Compromised Public Spaces: Open letter calls on City to protect open space promised in community plans, not convert it to semi-private or private space

2220 Kingsway image credit Westbank

2220 Kingsway – Kensington Gardens promotional image. Credit: Westbank

Yesterday, Jeanette and Joseph Jones of “Eye on Norquay” sent an open letter to senior officials at the City of Vancouver giving three concrete examples of how “public spaces” have been seriously compromised — to benefit of developers and disadvantage to the public. We copy the letter here with their permission, and encourage people to browse Eye on Norquay for a huge amount of valuable information tracking development issues in the area (surrounding 1.3 km of Kingsway between Gladstone and Killarney Streets, often used by the City as a test area for new policies). We also encourage people to contact Mayor and Council as well if this letter inspires you to awareness and action. (While you’re at it, call for a ban on corporate and union donations.)

Here are the specific sites they describe:

  • 2220 Kingsway
  • Safeway Site at Broadway & Commercial
  • Creekside Park in Northeast False Creek


To: Sadhu Johnston, City Manager
Gil Kelley, Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability
Kent Munro, Assistant Director of Planning, Vancouver Midtown
Karen Hoese, Acting Assistant Director of Planning, Vancouver Downtown

cc: Mayor and Council

Re: Compromised Public Spaces

We support the City of Vancouver’s desire to create new public spaces in areas of the city that are undergoing rapid redevelopment. We note that current planning processes usually include planning for public spaces in the form of parks and plazas.

However, we are disappointed to see many of these planned public open spaces become severely compromised when development later takes place.

2220 Kingsway / Kensington Gardens

We have experienced this compromise in Norquay at Kensington Gardens (2220 Kingsway), where the Norquay Plan called for a single plaza of 6000-8000 sq. ft. The developer was permitted to divide the space into a 4664 sq. ft. grocery store entrance on the northwest corner of the site, and a “park” of 7477 sq. ft. on the southwest corner of the site. Approximately half of the “park” (not the half containing exhaust vents from the underground parking area) now appears to have been clawed back, lowered to a different level, and walled off to function as outdoor seating for a planned restaurant. In return for these two impaired peripheral spaces, the developer gained 12 upper floors (4 extra storeys in each of 3 towers.) The contrast in value is appalling. A 2-storey podium topped by a large semi-private courtyard covers the interior of the site. There is no functional public plaza.

Two current planning initiatives seem to be following this unhappy precedent.
Safeway Site at Broadway and Commercial

The Grandview-Woodland Community Plan provides for a generous at-grade public plaza on this site. The developer recently proposed that the plaza be relocated to an alternate space above the Grandview cut. The location would be above the Millenium SkyTrain line and under and beside the Expo SkyTrain line. The proposed new site is markedly inferior, especially with regard to noise, elevation and air pollution. Once again, the same developer proposes a semi-private courtyard at the centre of the Broadway/Commercial Safeway site.
Creekside Park in Northeast False Creek

The original 1990 development plan for Creekside Park was for a contiguous east-west park alignment along the waterfront. The most recent proposal is for a north-south alignment of the park, allocating much more of the waterfront to development and much less to the park. The north-south alignment situates a part of the park under the SkyTrain line and next to the new 6-lane Pacific Avenue.

In all of these cases, the developer seeks to appropriate more desirable land that was designated as public open space in community plans, in order to convert that land into semi-private or private space. Public open space is being shifted to undesirable locations.

The reason that some of the most desirable land was originally allocated to public open space was to provide attractive shared gathering spaces for ordinary residents living in denser housing forms like townhouses and apartments. Approval of the proposed land-swaps would create attractive private playgrounds for the wealthy and the elite, while ordinary residents are left with the dregs.

We ask that both the plaza on the Broadway and Commercial Safeway site and Creekside Park in Northeast False Creek be situated in their originally proposed locations. Any parks or plazas that the City of Vancouver wishes to build under or over SkyTrain lines should be in addition to, and not instead of, the designated public open spaces already promised to individual neighbourhoods.
Jeanette and Joseph Jones
6 July 2017

3 thoughts on “Compromised Public Spaces: Open letter calls on City to protect open space promised in community plans, not convert it to semi-private or private space

  1. Are you saying the Safeway at Broadway and Commercial will no longer be a Safeway? That is ridiculous for people without cars. And locals work there. Why should this Safeway be removed?

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