Art & Culture
November 14, 2019

Senakw Is Not a Gift

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.

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