Aaron Jasper wants park staff to study golf courses, but not for the purpose of developing housing
Vision Vancouver park commissioner Aaron Jasper plans to introduce a motion at the next park-board meeting that could lead to a reduction in the size of the 18-hole Langara Golf Course. Jasper’s motion directs staff to report back on “usage and revenue metrics for Vancouver’s public golf and pitch and putt courses”.
“We could explore turning Langara into more of an executive nine-hole experience and freeing up a lot of green space,” Jasper told the Georgia Straight by phone. “That’s the motivation behind the motion that’s coming to us next Monday night [July 9].”
The park board operates the Fraserview and McCleery 18-hole golf courses in addition to Langara.
Jasper said that if the Langara course is reduced in size, “then our hope would be that this freed-up land would then be converted into public park space” for South Vancouver.
“It’s a recognition of looking to where the density is going over the next few decades with all these developments: Cambie corridor, Main Street,” he stated. “The reality is our ability to buy more land for green space is very limited. We do have a policy in place right now where if a lot becomes available that is adjacent to an existing park, we will explore purchasing it.”
NPA commissioner Melissa De Genova told the Straight by phone that the three park-board golf courses “promote accessibility” to a sport, particularly among seniors and youths. “I’m shocked that Comm. Jasper would consider using the golf courses for anything else other than what they’re being used for now,” she said. “Right now, they are green space. And we need to be planning for 100 years out. Our mandate is 2.75 acres per thousand people, and the golf courses are part of that.”
Jasper noted that the park board’s golf-course lands bring in $10 million in gross revenue and about a $1-million profit each year.
“Obviously, if we take some of the land out of it, it all of the sudden goes from being a generator of revenue to being a net cost,” he acknowledged. “Those are some of the tradeoffs.”
Jasper’s proposal comes shortly after Vancouver Sun business columnist Don Cayo wrote an article suggesting that the city could reap $675 million by selling half of the Langara course. The Vision commissioner denied that the purpose of his motion is to clear the way for homes to be built along the eastern side of Cambie Street just south of West 49th Avenue.
“I can tell your readers that the Vision Vancouver caucus on the park board is adamantly opposed to any park space being sold off for condos or housing developments,” Jasper declared.
Vision mayor Gregor Robertson, however, told the Vancouver Sun late last month that he’s open to the idea of putting housing on the Langara course, which is just south of a Canada Line station. “At this point, it is debatable as to whether that is valuable green space,” the mayor told the daily newspaper. “The public can’t access it; it is not biodiverse and there is no strong business case.”
De Genova questioned whether or not Jasper had a hidden agenda. “What’s next? Is he going to try to develop underused areas in Stanley Park or VanDusen Gardens?”
The urban-affairs group Think City has added its voice to the debate, stating that it opposes selling city-owned land to developers to create more housing.
Think City chair Neil Monckton told the Straight by phone that he liked certain aspects of the interim report that was recently released by the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability.
“I think what’s really important is the city has recognized a need [for] a more comprehensive approach to developing not just social housing but affordable housing, recognizing that we’re not providing enough housing options for middle-income earners as well as low-income earners,” Monckton said. “I think that’s really positive.”
He added that his biggest concern is that “public land stay in the ownership of the public, so we don’t want to see a selloff of city property for the development of housing”.
Monckton is a former member of Vision Vancouver and headed the Raymond Louie mayoral-nomination campaign in 2008.
At one point, the mayor’s task-force report says the city “should lease land at a nominal fee to facilitate the creation of new social housing and new affordable rental housing”. There’s no mention in the document of divesting city property.
As for Cayo’s article on selling off part of the Langara course, Monckton said: “Think City doesn’t want to see public lands sold off. And, again, Cayo’s prescription for Langara—that they would do that—is wrong. From our perspective, it’s bad in terms of public policy. We hope that the mayor rejects it.”
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.