Skeet to Mayor 2010

Were the Marine Gardens towers a done deal already in 2010, even before Concord Pacific bought the land?

Were the Marine Gardens towers a done deal already in 2010, even before Concord Pacific bought the land?

Marine Gardens resident Jillian Skeet wrote this letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson in June 2010, when she noticed tall towers mysteriously appearing in a model of the Cambie Corridor, in place of the actual housing in her existing community. This was long before Concord Pacific bought the property, long before the Public Hearing on 24-Feb-2015 to rezone the site. She never receive an acknowledgement of receipt, or a reply. Was this development a done deal as far back as 2010 or earlier? And if so, what was the point of seeking public input?

June 10, 2010

Mayor Gregor Robertson

Re: Marine Gateway Project

I am devastated to learn that my 70 unit townhouse, Marine Gardens, has been slated for demolition – to be replaced by a hi-rise as part of the Marine Gateway Project.

At the recent Open House on June 8th, I was provided with a comment form that seemed to focus solely on whether this project would provide more bike lanes and alternative transportation, with no questions whatsoever about affordable accommodation, family-oriented residential development or providing a healthy environment for children.

While I support efforts to be more eco-friendly, this cannot be the sole factor in determining new development in our neighbourhood or the City as a whole.

I wish to draw your attention to a number of factors that, in my discussions with City Planners, appear to be either unknown or ignored.  Some of these are specific to my townhouse, many relate to the larger issue of creating a healthy and sustainable society.

1) Replacing rental housing 1 for 1 in new developments will not maintain the rare affordable housing stocks that currently exist in our neighbourhood (one only need look at the Olympic Village to realize how quickly and easily promises re: affordable housing are broken).

2) Hi-rise buildings with apartments cannot replace family-oriented townhouse complexes where children have immediate and safe access to unlimited outdoor play from their doorstep.  A multi-level structure with elevators and stairs may be appropriate accommodation for those who are single or childless, but it is not healthy, appropriate housing for families and cannot be considered an adequate replacement for demolished family townhouses.

3) Marine Gardens was inspired by the UN Habitat for Humanity Conference held in Vancouver in the 1970s and, while it was not built as a co-op, the efforts made by the developer to create an affordable, family-oriented, community atmosphere made it a model for all the co-ops that followed.

4) The land that Marine Gardens is built on was donated to the City of Vancouver by a resident who stipulated that the trees were not to be cut down.  We have this to thank for the design of our complex and the wonderful “garden-like” environment.  Your planners are apparently unaware of this stipulation which would negate the large hi-rise I see rendered in the City’s drawings.

5) Cambie and Marine Drive is a rare bastion of affordable, family-oriented housing.  There are three large townhouse complexes with many children.  Each of these complexes is a community where neighbours know neighbours, help each other, look after each others’ children and look out for all the children in the complex.  In my townhouse complex, we have an annual potluck dinner, an Easter Egg Hunt and special Halloween activities each year.  We share books, magazines, clothing and household items through our communal laundry room.  Our children walk to and from school in groups.  Many families like mine have been here for years (I have children aged 15 and 8 and we have lived here for 7 years).  We have on average around 90 children from babies through late teens and, at any given time, you will find many of them outside playing together.  They ride bikes, scooters, skateboards, roller-blades and toddler cars/ride-on toys.  They play soccer, street hockey, badminton and an endless number of games they have created (Survivor, Capture the Flag, etc.) – all within the safe confines of our complex.  And you will almost always find clusters of neighbours chatting together on the benches or on someone’s front stoop.

It’s not luxury accommodation and unfortunately the owners who purchased the complex when the Canada Line was being planned have failed to invest in its upkeep, but it is the best accommodation a family could hope for if they want their children to have a wonderful, healthy childhood and they value the great rewards of community.

We are told that this generation will be the first in a century to die younger than their parents.  Childhood obesity, diabetes and even heart disease are becoming epidemic amongst children.  One of the best ways that we can change this is not just by creating more bike-lanes in our City, but by creating safe family-oriented communities like ours where children spend their time engaged in healthy outdoor activity.  Most of our children are too young to take advantage of bike-lanes, they need a safe environment to bike like we have within our complex.

6)  City Council and City Planners need to rethink their eco-density policies and temper them with the needs of children and citizens in Vancouver.  A crowded concrete jungle where people are isolated in little boxes may sound good from an environmental/transit perspective, but it is not an optimum environment for the mental and physical health of children and families in Vancouver.

7) The Canada Line which is the impetus for all the proposed new development is already almost at full capacity.  It doesn’t need these mega-developments to reach the promised ridership of 100,000.

8) It used to be that we were only reminded of the nearby Transfer Station when a particularly smelly truck passed by on Marine Drive or during an unusual wind pattern.  In the last couple of years, the smell from the Transfer Station has significantly increased whether due to the Station itself or weather pattern/wind changes.  One day last week, for example, I could smell the Transfer Station all day and it was a cool, wet day.  In the last couple of years, the smell has been very noticeable during hot spells.   Unless this can be contained, it is certain to be a significant complaint by those who would inhabit the first planned phase of the Marine Gateway Project.

9) Traffic at Marine Drive and Cambie is very heavy with fairly frequent back-ups along Marine.  Since the Canada Line opened, our neighbourhood has seen a dramatic increase in traffic along residential streets.   This is an issue because many of the streets in our area are not wide enough for two cars to pass when cars are parked on either side.  Our streets are heavily parked now.  More development will bring even more cars to the area resulting in greater congestion and back-ups.

The Canada Line has increased, not decreased the vehicular traffic in this area and it would be naive to believe that the existence of the line will result in a new, carless population in this neighbourhood.

10) The Gateway Project will completely change the nature of the neighbourhood.  Skyscrapers will cast a huge shadow on the adjacent properties and completely change the skyline for all the residences and townhouse complexes in the area.  I do not object to some of the proposals in the property adjacent to the Canada Line station as the land is currently empty, no one would be displaced and they would provide amenities within walking distance.  I do, however, object to a huge skyscraper that is so out of sync with the rest of the neighbourhood and I object to anything that would negatively affect the family-oriented complexes and individual residences in our neighbourhood.

11) I have seen little if any recognition on the part of City Planners of the kind of neighbourhood that currently exists at Cambie and Marine.  Developers and Planners seem bent on demolishing what  currently exists in our neighbourhood and parachuting in an entirely different kind of neighbourhood.  From a socio-economic standpoint, that is very poor development policy.

Cambie and Marine is one of the few bastions of affordable, family-oriented community living left in Vancouver.  Everything possible should be done to protect, preserve and enhance what is here – not destroy it.  My complex, while definitely in need of maintenance and repair, should be a model for a healthy, environmentally sustainable community that promotes mental and physical health and, thereby, reduces demand on city and government services.

I hope you will take all these factors into account before ploughing ahead with a development model that sees us and all that is here as totally dispensable.  Every neighbourhood should have its distinct features – Cambie and Marine could become an expanded area of similar affordable family-oriented townhouse communities where land use and land availability permits.  This would be a much more fitting model for development for this area and one that would preserve and enhance the distinct characteristics of the neighbourhood while increasing the stocks of affordable, family-oriented housing that Vancouver so desperately needs.

We feel like we’ve been under siege in our own city for years now.  We suffered through horrendous conditions while the Canada Line was being built and now we are being swept aside by developers and planners.

Sincerely,
Jillian Skeet, Marine Gardens, 445 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver, BC

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