THE ISSUES OF CONCERN (provided by rally organizer)
All agreements about the proposed Senakw development have been made in secret. Clearly all the issues that follow, ﬂow from this.
UN-AUTHORIZED USE OF PUBLIC PARKLAND
Vanier Park is owned by the Federal Government, which leases it to the City of Vancouver. The lease states that Vanier Park is to be used for ‘park, museum or recreational use, and solely for these uses’. However, the Government did a sneaky run-around of this lease, and issued a Licence to the Squamish Nation to build a road through the Park. This road will result in the loss of 40,000 sq ft of grassed park space, and 20,000 sq ft of virgin forest.
UN-NECESSARY USE OF PUBLIC PARKLAND
The Federal government issued a licence to the Squamish Nation for a road through Vanier Park without public engagement. The result of this is a road where the trafﬁc will exit into an already congested residential area. The road through Vanier Park is un-necessary, especially since Senakw abuts Chestnut St, such that direct access from Chestnut is feasible, as is egress at West 1st Ave and Fir St. – a commercial area with wide streets, minimal weekend and night-time trafﬁc, and superior access to both the Burrard and Granville Bridges.
VANIER PARK IS SETTLED LAND
The Squamish Nation settled their claim to Vanier Park in 2000 for $92.5 million, plus the establishment of the Senakw Reserve (which is currently valued at $300 – $500 million), plus some property in Squamish. Surely there needs to be some ﬁnality to reconciliation and reparation.
ABDICATION OF RESPONSIBILITY BY PARKS BOARD
The Parks Board mission is to “Protect existing parks and recreation spaces from loss, encroachment, and densiﬁcation”. Clearly an un-necessary road through a park is an abdication of the Parks Board responsibility. In addition, surely the destruction of forest and the paving-over of green space conﬂicts with the Squamish Nation’s expressed position as stewards of the land?
The granting of this licence sets a dangerous precedent. Any developer in Vancouver (or British Columbia or Canada) could demand similar approval to annex public park space for their project.
TRAFFIC IMPACT NOT STUDIED
The road has been authorized based on trafﬁc impact studies done by the Squamish Nation, (which has a possible conﬂict of interest), and furthermore, the City has stated in the Services Agreement that “the City has not completed the required analysis to understand the Impact”.
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RECONCILIATION CAN BE RISKY BUSINESS: Lack of mutuality over Squamish Nation’s lucrative Senakw project causing concern (Vancouver Sun, 6 Sep 2022, DOUGLAS TODD)
Leaders of the 4,000-member Squamish Nation, who are behind one of the most dense property developments in Canadian history, have signed an agreement with Vancouver councillors saying one of the five aims of its 11-tower Senakw project is to “promote further reconciliation between the Nation and the City.”
But to what extent will this Indigenous-controlled, multibillion-dollar skyscraper project, which is unprecedented in North America, actually contribute to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples?
The 250-page services agreement that was made public in August between the city and the Squamish Nation stipulates that the massive project on the Kitsilano side of the Burrard Bridge will provide “direct public contributions or commitments to practices aligned with city policies.”
And so far, Squamish Nation leaders sound more conciliatory than the anti-colonialistic rhetoric of some activists, First Nations and otherwise, who argue the Squamish Nation can do whatever it wants with the 4.7 hectares because it’s a separate government developing on reserve land.
But concerns have arisen about a lack of mutuality. Some Vancouver residents and observers say the parties behind Senakw have done virtually no consultation with the public, despite being dependent on the city for services. They add that reserve land, for better or worse, remains overseen by the federal Indian Act.
The simmering tensions over the nature of reconciliation are not new when First Nations combine with big business. Issues over the apartment project for up to 10,000 tenants, some in 59-storey towers, echo those that can break out when B.C.’s forestry companies collaborate with First Nations.
Last year’s protests on Vancouver Island over the logging of old-growth forest at Fairy Creek pitted environmentalists — more than 800 of whom have been arrested — against the Pacheedaht First Nation, which owns the trees being cut down on its behalf by Teal-Cedar Products Ltd.
A website of the Westbank development company, which has partnered with the Squamish Nation on Senakw, maintains the project “represents an opportunity to heal.”
The head of Westbank also told the New York Times in late August that reconciliation will come only when Indigenous communities get power.
“Reconciliation isn’t about recognizing what happened and saying, `That’s terrible, I’m sorry, let’s move on,” said Ian Gillespie, who is not Indigenous. “Power can come in different forms, but economic power is probably top of the list.”
Bernd Christmas, who was CEO of the Squamish Nation’s housing arm, called Nch’ḵay, until recently, told a Vancouver Sun property development panel in June that First Nations construction projects are a fast track to financial success. “We’ve just learned the secret of making (development projects) go quicker — by about five to 10 years,” said Christmas, who is Mi’kmaq. “If you have developments that are facing six-year, 10-year delays, come see us. Let’s move.”
Gordon Price, a former Vancouver city councillor and planning consultant, is among those concerned that Senakw may be causing the city to lower standards on the amenities it normally requires developers to contribute.
“There is an unstated expectation that the city and province will make up the difference and mitigate the impacts” of Senakw, Price said.
He wonders whether the city will apply such lower standards to the adjacent Concord Pacific project and the MST Development Corp., a consortium of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations, which controls Metro properties much larger than Senakw.
The most obvious signs of unease come from the Kits Point Residents Association, which has gathered the signatures of 300 people opposing the way Ottawa permitted the developer to open a road to Senakw through Vanier Park. Others point to how no provision has been made for schools or community centres.
The City of Vancouver says in its service agreement with the Squamish Nation that it’s committed to “recognition of the harms of colonialism” and “recognizes the Nation as a separate order of government and respects its right to develop the Lands as it sees fit.”
The Squamish Nation, meanwhile, says it will provide rental housing for Vancouverites, plus a small amount of open and green space, parking for 886 cars and 4,477 bikes, traffic infrastructure improvements and pay the equivalent of what other residents do in property taxes for services such as police and sewers.
Squamish Nation Coun. Wilson Williams (Sxwixwtn) said Senakw promotes reconciliation because it “gives us back our economic independence” and “integrates us into mainstream society. We want to be good neighbours, like we were in the past, always welcoming.”
Since the landmark services agreement has been signed with the city, Williams said, “Now we’re ready to consult.”
Future meetings, he said, could include sharing meals, storytelling and canoe paddles with residents of Kitsilano and beyond.
Asked what direct benefits city residents will get from Senakw, Williams said its allows non-Indigenous people to live on Squamish Nation land and share in Indigenous culture.
Scott Dunlop, a lawyer who lives near the Senakw site, maintains reconciliation refers to repairing relationships after past misconduct. But he’s worried the city and other governments have misinterpreted the term to give First Nations a monopoly, without checks and balances, over reserve and other lands.
Eve Munro, of the Kits Point association, says reconciliation is a two-way street.
While she recognizes First Nations were overwhelmed by settlers and immigrants, “the opportunity and value of the (Senakw) lands for this kind of development now flow from the surrounding city. They are part of the colonized world.”
The road to reconciliation, an uncertain ideal at the best of times, remains rocky. But open to possibility.
Kitsilano Point Residents Association backs project, but fears overdevelopment
Vancouver Sun, 28 Jul 2022, DOUGLAS TODD
FRANCIS GEORGIAN, Vancouver’s mayor and city staff are “promoting a false narrative,” says Kitsilano Point Residents Association director Eve Munro of the suggestion the city can have no influence over the Senakw highrise development planned for a parcel of Squamish First Nation land in Kitsilano. From left, Munro, Jeremy Braude and fellow association director Scott Dunlop stand on the site’s would-be access road across Vanier Park.
Bulldozers recently dug up land next to the Burrard Bridge. Large trees have been cut down. Construction fences went up last week.
And new survey signs mark where a road is planned to run across Vanier Park, which will provide access to Senakw, which urban analysts say is the most dense highrise development ever proposed for Canada.
Yet last week, until nearby residents notified them, even Vancouver park board officials didn’t know a road was being prepared across the parkland it operates. They launched an investigation Monday and requested a stop on the encroaching work.
Meanwhile, Vancouver city council is doing everything it can to support the Squamish First Nation in erecting 11 highrise towers, with some skyscrapers soaring to 59 storeys, on a narrow portion of reserve land in Kitsilano at the west side of the bridge.
The Kitsilano Point Residents Association strongly supports the Indigenous undertaking, seeing it as a potential act of reconciliation. But its directors believe, along with former Vancouver mayor and B.C. premier Mike Harcourt, that the property is being overdeveloped.
And they’re especially bothered by city council’s secrecy, the complete lack of any consultation with residents and voters. They describe the city as operating behind a thick cloud of non-transparency, confidentiality, hidden reports, in-camera meetings and councillors being sworn to secrecy — while the city paves the way for roughly 10,000 new residents to pack in closely beside the bridge.
The city says it has no “mandate” to hold hearings on the massive construction effort, since it’s on a reserve. But in May the city signed a memorandum of understanding, which isn’t available to the public, to provide water, sewer, electricity, police and firefighter services to the project of the Squamish Nation, which is in partnership with Westbank Corp.
Kits Point residents, however, are among those bothered that the city hasn’t held one public event on Senakw’s community impact or on whether it intends to provide schools, transportation, recreational centres, traffic mitigation or amenities in response to the megaproject.
The residents’ group isn’t alone in being worried. Former Vancouver councillor Gordon Price, an urban affairs scholar, has written a piece about it, titled, How do we talk about Senakw?
While Price endorses B.C.’s “new era of billion-dollar Indigenous real estate projects,” he laments there was no public consultation a decade ago when the Tsawwassen First Nation built a megamall on precious Delta farmland. He fears the Senakw project will also be pushed through by hushing dissent.
“But if reconciliation of any kind means being honest and open, to declare interests and be open to accommodation, then this is that time,” Price says. “The best outcomes will be if there’s a sense of mutual benefit.”
Neither the city, nor the 4,000-member Squamish Nation’s development arm, the Nch’Kay Corp., have provided Vancouver residents with commitments regarding Senakw.
Still, a Westbank-developed website, called Senakw, says the highrise development “represents an opportunity to heal.”
The site adds: “The world is full of too much talk, and too little action.” The aim of the Senakw development is to “construct 6,000 homes in Downtown Vancouver in as little as five years, start to finish. Ready to commence construction in 2022.”
Senakw will help resolve the city’s housing crisis, the website claims, because it’s being built on “reserve land, with the Squamish Nation in the driver’s seat: no drawn-out approvals or permitting delays.”
A City of Vancouver official said in a statement: “Vancouver land-use policies and regulations are not applicable to these (reserve) lands, nor is the city directly involved in any part of the planning or design.”
Even though city officials have been negotiating for two years to provide infrastructure to Senakw, the statement said, “there is no timeline” on when staff or council will engage with residents on transportation or other issues.
In regard to a services agreement, it said, “the city will make the details public shortly.”
While the city acknowledged Vanier Park is leased by the federal government to Vancouver and is operated by the park board, it suggested Ottawa is responsible for approving the road through the park.
Eve Munro of the Kits Point Residents Association said city councillors and officials are being “disingenuous,” including about “the unprecedented level of secrecy surrounding the Senakw development.”
Munro, a lawyer, accepts that Senakw isn’t subject to the city’s normal consultation process because it’s on reserve land, which was granted to the Squamish Nation in 2000, along with $92 million, for relinquishing its claim to Kits Point and other lands.
However, Munro said “there is nothing stopping the city from consulting about how the residents of the city would like to have their resources deployed …”
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart recently said he will not “blackmail” the Nch’Kay Corp. into responding to the community’s needs in return for a services deal.
But Munro said the mayor and staff are “promoting a false narrative suggesting the nature of the development is beyond their influence and control.”
Other B.C. municipalities faced with urban reserve developments, she said, haven’t been so reluctant to protect their community’s interests.
Kits Point Residents Association (“KPRA”)
July 11, 2022
KPRA is managed by 8 residents of Kits Point, the KPRA Executive Team (“KET”), and represents the 1100 households in the Kits Point community, of which 60% are rental. KPRA does not support any political candidate or party.
KET welcomes the Squamish Nation’s ability to develop the Sen̓áḵw reserve. This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Nation and COV to ensure that the development is as beneficial as possible for the Squamish Nation people and COV citizens. KET has been in direct contact with both parties Squamish indicating this.
Squamish Nation and COV both have a legislative jurisdiction and authority to exercise and decide what is in the best interests of their constituents.
COV mayor and council have the legislative authority (per the Vancouver Charter) to determine and negotiate whether (and how) any proposed reserve development connected to or affecting COV plans and its transportation, infrastructure and services (“Resources”) can be accommodated by agreements. They also have the legislative authority to mitigate any significant impacts on the Livability (traffic, parking, shadows, view corridors, neighborhood amenities, environment etc.) of its citizens.
Squamish Nation recognizes this authority to negotiate the feasibility or acceptability of any development proposal in respect to COV plans, Resources or Livability (see Appendix ‘A”). This would necessarily include the effects and impacts of the size, scale and density of the development proposal on COV plans, Resources and Livability.
As set out below, COV Mayor Kennedy (with supporting councillors) decided to forgo COV’s authority to determine and negotiate the feasibility or acceptability of the Sen̓áḵw development proposal and to communicate that COV has effectively no jurisdiction, authority or say to negotiate and determine the size, scale and density of the proposal.
They also decided and communicated that COV had effectively no jurisdiction to disclose any information to or consult with its citizens about the impacts of the development on COV plans, Resources and Livability prior to approving the municipal agreements necessary for the use or provision of its Resources.
These two decisions and communications are not accurate characterizations of the authority of COV and constitute in effect an abdication of COV authority and management prerogative.
As a result of this COV positioning, in April 2019, Squamish Nation proposed a major increase in the size, scale and density of its original Sen̓áḵw proposal (which was for two apartment buildings and a few small office buildings) to two towers, with 3000 mostly market priced rental and leased condo residential units.
This proposal, for towers with over 5,000 residents situate on a narrow, awkward strip of land surrounding Burrard Bridge, was shockingly outside the boundaries of existing COV plans, resources and
zoning. Media and planning experts universally labelled the proposal as “massive” and “unprecedented”. City Manager Siddhu Johnston described the plans as: “…very dense. Plus, it’s complicated by the very unique shape of the site”
At the time of the announcement, however Mayor Kennedy and City Manager Johnston messaged in a coordinated media release with Squamish Nation, that COV had no “jurisdiction”, “legal authority” or “say” to adjust or determine the density, size and scale of the development. This messaging was received as such by all media. Here is one example:
“This prime parcel of real estate is poised to become the site of a massive development project that would change the landscape of Vancouver.” “…but the city of Vancouver has no say in this one” and “The city will have no legal authority over the project”. https://globalnews.ca/news/5153124/squamish-nation-housing-development-vancouver/
Shortly after Mayor Kennedy and City Manager assertions that COV had no jurisdiction or authority, on Nov 5,2019, Squamish Nation secured Westbank Corp, one of Canada’s major developers, as a partner, and proposed to double the massive scale, size and density to 6000 market priced rental and leased condos, with a density projected to be 10-12,000 people, housed in a highly concentrated set of 11 towers, reaching 56 stories.
10,500 residents constitute 1000 people an acre, which is 10 times the density of Manhattan and 10.6 times as dense as Vancouver’s West End. This proposal was and is on its face fantastically out of context with existing COV plans and Resources. The proposal includes a major altering of the Burrard St bridge to add a transportation hub connection.
Notwithstanding the immensity of size, scale, density of the Sen̓áḵw towers and the consequent impacts on citizen Resources and Livability, Mayor Kennedy called the Squamish Nation Westbank proposal “a real gift to the city”. Despite letters from KPRA to COV Mayor and City Manager asserting that COV has the legal authority to determine the appropriate size, scale and density of the development or consult with interested citizens, the Mayor and City Manager continue to negotiate in strict secrecy without any public input or engagement. In the most recent Sen̓áḵw media event, an infrastructure protocol agreement was executed by Mayor Kennedy and Squamish Nation in public, but the actual terms of the agreement were not released!
The Sen̓áḵw proposal is far from finalized. Metro Vancouver has just received a request to negotiate infrastructure requirements with Squamish Nation and the federal government has not ruled on environmental impacts and consideration of the use of a road through Vanier Park to enable the development.
The principal issue in the upcoming Vancouver election is what is the right way to develop more density and affordable housing and who should lead that decision making. The accuracy and extent of the communications and how the Westbank Squamish First Nation Sen̓áḵw development proposal is being managed by the COV Mayor and City Manager are therefore highly relevant voter considerations.
KET CONTACT: Chair Laurie McPherson or Scott Dunlop at Admin@KPRA.ca
“There are a number of pieces at play and there is a requirement to work with the City of Vancouver for this development to provide infrastructure to the site, as well as coordination of engineering requirements on the roads that are adjacent to the site. If we think about how many construction vehicles will be coming and going from the site, they will have to travel on roads on the City of
Vancouver, where it requires the Nation and the City to work together.” https://www.vancouverrealestatepodcast.com/podcast/11-towers-and-6000-new-homes-near- burrard-bridge-with-khelsilem-tlak%CC%B1wasik%CC%93a%CC%B1n/
“Khelsilem said other First Nations in Canada have partnered with developers before on smaller-scale projects, but municipalities have blocked some of those projects from going forward through service agreements.”