Vancouver park board backs away from seawall expansion—for now
In the face of intense opposition, the Vancouver park board has put off making a decision on whether to work with the city on connecting the seawall from Jericho to Kitsilano Beach.
At the board meeting last night, all 21 speakers from the community opposed the idea, citing the importance of preserving the foreshore.
Mel Lehan, a director of the Point Grey Natural Foreshore and Waterfowl Protective Sanctuary Society, told the board that this is the last "natural beach" in the city.
He pointed out that in 1994, the park board passed a motion that requested the city to advise the province of its desire to keep the waterfront in its original state.
"Recently, your board decided to rip up the Jericho Parade grounds as it would be more helpful to the health of that area of the inlet," Lehan said. "A very wise decision. Now, we ask you to continue that direction and end all discussion of a harm-creating seawall on this indispensible Vancouver treasure."
Point Grey resident and filmmaker Laurence Keane told the board that 275 people have signed a petition opposing the seawall idea, calling instead to keep Kitsilano Beach wild.
"We've never seen this beach as a freeway for wheeled vehicles," Keane, a renter in the area, told the politicians. "We see the beach as just a place to be—to be somewhere for moments of quiet reflection and enjoyment."
Another area resident, Bonnie Collins, called for a completely transparent process that would include "reasonable public consultation", a full accounting of the construction and maintenance costs, and an independent environmental assessment that analyzes the short- and long-term impacts of making any changes.
"I hope to God the informed decision is to leave the beach alone," Collins said.
Bonnie Collins asks the commissioners to conduct a proper evaluation.
Another speaker, Isabel Minty, objected to news reports of an anonymous donor willing to pay somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10 million to help create the seawall expansion. Minty told commissioners that it's wrong to keep a donor's name secret. She cited the example of the Kwok brothers, two Hong Kong–based developers who have been charged in an alleged bribery scam in connection with secret payments.
Lance Read told commissioners that if they're concerned about cyclists, they should clear Point Grey Road of motor vehicles and leave the beach alone.
After the speakers wrapped up their presentations, the Vision Vancouver caucus called for a recess and scurried out of the boardroom for a quick meeting.
Upon their return, Comm. Aaron Jasper proposed severing chair Sarah Blyth's motion into two parts: the first dealing with the seawall expansion and the second focusing on whether staff should report back on ways to improve public access along the Fraser River.
Then Jasper proposed that the motion dealing with the seawall be deferred.
That was opposed by NPA commissioners Melissa De Genova and John Coupar, as well as Vision's Trevor Loke, who said he had heard enough to conclude that the sewall expansion wasn't worth pursuing.
De Genova said that she opposed deferral because she thought the seawall expansion should be rejected outright.
She also picked up on the speakers' concerns about the anonymous donor.
"I think that it's very difficult not to publicly disclose a donor who offers $10 million for the reasons that were brought up tonight: political interest, conflict of interest, all sorts of things," she said.
De Genova pointed out that an anonymous donor offered to contribute $1 million for a tunnel under the Lions Gate Bridge many years ago. When this donor was outed in a newspaper, the offer was revoked, according to De Genova.
"The COPE opposition were adamantly against having a donor who was anonymous for the very reason we're opposed to it tonight," she declared.
She noted that her father, former commissioner Al De Genova, introduced the 1994 motion to "protect the marine biology and ecology for our children and their children".
"I will follow in his footsteps and I will stand up for the Greenest City Action Plan because the Vision commissioners won't," she said dismissively. "Clearly, you know, I will protect what my father has protected for me and for my future children and for their children."
Melissa De Genova explains why she opposes a seawall linking Jericho to Kitsilano Beach.
She added that perhaps this anonymous donor would be willing to put $10 million toward another worthwhile project for the Vancouver park board.
Vision commissioner Constance Barnes said that she has visited the area with former COPE commissioner Loretta Woodcock. Barnes emphasized that she is "very supportive of keeping it as it is".
However, Barnes said that there's value in doing something that will educate people about what previous boards have done. She also thanked Blyth for bringing forward the motion.
In addition, Barnes noted that there are legitimate concerns among those who have to carry strollers down to the beach. And she said she wanted to hear from people with disabilities on how to improve access to the Point Grey foreshore.
"They have not been heard for years and years and years," Barnes stated. "And they have every right to be on every public piece of property that the Vancouver park board owns and runs."
Constance Barnes says disabled people should have a say on how to improve access.
Last week at a city council meeting, Vision's Geoff Meggs defended keeping the donor's identity secret.
“I think it’s very important that when people come forward and offer to help the city anonymously that we respect their contribution and their wish to remain anonymous,” the Vision councillor said.
The second motion passed unanimously, with commissioners asking staff to report back on ways to improve public access along the Fraser River and providing a timeline and cost estimates for these options.
De Genova tried to amend the motion to call for an independent environmental assessment, but that was voted down by the Vision majority.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.
Jul 24, 2012 at 1:14pm
A few greedy people want to keep their private beaches, at the expense of millions of residents and visitors.
Hardly anyone wants to use that spot as a "natural beach". Millions would use it as a seawall. They could have a raise sea wall that would not interfere with the beach and any "nature" that lives on there.
They should start a petition to CREATE the expansion. It would get hundreds of thousands of signatures, not just a couple hundred.
Jul 24, 2012 at 1:49pm
Look at the demographic of the opponents in the photo - just a bunch of rich fucks who don't want the riff-raff in their neighbourhood. The seawall expansion would be a great idea, who gives a crap where the money comes from.
Jul 24, 2012 at 2:49pm
Wow Jonny, is there anything else you want for christmas? My house? My car? My life? Am I not allowed any place in the city where your type can't get at me? Seriously, equal opportunity and access for everyone who wants what they cannot have.
Get a job, move to kits, and come down and hang with us "rich people" on our natural beach. We don't have douche bags, naked people, and you can always find a log to sit on.
Sounds like a great place eh? And listen to you, you sound just like capitalism, I want to consume this beach so I can ride my bike faster to UBC.
City Hall, pick up the ball
Jul 24, 2012 at 2:57pm
This is a decades-old debate that keeps coming up. After extensive studies and public input, Parks Board in 1994 passed a motion to request the City advise the Provincial Government of its desire to keep the Point Grey waterfront as a natural beach ... foreshore and marine sanctuary, no development, no concrete walkway and no sewer construction ..." It appears City Council AND Park Board dropped the ball. Time to pick it up again. Now it's our generation's job to find other routes for bikes, but keep this last natural shoreline alive and natural. Look at the sea below Kits Beach Pool. It's dead. A seawall cuts off the natural transition from sea to land. Don't do it here.
Jul 24, 2012 at 3:53pm
What's all this talk about connecting the seawall from Jericho to Kitsilano Beach? I have walked and cycled countless times from Kits Point to Spanish Banks and back, and aside from the outer wall of the old Kits Pool that was filled in for a path around the new pool and the breakwater where False Creek Ferries docks, there is no seawall along that route. Merriam-Webster defines seawall thusly: a wall or embankment to protect the shore from erosion or to act as a breakwater.
Jul 24, 2012 at 4:02pm
I was at the meeting. All of the research was done 18-20 years ago before the Park Board voted to preserve the beach.
Acquisition of the property rights alone would be astronomically expensive.
This latest crop of seawall proponent Commissioners (save the 3 in the minority) haven't done their reading.
Shameful political posturing and nothing more!
Find something else to ruin.
Jul 24, 2012 at 4:18pm
Before anyone posts a comment, they should walk from the Coast Guard Station at Kits Point to the end of Spanish Banks. When they arrive at the foot of Trafalgar Street, they should explore the natural beach there, but this is possible only when the tide is out. Then they should walk up the stairs and continue along Point Grey Road until they reach the small park at the foot of Dunbar Street and take the path that leads to a flight of stairs. They should explore the beach below, then go back up and continue on one block long Cameron Avenue to Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Banks beaches. They will note there is no seawall to connect.
Jul 24, 2012 at 4:24pm
I am not a million dollar douche bag, and we must leave the beach in its natural state. You can not judge people by a photo. Get off your prejudice ass and speak as part of a process! It's our City lets develop with proper logical concensus. Keep Kits Wild! Amen
Jul 24, 2012 at 4:28pm
Plain old NIMBYism.
Jul 24, 2012 at 4:36pm
To Jonny come lately and McDouche bag...
The 286 of us who have so far signed the petition to say NO to the seawall are very pleased to hear that we have all suddenly becoome rich homeowners on Point Grey Rd. When do we pick up the keys?
The irony here is that the most outspoken homeowner on the beach so far is Mr Lululemom who is building a concrete monstrosity on Pt Grey Rd, above the foreshore. And he is IN SUPPORT of the seawall because he thinks it will mean less traffic outside his south facing window. And rumour has it that he is the anonymous donor! Amazing what money can buy!! So who did you say was part of the 1%? And whose side did you say you are you on?
If you really want to know what's going on rather than speaking out in such a misinformed manner, then check out all the excellent comments by the signers of the petition "KEEP KITS BEACH WILD: Say NO to the Point Grey Foreshore Seawall."