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Commercial Drive drop-in centre faces new round of opposition to proposed tower

Some East Van residents aren’t willing to budge on their opposition to a tower on Commercial Drive even though it would result in a badly-needed new home for a nearly 40-year-old drop-in centre.

The Kettle Society, which provides services for people with mental illness and has outgrown its home, is facing renewed opposition to its partnership with Boffo Developments for a project with a 15-storey tower, 150 condo units, 30 social housing units and space for the Kettle at Commercial and Venables.

In the past few weeks, the No Tower Coalition has collected over 800 signatures on two petitions against the proposal – a project so controversial that not even the Grandview-Woodland Citizens’ Assembly would take sides after an unprecedented consultation process.

At issue is trading density for social services in a neighbourhood opposed to towers but home to many people who need support.

The coalition is adamant in its support for the Kettle, but it believes government, not a developer, should fund the project, concerned Grandview-Woodland resident Barbara Cameron said on Thursday.

“We support the Kettle’s work, we want to make that clear. What we don’t support is a tower in order for them to achieve what they need to deliver services to the community,” Cameron said.

“We think it’s completely inappropriate for Commercial Drive to have such a dense, high building on that corner,” she said. “It’s out of context and a very bad precedent.”

Advocacy for more provincial funding for supportive housing at the city level and by communities is the way forward, she said. The coalition is calling on the Kettle to explore other options.

But the Kettle’s executive director Nancy Keough said the partnership with Boffo, an East Van developer, is its only choice to expand its crowded facility.

“We spent years looking at other options… there are no other funding options,” she said. “Every unit would be a gift for people.”

The project has been delayed for four years while the community undergoes its community plan. Keough said the Kettle is trying to work with everyone to find a solution so they can move forward with a rezoning.

“The design is something we hope will fit into the neighbourhood… It is not one big blob, it’s something hopefully people will like,” she said.

“Without any height, we wouldn’t be able to get the social amenities we need and the housing.”

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