City to decide on selling strategic/crucial transportation site to CPR for $1 (8-Jul-2020) with ‘Amendments to False Creek Area Development Plan Area 10B’

(To be updated further. Council approved the staff recommendation. We will gather further information and report again.) The letter to Council we reprint below, for the record, with permission from a concerned citizen. It relates to agenda Item 3 (AMENDMENTS to the False Creek Area Plan for Area 10B) from the July 7, 2020 Public Hearing (Tuesday / last night), but the decision on this was expected after the Council meeting July 8 (Wed).

It is a complex story with a long history. The staff proposal to sell this land back to the CPR for one dollar, according to this letter, does not provide Council with complete and correct information, and fails to adequately consider the implications, including losing precious land that could provide rail access for the future Senaqw site to house thousands of residents in rental towers to be built at the base of the Burrard Bridge. The writer also challenges the City regarding the climate implications of subway and transportation plans. (We note that on July 7, City Council heard a report on Climate Emergency Response – Accelerated Actions & Greenest City Action Plan Update.)

Will City staff respond to these issues on record as they report back to Council? For more details and documents, please visit the meeting web page  But note that as this writer suggests, a lot of crucial information has not been included in reports to Council.    

Update: Regarding the Senakw development, @Khelsilem tweeted back that “Our staff are aware and it doesn’t block or prevent future LRT along there” and the City’s manager of transportation Planning Dale Bracewell tweeted “A future streetcar extension has absolutely been considered for this development site.” 

We will attempt to get more information on this and report back. 

Only a small portion of the CPR lots have height control via viewcone 20

****************

Letter from concerned citizen to Vancouver City Council

July 5, 2020

Dear Mayor and Council:

Please consider these comments and questions in your deliberations and discussions regarding selling to the CPR three lots listed in the Arbutus Corridor Official Development Plan.

On page 2 of the Report to Council the comment should be that the First Nations people were ‘evicted’ with 48 hours’ notice, not ‘displaced’ from their village.

On page 3 of the Report ‘the site was formerly used by CPR as part of their serving the Molson Brewery’, not true. It was owned by CPR and leased to BC Electric Railway which became BC Hydro Rail in 1961.

On page 3 of the Report ‘a 9 km section of railway track’ is incorrect it was 9 km of rail right of way (RoW) as the track was removed in accordance with the Net Salvage Value as per the Canadian Transportation Act.

Again on page 3 the Arbutus Corridor Official Development Plan was from the CPR trestle bridge beneath Burrard Street Bridge to the Swing span bridge over the North Arm of the Fraser River. The purchase was from 1st Ave to Merton Street.

On page 4 The ‘Arbutus Greenway’ was formerly known as the ‘Arbutus Corridor’.

Please note that before the City’s 1995 Greenway Plan there was the False Creek South Rail Line Study (November 1991) which included the three lots, as well as the City of Vancouver Transportation Plan (May 1997), as well as the Downtown Transportation Plan (July 2002), as well as the Downtown Streetcar Benchmarking Report (December 2004), as well as the PPP Review of Vancouver Streetcar Project (May 2002), and the Downtown Streetcar Preliminary Design Report also referred to these three lots. When will Council get the total information of all studies that include these three lots to be used in an at grade LRT [light rail transit] project?

Please note that the Arbutus Corridor Official Development Plan Bylaw states:

“This plan designates all of the land in the Arbutus Corridor for use only as a public thoroughfare for the purposes only of:

  • transportation, including without limitation:
    • rail;
    • transit; and
    • cyclist paths.…”

I would suggest that the numerical placement shows the priority of the Council Bylaw which is ignored by the sale of these lots. Could you please explain how and why the limitation “future streetcar/light rail line”, page 4 of the Report to Council, was included into the plan, design and ignore light rail for these three lots as well as the False Creek South Rail Line and the whole of the Arbutus Corridor/Greenway?  Please note that the first mention of this limitation can be found in the Engineering prepared Transportation 2040 Report page 60, which was prepared after the Bylaw was approved.

The term ‘engineering and safety constraints’ was not in the Bylaw, but is found in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, however there is no definition for either word. Can your staff please explain to Council and the public if the Engineering Department Referenced the articles produced by the National Academy Press on the safety of LRT, such as ‘Improving Pedestrian and Motorist Safety along Light Rail Alignments’ (nap.edu/14327) or their ‘Guidebook on Pedestrian Crossing of Public Transit Rail Services (2015)’ (nap.edu/22183). Both reports are free and reject the safety issues of the Engineering Department’s explanation of the word.

Given that the rail RoW is about 1 chain or 66 feet or 20.1 meters wide and the Engineers want to engineer the placement of LRT, automobiles, delivery trucks, bicyclists and pedestrians into the Fir Street RoW which is 1 chain, 66 feet or 20.1 meters wide, can Council explain if this is good engineering? Meanwhile all the municipal utilities, such as the combined sewer and rain runoff are beneath Fir Street, 6th Avenue and Arbutus Street. Is this not another infrastructure project? It should be noted that the rail RoW has no utilities running under it, although some cross it in the shortest distance. Is this bait and switch process good and ethical management of a City?

I note that the City of Vancouver Streetcar Feasibility Study (November 15, 2019) is not mentioned in this report to Council. Can you explain why this obstruction is happening? Please ask your staff to explain to Council how the LRT line from Science World to Arbutus and Broadway is the $0.50 Billion alternative, while the Broadway Subway Project at $3.00 Billion. Is this economical? While you are at try to explain how the Broadway Subway, which has no cars because Bombardier Transportation, which is the sole provider of trains to Translink of the LIM technology, does not exist anymore.

There is a recent academic paper published by Environmental Research Letters in 2019 and written by Lubanjo Olugbera, et al, “Embodied Emissions in Rail Infrastructure: A Critical Literature Review;” all are Professors of Engineering at the University of Toronto. Its conclusion states:

The statistical model finds that overall 941± 168 tCO2e are embodied per kilometre of rail at-grade, while tunneling has 27±5 times more embodied GHG per kilometre than at- grade construction.

In plain English, not engineer speak, building the Broadway Subway will increase the GHGs by 2,200% to 3,200% over the at grade alternative: the result of the significant use of cement to reinforce the tunnel walls and stations. How can any project like the Broadway Subway, that creates so much extra GHGs, then be considered as respecting Canada’s international obligations under the Paris Accord on the Environment and ‘Canada’s 2030 emissions targets and forecasts?’ I note that the OECD’s International Transportation Forum uses this study to document their Decarbonizing of Urban Mobility project.

Historically, these three lots were the RoW to the lot immediately to the north which was the depot for the inter urban line to Steveston and New Westminster along the north shore of the North Arm of the Fraser River. Due to the colonial mind set of the day it was taken from the Coast Salish Nation’s Kitsilano No. 6 Reserve, there was one lot to the CPR, one lot to the Vancouver and Lulu Island Railway which was owned by the CPR and one lot was taken out by the City of Vancouver to build the Burrard Street Bridge which connected the CPR’s downtown District Lot 541 with their uptown District lot 526 that was given to the CPR by the Province of BC; about 7,000 acres. I do not know if the City paid anything for this lot, could Council please report if there was any exchange of money for the lot? I can not imagine why anybody would like to give these three lots that are worth millions back to the CPR for $1.00.

One thought on “City to decide on selling strategic/crucial transportation site to CPR for $1 (8-Jul-2020) with ‘Amendments to False Creek Area Development Plan Area 10B’

  1. Pingback: Council Preview July 7-9th: Two Public Hearings incl. 28-storey tower at Birch & Broadway, 14 storeys at 1111 Kingsway, ‘Missing Middle’ motion, climate, City budget, e-scooters and more | CityHallWatch: Tools to engage in Vancouver city d

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