Design & Development
September 23, 2016

"It's a Big Pile of Land"

Local First Nations are focussing on long-term economic independence via a series of big-money property developments in the Vancouver area.

First: Mike Howell reports in the Vancouver Courier that the Musqueam FN has reached a milestone on its UBC project.  Its scale, look and feel give hints about the “big one” — Jericho.

The provincial government is about to give the 1,300-member band the green light to build a massive residential development on its land in the University Endowment Lands  . . .     The project includes four 18-storey highrises, several rows of townhouses and mid-rise apartment buildings, a community centre, a childcare facility, commercial space for a grocery store and restaurants, a public plaza, a large park and wetlands area. All of it will be spread over 21.4 acres of what is now forest along University Boulevard, bounded by Acadia Road, Toronto Road and Ortona Avenue.

The Musqueam FN has hired former ban CFO Stephen Lee and former CLC employee Doug Avis to head up the Musqueam Capital Corporation, which offloads land development and other business activities from the band council.

[Chief] Sparrow, [Operations Manager] Mearns, Lee and Avis made it clear the end goal of the projects is to create opportunities for Musqueam’s young people and inspire them to pursue higher learning and take advantage of what’s in front of them. Lee and Avis are not Musqueam members but say they hope one day to be replaced by band members.
“We’ll make money on the developments, there’s no doubt about it,” Mearns said. “But that’s not really where the big value will come from. It’s how we raise the entire community capacity as a result of these projects and develop people to not only get careers as carpenters, plumbers, planners, engineers, doctors, lawyers — whatever — but it’s also to have people go out and develop their own businesses and get their own contracts.”

The Courier article is a fascinating journey along a trail that is shameful at times and hopeful at others.

Second: the 21-acre (8.5 hectare) Heather Lands, involving three FN and the Canada Lands Company (CLC).  The first open house will be tomorrow, Saturday Sept 24, 12:00 to 3 pm. Details HERE.  City of Vancouver launch events are to be Oct 15 and 17.
Apparently, the Heather Lands are also known as “Fairmont Lands”. Who knew?
Hints as to the planning outcome from the FN-CLC point of view are in THIS 25-page document from CoV, Appendix “D.  Joint Venture Guiding Planning Principles”. Presumably, many of these FN-CLC principles will also apply to the upcoming much bigger Jericho development. The principles, happily, include “…prioritize walking, cycling and transit…”, among many others. Cheesy car suburbs look unlikely.
The CoV document also lays out a big batch of overarching plans that will inform CoV’s Fairmont (Heather) Lands planning outcome.  Among them:  Land use, Density, Height, Public benefits, Transportation, Built form and character, Heritage, Sustainability, Development phasing.
Hopefully, the groups will meet somewhere in the middle of these various visions, which obviously differ in some areas e.g. affordability v.s. maximization of triple bottom line (page 18).  To me, at this stage, there looks like plenty of common ground.
Density will, of course, be the big hot public topic. Via its proxy — building height.  And let’s not forget the ever-popular vehicle storage (parking).

Thanks to Frances Bula for this in the Globe and Mail.  Note the possibility that the development will retain an existing 1920-era heritage building.  Note also the potential for City of Vancouver mandated affordable housing components, housing for FN members, and moderate to high density (as at nearby Cambie Street).

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Interested in the “other parcel”, the 21-acre Heather Street Lands?  Mark your calendar.
You can attend a Welcome Event (the launch of the planning process) on Saturday, September 24, 2016 . Noon to 3 pm, 4949 Heather Street, at the Heather Street Lands.

In the same flurry of transactions in October 2014 that released the Jericho Lands from DND use and positioned it for development, the former RCMP HQ at 37th and Heather in Vancouver went to the same groups.

Canada Lands Company and the MST Partnership have come together in a joint venture as the owners of the Heather Street Lands. The MST Partnership comprises the Musqueam Indian Band, Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation.


These lands comprise 21 acres, located in a very ripe area, smack in the middle of low-density old-time car suburbs. Note the intense densification taking place along Cambie Street in this area as a hint of a possible future here.

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The same three First Nations that are half-owners of the 52-acre former DND property called the Jericho Garrison have apparently signed a letter of intent for the 39 acres to the west, in a transaction with the Provincial Government, the current owners.
So with this addition to the Jericho Lands development, we will now have a 91-acre contiguous parcel awaiting City of Vancouver zoning.

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Let’s put our fingers to our keyboards, everyone, and try to predict the development outcomes.
I get first dibs on proposing that the Broadway subway extend to a central location in this land. And I hope the owners will be working towards a transit-oriented moderately dense community.
I also propose ped-and bike-friendly ways to get to Jericho Beach Park, one of Vancouver’s spectacular treasures — perhaps by massive traffic calming on 4th Avenue, or by a series of overpasses.
We are already aware that the Canada Lands Corporation, half owner of the former DND 52-acre site, doesn’t do social housing. Their mandate is to be a commercial developer. So put that in your CAC and ponder the discussions around new zoning, and the composition of various steering committees and management bodies.

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November 25, 2015

Public consultations on this project have been pushed back from Fall 2015 to Spring 2016.  This is according to Deana Grinnel, who was introduced April 29, 2015 as the project manager for this massive redevelopment of the former military lands at Jericho Garrison.

This 52-acre site will be redeveloped by Canada Lands Corporation on behalf of its new owners:  the CLC, Musqueam First Nation, Squamish FN and Tsleil-Waututh FN.
 

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Lisa Moffatt writes:

A friend of mine was involved in a bike-on-bike collision where the two-way cycling facility turns onto the hard packed gravel path at Jericho Beach.

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She was cycling eastbound when a westbound cyclist, travelling too fast to make the turn in his lane, hit her head on (literally, they bashed heads) in her lane.  I’ve sent a note to Dale Bracewell at the City.  Dale has requested staff look into the design.

I have often thought the design of the lanes were too narrow at that intersection, but have yet to do anything about it. You can see how tight the facility gets where the yellow line directs the turn.

It would be interesting to see what folks would suggest for improvement. One thing I’d suggest would be to cut back the bushes on the east side of the sidewalk.

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This is a problem of split jurisdiction: Engineering on streets, Park Board in Jericho.  And it’s typically the Park Board that is not following through – not only here but in Stanley and Kits Parks.

Too often the Board’s solution is to do the minimal – typically to tell you what not to do.  Here’s the generic, all-purpose Park Board signage:

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This, however, is egregious:

A change of jurisdictions: from City Engineering to Park Board.

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From Ken Ohrn:

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Kerry Gold writes in the Globe and Mail about the nascent and massive Jericho development.

Her story turns constantly to affordability, and the False Creek South development (near Granville Island) gets a moment in the spotlight.

She seems to have mainly interviewed David Eby (NDP MLA), Robert Howald of Canada Lands and Brian Jackson, City of Vancouver Planner. Glaringly missing is any material from First Nations.

Interesting to me is that City of Vancouver zoning will play a large part in the look, feel, affordability and profitability of this land’s future. Mr. Jackson is, however, quoted as theorizing about a very mixed development.

And again, there is no mention of the enormous opportunity that may arise (pending the plebiscite’s outcome) to extend the Broadway line to Jericho and incorporate transit-oriented development there.  This, to my mind, has a major effect on affordability.

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So what happens with Jericho if there is no expanded transit?  Does the development proceed?  Should the cost of additional transit service be a condition of approval – even if it means less of some other public amenity?  

If the referendum results in a No vote, should Jericho (and any project in Metro which is designed as a Transit-Oriented Development, or TOD) be put on hold until transit is assured?  If not, should the site then be kept at lower density – mainly single-family homes, as allowed under current zoning – to reduce the impact on adjacent neighbourhoods and the road system?

Imagine: Jericho would be cut up into single-family lots, largely car-dependent, sold off at the top end of the real-estate market, with no constraints on foreign purchase, because there is no additional transit service.  Or it’s developed at higher densities, but still has to provide a large provision for car parking – because there is no additional transit service.

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Two articles worth bringing forward.  The first by Kerry Gold in the Globe and Mail:

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In Vancouver, developers’ plans hinge on plebiscite results

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Transit provides the framework for future development. It has the power to create entire communities and shape the region. And this unaffordable city needs it more than ever.

Developers already know that, which is why Intergulf Development Group vice-president Shaadi Faris will be keeping a close eye on the transit plebiscite results. Better transit won’t just offer better regional access, but it will add fire to the already hot market.

“All development sites are based around transit – as a city, that is our issue,” says Mr. Faris. “We are surrounded by water and mountains, and we can’t expand that way, so we have to work around transit. Transit drives development here. It’s our biggest concern.”

Which immediately raises the question: What happens if the referendum fails?

(1)  Should projects that require transit be put on hold?  I’m thinking, in particular, of Jericho and development on UBC lands.  Or …

(2) Should such projects have to front-end the costs of transit?

The article goes on:

Mr. Shaadi has got his eye on the Broadway corridor to the University of British Columbia, whose future will also depend on rapid transit. …

He doesn’t see a No vote standing in the way of the new corridor. The plebiscite will only help answer the question of who will pay for better transit. Regardless of the outcome, adjustments will have to be made. There are an estimated million-plus people expected to move to Metro Vancouver by 2041. …

Another analyst suggested a tax levy on transit-oriented developments.

“It’s clear that transit could be paying for itself in some manner such as it does in other cities around the world,” said the analyst, who preferred to remain nameless. “Transit infrastructure is one of the few government investments which actually makes money. If you build a new hospital or courthouse or some other civic improvement, it’s a net cost. But a new transit line generates significant real estate profits.

“Here, the general public pays and private development benefits.”

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The second article, in the National Post, makes it clear that not all the capital required for major projects needs to be raised at once.  Just enough to pay the debt servicing or participation costs in a public-private partnershop (P3):

Brian Kelcey: Ottawa’s new transit fund — a weapon of mass construction

For cities, the big news in the 2015 federal budget was the announcement of a national transit fund, which starts at $250 million in 2017 and scales up to $1 billion per year in 2019 (and) could finance the biggest surge in Canadian infrastructure construction since gas tax transfers began in the last decade. …

Push aside all of the usual left-right bickering over P3s for a moment, because the change in policy matters even if P3s aren’t used after all. What matters here is cash flow. As notes in the budget make clear, the real policy shift is financial, not ideological. The Conservative goal here is to fund projects “over the useful life of the asset.”

By promising long-term project financing rather than up-front funding, Ottawa could commit to its $7 billion-plus share of $23 billion in transit projects in 2017. By 2019/2020, they could scale up to back up to $90 billion worth of transit construction — if provinces and cities can keep up with their own share.

Structured this way, Ottawa’s transit plan is a financial weapon of mass construction. Federal officials will be equipped to simultaneously announce long-term financing commitments to multiple projects in multiple cities (and, not incidentally, multiple ridings). …

However …

Unlike other governments, most Canadian cities have specific debt limits. These limits are usually calculated by measuring debt service costs against a city’s property tax or “own-source” revenues. Historically unstable federal transfers aren’t counted toward that limit — so the new model would push some cities to a debt wall faster than expected, and outright exclude others with large debt burdens.

This is a fixable problem. New federal or provincial agencies could carry a share of transit debts instead.

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Ken Ohrn attended the community meeting on April 29th, hosted by the West Point Grey Residents Association, with respect to the Jericho lands (map here):

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About 350-400 people attendednded this meeting in a big gymnasium on the provincially-owned land west of the Jericho Lands (the former DND Jericho Garrison).

The demographic mirrored the name of the association since, like me, the vast majority of attendees were grey-haired, or with good and bad hair colouring jobs. There was a scattering of under-40’s, and very few under 30. The vast majority were European. I counted 12 bicycles in the racks outside the venue when I left.

The presenters were:

  • Chief Ian Campbell, Squamish First Nation
  • Chief Wayne Sparrow, Musqueam FN
  • Matt Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh FN
  • Robert Howard, EVP Real Estate, CLC
  • Deana Grinnell, Jericho Project Manager, Canada Lands Company
  • David Eby, NDP MLA
  • Michael Robinson, Province of BC, Real Properties
  • Elizabeth Murphy, WPGR Association

The First Nations, fittingly, went first. The speakers were assertive, bordering on aggressive, in affirming their legal position with respect to land ownership in BC. The speakers were clear about their determination to gain for themselves a place in wider Canadian society that provides FN opportunities for education, partnerships, work in the professions, economic strength and so on. This coupled with traditional values around sustainability.

Shamefully, near the end of this segment, a few hostile yells broke out, demanding that the meeting return to the agenda, and that some were walking out. Personally, I applaud the FN speakers for their clear message, which was likely being heard by some for the first time.

Ms. Murphy, the moderator, took the mike to say that this was a part of the agenda – and hearty, sustained applause broke out from the audience. It was a truly embarrassing and shameful episode, and it is clear that the colonial bully mentality still exists as a minority world view.

Bob Howard of CLC advised that no planning was underway, and no detailed preparation. CLC, however, will be the project manager (Deana Grinnell), and oversight will come from a Management Committee with representation from all the owners. Mr. Howard advised that project decisions are subject to municipal authority and approval. Since CLC is arm’s length from the Federal Gov’t, the project will not be imposed on the community by them. Presumably, the City of Vancouver and the Region may find representation on this Management Committee. We’ll see.

CLC’s intent is to create a moderately detailed plan, install infrastructure, create standards and design guidelines of various sorts and then sell portions of the land to individual developers for construction – within the plan’s guidelines.

CLC’s Mr. Howard showed several sample developments:

  • Rockcliff (Ottawa) 310 acre former military base
  • Garrison Crossing (Chilliwack, former military base) 153 acres
  • Currie (Alberta) 550 acres
  • Greisback (Edmonton) 610 acres

Quite frankly, from the scant material shown at the meeting, these all looked like cheesy car suburbs – in my mind completely unsuitable for the Jericho Lands.

Deana Grinnell of CLC (Project Manager) advised that formal public engagement will likely begin in the fall of 2015, and will run at least 12-18 months before a preliminary design is available. Meanwhile, she will begin to assemble her team and to start geotechnical, archeological and topographic studies on the land.

David Eby, NDP MLA for the riding was mainly concerned with the fate of the adjacent parcel to the west of the Jericho Land parcel. This land is owned by the Provincial Gov’t, who have recently announced it is in play. Mr. Eby is concerned about lack of process by the Province, possible lack of consultation, and whether these plans will be coordinated with the Jericho Land project.

He also advised that affordable housing is not top of mind for the CLC, and that this component of the project is more than a bit murky, despite crying need in Vancouver (major sustained applause from the audience). “We don’t need more empty luxury condos”, he said to more enthusiastic applause.

Mr. Howard of CLC responded that the CLC does not build social housing,

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