making most old houses that come on the market too valuable to be bulldozer-bait; the exceptions are dilapidated rooming houses, such as the one we highlighted in the summer on Napier Street, where the cost of upgrading exceeds any final value that a renovator or owner could attain. He also noted that the high cost of new half-duplexes, about $900,000 or so, was making the area’s cottages and interwar bungalows attractive to some buyers, who reckon they can get an entire lot in fee simple with a needy house on it for the same price as a small place with modern bells and whistles on a strata lot. He noted that buyers were willing to go through the city’s heritage process to save significant houses, such as the Georgian at 2185 East 3rd that was on our agenda last month, and that neighbours appeared to be supportive regardless of the added infill density that the projects will trigger.

Michael Kluckner gave an update on the city’s Heritage Action Plan, explaining some of the intricacies of the character-house policy that is being developed for RS3, RS3A and RS5 areas on the west side of the city, and suggesting that the policy might eventually be extended into the RS1 areas of East Vancouver (including the southeast part of Grandview). He also noted that there will be a public nomination process in the Spring for additions to the heritage register.

Dorothy Barkley talked about an art show fashion project with the Museum of Vancouver involving models in vintage costumes staged in front of vintage houses. Grandview is a logical spot for Edwardian and some interwar tableaux. There will be an opportunity for interested members to get involved.

• We had a brief discussion about land assembly on The Drive and the need to work with the city zoning regulations to ensure that change there respects the fine detail and architectural diversity of the street. Comparisons were made with the long strips of shopfronts below condo/apartment blocks that are homogenizing Hastings around Nanaimo and Main Street south of 16th.

Eric Phillips presented more information about the hazards and horrors of early houses, drawing on material from a British series on Victorian homes. Arsenic in English wallpaper, dangerous early electrical wiring, nutbar-quality products like electric tablecloths and hairbrushes, and odorless coal gas stoves were among the items he talked about. Time was tight so he will present more material at the January meeting.

No meeting in December, eh? Merry Christmas to all…. We will meet again on Thursday, January 15th.

Notes From Our October Meeting

We had another fine turn-out for our October meeting, with some new and welcome faces.

  • We began by discussing the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhood’s all-candidates meeting.  The candidates’ responses re: the Heritage Action Plan were discussed.  It was also noted that all parties other than Vision had stated their opposition to the current Grandview Community Plan process.
  • The GHG presentation (by Penny and Brice) to the Community Plan’s Citizens’ Assembly on 4th October was briefly discussed.  The CA’s next meeting is on 25th October.
  • The sale of 2185 E. 5th was next up. With an asking price of about $1.6m, it was finally sold for over $1.9m, to a developer.  We understand he will probably do an HRA with infill, similar to Jeffs Residence. We will approach the realtor for a discussion of this and similar sales.
  • Next on the agenda was Brookhouse, 1872 Parker.  This is still sitting, apparently unoccupied but with the occasional light to be seen at night. There is no fresh news but, a couple of weeks ago, James Evans suggested that perhaps the current owner was realising his asking price is too high. So, maybe there is a still a hope for a sale to someone like James and then an HRA.
  • The history of the Howe House at Lakewood & Kitchener, and our method of tackling the mystery through directories, building permits, and censuses, was described. The family was tracked from a hotel in the West End at the turn of the century to Lakewood in the 1910s, and to a farm Langley in the 1920s.
  • Bruce Macdonald presented a first cut of his new 40-minute presentation work that describes the history of Grandview in terms that are specifically designed to be useful for considering the future of our neighbourhood. Very good conversation ensued.
  • One particular point that Bruce raises is that Grandview has been cut off from its sea shore, and very recently too.  There was general agreement that we need to regain that shore in some way despite the heightened security at the Port.
  • It was noted that the next GWAC Meeting, on Monday 3rd November at Astorino’s, will be a presentation of changes to Commercial Drive from a bike-lobby group.
  • Finally, we reviewed a request from Prof. David Brownstein for us to take another of his students to perform a project this year.  Last year’s exercise did not go particularly well, but we discussed a limited-focus idea about corner stores in Grandview.  This idea will be discussed further with Prof. Brownstein.

So good, so stimulating to meet with these folks every month.  Come join us!

Next meeting October 16th, 7 pm.

Another full agenda for our upcoming monthly meeting, held as always in the Britannia boardroom from 7 to 9 pm. All are welcome!

• Progress on heritage presentations to the Citizens Assembly

• The sale for $1,750,000 of 2185 East 3rd at Garden Park, one of only two Georgian-style houses in Grandview; it sits on two lots and could be demolished, but evidence would seem to suggest that the new owner will go for a Heritage Revitalization Agreement and infill the lots behind the heritage house ….

2185e3rd

• Update on the Brookhouse house at 1872 Parker, which has become terribly derelict since its new owner kicked out the tenants and set to redeveloping the double lot with duplexes. The photo below is from a year ago…

woodhouse

• A report on an interesting research project to track down the location of this house …

howehouse

… occupied a century ago by Samuel Howe which, according to the family story related to us by Judy Webber, his great granddaughter, stood at Venables and Victoria.

Bruce Macdonald will present his slide show on Grandview history with the planning process in mind. This is important in the effort to preserve Grandview’s heritage buildings, and in the effort to ‘keep Grandview the way it is,’ the comment that Garth Mullins made last year which got the biggest response at the big public meeting on the new Community Plan.

Early Immigrant Walking Tours: Strathcona

Strathcona, Vancouver’s historic east end, has been home to generations of immigrants from around the world. In the 1930s the local elementary school was called “the Little League of Nations” acknowledging the 33 nationalities that attended classes there. In the surrounding neighbourhood, local churches reflected the diversity and the evolving nature of immigration; a Lutheran church established by the Swedes had in a few short years a Norwegian and then German congregation before becoming the American Methodist Episcopal Fountain Chapel, home to the city’s growing black population.The streets and grocery stores were alive with Croatian, Russian, Jewish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese neighbours. A legacy that survives today includes grocery stores such as the Union Food Market and Benny’s Market, the pioneer Italian market. The Ukrainian and Russian community halls and a former synagogue, which was the city’s first, are also important sites in the development of Strathcona.

Join John Atkin or Maurice Guibord as we walk the streets and explore the rich diversity of this neighbourhood. The tour ends at Union Food Market which has been a traditional Portuguese grocery and bakery since 1962. Please note the October 16th tour will be given in French.

With John Atkin
Tuesday October 14th 2-4pm
Friday October 17th 4-6pm

With Maurice Guibord
Wednesday October 15th 2-4pm
Thursday October 16th 4-6pm (offered in French)

These tours are free of charge, however registration is required
Click here to register

The History of Gentrification

MK gentrification

There has been endless talk in Vancouver over many years now about the effects of gentrification on our beautiful city.  How endless, you say?  Well, Grandview’s own illustrious city historian Michael Kluckner will tell you at a lecture this coming Tuesday, September 30th, 7:30 pm at Hycroft, 1489 McRae Avenue.

As Michael writes:  “This is my lecture on Gentrification in Vancouver, its historical roots in the city and its relationship to heritage, urban renewal and The Big Picture of global economic changes in recent decades.”

Tickets are a modest $12 and are available from http://www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org/learn-with-us/workshops-talks/evening-lectures/ or by calling 604 264-9642.

Michael is an excellent lecturer, always erudite and amusing.  This will be a worthwhile evening for anyone interested in the subject.