Frontlines report from Cambie & Marine: Construction, disruptions “absolutely devastating” for neighbourhood

Excavator

Stock photo of excavator

In addition to the pending demolition of the affordable Marine Gardens townhouse community, what has been happening in the northeast corner of the Cambie and Marine Drive neighbourhood of Vancouver is absolutely devastating.

CityHallWatch received this letter dated October 27, 2015, from Jillian Skeet, long time resident of Marine Gardens. What happens after City Council approves a major rezoning and construction takes over? Here is one example of real life experience now happening. It is important to document what is going on, in the hopes that City and industry policies and practices can be changed to be more respectful of Vancouver residents. Her report continues below. See bottom for background, video, links.

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Everything is being dug up and trees are going down.  Entire blocks of perfectly good housing are being demolished and sent to landfills.  A neighbour who asked if she could have or buy windows and doors from the dismantled houses in the next block was told ‘no’ there are liability issues – it has to go to the landfill.  Really?  This is ‘Green’ – reuse, reduce, recycle? 

It is almost impossible now to travel the side-streets in the northeast area of Cambie and Marine as they are completely parked up with construction workers’ vehicles and clogged with double-dump trucks on narrow streets, where two vehicles cannot pass when cars are parked on either side. A couple of weeks ago, with my view blocked by all the construction workers’ pick-up trucks and vehicles, I was almost hit by a double-dump truck barreling down Yukon Street from another major construction site.  I fear for our safety and especially that of our children walking to and from school. There are few open sidewalks, visibility is obstructed, and heavy construction equipment is everywhere on narrow streets.

The City’s lack of regard for residents’ safety and well-being is breath-taking.

For more than two and a half years, residents of Marine Gardens and other housing complexes near Cambie and Marine Drive have endured constant violations of the City’s noise bylaws, which are supposed to regulate the hours within which construction noise is permitted (Mon-Fri 7:30am- 8p./Sat 10am-8pm; no construction on Sundays or holidays). On at least two occasions, sustained construction noise also exceeded the 85 decibel noise limit after which hearing loss can occur.  In the summer of 2014, concrete drilling just 30 feet from Marine Gardens residents’ back windows registered at 120 decibels and was sustained for 6 to 8 hours a day for 4 or 5 days without a break. 

Despite repeated desperate calls, the City of Vancouver provided no relief; it was only when the Vancouver Police became involved that the drilling was finally brought to a halt.

Recently, the construction noise was again measured at well in excess of the decibel limit, with no warning given to residents, no protective gear or other compensation offered.Just in the last week, construction noise began 30 feet from our back windows at 9:15 a.m. on a Saturday (the bylaw is 10 a.m.), across the street at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday (when no construction is allowed), 6:45 a.m. on Monday morning (the bylaw is 7:30 a.m.), and they were still sand-blasting at the Marine Gateway at 8:45 p.m. on Friday evening of the same week, only stopping when made aware that the Vancouver Police were on the phone.

Despite having all of this reported to the City, on Monday afternoon this week we received a notice that the City has now rewarded them with a bylaw exception that now permits all-night construction just meters from our back windows for four nights. (This is the fourth time construction has been allowed 24 hours a day for periods of up to a week – with no concern for our well-being, or offers of compensation or alternate accommodation.)

Our needs, our safety and our well-being as residents of this City do not appear to enter into any of the decisions that are being made regarding development and construction in Vancouver.  We have children who need sleep to attend school, and we are adults who need sleep to function at our jobs and safely operate motor vehicles.  None of this appears to enter into the City’s calculations, where everything is now appears to be solely geared to serving the construction and development companies.

The damage that is being done to our beautiful city is permanent. It is losing beautiful old homes and neighbourhoods, enormous numbers of trees and beautiful landscaping. But perhaps the worst damage of all is to the heart and soul of the city and its residents.

Note: On the Friday of the Labour Day long weekend – just 3 days before the start of the new school year – Marine Gardens’ residents were told to prepare to move in December and January.  This is a full year ahead of the schedule that was provided to residents last February, which made many choose to stay and keep their children in their neighbourhood schools. 

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Jillian Skeet has lived at Marine Gardens for 12 years. She is a national and international affairs consultant, and a writer, who has worked in the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa and with organizations at the United Nations in Geneva and New York. She has lived in many places but considers Marine Gardens the best place she has ever lived because of the community, and the wonderful environment that allows children to grow up playing outside like children have since the beginning of time.
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Video prepared by David Vaisbord in February, 2015, before City Council approved the rezoning for two towers for Concord Pacific.

Links to City information about the rezoning
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/cases/marine-gardens/

Paradise (to be) Lost: Marine Gardens Townhouse Community (CityHallWatch, 7-Aug-2015)
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/paradise-lost-marine-gardens-townhouse-community/

For another example of how the neighbourhood is getting treated this week….

City of Vancouver permits 24-hour construction noise near Marine & Cambie. Potentially affects thousands. Effective immediately, for 4 days. (CityHallWatch, 27-Oct-2015)
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/construction-noise-24-hours-marine-gardens/

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Solutions? Ideas?

City of Vancouver: City staff and elected officials need to be sensitive to the impacts of their policies and decisions on people and communities. Marine Gardens is a poignant case study. This rezoning for Concord Pacific faced strong opposition, but City Council approved it. But now that the rezoning has approved, how about some follow-up. How about if the Mayor and City Councillors who voted to support the rezoning went to tour a construction neighbourhood when construction is in full swing and talk to members of the community. Bylaws need to be improved. Enforcement needs to be tightened. People who watch closely will often realize that the developers and construction industry is blatantly and knowingly violating city bylaws. There are many examples in which City inspectors are lax in enforcement. Slow responses. Looking the other way. For better or for worse, the role of the municipal government is big.

Construction Industry: How about calling upon the Urban Development Institute (UDI), the industry group for the construction and development industry, to play a role in public dialogue about the impacts of its industry and look at ways to reduce its negative impacts. How about a good practices guide? A complaints mechanism? Codes of conduct? A willingness to accept and respect higher standards if imposed by legislation? Adoption of guidelines such as monitoring and control of ground vibration? Creation of a community dialogue committee? Awards for good practices? Technological improvements (e.g., silencing equipment for loud machinery such as the large concrete pumping trucks).The president of UDI never did respond to repeated requests for an answer to this letter: CityHallWatch asks Urban Development Institute head to clarify ethical stance, balancing industry versus public interests, in which we point out that the UDI and industry code of conduct puts “Respect for the public,” and “Respect for the community” as their top two items.

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