Sale of Tosi’s sure to trigger new debate about heritage preservation in Chinatown

4585861 Tosi

Angelo Tosi in his domain. What next for Tosi’s? Vancouver Sun photo

It was bound to happen some day, but the For Sale sign on Tosi’s at 624 Main, the city’s oldest Italian deli in the heart of Chinatown, is certain to trigger new debate on heritage protection in one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods.

The Tosi family story is a remarkable one and Angelo Tosi was not quick to adopt new technology. His remained a “cash only” business. The building dates back more than a century and includes part of the original Woodwards store.

As the Vancouver Sun’s John Mackie made clear in this 2011 feature, Tosi’s is heritage inside and out, with original fixtures dating from the early years of the last century when Strathcona and Chinatown joined at Main St. in a community as diverse as you can find.

Hoggan’s Alley was two blocks south and the Japanese community just four blocks north. Let’s hope potential buyers are aware of the challenge they are taking on with this historic property. In his interview with Mackie, Tosi held out hopes for a density transfer or some other strategy to maintain what he had carefully protected for decades.

Study finds Airbnb taking five percent of hotel market; multi-unit hosts taking half of revenue

High density living space in Vancouver's Yaletown district.A recent study of Airbnb’s impact on the hotel industry in Canada has concluded that the online booking service is taking 5.1 percent of Metro Vancouver’s hotel revenue and meeting about 5.3 percent of overall demand.

“Our industry is rife with deniers,” says HLT Advisory, a consulting firm that partnered with Ryerson University for the study. “In fact, as recently as Q1 of 2016, one of our competitors told a major Canadian industry association that Airbnb’s impact had been, and was expected to be, negligible. Well…it’s not.

“And the impact in the future is set to increase. Airbnb is neither a product nor a brand, Airbnb is a delivery “channel” and a channel with lots of upside (or downside, depending on your point of view) given the ease with which new supply can be added. Airbnb is the very model of a disruptor.”

Among the other findings of the study, which generally corrorborates much of what has been published elsewhere, Airbnb’s Metro Vancouver listings from July to December last year exceeded 7,000 for all types of accommodation.On average, about 1,121 units are booked every night in Metro Vancouver.

In addition:

  • “entire place” listings accounted for 69 percent of the total;
  • “entire place” listings amounted to 84 percent of revenue; and
  • multi-unit hosts took 54 percent of the revenue.

These numbers do much to undermine the argument that most Airbnb hosts are simply folks using a few rentals as a mortgage helper. The report also notes that commercial Airbnb hosts are getting a big tax break compared to hotels, which pay property tax in Vancouver at twice the rate of residential homeowners.

Tentative agreement with bus drivers signals better days for Translink riders . . . at last

IMG_1135 Joyce Skytrain

The tentative agreement with Translink mechanics and bus drivers is good news.

Translink’s bus drivers, members of Unifor Locals 111 and 2200, will be voting Thursday on a tentative three-year agreement with Translink, the latest sign that the regional transit authority is finally into a stretch of good news.

There are signs the days of “dividing the shortages among the peasants” at Translink are coming to an end:

This is all welcome news for transit riders, who have been facing crowded buses and flat service levels for too long.

Meanwhile, Translink’s bus route changes on the 49 and 26 routes in Champlain Heights are now in effect, a reminder that effective community organizing can produce positive changes.

The 49 changes, first proposed in 2014, were opposed by the community because they risked losing a direct Skytrain connection in their transit-oriented neighbourhood. It was all part of “service optimization,” Translink’s efforts to make the most of limited service when funding was not increasing.

The proposal was withdrawn, in the wake of a motion I took to city council, and the latest version is much better, although still an adjustment for riders in a community where regular bus service was part of the original plan.

The new arrangement shortens the ride for thousands of riders headed west to UBC, all of whom could take the Broadway subway once the 10-year plan is fully-funded and implemented.

City invites public input on Airbnb rules as number of city online listings breaks 5,000

Short-term rentals are having an impact in rental and strata buildings.

Short-term rentals are having an impact in rental and strata buildings.

Vancouver residents are being invited to weigh in on how the city should regulate short-term online rentals like Airbnb when a new online survey begins July 20 at vancouver.ca/short-term-rentals.

This is one issue where foreign ownership should not be factor – clearly, most of the city’s more than 5,000 listings are being put out there by city owners and residents.

Information released this week both by the city and by Airbnb point to a dramatic escalation in short-term rentals since 2013, particularly in neighbourhoods like Kitsilano and Mount Pleasant, where affordable rental stock is at a premium.

City manager Sadhu Johnson summarized the latest analysis completed by an independent consultant in a memo to council. The key findings: listings now exceed 5,000 units, 85 percent are with Airbnb and neighbourhoods close to downtown are most impacted.

The results of the online survey will be combined with other city analysis for a report to council in September. Then a second round of consultation will occur before a council decision by the end of the year.