KPRA Response to COV re Sena’kw Development

KPRA Executive Team (KET) is communicating directly with Paul Mochrie, Vancouver’s City Manager, to address the many issues pertaining to the Senakw development. We welcome any comments on the forum for residents who are logged-in or email Please share with your neighbours who may not be registered.


August 9, 2021

Paul Mochrie,

City Manager, City of Vancouver

Via email:

Re: Sena’kw Development

This is a reply to your letter to Kits Point Residents Association’s (“KPRA”) dated April 23, 2021, wherein you responded on behalf of the City of Vancouver (“COV”) to KPRA’s several emails initiated on March 27, 2020, regarding the Sena’kw development (“Development”), and our request for a comprehensive planning process with appropriate public input. 

For over a year and a half we have been doing our best to get basic information from COV, the Park Board and Nch’kay Westthe corporate partnership of Squamish Nation’s Nch’kay Development Corporation and Westbank Projects Corp (“Development Partnership”). However, the COV’s and Park Board’s acknowledged policy of engaging in these negotiations In-Camera and with absolute confidentiality, continues to make it extremely difficult to gain pertinent information about the complex issues, the goals of COV and Park Board management and the overall process.

We reiterate our commitment to work diligently to try to ensure a constructive development with the least negative impacts on livability, the environment, infrastructure and transportation.

The recent Vancouver Plan meeting with some Kits Point residents did provide a bit more information, but some of this information surprised us and our resident neighbours and generally heightened citizen concern. Most of this concern centres around the following points in your April 23rd letter regarding the process underway to negotiate municipal services needed by the Development Partnership:

“…The discussions of these requirements are confidential at this time but are expected to be submitted to City and the Squamish Nation’s respective Councils once they are sufficiently developed into a mutually recommended Services Agreement. For these reasons, the City does not have the jurisdiction nor mandate to lead and facilitate the sort of public consultation process that would typically take place for a similar development outside Squamish Nation Lands…”

“…the project proposes an access road through Vanier Park, which is former reserve land, and connected to the Kits Point community. This proposed road would traverse land leased from the Crown for park purposes. Where there are significant changes to traffic circulation within a community, the City consults with the community to minimize and mitigate impacts. We will be engaging with the Kits Point community and others in the area with ideas on transportation improvements based on a comprehensive transportation study being undertaken as part of the process. This conversation will focus on how best to accommodate the changes the Sen̓áḵw Development will bring to the City. There is no firm timeline on when to expect this…”

“Lastly, I want to acknowledge that the size and scale of this initiative is significant, and I understand that this raises many questions for the community.”

There are a multitude of complex issues. We identify five we consider central and overriding: 

1. COV Executive Responsibility to Vancouver Citizens

COV management and Council have a statutory authority (“Executive Authority”), and thus, a legal duty, to decide and negotiate in the best interests of the citizens how the Development will impact the City’s liveability, environment, infrastructure and transportation and how these impacts will be mitigated and financed by Services Agreements and COV taxpayers (“Duty”).  This Duty includes implementing any process that will assist the Executive Authority’s decision making. The point of view communicated in your letter, that COV has “no jurisdiction or mandate to lead and facilitate the sort of public consultation that would typically take place”, surely does not mean that Executive Authority is prohibited from disclosing major COV issues to Vancouver citizens and receiving input from those who may be affected, at any time it chooses to do so.

2. Sena’kw Density

The density being proposed for this 10.5 acre Development is 6,000 mostly rental units in 11 towers, rising to 59 stories, with an estimated range of 9,000-12,000 residents. 

This would be an extraordinary, precedent setting density, far outside any previous norm in COV history or pre-existing city planning. It will far exceed the highest density of any municipal area in Canada or the US. 

Using a mid-estimate of 10,500 residents, Sena’kw will have a population density of 1000 people per acre which will be 11.6 times more dense than the Concord Pacific Expo lands. To put this in a broader context, the Sena’kw population density will be 7.5 times greater than the most densely populated municipal area (by census) in the United States and Canada, being Friendship Village, Washington, D.C.,


In terms of density, buildings are also relevant. This table illustrates the extraordinary population and building density of the Development Partnership proposal:

Concord Pacific
Expo Lands
Area in Acres35.179.910.5
People per acre129861,000
Dwellings per acre8550571

So, this proposed Development will be an exceedingly high insertion of people, buildings and resulting resident and service vehicles. Accommodating this proposed Development will require a complete re-set of the balance of Vancouver city planning, requiring a sophisticated re-think of all existing and to-be-planned civic infrastructure and zoning. 

3. Environmental Impacts

Significant environmental impacts will result during and subsequent to construction of the Development, given the location of the Sena’kw site near the coast of False Creek and bordering Vanier Park.  These impacts are being examined by COV, so they should be disclosed to the public for input prior to agreeing to terms with the Development Partnership and/or seeking any of the many approvals required by Federal Government Executive Authorities.

4. Lack of Transparency

The COV and Park Board approach to the negotiations with the Development Partnership appears to be contrary to their Duty. COV Executive Authority received the Development Partnership plans, labelling them, per the Mayor, a “gift”, encouraged the Development Partnership to increase the size/density of the development and is actively negotiating, without publicly disclosing the major issues or facilitating any civic process for citizens to discuss, comment or provide input. 

This approach relegates citizen interests to “after the fact”.  Given the unprecedented scope and density of this Development Partnership proposal, the appropriate process would be that Vancouver citizens, particularly those most directly impacted, be apprised of the main issues and basic planning information and be consulted to provide input, before and during the negotiations. Otherwise, the confidential negotiations to achieve a “mutually recommended Services Agreement” will be determinative of all major issues without any public input.

5. Use of Vanier Park Land

There are a multitude of planning issues, but one particularly illustrates the need to establish an appropriate process for public input. During the recent Vancouver Plan Community Meeting, COV and Park Board Executive Authority confirmed that they are actively considering providing a roadway for the Development through Vanier Park, connecting to Chestnut St.  It is apparent from COV and Parks Board statements during that meeting, that the roadway will assist the Development Partnership to achieve its extraordinary density: 

Doug Shearer, Park Board Manager of Planning & Environment (slightly paraphrased):

The Westbank and Squamish Nation plan… does propose an access road that is along the south edge of Vanier Park.  …the land that potential road would sit on is land that’s leased by the city from the Federal Government and as such, the approver of a road like that is the landowner, which is the Federal Government.  I would not say the road is a ‘fait accompli”. Like everything with this development, it’s unprecedented, and everyone is figuring this very unprecedented development out. Staff on behalf of the elected PB, in its role, will work with the Partnership to “better understand” the approval process with the Federal Government for lands it owns…

John Turecki, COV Manager, Transportation Design: 

There are technical limitations….in a situation like this. The westernmost extent of the reserve (Sena’kw land at Chestnut) is about 30 metres wide. A road within there, plus development would be potentially challenging to accommodate. So that speaks to the considerations there. That’s a decision that involves a number of parties.

So, the proposed unprecedented density may not be accomplishable if the proposed roadway is on Sena’kw land. 

Actively considering a road intersecting Vanier Park land will be an issue for the many citizens who value the preservation of park land. Similar proposals have resulted in significant opposition in the past. During the recent Vancouver Plan meeting, the issue of using park land for a site connecting roadway was the dominant focus of the meeting.

In your email (quoted above), you confirmed that Vanier Park land is leased from the Federal Government for “park purposes”.  Mr. Sherer confirmed that using Vanier Park for a development roadway will require Federal Government approval. 

Providing a roadway through Vanier Park to assist the Development Partnership’s ability to propose an unprecedented density is not a “park purpose”. Therefore, considering a use of park lands for the purpose of assisting or enabling a developer to increase the density or size of a development would constitute a breach of COV and Park Board Duty to properly exercise their executive decision making.

Why did COV and the Park Board not provide public notice of the lease and federal jurisdictional issues and implement an appropriate civic process to explain the situation and seek community input, including alternate constructive solutions?

In summary, COV and Park Board Executive Authorities have a Duty, as municipal governments, to properly exercise their executive powers to attain the best set of terms with the Development Partnership. As the Park Board and COV are mutually responsible for conducting and agreeing to terms with the Squamish Nation and the Development Partnership, I am sending a copy of this email to the Park Board for its response. We urge both Executive Authorities to immediately disclose to the public the major issues pertaining to this Development to Vancouver citizens and implement an appropriate process of receiving public input.

It would be very beneficial if we could have a telephone discussion or meeting to discuss the above issues. Would you have any time available sometime soon?

Best regards,

Scott Dunlop