Notes from the February 18th meeting

Our February meeting ranged over a number of topics:

• Cynthia Low, the ED of Britannia Community Services Centre, attended the meeting to ask whether GHG would be willing to coordinate a research project on the history of First Peoples in the Grandview area. It would involve consultation with Elders, a review of historic documentation, a study of the landscape and natural history, and suggestions for showcasing the results as part of the Carving Pavilion recently erected next to the community centre. If at all possible, the work would include involvement with students at all levels. We are going to liaise with Cynthia to try to come up with terms of reference and a time line.

• Eric Phillips presented a detailed edition of his Mechanics and Materials series, this time on Seismic upgrading for homeowners. He referenced the SafeStrongHome website for further investigation. It was a good, comprehensive primer on the top handful of tasks homeowners should contemplate to minimize the damage their houses might suffer from the Big One and the Not-Quite-As-Big One.

• Michael Kluckner presented a handful of images and some speculation about the rumours of redevelopment swirling around St. Francis of Assisi School at Victoria and Venables and the possible implications for the church/presbytery at Napier and Semlin (especially its large lawn area) and the other church property, the former “Poor Claires” convent at the northwest corner of Napier and Semlin (now the Church of St. John of Shanghai). He included some informal history of the Italian community in Grandview.

• John Stuart will figure out a time to give his industrial heritage walking tour, sometime in late March or early April, which we will report on this site.

• We agreed to put together a table for Car-Free Day, June 19th. Details to follow.

• Eric Phillips wrapped up the meeting with pictures and commentary of changes in the neighbourhood, including the demolition of the old Bosa’s store/apartment building on Victoria Drive.

Next meeting will be on Thursday, March 17th at 7 pm, in the boardroom of the Britannia Info Centre at 1661 Napier, as always.

Meeting Notes, January 2016

The GHG had another well-attended and fascinating meeting last night, covering a wide range of topics:

  • Eric took us through a long list of items on the regular Neighbourhood Update segment. We discussed the recent fires on Lily Street and Commercial Drive; land assembly around Broadway; new buildings on E. Peder and Ferndale; and another dozen or more developments throughout Grandview;
  • We reviewed a number of upcoming courses and lectures of heritage interest;
  • We discussed the projects we had lined up for two GEOG 429 students this year. One student, working specifically for the Britannia Planning & Development group, will be examining the social aspects of the earlier development of Britannia, including the demolition of many houses and the displacement of residents. A second student was planning to conduct a research project on Grandview’s transportation history. Unfortunately, he has withdrawn from the class;
  • The idea of reviving GHG walking tours was bruited.  Jak agreed to conduct a new Commercial Drive tour in the summer. John described his idea of a tour of the industrial areas north of Hastings. We welcome other ideas;
  • Jak discussed the next update to the Grandview Database due to be published on 1st February. As an example of what can be derived from the collated date, he presented a series of maps illustrating the historic growth of Grandview from 1900 through 1915;
  • Eric presented another of his highly informative Heritage Mechanicals and Materials series — this time on gutters. Who knew they could be so interesting?

 

Notes From The October Meeting

The October meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group was very well attended, including a very welcome visit by Patrick Gunn of Heritage Vancouver. Although a presentation took up much of the meeting, we were also able, as usual, to discuss a wide range of other topics.

  • Jak King presented his Database of Grandview Properties which includes historical details of almost 5,000 houses in Grandview, more than 1,100 of which no longer exist.  After examining the database, the presentation discussed the formation, surveying, and use of Districts, Blocks, and Lots within Grandview and reviewed them in the context of the history of Grandview. Finally, Jak discussed the need, over time, to incorporate this data into GHG’s wiki.  Jak will be working on ways to make the database public, probably on this site.
  • Following the presentation, we looked at a number of ways of using VanMap, Google Maps, and Goad’s 1912 atlas for historical research.
  • Eric noted that several parts of his Mechanicals and Materials series have been published on this site as Heritage Life Hacks. There will be more to come.
  • Eric also presented a shortened version of his monthly Neighbourhood Updates. This edition included the Terminal City Iron Works (now demolished), changes at 2111 Kitchener, 920 and 1102 Commercial, 540 and 1115 Victoria, and 906 Salsbury. This discussion also touched on environmental remediation and the art of debuilding rather than demolition.
  • Michael updated the group on the new First Shaughnessy heritage designation, and on updates to the Heritage Registry and possible changes to evaluation standards

It was another full and fascinating evening for heritage and history buffs.

 

Notes From The September Meeting

The new season of meetings kicked off on Thursday with a good attendance. As usual, the discussion was wide-ranging and fascinating.

  • We began as usual with our Around The Hood segment in which Eric leads us through an illustrated tour of various changes, sales, rumours etc within Grandview. This month we covered 17 properties. In many cases we looked at heritage properties that were or had been for sale; for others (such as 2111 Kitchener and 1102 Commercial) we wondered at the quick flipping of sites for huge short-term profits. We noted that three major apartment blocks on Commercial, each of which had supplied affordable rentals for decades, have now been or are being renovated with rental rates expected to increase dramatically.At 2088 Charles, we noted that this double lot was to be split as part of an HRA. Finally, we were pleased to see that 1003 Commercial (“The Peg”) which recently sold is having its roof repaired and thus seems likely to be preserved, at least temporarily.  These tours always spur interesting discussions and often produce nuggets of genuine historical value.
  • Eric has also transformed some parts of his earlier “Mechanicals and Materials” series into handy Life Hacks for Heritage presentations.  Within the next short while they will appear on this site on their own page.
  • We then spent some time reviewing and discussing the 2015-16 Centenary Signs houses.  The map and the short descriptive listings are already up on the site. Some years we have had a cake to celebrate the houses; this year, Penny made peanut butter cookies which were at least as good as cake!
  • Michael reviewed the new Heritage Register renewal project, and discussed the First Shaughnessy designation as an Historic Area.  Michael doesn’t believe other areas of Vancouver will receive such a designation because, in neighbourhoods such as Greandview and Mount Pleasant, the current RT zoning seems to be working as a reasonable defence of heritage.  This is not working so well, however, in commercial areas such as Main Street.
  • Mount Pleasant Heritage Group is looking for assistance to find old pictures of the Triangle Building in their neighbourhood at Main & Kingsway.  They can be contacted via their website.
  • The next meeting is on 15th October. Jak will be presenting his database of Grandview properties.

 

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.

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.

August 21st meeting recap

There was a full house again for the GHG’s monthly meeting, held (as always) in the boardroom at Britannia at 7 pm on the third Thursday.

Cynthia Low, the executive director of Britannia, gave a Powerpoint presentation and listened to questions and comments about the ongoing planning process to replace the current Britannia Community Centre buildings. She focused on the desire to increase the visibility of the east and west facades of century-old Britannia school, which are largely hidden by the jumble of buildings, and mentioned the possibility of giving the new centre a presence on Commercial Drive, probably at Napier Street. She urged GHGers to become involved in the planning process and directed us to their website for further details on the Capital Plan and the various consultative stages that lie ahead.

Bruce Macdonald presented two of the interviews he has been filming with senior citizens – specifically those involved in the workforce in the 1940s and 1950s – who have a connection with Grandview and East Vancouver. Marjorie McKeown Agnew, aged 98, spoke of her youth growing up in the blocks around St. Francis of Assisi Church when that property was home to Australian real-estate speculator William Miller, her friendships with the children of the Odlum family of Grant Avenue, and her connection to the recently restored Hawkins-Agnew house on Victoria Drive between Napier and Parker. Several months ago, a few members of the GHG met with Marjorie’s daughters Susan and Barbara and received a lot of information and photographs of the family’s years living in Grandview.

Bruce then presented a brief excerpt of his hours of recordings of Bob Williams, the legendary planner and politician who became Premier Dave Barrett’s right-hand man in the NDP government of 1972–5. Mr. Williams told a fascinating story of his early years, from his birth in the Sally Ann unwed mothers’ home, his childhood rag- and bottle-picking on an old dump site where the Italian Cultural Centre now stands and his summers spent with his grandmother, who lived “a short walk” away in Capitol Hill in Burnaby and who had a cabin/shack on the Dollarton mudflats in North Vancouver near the sometime home of novelist and legendary alcoholic Malcolm Lowry.

Bruce intends to sort out the technology so this set of interviews (25 of which he’s done so far) can be streamed from our website.

Finally, Eric Phillips took a second look at floorcoverings in vintage houses, focusing on linoleum and its numerous imitators and adding new images of linoleum and wood carpets to what he presented last month. He brought a number of samples, including a strip of battleship linoleum and several handmade hooked rugs dating back to his own family’s homesteading and farming days.

Eric also drew everyone’s attention to the large number of upcoming lectures and events pertaining to heritage and history:

•the 5th annual Autumn Shift in Mount Pleasant, taking place on September 14th from 12–6.

autumnshift

•lectures on Heritage and Gentrification (September 30th), architect Samuel Maclure (October 21st) and Vaudeville (November 4th) offered by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation at Hycroft.

•walking tours and other programs offered on August 23rd, September 7th and 27th by Heritage Vancouver.

The next meeting will be held on Thursday September 18th at 7 pm!

Meeting Notes: April 2014

There was a heavy rainstorm and a wintry wind last night, but still the came out for the latest of our regular monthly meetings.  As always, the meeting was full of erudite and fun stuff:  We discussed:

  • The student program, working with UBG Geog.  It didn’t work very well for us this year.  In fact, it is reasonable to say that we got nothing out of it at all — not even a look at the final paper so far.  The student met with us once and then declined to meet with us again.  It should be no surprise then that Michael, who attended the class project presentations, said her paper veered off track from what we had hoped.  It was agreed that we review the situation again next year if the offer comes up.
  • On a more positive student note, Jak mentioned that SFU’s John Ngyuen‘s piece on Commercial Drive and the Community Plan should be available late this week.  In the meanwhile, his class project on youth estrangement from politics is now available.
  • We then discussed the fact that Commercial Drive as a whole was put on Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Endangered List this year.  Several of us disagree that the development pressures that may be leaning on the Drive today are anything to do with heritage.  The debate drifted into the current situation in Shaughnessy One and Dunbar.
  • It was noted that the owners of several heritage properties on the north side of the 1800-block Venables have received letters from a developer seeking to assemble lots there.
  • Michael then took us through the situation with our plaque on the Shelly’s Wall.  It is deteriorating quite quickly, fading.
  • This led us to the 2014 Centenary Celebration House Signs project. We have 39 houses on the shortlist and 24 signs.  We will launch again in June with a cake-in-the-park party.
  • Penny and Bruce will be talking to the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group about setting up a centenary signs project of their own.
  • Which brought us to the main event of the night.  Eric’s latest episode of this Heritage Mechanicals and Materials. This one was on glass.  He entertainingly took us through the history of glass making and its use in houses.  He had illustrations on slides and brought along a fine collection of artifacts for us to see and handle. Another excellent episode.
  • We finished the evening by talking about and sampling the ware’s of Bomber, the only brewer in the main part of Grandview.  A fine end to a fine evening!

Our Next Meeting Is On Thursday

As many of you will know, we meet on the third Thursday of each month, at 7:00pm in the Britannia Board Room in the Info Centre (Commercial & Napier) and the next meeting is rapidly approaching — this Thursday.

The highlight of the evening will be Eric Philip’s illustrated talk on Glass in his remarkable Heritage Mechanicals and Materials series. Those who were there won’t soon forget last month’s teaser!  Come along and see the real thing.

We will also discuss this year’s experience working with a university student, and compare it to the previous year’s experience, in order to answer the question: Should we keep doing this?

Other topics will include Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Endangered listing for Commercial Drive, a replacement for the Shelly plaque, and the schedule for the 2014 Centenary Celebration house signs project.  And, of course, any other relevant topic that springs to mind..

Hope to see you there on Thursday

Meeting Notes: March

We had about twenty people at our meeting last night, with a couple of new visitors.  I don’t think anyone was disappointed with all that we managed to cover in a couple of hours.

  • Michael Kluckner gave a detailed and excellent illustrated talk that led us through the history of heritage legislation and regulation in Vancouver, starting with the first Heritage By-law (which has its 40th anniversary this year), which was a result of the controversial Birks Building demolition. He then segued into a review of the various housing styles that we can find in Grandview, focusing on the change from a front porch-based culture to one that prefers more privacy in backyards and courtyards.
  • Michael’s talk was by way of a primer for our 2014 Centenary House signs project walk on Sunday.  We will meet at the Britannia library at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday 23rd March.  We will cover the area west and south of Britannia.  Everyone is welcome to join us.
  • We noted that Stephanie Chang, the UBC Historical Geography (GEOG 429) student who has been wortking with us, will present her paper next Tuesday.  Michael and Jak are planning to go.
  • We discussed the situation regarding Brookhouse, 1872 Parker. The news does not seem good, and we may well lose this house to demolition very soon.
  • The meeting that several of us had with the Agnew family was described, and led to an interesting discussion about the value of family papers and photographs.
  • Jak and Bruce described the $25,000 New Horizons grant that has now been received and is to be managed by VCN.  The purpose of the project is to collect as many seniors’ stories as we can.  Interviews should begin in April.
  • Last, and certainly not least, Eric Phillips gave us a teaser about the new edition of his series, Heritage Mechanicals and Materials, that he will present at our meeting next month.  The subject is Glass.  He brought along a number of examples of stained glass and beveled plate, and then encouraged our attendance next month with some fascinating illustrations about the history of glass.

Another great meeting; I think we are really getting into our stride now.