From the CBC:

“I really think this is a real gift to the city,” said Stewart. “Everything we can do to make this project be successful is at the top of my list.”


Be careful.  If Senakw, the Squamish Burrard Bridge project, is a gift to the city, other proponents will come bearing gifts for similar considerations.

From Expo 86 to the 2010 Olympics, the City has seen almost a dozen megaprojects appear on the skyline – developer-driven, comprehensively designed and built, beginning with Concord Pacific in the late eighties.  All through the nineties, megaprojects sprouted – from Coal Harbour to Collingwood Village to Fraser Lands.

They all had to meet standards for complete communities, based originally on what we had learned when the City created the South Shore of False Creek, followed by Granville Island.  If a developer came to the City with a megaproject proposal, they came with a plan that met the council-approved megaproject standards.

The City extracted huge wealth from the value it created through those zoning approvals.  Lots of parkland and seawall extensions, in addition to the basic infrastructure – pipes, cables and roads.  As well: social amenities and necessities – schools, community centres, child care as a priority; housing percents for families with children, for social equity. There were design standards: for cycling, for sustainability, for the arts.  And more.  That’s what we meant by ‘complete communities’ – and you can go walk around in the results.

Developers paid for all this through direct provision of the benefits, like a child-care centre, or through ‘contributions’ – those CACs you hear about without quite understanding how they work.

In the case of Senakw, it could be the other way around.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers (Vancouver’s first aboriginal relations manager) said Senakw will give future Vancouverites the chance to live in the city and it’s up to the city to respond to concerns about infrastructure and capacity.

Stewart say he is up to the challenge, including working with the park board, the school board and the province to ensure community services are available when the neighbourhood’s new residents arrive.

At 10- to 12,000 residents, there is no way Senakw could meet some of the established standards.  Concord Pacific had to provide 2.75 acres of park for every thousand residents.  Senakw would need more than twice the area of its entire 11-acre site.  While it’s not yet clear what Senakw will  provide, it isn’t obligated.  Nor is it yet clear (or even negotiated), but the City looks like it’s committing itself to providing significant amenities and necessities – accepting density and paying for impacts.

So if the development itself – the thousands of market rental apartments – is the gift, then why would the City not be open to receiving more gifts from other developers.  Yes, Senakw is unique given its status as a reserve, so developers wouldn’t expect the same deal.  They’d just expect the amenity bar to be lowered.

How the relationship develops and negotiations occur is what reconciliation is seriously about – a relationship based on mutual interests levered for maximum value. One of the values of the City is the building of complete communities.  Squamish would point to their own history for examples.  It shouldn’t be hard to come to a consensus.

Squamish has an interest in a successful development in every respect.  The city has to demonstrate respect.  Together, they’re negotiating our collective interests.

This is the reality of reconciliation.  It’s not about gifts, or reparations.  It’s about building the latest version of a complete community, together.


    1. The city retains ownership of the land on which the Starbucks building at 2nd and Anderson is sited. The terms of the lease state that if the city at some point requires the land for development– and that includes a streetcar extension– Starbucks will be require to vacate the site.

  1. ” Complete communities” is one of those Humpty Dumpty phrases – no-one can agree on what it is supposed to mean. I thought once that it was a regional directive to ensure mixed land use so that motorised transportation demand would be reduced at peak periods. There would be workplaces within walking distance of where people lived, universities would not be stuck on top of mountains or at the end of a peninsular, you would not have to get in your car just to get groceries. That sort of thing. There is no way this thin strip of land can do all of that. Or any of it. It may be beyond municipal jurisdiction but it will have to rely on the City for nearly all of its services. Do you see any solar panels or water infiltration systems in these renderings?

    1. If I ever did see water filtration systems in an architectural rendering, I’d be very suspicious. We should not let ourselves get carried away that this little unicorn development somehow threatens wider policy. It’s just a couple of apartment buildings on a sliver of land outside city’s immediate jurisdiction. There are very few of these. It’s not an open invitation to scrap developer contributions for increased infrastructure demands. And when other developers inevitably moan about the “unfairness” of it all, tell them they’ll just have to wait their turn to have their homes, families, language, culture, and civilization all erased from the face of the Earth until one day their tormentors again decide to recognize they have something of value to exploit. If all Reconciliation means in this instance is the construction of two rental apartment buildings – that we’re constantly saying we need anyway – we need to recognize how easily we are being let off the hook.

      1. Two rental buildings? It’s 6000+ units in several towers I thought.

        Utterly unclear is how necessary services for the 10,000+ (mainly non-native) residents/renters will be funded, usually through CACs and/or property taxes to city and province. Services such as: roads, public transit, schools, hospitals, doctors, policing, pools, parks, beaches, etc .. via services levies like SFU or UBC ?

  2. Let’s learn from SFU and UBC – they too built on their own land and negotiated services agreements with the city and province to pay for services offsite for its renters / residents, such as schools, healthcare, policing, transit or roads. Services levies – in lieu of property taxes – would be expected to be paid here too to both City of Vancouver and the province that pays for all these
    off reserve” services for its 10,000+ residents / renters expected in these massive towers.

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