Councillor questions where cash will come from; residents angry park is still years away“The people of False Creek have been waiting 25 years for the delivery of Creekside Park.
ADRIANE CARR, GREEN PARTY COUNCILLOR
29 Oct 2015, The Vancouver Sun, JOHN MACKIE firstname.lastname@example.org
To listen to City of Vancouver staff, tearing down the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts will be a win-win.
There won’t be much effect on traffic, there will be a bigger Creekside Park, and the $200-million cost of tearing down the massive structures will be covered by a projected $300 million in community amenity contributions, development cost levies and land sales in the neighbourhood.
But there are skeptics, including NPA Coun. George Affleck.
“They’re saying that the costs will be underwritten by the project in a mysterious way,” Affleck said. “From what I can tell, it looks like they will be raiding the community amenity contributions from across the city to underwrite the costs of this.”
Community amenity contributions are fees the city collects from developers to pay for things like parks and daycares.
Affleck questions whether the city will be able to squeeze the projected $300 million out of a developer like Concord Pacific, which owns a big chunk of land near the viaducts.
“I don’t see that math adding up,” Affleck said. “The Concord deal is a provincial deal. There are limitations to what we can extract unless the province decides to change their deal with Concord.”
(The Concord Pacific land was purchased from the province in 1988, when the company bought the former Expo 86 site.)
Affleck’s concerns were dismissed by Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs.
“The staff gave assurances as well that the revenue opportunities are significant,” Meggs said. “They come from the site. They’re not going to be imposed on people from around the city.”
Most of the criticism of the plan for the viaducts was levelled at the timeline for Creekside Park, which may not be finished for another decade.
False Creek residents have been angry at the city and Concord Pacific for years because of delays in completing the park — there are an estimated 1,500 green lights hanging in windows throughout the neighbourhood as a protest.
On Tuesday, council voted in favour of a staff recommendation to tear down the viaducts. Green Coun. Adriane Carr tried to add an amendment that stated the park should be finished by 2024, but was rebuffed.
“The people of False Creek have been waiting 25 years for the delivery of Creekside Park,” she said. “Supposedly bringing down the viaducts will facilitate the faster development of that park, and certainly Vision has been lauding the park delivery as a key part of the viaducts decision.
“(But) when I put it into the form of an amendment, they said that would be a false promise, and they couldn’t necessarily deliver it, and it was out of our hands.”
Meggs voted against amendment.
“Coun. Carr’s motion would have required us to complete the park, whether or not the financial arrangements were in line with what Concord’s legal obligations are,” he said. “The delivery of the park is triggered by rezoning. And the rezoning can’t occur until the park configuration is confirmed, which we did last night. (But) there still has to be important negotiations with Carr’s Concord, and they have to satisfy staff and council that they’re making the appropriate contributions to the park, daycare, to whatever the other community amenity contributions are.”
That wasn’t good enough for False Creek resident John Murray.
“They keep saying, ‘Look, the viaducts come down and you are going to get this outstanding, beautiful, bigger, better park,’” Murray said.
“They don’t say that this is a park that is 25 years overdue, and actually all we’re doing is shuffling things around, and you’re getting the same size park except it’s going to be fragmented, and the developer is getting more waterfront property.
“That is basically what is happening, and we’re frustrated to no end with that.”
Murray said in 2004 the city rewrote a provision in the Concord Pacific deal that allowed it to delay building the park. He would like to see the city play hardball with the company and speed things up.
“Other developers have had to come up front with a park, or cash in lieu,” he said. “Bosa did that way back in the ’90s, and Concord has been able to keep going on (without building a park).
“They’re actually making money off all that land and not paying any taxes, and they’ve put nothing up front.”
Provincial Transportation Minister Todd Stone weighed in on the viaducts issue from Victoria, where he told reporters it has been “a number of years since the city took meaningful steps to reach out to PavCo, which owns and operates BC Place (Stadium).”
It is unclear what Stone’s issues with the city’s plans were. The proposed Georgia Street extension would go over top of Griffiths Way, a street that trucks use to load equipment at the stadium.
“What we have said to the city is any of these changes must take into account our load-in,” PavCo’s Duncan Blomfeld said. “The city came back to us and told us it won’t affect the load-in and load-out of the stadium.”
(c) 2015, The Vancouver Sun, JOHN MACKIE email@example.com