Tuesday, May 21, 2024

What Once Was And Will Never Be


Existing Waterfront

Proposed Redevelopment

This month the Vancouver Council (which still is responsible for funding the Parks Board) rejected the Parks board's vision for the West End waterfront redevelopment and called it a Fantasyland dream that was tone deaf to the city's financial constraints. It was a $300 million 30 year plan that would have tidied up the shoreline to protect it from rising sea levels and storm surges, added a dog park and skate park, and new washrooms and changerooms, as well as a more permanent solution for the bike and car lanes along Beach Avenue. Considering the Parks Board spent $1.5 million putting in and taking out a bike lane in Stanley Park, $10 million a year to upgrade the beach area from Stanley Park to the Burrard Street Bridge seems like a bargain.

What the City of Vancouver doesn't really spend much time explaining is where all the money goes that they collect from developers for rezonings in a special tax called Community Amenity Contributions or CACs. According to the City these charges can range anywhere from $11.49/sq. ft. to $122.32/sq. ft. for City approval to increase density and/or make changes to zoning. This is in addition to the development cost levies that developers have to pay when a building permit is issued. The total sum of all these fees is supposed to be used for things like social housing, community centres, childcare, and parks.

As the charts above illustrate the City collected more than $300 million in fees that could be used to improve public spaces and facilities but where did it get spent? In the downtown there haven't been any improvements to the bus service, there aren't any new community centres, and the Aquatic Centre is falling apart. It also goes without saying there hasn't been a penny spent on upgrading the beach area either.

For example every time it rains, the seawall around English Bay floods and washes away part of the beach. A simple fix would be to install a retaining wall that maybe doubled as a flower bed and use it to brighten up a dreary and sad looking stretch of beach. Some drainage would also help. Hard to believe how neglected the beach is considering it's supposed to be a tourist attraction.

Of course if one takes a look at some old photos of English Bay you can see we once had it all and somehow it disappeared. We had bathhouses and changerooms, a raft with a slide, and a pier with a dance hall. Everything was well manicured, the buildings and streets were well above the tide line, and the crowds were well behaved. And it was all paid for. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just go back to what we once had.