Policy & Planning
October 29, 2019

Uprooting Nelson Park: A BC Hydro Substation Project Update


Approved by the Vancouver School Board, BC Hydro’s new West End substation* will be sited on the property of Lord Roberts Annex adjacent to Nelson Park, the City’s largest non-waterfront park in downtown Vancouver.

This agreement has eliminated the need for BC Hydro to purchase private property (potentially taking away housing stock from the area), and will result in an out-of-sight underground substation, while providing significant funding to the downtown Vancouver school community.

While the benefits of siting the substation in a central location — and on a Vancouver School Board property — are fairly clear, what is not clear is the future of Nelson Park.

Here’s the latest and greatest: as a result of this siting, BC Hydro has requested permission from the Park Board to bury five underground power cables through Nelson Park to connect the substation to the electrical system. While the cables would be buried, there will be short term impacts (e.g. construction), as well as long term impacts such as the removal and destruction of park features, such as mature trees and community gardens.

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Dean A recommended this piece in the New York Times:

Among the safety measures proposed by car companies are encouraging pedestrians and bicyclists to use R.F.I.D. tags, which emit signals that cars can detect. This means it’s becoming the pedestrian’s responsibility to avoid getting hit. But if keeping people safe means putting the responsibility on them (or worse, criminalizing walking and biking), we need to think twice about the technology we’re developing. …


Peter Ladner was motivated to write this response with respect to our bike routes:

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“The truth about a city’s aspirations isn’t found in its vision,” says Brent Toderian. “It’s found in its budget.”

“Budgets,” confirms Sam Sullivan, “are the sincerest form of rhetoric.”

So when it comes to the priority that the Parks Board places on cycling, don’t bother with its plans or the commissioners’ affirmations.  Look to its capital plan, where you will find … almost nothing.

Here’s the 2019-22 capital plan.  Check page 36 for the Parks Board, where you will find in the chart $2.4 million for “skate &bike facilities/tracks” – a pittance in the scheme of things.  By comparison, the City will spend $3 million just for the Bute greenway and Helmcken-Comox greenway extension.

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