British Columbia

Vancouver residents rally over access road through Kitsilano park

Dozens of Vancouver residents gathered in a Kitsilano neighbourhood park Saturday to protest plans to build a service road through it as part of a major housing development led by the Squamish First Nation.

Group says City of Vancouver allowing use of public space for a commercial development is unacceptable

A group of old people gather around a tent in a park. One of them is holding a mic.
Dozens of people attended a Save Vanier Park rally in Vancouver on Saturday, protesting against plans for an access road through the park as part of the Squamish First Nation's Sen̓áḵw housing development project. (Janella Hamilton/CBC)

Dozens of Vancouver residents gathered in a Kitsilano neighbourhood park Saturday to protest plans to build a service road through it, as part of a major housing development led by the Squamish First Nation.

First announced in 2019, the nation continues to move forward on the Sen̓áḵw housing development. It would see around 6,000 homes, built on 11 acres of land, on both sides of the southern end of the Burrard Street bridge by 2027.

A road, Vanier Park Lane, would be constructed as part of the project, running through the eastern edge of the park to provide access to the development.

But the group No Sen̓áḵw Roadway says the road is outside the boundary of the Sen̓áḵw site.

"Let us insist that the city of Vancouver not sacrifice Vanier Park land, but require the developer to use land inside their property boundary for site access," the group says on its website.

Two old men stand near a sign with the proposed site plans for the Sen̓áḵw development.
Alex Currie, left, and Jeremy Braude at Saturday's rally protesting the access road. The road is part of the Squamish Nation's Sen̓áḵw housing development situated at the southwest end of the Burrard Street Bridge. (Janella Hamilton/CBC)

In 2003, the Federal Court of Canada returned control of a portion of the original 80-acre reserve land in that area to the Squamish Nation, which means the project does not need city approval to move ahead. This year, the city agreed to connect the buildings to infrastructure to make them livable.

It says the construction of the road will result in the loss of around 4,000 square metres of grassy park space and 2,000 square metres of forest. The park in its entirety is 169,500 metres in size.

A topographical map of the city of Vancouver, which shows Vanier Park to the north of Burrard Bridge. A section of the park, and a section south of the bridge, are highlighted as 'Squamish Nation lands'.
Diagram showing Squamish Nation land around the southwest end of the Burrard Street Bridge. (City of Vancouver)

People against the access road are also saying the decision was pushed through without public consultation.

The rally drew a crowd of around 100 people including city councillor and mayoral candidate Colleen Hardwick.

"It's been a failure on the part of a bunch of different levels of government… that there has been no proper consultation around this loss of green space," said Hardwick.

"We're talking about losing half an acre of green space, while we're contemplating adding 10,000 residents next door."

 

Though much of the frustration has been directed toward the City of Vancouver and the Park Board, the city says it has no jurisdiction over the decision.

The federal government owns Vanier Park, but it is under a long-term lease to the city of Vancouver until 2064. At the end of July, the federal government granted the Sen̓áḵw project a licence to construct the road, after "due diligence and consideration."

Justin Trudeau and Khelsilem hold their hands up in a Squamish gesture meant to honour the lands.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Squamish Nation member Khelsilem during a Sept. 6 ceremony breaking ground at the Squamish-led Sen̓áḵw housing development. The federal government has given the nation a loan to help with the project. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"The government is committed to making the most informed decisions that are beneficial to all stakeholders and Canadians," said a spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Canada in a statement.

Public consultation is not required for this type of licence, according to the spokesperson.

Still, many residents would like to see the licence revoked. The group has proposed creating direct access to the site through existing roads like Chestnut Street, First Avenue and Fir Street.

Kitsilano resident Alex Currie supports the development project and the nation's right to seek economic opportunities, but says it shouldn't encroach on public park space.

"They should do whatever they'd like to do on their own property. They shouldn't try to annex parkland beside [the project] because they have limited space themselves," he said.

CBC News contacted the Squamish Nation for comment, but they declined to provide one by publication time.

'Poor government'

Jeremy Braude has lived near the park for the past 28 years. He says the park feels like a part of his home.

Braude agrees the development is an important project to bring much-needed rental housing to Vancouver, but he says the road is unnecessary and being forced on the public.

"It's poor government," said Braude. "I think the public relations opportunities… for this project are being lost. Unfortunately. There's a lot of goodwill here but it's being lost because of this poor idea."

Braude says 371 people have signed an online petition against the new road. But with the construction licence already granted, the City of Vancouver says it will work with "residents on how best to integrate potential transportation changes into the surrounding community."

With files from Janella Hamilton

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