Senakw: at all levels, a sensitive project

Is it fair for the City of Vancouver to sacrifice public park space for the benefit of a private development?

The issue at stake is the proposed construction of an access road off Chestnut Street, through Vanier Park, that would enable easy access to the northern section of Senakw. This road means that the developer (a partnership of the Squamish Nation and Westbank, named Nch’Kay/West) would not have to allocate space within its property boundary for access purposes, thereby enabling maximization of the building footprint of the site.

At this moment in time, it is indeed difficult to write critically of a project that involves First Nations, but since time is of the essence, this needs to be done. In addition, to write about the Senakw development in Kits Point requires an extra layer of sensitivity given the horrendous history of the Squamish Nation in Kits Point, whence they were forcibly removed in 1913 and their homes burned to the ground.

There are further issues that need to be understood. First that there are alternate solutions for the provision of site access, but these require the developer to reduce the density of the project. However, it should be noted that the proposed population density of Senakw is already 8.28 times that of Vancouver‘s Westend. (For reference, see Population Density)

A second issue is the way the City of Vancouver is conducting negotiations with the developer: in total secret; without prior consultation with residents; and without any clear traffic plan in place for Kits Point.

The third issue is that none of the three sign boards placed at points on the perimeter of the site, show any hint of the proposed access road through Vanier Park. (For reference see Sign Boards). However, this road is clearly seen on the developer’s website, where it is named ‘Vanier Park Lane’. (For reference see Vanier Park Lane)

Critics would say is this a case of NIMBYism, and that the Park belongs to the Squamish Nation anyway. Well on the second point, the fact of the matter is that the Squamish nation ceded the Kits Point land (except the current Senakw site) to the Government of Canada in 2000, for a payment of $92.5 million. (For reference, see Kitsilano Agreement).

With regard to the first point, yes, there is a slight case of NIMBYism in this opinion piece, but nonetheless it does seem illogical to route traffic from the 9000 resident Senakw project into a residential area that is already plagued with severe traffic congestion due to narrow streets, and facilities such as the Museum of Vancouver, the Maritime Museum, the Marina, Kits Beach, the Seawall Bike Path, as well as long term events like Bard on the Beach. It seems way more logical to route traffic into a commercial area, (1st Ave and Fir Street), where there is little weekend activity and none at night. This routing also is better served for access to the Burrard and Granville Bridges.

In conclusion, while Senakw offers an important and welcomed addition to Vancouver’s home rental stock, this is a complex and emotional matter that needs further airing and consultation.

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