At 10th and Arbutus locals try to save 90-year old elm tree from Bastion development, a block from Arbutus Greenway in Kits (2120 West 10th, DP-2021-00545)

This is one massive elm tree, probably growing here since about 1930.

Locals have just discovered that the days appear to be numbered for this venerable Vancouver tree. They have put up signs around its trunk in an attempt to raise attention and save the tree.

Bastion Developments (website) submitted an application for a development permit at 10th Avenue and Arbutus (2120 W 10th Ave (DP-2021-00545)) for a five-storey, mixed-use building, with Passive House design, commercial uses on the ground floor and 48 condominium units on the ground to fifth floor, height of 60 ft, and FSR of 2.33, under the current C-8 zoning. No rezoning is required. For the decision, this application goes straight to the Director of Planning, Theresa O’Donnell, new chief planner for Vancouver since April this year.

We bring up this case as a prime example of the trade-offs between housing/business and the urban forest. Tradeoffs between existing natural carbon capture versus industry trends for passive heating and mass timber construction. Tradeoffs between nature and the development industry. Tradeoffs between various City priorities and policies.

Is it inevitable that this tree must be cut down as collateral damage of this development? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. It is difficult to say, because the applicant has not provided enough information. Yet without that information, the public is asked to provide comments to the City, until August 10. The slideshow below consists of photos taken for posterity on August 4, 2021. Further below is more information, discussion, and a link to provide your input to the chief planner.

The tree is located on the boulevard right at the corner of the two streets, just a block from the Arbutus Greenway. It is on public property.

Locals have posted signs saying the tree is 90 years old, but we have not been able to verify the number. The application documents include not one single word describing the tree and any related considerations. The only mention is in the site plan illustration (see slideshow above, or the documents at the link below), with the label “Remove tree as per Arborist Report.” That report is not provided. The comments page also appears to be set so that no one can see what others have commented (typically they can).

The public is being asked for its comments for consideration by the Director of Planning to make her decision.

Information and public comments end on August 10, 2021:
2120 W 10th Ave (DP-2021-00545) development application (ShapeYourCity website)

Project Coordinator at the City of Vancouver is Nicole Choi (tel 604-829-9390,

Bastion is seeking a number of relaxations and bonuses in height and density for its Passive House design (energy efficiency and renewable energy use), considering mass timber structure and “CaGBC Zero Carbon Building Program.” Some things stand out: “It is our hope that the project will help to set a new standard for environmental responsibility within the residential construction industry.” Also cited – “Goal: address the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan, Renewable City Action Plan and Zero Emissions Building Plan.”

The Passive House design is used as a major selling point, mentioned dozens of times throughout the literature. But no mention of the 90-year-old elm tree. No explanation of factors justifying its removal.

Considering all of the above we would like to see applicant to show some sincerity by sharing more information about the tree and an honest review of the tradeoffs of this development in its current proposed design versus loss of a significant tree in the urban forest. Can the arborist report be provided to the public via Shape Your City? What efforts were made to consider saving the tree? Could the building be set back further from the corner in order to let the tree grow? This tree has the potential to outlast the typical lifespan of the proposed building. It would be interesting to see a comparison of the carbon sequestration over the remaining lifetime of this tree versus the purported carbon emissions avoided from the proposed building’s Passive House design. Some elm trees can live hundreds of years. This one could have many decades left normally.

Could this tree be saved and the respect for its life and recognition of its value be incorporated into the narrative and the appeal of this company and this project? Could it be become a positive story in the community. From the website, Bastion has completed many other buildings in the immediate vicinity. Could saving the tree benefit the company’s image? Could destroying the tree hurt its image?

Bastion provides no public information about company ownership or the name of the CEO on its website. No contact is provided for Bastion via Shape Your City, but one vice president appears to be Reid Kaufmann via

As a footnote, the site is the former location of Gordon Autobody, for decades and until just a few years ago a thriving business in the community, with a big and expert and cheerful crew of staff employed. The owner sold the building, immediately shut down the business, and the building has remained empty for about three years now.


Urban Forest and Tree Removal Bylaw. What more can be done in Vancouver to save the tree canopy?
Posted on April 16, 2014.

Even when supposedly protected in a development, trees could be cut down…. Do trees always have to be collateral damage?

Outcome: 7-storey maple to be cut down at Bidwell & Davie for Reliance tower project
Posted on September 8, 2017.


Applicant’s rendering from across the corner.

8 thoughts on “At 10th and Arbutus locals try to save 90-year old elm tree from Bastion development, a block from Arbutus Greenway in Kits (2120 West 10th, DP-2021-00545)

  1. The issue is likely that the root system of this tree covers a significant portion of the site. Typically with big deciduous trees like elms, the roots extend the same distance as the drown. In this case, that would be maybe 50 or 60 feet radius. They probably extend under the road too.

    It is just not very practical to preserve a tree like that through the development process. The drainage regime in the area will all be changed during the course of development and after. The tree will probably die or be harmed by that. Preservation is just not an option, unfortunately.

  2. I wonder whether it would be possible to reconfigure the project, and save the tree. A lot of residential projects being built these days are six stories. This one is five stories. Would it be possible to add a sixth storey to the building, to compensate for a smaller building footprint?

  3. Private comment: Thank you so much for all the information you provided here, and for all the articles you produce, they are invaluable!

    On Thu, 5 Aug 2021 at 17:42, CityHallWatch: Tools to engage in Vancouver city decisions wrote:

    > urbanizta posted: ” This is one massive elm tree, probably growing here > since about 1930. Locals have just discovered that the days appear to be > numbered for this massive elm tree, about 90 years old. Bastion > Developments (website) submitted an application for a deve” >

    • Valerie porter , you’re welcome. I like to try to contribute to the conversation when I think that my experience in planning and development could be useful.

  4. I went and had a look at the subject site — the correct site this time — and I see the problem. The tree is huge, and it is very constricted between the sidewalk and the curb. This is the kind of tree that needs lots of room for its root system, and this tree does not have it.

    I can see why an arborist would recommend that it be removed. I have different plan. The are all around the tree should be excavated, including the road pavement. The roots should exposed, and then encapsulated in root cages. Once this is done, the road pavement could be restored, and the development site modified to accommodate the root system.

    This would be an expensive process, but it is perfectly possible to do.

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