Nominate a site for the Heritage Register!

Just announced and posted a couple of days ago: the public nomination process for new additions to the Vancouver Heritage Register …

In broad terms, the Heritage Register is an information document; as I understand it, owners of properties will not be able to say “no” to a nomination, but they will be notified. You will notice that sites should respond to one of the broad themes of Vancouver’s culture and history – this is an evolution of the old Heritage Register which was more closely focused on architecture and landscape. That said, sites where “something happened,” however significant, may be more difficult to categorize and save than architecturally interesting buildings, but we will see how it works out.

To make sure you’re not nominating a site that’s already on the register, go to the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Site Finder Map. It’s the best way to familiarize yourself with the buildings and places that are already recognized.

Being on the Heritage Register is no guarantee, and never has been one, of any sort of protection against demolition or alteration. It does, however, make a place eligible for a process that eventually could confer “designation” – that is, legal protection.

Next meeting Thursday, May 21st, at 7 pm

As usual, we are meeting this Thursday at 7 in the boardroom of Britannia – in the building with the Information Centre just east of the library. Everyone is welcome.

Items on the agenda:

– Eric Phillips will start the meeting with his “Neighbourhood Scan” – photos and commentary about Grandview since the last meeting.

Century Signs for 2015: we will have a tentative list of houses to approach to display our signs. Penny and Michael gathered up 23 signs last week and have them cleaned and ready to go.

– Eric will present a few slides on paint-stripping techniques, just in time for the summer maintenance season.

– There may be a bit of news about Brookhouse at Parker and Victoria, which has been for sale again during the last month.

Car Free Day on June 21st: should we have a table as we’ve had the last few years?

– Michael Kluckner will give a brief update on the progress of the city’s Heritage Action Plan.

– and, probably, some new business …

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.

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!

Our June 19th meeting

About 20 people showed up at the boardroom at Britannia Community Centre for the monthly GHG meeting.

the launch party for the 2014 Centenary Signs, with cake and refreshments, will be at 11 am Saturday June 28th at Mosaic Park at the corner of Charles and McLean in the heart of the “west of The Drive” area we’ve highlighted with this year’s set of houses. There will be an email reminder to everyone and we hope that the occupants of the houses who have agreed to host the signs this year can come along.

• Michael described the recent policy changes the city has instituted as part of its Heritage Action Plan: a one-year moratorium on demolitions of pre-1940 houses in First Shaughnessy; a new, interim checklist to determine pre-1940 “character houses” that the city is using while it formalizes an inventory of them; suggestions by city staff for carrots and sticks that would encourage house owners to retain character houses rather than demolish them; and, the implications of the city’s deconstruction and recycling policies that will force demolishers of character houses to divert 90% of the material from the landfill into salvage and re-use. There was a lot of discussion and questions. The policies, although city-wide, are specifically targeted to try to reduce the numbers of demolitions on the big lots of west-side neighbourhoods like Point Grey and Kerrisdale, where there is a considerable business opportunity (i.e. the ability to construct a much larger house) compared with that available on the standard 33 x 120 foot lots of Grandview and other east-side communities; the implications for communities like Grandview will, hopefully, be an increased awareness of the value of the smaller 1920s-1930s houses and more flexible city regulations to encourage their retention.

• There was a brief report on the plan, in abeyance for several months, to create permanent plaques for Grandview heritage houses and offer them to the 74 owners/occupants of the Centenary houses from 2012, 2013 and this year. More effort will go into finalizing research on the houses for the wiki and sourcing a plaque that will be durable (more so, at least, than the one installed at the Shelly’s sign at Victoria and William, which has faded badly after a year).

• Penny showed slides and offered hilarious commentary on her recent trip to Kansas’s depopulated towns of fine old buildings standing vacant under The Big Sky. And Eric, self-described “Amateur House Mechanic,” gave a brief presentation on the stone walls and foundations of vintage Grandview, including demonstrating how to split granite blocks with hand tools, part of his fascinating series of talks on the inner workings of early Vancouver houses.

The next meeting will be at 7 pm on Thursday, July 17th (the third Thursday of the month, right?) in the boardroom at Britannia Community Centre.

January Meeting Notes

My apologies for the delay in posting these notes;  it has been a very busy week!

Last Thursday we had a really productive meeting, covering a wide range of current and ongoing issues:

  • We were joined by Vancouver City Clr. Heather Deal for the first hour.  She took us through the City’s new Heritage Action Plan‘s 14 points in good detail. The Plan appears to cover everything from tightening up demolition permits to reducing the complexity of HRAs, updating the Heritage Register and changing the building code to ease heritage renovation.
  • The conversation after the presentation was equally useful: some speakers noted that highly inflated property values in Vancouver were damaging heritage retention; that cultural mapping in the Heritage Register should be separate from architectural mapping; that just a few thousand dollars in grants could return many of the Edwardian ornamentation that flourished on the Drive; that groups like ours should be able to nominate for the Register; that fees collected for HRAs etc should be maintained for heritage uses rather than disappear into general revenue.
  • Three specific issues were raised with Clr. Deal:  (a) 1872 Parker, the Brockhouse, needs to be saved from imminent demolition.  James Evans, who developed the Jeffs Residences and who was in attendance, confirmed that he was in discussions with the current owners.  However, there were still issues to be solved before he can move in to save the property.  This was greeted with excitement by the group.
  • (b) The Green House next to the Cultch on Venables which Heather Redfern has stated is to be demolished.  Clr. Deal stated that the City wants to save the building and they would be working to that end.
  • (c) Astorino’s.  The Group stressed the cultural importance of the building which is slated to be lost in the Boffo redevelopment.  It was also noted that this is now an active performance space. Clr. Deal promised to review the situation.
  • Clr. Deal had to leave the meeting after an hour, but it was generally agreed this had been a very useful conversation.
  • We discussed the work that our intern, Stephanie Chang, a Geog 429 student, is working on.  She is working with us to create a social and cultural portrait of the area around Woodland Park.  She has to complete the project for presentation in April.
  • Kristen Moran gave a short presentation on her extended video about heritage in Grandview.  She was looking for more heritage homeowners to be a part of the video, and she received a great many names from those attending the meeting.
  • Penny gave an update on the Centenary Signs Project.  All the 2013 signs have now been collected and are being cleaned.  We will continue the survey for 2014 targets in March when the weather improves.
  • Finally, we had another episode in Eric Phillips’ magnificent Mechanicals and Materials series.  This part was on heritage home heating systems.  Eric took us on an illustrated trip through various fuel types — wood, coal, coke, sawdust, oil and gas.  Fascinating stuff.  Next month we will continue this part, looking at fireplaces, boilers and other systems.