Growing protest against proposed road through Vanier Park for Senakw development

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The organizer of the No Road Through Vanier Park website says 280 residents have signed the protest against the road through the park.

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A protest is growing among Vancouver residents who oppose a proposed road through Vanier Park in the Kitsilano neighborhood to access the planned Senakw First Nations Tower development.

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Jeremy Braude, a retired Kitsilano resident who has lived in the neighborhood near Vanier Park for 30 years, said Saturday that 280 people had signed his protest website.

The No Road Through Vanier Park website says it’s “scandalous” that the city and the Squamish First Nation are considering building a road through the park space.

Braude said in an interview that this protest is not against the development of the tower, which he agrees with because of the desperate need for housing in the city.

However, he is thwarted by a road project estimated at 300 meters that would cut through public green spaces. He also questions the secrecy surrounding First Nations development, which Postmedia columnist Doug Todd wrote about late last month.

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“Vancouver residents love parks, they really love them and they appreciate them. And we have beautiful parks in this area. And there’s a lot of passion for it.

The proposed road, which extends east from Chestnut Street north of the Senakw property line, will include dedicated vehicle lanes, protected bike lanes and pedestrian sidewalks, pursuant to a service agreement between the Squamish First Nation and the City of Vancouver.

The 11-tower Senakw development, which will be built on land that was expropriated from the Squamish Nation more than 100 years ago, will feature 6,000 units and is expected to accommodate 9,000 people after its scheduled completion in 2027, which includes provisions for 250 affordable housing units will be reserved for Squamish families.

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Artist rendering, aerial view, of the proposed Senakw development in Kitsilano, from the website created by Westbank Corp. Nearby residents say these drawings do not show the planned route through Vanier Park. PNG
The plan for the Senakw development in Kitsilano calls for a road atop the site, adjacent to or possibly within Vanier Park.  Illustration of the Senakw website.
The plan for the Senakw development in Kitsilano calls for a road atop the site, adjacent to or possibly within Vanier Park. Illustration of the Senakw website. PNG

Last month, survey signs were put up announcing the planned location of a road through Vanier Park, which will provide access to Senakw.

“The Squamish Nation says this is an unused park. Well, that is absolutely wrong. It is extremely well used. People walk their dogs. It’s so nice to walk around there and to say it’s not in use is just not correct,” Braude said.

The Kitsilano Point Residents Association strongly supports Aboriginal enterprise, seeing it as a potential act of reconciliation, but believes the property is overdeveloped.

Braude asked why there was no public consultation, particularly on a proposed road through a park. He said residents were planning a rally soon to voice their opposition.

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Jeannine Guérette, spokeswoman for the City of Vancouver, said no one was available for comment on Saturday, but emailed a statement on behalf of the city:

“The land in Vanier Park where the road was proposed belongs to the Government of Canada. The land is leased from the City and operated by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation,” the statement read. “The Government of Canada has had direct discussions with the Squamish Nation regarding the possibility of a license to the Nation for a road, including pedestrian and bicycle access, on this section of federal lands.

The Squamish Nation and the federal government did not return a request for comment Saturday on the road protest and lack of public consultation.

However, in May, Khelsilem, chairman of the Squamish Nation council, told Postmedia that the pandemic has made engagement difficult over the past three years and because this is an on-reserve development, “there aren’t a lot of covenants required.”

He also said they would welcome feedback on the design process.

[email protected]

—with files by Doug Todd and Derrick Penner

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