City staff painted a picture Tuesday at council of what downtown Vancouver might look like with the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.

"This is a critical time for the consideration of the viaducts removal," said Brian Jackson, the city's general manager of planning and development.

"If it's not done now, before the Concord [Pacific] lands are developed and the park is delivered, the options for removal of the viaducts will either be gone or be that much more complicated and expensive."

The proposal to remove the viaducts, which would cost up to $127 million, includes an "almost unheard of" increase in downtown park space.

It also includes two new city blocks that would be used for social and market housing. 

Jackson said removing the viaducts would enable the city to create a better network of roads, which would connect neighbourhoods like Chinatown and Strathcona to the downtown core and the rest of False Creek. 

vancouver viaduct removal

The city's proposal to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts would include more park space. (City of Vancouver)

Some residents cautiously optimistic...

At least one of the residents' associations affected by the proposed changes is cautiously optimistic.

"[The viaducts] were a bad idea to start with," said Elena Zysblat, the chair of the Strathcona Residents' Association. "We're optimistic the removal of the viaducts can bring very positive change to this area on many levels."

Zysblat said the association's main concerns was where traffic would be redirected once the concrete connectors come down — especially Prior Street, which she said was a quiet residential street before 1972 when the viaducts turned it into a main artery.

She said previous discussions between residents and planners didn't lead her to believe the city understood their concerns, but that planners have since changed their tune. 

"In the last few months, since July, they've been saying that's a good idea," she said. "The question is, are they committed to carrying that through."

Zysblat said new traffic scenarios could include a main arterial on the False Creek Flats, which would require federal approval and money. 

The city will hear feedback from speakers about the plan at a meeting for the standing committee on city finance and services on Wednesday. 

...Others very pessimistic

On the other hand, Fern Jefferies, co-chair of the False Creek Residents Association, thinks the plan is lacking and leaves more questions to be answered.

She says her group doesn't know enough, especially when it comes to density issues, and the 3.5-hectare park, she says, developer Concord Pacific was supposed to pay for in exchange for density for their projects.

She also wants to know how many more people are going to be moving into the neighbourhood, and if there will be enough "social infrastructure" to support them.

There are also concerns about the new roadways that will be put in to accommodate traffic.

"What are the health impacts of that kind of traffic at grade? What's the health impact for the school, the playground right on those eight lanes? And we haven't received many answers," Jefferies told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

Jefferies says she doesn't plan on pursuing answers from City Council, because she believes the decision is "a done deal."


To hear the interview with Fern Jefferies, co-chair of the False Creek Residents Association, click on the audio labelled: False Creek Residents Association has concerns about viaduct removal

With files from Deborah Goble