If you’ve been following the plans by the Squamish nation to build 6000 units of housing near the Burrard Bridge, you’ll appreciate the sheer bravado of the local Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
Instead of waiting years for a District of North Vancouver council to finally approve a significant housing development, they’ve applied to the federal government to add the 45 hectares of the target property to their reserve lands. This would mean they could proceed without council approval.
Or, as one grouch on Twitter described it:
We as a community vote in a democracy so that Council vote to establish bylaws and Development decisions. Unfortunately some Developers are trying to find a way around that by teaming up with First Nations Bands to exempt themselves from Council jurisdiction.
— dustin fluff (@DustinFluff) October 29, 2019
Last year Darwin Properties and the Tsleil-Waututh presented an ambitious new project called the Maplewood Innovation District, defined as “a new district offering an innovative mix of employment, education, recreational and limited residential and community uses in a campus-style structure.”
It would have built student and rental housing, commercial and studio space, and a variety of amenities on largely vacant land between the Mount Seymour Parkway and the Dollarton Highway. The proposal described plans for “a mix of housing tenures including 680 rental housing units (450 non-market and 230 market) and 220 market ownership units to co-locate jobs and residents and to support employment-generating uses.“
In July of 2018 the outgoing council chose to punt the proposal ’til after the election. The new council, who seem to be opposed to any development larger than coachhouses, quickly rejected it.
A second, much reduced version was also deferred in May of this year “until after the OCP review.” It seems likely though that opinions like those of council member Lisa Muri played a significant part in that decision. She was quoted in the North Shore News as saying:
“I didn’t use to converse with [Darwin] and now I do. Keep your enemies close, is what my initial thought was,” she said. Still, she said the project felt exclusionary for anyone who wasn’t a young tech employee on a bicycle.
“I felt like it was a party I wasn’t invited to,” she said.
The Tsleil-Waututh have now applied to the Government of Canada to annex the land and add it to their reserve holdings, which essentially moves it out of the reach of District council. (Aside from negotiations on shared infrastructure, like water and sewer.)
Last month, the adjacent Squamish nation announced their own plan to build 1,000 units of new housing, much of it geared to income, on the North Shore and in Squamish. The Hiy̓ám̓ ta Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Housing Society specifically wants to build housing for their own members but the development will still impact the rest of the North Shore housing market.
More than one pundit has suggested that the reason for the incredible traffic jams at both North Shore bridges is because so many people who work on the North Shore can’t afford to have a home here.
I guess it turns out that the biggest obstacle to settling on the North Shore was, in fact, Settler Culture.