From Michael Mortensen:

What’s with all the plastic grass these days in the downtown core? I understand it’s hard to keep stuff alive on these little median strips … put plastic grass? Really? Don’t we have enough plastic in our environment already?

These green edges are quite important in creating a liveable downtown. For all their (our) sophistication, Homo Sapiens Sapiens (literally ‘the apes who know they know’) are still grassland savannah animals; 80% visual; adore green plants.

The sight, sound, fragrance, movement and touch of real landscape and trees soften the city’s concrete edges and obscure towers from our pedestrian vantage. Their movement and colour tell us daily about the weather and changing seasons. Let’s do away with plastic grass at the same time we abandon plastic straws and containers.


From Gord Price:

When Council was rezoning for Downtown South – the neighbourhoods between Burrard Street and Yaletown, south of Robson – I, as a councillor from the West End, insisted that as part of the urban-design guidelines for the streetscapes, we include ‘boulevards,’ those planting strips next to the curbs.  After all, if we have had them in the West End since the 19th century, we should have them in the newly adjacent residential neighbourhoods.

I still think it was a good idea, not only for aesthetics but to provide more permeable landscape to deal with surface run-off.  But it quickly became apparent that, particularly where there were parking meters on heavily used commercial streets, the grass would turn to mud.  The responses were varied: some provided stepping stones, some completely filled in the boulevard with asphalt or concrete, some used artificial grass.  Unfortunately, it now seems to be the default surface regardless of circumstances, probably to avoid maintenance as much as to avoid mud.

The best response is to put in more resilient plants, hedges and potted flowers – like this example at Robson and Denman.

Or, more modestly, this one on Homer.



  1. The hedge/shrub version shown above only working on streets where there is “no parking” or “no stopping” since they could be a tripping hazard/obstacle for people exiting/entering their cars (especially seniors) (i.e. it’s akin to the jersey barrier at the World’s Worst Bus Stop)
    On Homer next to “L’Atelier, they even had rock on the boulevard – I think they have since been removed – as I’m sure they caused damage to car doors when unsuspecting passengers opened their car doors (not all cars are high-riding SUVs).

    The shorter version above looks like it is a better compromise – but might still prevent a wheelchair from coming alongside a car.

  2. It’s not just people walking on the grass that turns it to mud. On some Downtown South streets the tree canopy is now so successful that the grass gets far less light, so doesn’t grow much. A much greater problem is the number of dogs, and the destruction to grass that results from people walking them close to home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *