It has been frustrating watching the proposed shipping container terminal expansion at Deltaport near Tsawwassen. This is the  Port of Vancouver’s jurisdiction. They are stickhandling the Terminal 2 expansion proposal through the review process. The Port hopes to create more  turf by drivepiling a new industrial island  in waters off Roberts Bank. This is on the traditional  territory of the Tsawwassen First Nations. That black area you see in the photo above is Deltaport’s coal terminal.

It is Vancouver Port’s dirty secret~American ports on the west coast refuse to ship thermal coal for environmental reasons. But not the Port of Vancouver, which has doubled thermal coal exports in nine years to over 11 million tons. This dirty American coal also moves tariff free.

The Port was relentless in their pursuit of the Terminal 2 prize expansion, despite the fact that Roberts Bank is one of the few places on the planet for the migrating western sandpipers going to their spring Arctic breeding grounds. As I have already written these birds feed solely on an algae that is only available on these mudflats.

That algae cannot be moved or replaced, meaning that this important bird migration on the Pacific Flyway would be annihilated with port expansion. Extinct.

 Larry Pynn in The Province pointed out that the written response from Environment and Climate Change Canada to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency clearly outlined the catastrophic impact of a new terminal eradicating this sandpiper feeding area. Their exact words were Among the findings, the panel report also notes there would be “significant adverse and cumulative effects on wetlands and wetland functions at Roberts Bank.”

Environment Canada was not happy, and it was at this time Global Containers (GCT), Deltaport Terminal’s operator did a bait and switch, stating that the proposed Terminal 2 complex at Roberts Banks was “outmoded and no longer viable.”

Sadly, abandoning this terminal expansion and working smarter (this is the only major port on the Pacific Coast that does not work on a 24 hour basis)  was not something proposed by Global Containers Terminal (GCT) .

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The Fraser River runs 1,300 kilometers from the Rocky Mountains to the Salish Sea, and creates a wide river delta that attracts millions of migrating birds.  You can walk along the Fraser River or visit the George Reifel Bird Sanctuary (call ahead for a reservation during Covid times) to see some of the millions of migrating birds that pass through this area.

Roberts Bank where the Deltaport Shipping Terminal is has mudflats that are kilometers long during low tide, and provide nutrients for over half a million Western Sandpipers daily during the spring migration. It is a highly sensitive area in terms of habitat and use.

This article in Business In Vancouver by Nelson Bennett describes a new study that has just been published in the journal Conservation, Science and Practice.  This study was undertaken by a team of University of British Columbia scientists who estimate that  “100 species in the Fraser River estuary could go extinct over the next 25 years, unless better habitat management, restoration and loss prevention is implemented in a more harmonized way”.

The species identified include  Southern Resident Orcas, the four types of local salmon~chinook, coho, chum and sockeye, and the Western Sandpiper that uses the Roberts Bank area as one of their sole feeding grounds on their migratory route.

Habitat loss is a contributing factor, as well as climate change. And the fact that nearly three quarters of the biggest cities are located on estuaries puts tremendous pressure on the biodiversity. Add in items like Deltaport’s proposed Terminal Two expansion which would take out the biofilm required for migratory birds at Roberts Bank, and you can see the pressures on this ecologically unique area.

The scientists did conclude that there was a solution, and noted that there was not one overall piece of legislation and not one overall managing governance structure for the estuary, that would represent federal, provincial and First Nations leadership.

They proposed a 25 year investment of $381 million dollars ($15 million a year) to develop an overall regulatory act and to develop a “co-management” governance system. That on a per capita basis for each person in Metro Vancouver is the equivalent of one beer a year.

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In 2015, Toronto-based developer Cadillac Fairview attempted to get approval for a 26=storey office building at 555 Cordova, shoe-horned up against the east side of Waterfront Station in Vancouver. (Cadillac Fairview owns Waterfront Station, and the proposed building site has been the eastern access and parking lot for the Station since it opened in 1914.)

The building, dubbed the Icepick, was withdrawn in 2015, following wide-spread concerns expressed by the Urban Design Panel and the public.  The proposed site is not a separate building lot and far too small to accommodate a giant office building.

Now Cadillac Fairview is back with Icepick 2, a slightly revised version of the original. Responding to design objections, the developer rotated and pushed the building a little further west and north, slightly reduced its footprint, and made it possible to see and walk through the ground floor.

With these changes, the developer seems intent on getting approval at a Development Permit Board Meeting scheduled for March 22, 2021.

It’s important to know that that in 2009, Council-endorsed Central Waterfront Hub Framework to deal comprehensively with the many issues in this part of the city – our most important transportation hub and a last remaining part of the waterfront still to be connected to the publicly accessible

Because the proposed building is not consistent the Hub Framework, in October 2017, Council approved a program to update the Framework and resolve implementation issues. This work is in progress.

The proposal does not conform to planning guidelines for the area. The most recent proposed building is more than twice the suggested height of 11 stories, and six times the recommended floor space. It overwhelms heritage buildings on either side and provides an uninviting gateway to Historic Gastown.

The Hub Framework requires removing the top of the garage at the end of Granville to provide views of the ocean, mountains, cruise ships and access to a public walkway along the north side of the city.  Cadillac Fairview owns the parkade at the foot of Granville but has not agreed to an extension of Granville Street to the waterfront.

Removing part of the parkade’s top level was a central concept of the original Hub Framework. It would open the street to the waterfront, and provide an opportunity to build a public walkway connecting Stanley Park, the waterfront, Gastown, Chinatown and False Creek. This space at the entrance to Gastown would also make a splendid public plaza.  As the most important transportation hub in the region, this site is critical to the future of the city.

Approving Cadillac Fairview’s latest proposal will preclude the current planning process and seriously undermine future options for the City’s waterfront.  Does it make sense to put approvals before planning? Should a private developer be able to sabotage a public planning and design process?

You can send your views to the Mayor and Council, and to the Development Permit Board through kaveh.imani@vancouver.ca.  And you can send your comments to https://shapeyourcity.ca/555-w-cordova-st.

From notes provided by the Downtown Waterfront Working Group

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City of New York Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver sends on this  update on the restoration of Endale Arch in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. You can see in the remarkable photos what this arch restoration shows about the importance of park entrance and access at the time it was first constructed 160 years ago. This element was designed by  landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, to provide a gesture of separation from the urban noise and business of Grand Army Plaza to the field like Long Meadow which is one mile long.

The original intent was for the Endale Arch to blend seamlessly into the landscape. When it was opened in the 1860’s it provided a pedestrian entrance into the park separated from horse riders carriage drivers and people on bicycles.  Over a century the arch had deteriorated.

With a $500,000 grant from the Tiger Baron Foundation and through participatory municipal budgeting  the arch was restored to how it would have appeared in the 1860’s. One cross vault was left exposed to show the the brick and granite components beneath the wood.  LED lighting was added to brighten the interior of the arch.

When Prospect Park opened in 1867 it was seen as a pastoral large park of  526 acres, without the tight confines of Central Park.  Articles at the time describe Prospect Park as  30 minutes away  from New York City’s Wall Street. Central park in 1867 took an hour to access from Wall Street. New York City’s remarkable subway system was not in operation until decades later in 1904.

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In pre pandemic days I wrote about Canuck the Crow who was a Vancouver institution. Canuck was  a human-reared crow living on the east side making his presence known to the locals, including neighbourhood friends, such as those delivering the mail and local passers-by. He was also implicated in a police investigation for taking a knife away from a crime scene, supposedly because it was shiny and he liked it. Canuck the Crow also still has his own twitter account. He sadly disappeared last Fall .

Canuck the Crow was so popular that in one of CBC Civic reporter Justin McElroy’s always amazing polls, Canuck was voted the unofficial brand ambassador for Vancouver, handily “defeating” actor Michael J. Fox for the honour.

In pandemic times when being outside has been so necessary and meaningful for people self-isolating, watching the behaviour of crows (or how they watch you) has taken on a new meaning. In my area there are crows that follow walkers and cyclists, and loudly admonish people for stopping to talk. They seem to recognize people and  can live a very long time.

The NPR have just produced this clip with Dr. Kaeli Swift who studied crow behaviour at the University of Washington. Her findings show that like Canuck the Crow, crows can memorize faces, and if they have a “scary experience” (like being trapped, banded and released) they remember that individual face. If that face returns,  Dr. Swift says crows  “would alarm-call, they would dive-bomb that person.”  The crow also teaches other crows which people are “dangerous’ and they can remember faces for years.

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The Bird-Friendly and Biophilic City: Integrating Safe, Natural Habitats into Urban Design and Planning

Urban greening efforts often emphasize infrastructure improvements like energy efficient building systems. But an increasing number of planners and urban designers are looking to develop “biophilic” cities that incorporate natural forms into buildings and cityscapes.

Join the Maryland Department of Planning and the Smart Growth Network  as Tim Beatley, the Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at the University of Virginia, outlines the essential elements of a biophilic city and provide examples of cities that have successfully integrated biophilic elements–from the building to the regional level–around the world.

Beatley will also look at how these changes can make our built environment safer for birds, and how better integrating the built and natural environments can improve quality of life for people while also protecting natural habitats. 

Click on this link to register.

Date: Thursday November 12, 2020

Time: 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time

 

 

 

 

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There’s been some discussion that the City of Vancouver’s three public golf courses, which are classified as park land, should be morphed into housing sites. The argument has been that as the population of the City of Vancouver expands, why not use golf course sites for housing?

The City cannot easily turn land zoned for park use into housing sites and there’s the suggestion that doing so may be short sighted, as the city densifies and requires park land for a growing populus into the next century. The City does have an  established policy of providing 2.5 acres of park land for every 1,000 residents, and used DCLs on new development to garner funds for park purchase.

The original intent of DCLs, (Development Cost Levies) was to pay for social housing, infrastructure, parks and childcare facilities. As development occurred in the city, each development would pay a portion of the associated costs. Councils have also waived these DCL payments in some cases to achieve other goals such as new affordable or rental housing, meaning that the funds for other infrastructure required have been deferred.

Take a look at what the  City of Sydney Australia is doing in this article written by Megan Gorrey in the Sydney Morning Herald. Mayor Clover Moore and Sydney Council is considering two plans to pare down an 18 hole civic golf course to 9 holes and create 20 hectares of new parkland.

 

It’s no surprise that Golf New South Wales called the proposal “shameful”. But the Lord mayor argues that the land is for public use. While the golf course is in a park trust run by New South Wales state, Mayor Moore observes that the area surrounding the golf course is “becoming the densest residential area in Australia” with an expected population increase of 70,000 residents and 22,000 workers by 2031.

There are twelve golf courses, six accessible to the public within 12 kilometres of this golf course. The City Council plans to spend $50,000 on a community consultation plan for the area and for the park if the proposal is adopted, providing new park land with close proximity to the downtown.

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Last week I wrote about the international poll on walkability which found North American cities lacking. Those cities have  not thought through the importance of people being able to access schools, shops and services within a three kilometre radius of dwellings. They have also not embraced that housing people at density means having access to nearby public spaces, squares and parks and making the whole experience “lively”.

In Metro Vancouver, parks are planned like they are for 1960’s. It’s kind of intended that Moms and Dads have vehicles that can whisk kids to washrooms and restaurants. We don’t put picnic tables in all parks, and  we don’t install washrooms in many.

In a place that is attempting to house families at higher density, we also have to provide safe,comfortable and convenient access to useable, year round park spaces. And that’s not the half-century old “soccer field in the park concept.” We simply need to reboot what we think open public space is, and centre a new definition of park space as something that is accessible to everyone, and useable twelve months of the year.

Stephen Quinn’s radio interview on walkable outdoor space on CBC Radio  touched on this.

In the 21st century we are not a  city of public washrooms nor do we provide covered outdoor public spaces during inclement weather. There’s lots of talk about this being an equity issue, and it seems odd that these basic amenities are not provided.

But remember the pre Covid pandemic reality was that there were other indoor spaces available that were public, like libraries and community centres. The closure of libraries during Covid was a tremendous loss to citizens, but especially to the homeless and disenfranchised. The library was a place that everyone had access to and had equity. With the Covid closures these important places where people could rely on for washrooms, reading, and getting out of the elements were instantly erased.

The Georgia Straight’s Stanley Woodvine  is a homeless writer that keenly and cogently expresses  that there should be universal access to covered public spaces and public washrooms. There’s also a need for  electrical outlets to be conveniently located to charge cell phones and other devices. (The average cell phone uses 25 cents of electricity annually.)

Mr. Woodvine feels that covered public spaces were not created in parks to stop  homeless from congregating. I think the reason is less sophisticated ~I don’t believe that it was on the Parks Board’s radar for cost and liability reasons.

Sunset Park in the 400 block of East 51st  Avenue did have a shelter installed, but it was for Tai Chi and for picnic tables. The Covid pandemic and the increasing density of the city means that outdoor space needs to be more user-friendly nimble and  practical during inclement weather. That’s where ingenuity needs to step in.

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