Affordable Housing YES! Mega-Towers NO!


Affordable Housing YES! Mega Rents No!

With three towers soaring higher than 44 residential storeys, this expensive proposal from a Real Estate Investment Trust trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange will squeeze tenants for sky high rents, doing nothing for the affordabilitiy crisis or the East Van community.

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The proposed towers go against years of community planning.

This community is desperate for affordable housing, for middle and low income earners.  Not upscale and luxury suites with mega rents that are unaffordable for the regular person.  
Only 10% of the units (~104)  are for “average cost” rents.  That’s it. Currently the average rent for a one bedroom in Vancouver is $2,197 per month.  Absolutely no non-profit, low income, co-operative, social or other affordable housing is proposed.  The rest of the rents will be full market – as much as the Real Estate Investment Trust can squeeze from tenants. As a comparison, at another development by Crombie REIT at a Safeway in Vancouver –  the Zephyr on Davie St. – a one bedroom is offered at $3275 to $3900 for approx 680 sq ft.
This site could be a welcoming Gateway to East Vancouver. With a generous public plaza – think Robson Square! – as set out in the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan. The Plan calls for a generous, sunny, welcoming, centrally-located civic plaza at the Safeway site, to be a new “social heart” for the community.  
There is no generous, sunny, centrally located welcoming civic plaza as the Community Plan promises, only a shadowed walkway running beside the noisy skytrain.  The plaza proposal now contains stairs….that run up underneath the tallest tower  to a sidewalk that w skirts an upper, private courtyard – not publically accessible. There is no public plaza or gathering space.
The Grandview-Woodland Citizens’ Assembly, which the City of Vancouver convened, recommended buildings of no more than 12 storeys at the Safeway site.  The Grandview Woodland Community Plan, subsequently passed by Council, approved buildings ranging in height from 12 to 24 storeys at the site. Transit oriented development set out by the provincial government permits heights of 20 storeys. 
A soaring, three tower development  is proposed at the Safeway site at 1780 East Broadway.  The tallest would be 444 feet. The developers say the towers will be 44, 38 and 37 storeys above ground.  For comparison, the tower under construction at Broadway and Granville (1477 West Broadway) is 406 ft tall. 
We want to support and encourage our local, independent businesses that make Commercial Drive thrive – and which give it its unique, diverse shopping character. 
The Safeway store would increase in size dramatically – a megastore out of keeping with Commercial Drive, and which will have the effect of pulling customers away from local merchants, putting further pressure on the independent shopkeepers of The Drive. 
Save the greenspace in Grandview Cut! We are in a climate emergency. The City wants Grandview Cut’s thick green undergrowth, habitat and biodiversity preserved, protected and enhanced.  The Vancouver Park Board has identified the Cut as a priority habitat earmarked for protection and restoration.  Increasing the quantity, quality and resilience of greenspaces in Vancouver is a goal of the Greenest City Action Plan.
 Thick undergrowth, trees and brush in the Grandview Cut will be slashed away to make room for concrete reinforcement, two ramps, an entranceway and bridge for loading trucks and vehicles. This will displace the birds and animals who make this their home. There is only a small amount of greenspace – in a locked off, private courtyard.
We need an inviting design that stands as a welcoming and affordable Gateway to East Vancouver. A design that opens up to the local community and to the City, with a sunny public plaza. A design that links a generous plaza with greenspace to the bikeway and on to Trout Lake. We support an affordable, liveable development which will be a home for low and middle income people. 
The REIT which plans these megatowers will charge mega-rents in order to get a return on its investment. Without government intervention, the developers will wring as much rent money as possible from its tenants who are struggling to get by.  Those very same tenants will be encouraged to spend their hard earned dollars on high grocery bills at the Safeway below them – a grocery giant owned by the same people that control the Crombie REIT. 
In a liveable city, there is room for our kids in schools, places to park, room to play. 
With 1044 units, come about 2500 more people. We are concerned about the intense pressure this will put on schools and greenspace, and yes, parking. Not everyone can take transit – much as we support that. Only 187residential parking spaces are set aside for 1044 units. This needs to be substantially increased. 


A Dream for developers; Mega Rents for East Vancouver

The rents will be very expensive – nothing affordable.  Renters will be squeezed for top dollar to fund the investors who own the Crombie REIT. The developer’s image conveniently leaves off the mountains and cuts off the skytrain guideway. To get this perspective you’d have to be standing on East 13th – not East 10th.  There is no non-profit, low income, or co-op housing.

The Safeway site is owned by a Real Estate Investment Trust with properties worth $5.6 billion

This site is owned by the Crombie REIT – a real estate investment trust. It is 41.5% owned by Empire Ltd. – the parent company to Sobeys, which in turn owns Safeway and other grocery chains. The rest of the shares are held by investors – it is on the Toronto Stock Exchange. In Crombie REIT’s last published annual report it says it owns 304 properties across Canada. It says its properties are worth about $5.6 billion.

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No community plaza, no sunny gathering space

Its not a generous sunny plaza – it’s a sidewalk under the thundering skytrain’s shadow.

It could be so great! This development could be an affordable, welcoming Gateway to East Vancouver. Think Robson Square!  Instead, all that is proposed is a wide entranceway to a grocery store…in the shadow of skytrain thundering overhead. We want a design that opens up to the local community and to the City. The Grandview Woodland Community Plan calls for a generous public plaza that would be a new social heart for the community.

There are Better Designs

The Citizens’ Assembly recommended 12 storeys. Above is an example of the concept design from the Assembly’s report.
Above is the design concept that was shown to City Council when it passed the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.  The plan calls for building heights to range between 12-24 storeys above retail. The province has approved 20 storeys at a transit hub. We completely support affordable densification, especially as the Safeway site is near a transit hub. Unfortunately the proposed megatowers will charge mega-rents. This proposal will do nothing for the affordable housing crisis – there is no help for low and middle income earners.

Who We Are

No Megatowers at Safeway is a citizens’ group opposed to the complete lack of affordability, and forbidding design of these behemoth upscale towers. We completely support substantial and affordable density near a transit hub; we are desperate for affordable housing.  This development will only bring mega-rents.  There is no low income, cooperative, non-profit or social housing proposed. Instead, 90% of the suites are at full market rents; only 10% are “below-market”. We call on the provincial government to intervene and bring in truly affordable suites, for low and middle income earners. This development could be a new Gateway to East Vancouver, with a generous open public plaza, and linking to the greenway and beyond to Trout Lake.  The applicants’ public plaza consists of a walkway along the noisy darkened skytrain line at the entrance to a giant new Safeway. The only greenspace is a locked off, private courtyard on the upper level.. This development will permanently concrete over a significant portion of the thick undergrowth and habitat in the Grandview Cut to construct a vehicle bridge and structural reinforcing. Mega-rents will be charged, this proposal does nothing for the affordable housing crisis.

Contact us at


 Sample letter:

Subject: No Megatowers At Safeway

Dear Mayor Sim and Councillors,

I am opposed to the proposed development at the Safeway site at Broadway and Commercial.

I am in favour of affordable housing at that location, and completely support substantial density near this transit hub.

I am against this current proposal for the following reasons:

  1. This will be an upscale and luxury development, with mega-rents.
  2. 90% of the units will be full market price; only 10% are “below-market” – contrary to the City’s large sustainable developments policy, which requires a 30% mix of social and below market housing.
  3. It contains zero low income, social, non-profit or co-operative housing.. We desperately need affordable housing in Vancouver – this proposal will only contain sky high mega rents.
  4. With 10% of the units at “average rent costs”, even these will be hard to afford. We all know that the average rent in the City of Vancouver is too high – as of the latest CMHC report it was $2187 for a one bedroom.
  5. For example, CROMBIE REIT/Westbank currently rents units of 680 sq ft at its Safeway development on Davie Street at $3275 to $3900/month.
  6. There is no centrally located, generous public plaza as promised in the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan. All there is a noisy walkway under the shadow of the skytrain line with stairs that run up underneath Tower A to a sidewalk that skirts a private locked off courtyard.
  7. The three towers are forbidding and out of scale with the eclectic Commercial Drive. I completely support substantial density at a transit hub.  But towers soaring higher than 44 storeys, casting cold shadows over the neighbourhood, and offering no genuine affordable housing  is of no benefit to Vancouver.
  8. There is an opportunity at this site to make it an inviting, welcoming gateway to East Vancouver, one with liveability, guaranteed affordability and a generous sunny public plaza.
  9. The interests of the local community are not the focus of Crombie REIT. It is in business to maximize profits for its investors. I ask that you turn down this proposal in favour of one that benefits the neighbourhood and the City for the long term.

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