KPRA SEN̓ÁḴW DEVELOPMENT BACKGROUNDER SUMMARY

Kits Point Residents Association
admin@kpra.ca

June 16, 2022

Introduction

The controversial Squamish Nation and Westbank Corp Partnership development proposal for Sen̓áḵw reserve raises critical City of Vancouver (“COV”) housing and election issues and Federal and COV government regulation issues. These issues, and the facts and circumstances upon which they are based, are described by the Kits Point Residents Association (“KPRA”) in two accompanying Backgrounders which illustrate the COV and Federal Government authority, role and handling of the Sen̓áḵw development proposal (“Backgrounders”). These facts and circumstances have been researched and checked for accuracy and KPRA welcomes all comments or corrections of them to ensure they are accurate.

This Summary is a reduction of the facts, circumstances and points made in these Backgrounders, and outlines the position of the KPRA Executive Team (“KET”) who act on behalf of the KPRA members. Any need to publish an excerpt or quotation from these Backgrounders or to provide an answer to a question related to the content, requires the permission of KET, which can be requested from the KET Chair, Laurie Macpherson, at admin@KPRA.ca.

KPRA welcomes and fully supports Squamish Nation’s right to constructively develop the Sen̓áḵw reserve, and has confirmed this consistently in writing to the Squamish Nation, COV Mayor Stuart Kennedy, Councillors, City Manager and Parks Board and in person to the CEO of Squamish Nation development company, while advancing the points made in this summary.

Squamish Nation people who occupied Kits Point lands were mistreated (forced to leave amongst many indignities) by COV, Federal Government and other authorities in the past, which deserves consideration and compensation as a government responsibility or obligation. We understand these issues to have been resolved in a major comprehensive settlement of lawsuit by the federal government with the Squamish Nation in July 2000 (“Squamish Nation Kits Point Settlement”). https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/squamish-band- settles-claim-for-925-million/article1041312/

The foundational points of these KET Backgrounders are:

  • The Squamish Nation Westbank Sen̓áḵw development requires connections to and use of COV Civic Resources (infrastructure, services, transportation systems, police, garbage disposal, transportation, and traffic and parking systems etc.) and its size and scale will have effects on COV citizens Livability (traffic, parking, biking, community centres, schools, view corridors, and shadows etc.) and the environment.
  • COV Mayor, Council and City Managers have the statutory authority and mandate to manage and reasonably determine the extent to which:
    • COV Resources can connect with and accommodate the effects of the Sen̓áḵw development’s size and scale on the Civic Resources, Livability and the environment, and
    • COV will provide approvals of the engineering requirements and use of COV roads during construction.

Hard Facts

The Sen̓áḵw reserve is a 10.5 acre, narrow triangular plot of land, bisected by the Burrard St. Bridge, that borders South False Creek, Kitsilano, Vanier Park and Vancouver coastline.

When the Squamish Nation announced its commercial real estate proposal to develop Sen̓áḵw, in April 2019, they proposed several low to midsize buildings, comprised of 3000 rental and leased condo units, for 6,000 residents, (almost entirely) at market rates. This was an extraordinary proposal. In relation to existing COV planning and zoning, the size and scale of it, was universally described by COV City Managers, past City Planners and the media as “massive”, “very dense” and “unprecedented”.

However, Mayor Kennedy and City Manager Siddhu Johnston asserted categorically at the time of the announcement, in a coordinated media release, that COV had “no jurisdiction” to adjust or determine the scope and scale of the development.

Media reports reflected this: “This prime parcel of real estate is poised to become the site of a massive development project that would change the landscape of Vancouver.” “…but the City of Vancouver has no say in this one” and “the City will have no legal authority over the project”. https://globalnews.ca/news/5153124/squamish-nation-housing-development-vancouver/

On that same day, City Manager Siddhu Johnston described the plans for 3000 units as being “very dense plus it’s complicated by the ‘very unique’ shape of the site” and stated that “the city doesn’t have jurisdiction to dictate what occurs on Squamish land.”
https://biv.com/article/2019/04/3000-unit-development-could-be-built-squamish-land-near-burrard-bridge

Shortly after these COV statements, on November 5, 2019, Squamish Nation confirmed its commercial partnership with Westbank Corp, and proposed to double the massive and very dense development to 6000 rental apartments and leased condos, with a population density projected to be 10- 12,000 people, housed in a highly concentrated set of 11 towers with building heights reaching 56 stories. Squamish Nation spokesperson, Khelsilem, on behalf of Squamish Nation has clearly stated that “this is an economic development venture, it is not an affordable housing project…”
https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/Sen̓áḵw-squamish-first-nation-vancouver-rental-housing-development

10,500 residents constitute 1000 people an acre, which is 10 times the density of Manhattan, 10.6 times as dense as Vancouver’s West End and 6.4 times as dense as the most-dense municipal area in the United States.

Despite this doubling of its massive density, COV and Squamish Nation continued to proceed as if COV had no jurisdiction to negotiate to reduce the size and scale. This was reinforced by Mayor Kennedy: “I really think this is a real gift to the city,” said Stewart. “Everything we can do to make this project be successful is at the top of my list.”
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-mayor-first-nation-development-gift-to-the-city- 1.5351953

Discussion

The COV position that it has no jurisdiction or “no say” to negotiate the proposed size and scale is simply wrong. COV Council and City Managers have the jurisdictional authority to manage COV Civic Resources, the effects on Livability and the environment, and the engineering and use of COV roads for construction. So of course it can negotiate the Sen̓áḵw development’s size and scale to accord with its plans and zoning standards, particularly where what is being proposed is a commercial, market-priced real estate development.

This is acknowledged by Khelsilem:

Other BC municipalities have recognized the necessity to negotiate urban reserve developments to be compatible with existing bylaws and development standards and the need for transparency and consultation. See for example: Urban Reserves & Treaty Land Entitlement |City of Fort St. John (fortstjohn.ca)

As set out in the Federal Backgrounder, MP Hedy Fry has stated that COV has “primary jurisdiction” over the regulation of the proposed development.

It is to be noted that the Squamish Nation Westbank Partnership commercial, market-priced proposal continues to grow. The COV position, by default, entitles it do so without any limits. It has increased the height of the tallest building to 59 stories, added an office tower and proposed a major alteration to the Burrard Bridge, a primary Vancouver arterial connector. (Partnership revenue over the project lifetime is expected to be $20B.)

Further, COV Mayor, Councilors and City Managers decided that it would keep all information and negotiations behind completely closed doors to citizens and the media and that it would not consult with Vancouver citizens….so, effectively, from the beginning until now there has been basically no transparency or public consultation about the effects and impacts of the proposed size and scale of the development. For example, at the recent signing ceremony between COV and Squamish Nation of a “services”, “engagement structure” (?) agreement, the terms were not disclosed.

An example of this precedent-setting, irresponsible process is that confidential discussions are taking place with Squamish Nation Westbank and Mayor Kennedy and COV City Management (with the cooperation of the Parks Board), to proactively enable the proposed extreme Sen̓áḵw size and scale by supporting Squamish Nation Westbank proposal to construct an access road to Sen̓áḵw through Vanier Park land, so that the 12 towers would be able to squeeze onto the narrowest sections of the reserve. Vanier Park is leased from the Federal Government to the COV strictly for “park purposes”. COV is communicating behind closed doors with the Federal Government to consider providing an access road on Vanier park lands to the Sen̓áḵw site that would enable the towers to be built on the very narrow west side of the property.

Thus, COV Mayor, Council and City Managers have abdicated their legislative responsibility by determining that COV has no jurisdiction or authority to negotiate the size and scale of the Sen̓áḵw commercial real estate development with the developer, Squamish Nation Westbank or to properly inform and consult with Vancouver citizens.

COV has the authority to negotiate the size and scale of this unprecedented, massive commercial development and it can do so at any time it so chooses. Given that the principal issue in the pending COV election is planning and zoning for a livable city, the conduct of the Mayor, City Manager and supporting Councillors throughout the negotiation with the Squamish Nation Westbank Partnership should be a primary election issue.

In summary, the Mayor and City Managers:

  • declared to Squamish Nation Westbank and Vancouver citizens that COV has no jurisdiction/no say to negotiate size, scale and density of the proposed development;
  • abandoned the COV legislative authority to manage its own Civic Resources and Livability in the interests of its citizens and to negotiate the size, scale and density of the proposed development so as to reasonably fit with COV’s approved planning and zoning;
  • decided to actively enable the Squamish Nation Westbank ability to construct the proposed dense, high story towers by approaching the Federal Government to allow an access road through Vanier Park, so that the immense out of context size, scale and density could be achieved;
  • kept all relevant information about the proposed development in secret behind closed doors;
  • refused to consult with its citizens.

Conclusion

COV Executive authority has the powers and duties provided by the Vancouver Charter to manage COV Resources, Livability and environment. COV has the legislated capacity to negotiate size, scale and density of any development that needs to use or connect to its Civic Resources or significantly affects Livability. They have wrongly taken the position that COV has no jurisdiction to do so or to consult with COV citizens.

As a result of the failure to provide COV citizens with the well-established process rights and expectations of being provided transparency and consultation in respect to any major COV decision making process regarding current plans or use of COV Civic Resources, COV should immediately cease the negotiations with Squamish Nation Westbank Partnership and inform and consult with Vancouver citizens on the status of the negotiations.

The proposed size, scale and density of Sen̓áḵw is an intense out of context intrusion into the surrounding neighbourhoods. There will be additional 10-11,000 people who were not previously planned to be in the area. In order to fit with existing COV Civic Resources, plans, zoning and Livability, the size, scale and density of the Sen̓áḵw development should be 1/3rd of what is being currently proposed by the Squamish Nation Westbank Partnership.

In any event, the primary COV election interest revolves around what is the best way to plan for and achieve the needed Vancouver (affordable, social and market price) housing. The position taken by COV Mayor Kennedy and supporting Councillors of abandoning the COV authority to negotiate an appropriate size and scale for the Sen̓áḵw development and proceeding to negotiate municipal agreements in strict secrecy ought to be a major election issue.

**The contents of this Backgrounder are meant to be informative and provide the position of KET and are protected by copyright. To make use of this material you must first obtain permission from KET