19 February 2009

Parks board gives Jericho Wharf supporters new hope

Sandra Thomas
Vancouver Courier

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Green Party parks board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon says there's no need for a second consultation on the fate of the Jericho Wharf.

"For me, the whole idea of preserving the Jericho Wharf is a little like people who want to preserve the Hollow Tree in Stanley park," he said. "I think some people are confusing nostalgia for heritage. It's something from their past that they're attached to and somehow not able to let go of and they think taxpayers should pay for it. We have to be very careful."

Mackinnon was the only commissioner to vote against a recommendation by the board's planning and environment committee, which includes four parks board commissioners, to hold a second consultation on the fate of the historic wharf. Once a staff report is completed on the motion, the board must approve it before it can move forward.

The former parks board voted last July to tear down the popular landmark and leave a small portion as a memorial for an estimated cost of $1.1 million, with $500,000 in maintenance over 10 years. Other options considered included repairing the entire wharf for $1.8 million, with an additional $100,000 to $200,000 needed every six years for maintenance, or spending $2 million to demolish the entire wharf and reinstate the foreshore and seawall along the stretch of the beach the wharf occupies.

"At the planning and environment committee I didn't hear any new compelling information that warrants going further," said Mackinnon. "I was prepared to look into it if any new information had come forward, but I didn't see anything like that."

Last year the public consultations held prior to the decision included signs posted near the site, public meetings, an open house, media advertising and information posted online. While some residents argued the wharf should be left intact because it's a popular landmark and could be used as a public amenity, others insisted its historical significance should be enough preserve it. The wharf was built more than 60 years ago as part of the former Jericho Seaplane Base. Jericho Beach was home to the Pacific Coast Station of the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1921 to 1945. The wharf's perimeter was installed during the 1976 United Nations Habitat Forum on and around Jericho Beach. The railings for the wharf came from the Lions Gate Bridge, which was under construction at the time.

Vision Vancouver parks board commissioner Sarah Blythe said Vision heard from many residents leading up to last November's municipal election upset about what they called a lack of proper consultation regarding the wharf.

"The Vision team wants to be thorough in getting the word out to enough people that they can feel they were part of the process," she said. "The more information we can get out there the better."

Blyth insists the decision doesn't mean Jericho Wharf will be saved, but rather that a new decision reached by the parks board will be based on more complete information.

"It looks to me that a very large chunk of people were left out of the process," she said. "We want to make sure we know enough to be comfortable making a final decision."

Blyth said if the second consultation is approved at parks board, work will begin almost immediately.

"We're going to get moving on this as soon as possible," she said.

The Courier asked Piet Rutgers, director of planning and operations for the board, whether approving a second consultation could open the door to reviews of other decisions made by past boards. Rutgers sent a message through media spokesperson Joyce Courtney that he was unable to comment until the staff report was complete.

© Vancouver Courier 2009

03 February 2009

Signs of the Time

There has been a lot of controversy of late at both the City and the Park Board over amendments to the city's charter concerning advertising and signage. The charter allows for advertising and signage in parks but the language used is very loose. The City's legal department has been wanting tighter language and greater restrictions for some time. The Olympics have given us the opportunity to make those changes. Changing the charter is not easy as the Provincial government has to do it. In this case, the Park Board has to ask the City and then the City has to ask the Province to make any changes.

Opening up the Charter is always fraught with difficulty as it is perceived as watering down the Charter and the basic rights it acknowledges. In this case the Charter amendments actually put further restrictions on advertising and level the field so all people/groups can be treated fairly. I have fought against (and some would say was elected because of this fight) the commercialization of our public spaces for many years. It is because of this fight that I supported the amendments. I believe they give the Park Board more control over signs and advertising and better protect us from increasing commercialization.