Squamish Nation Westbank Corp Sen̓áḵw Development
Kits Point Residents Association
May 23, 2022
The KPRA Executive Team are 8 Kits Point (“KP”) people who contribute interest and time to livability issues in Kits Point (“KET”). We now bring forward for your edification as a member of KPRA and resident of KP, an exposition of the facts, circumstances and issues involved with the development of Sen̓ákw.
Attached you will find a set of three documents that provide a fulsome historical overview of facts and events relevant to understanding the Sen̓ákw development process undertaken by Squamish Nation, Westbank Corp and the City of Vancouver (“COV”) which is referred to as the “Backgrounder”. These documents present two intertwined perspectives, the COV and Federal Governments management of the process and a Summary of the combined salient facts and events, that demonstrate the failure of both governments to respond adequately to a development proposal that, if enabled, would constitute an extreme outlier of building size and scale in relation to existing Vancouver zoning and planning.
The central issue of the Backgrounder is the flawed way COV Executive has been negotiating with the Squamish Nation and Westbank Corp Partnership (“Squamish Nation Westbank”).
This Backgrounder has been researched and drafted to serve the purpose of raising for public discourse a critical Vancouver civic issue, which is relevant to the dominant, city-wide election discussion about the best way to plan and approve the future density and livability of COV. KET members have had a chance to review and discuss the contents and agree with them, so the Backgrounder is considered by KET to be factually accurate and objective and issued by KET as its point of view and position.
KET welcomes any corrections and will amend any facts found to be inaccurate. KET seeks comments from its KP members and neighbours and will amend any position it puts forward that would not accord with its understanding of what the majority of KP residents would advance.
If anyone would like to quote any statement from the Backgrounder documents, it is to be considered to come solely from KET, (and not any individual KET member), and it is requested that KET be apprised of this before so doing, to provide our consent. Any need for consent or comments will be responded to by our Chair, on behalf of KET at this email address: email@example.com
Overview of Backgrounder
KET recognizes, acknowledges and welcomes Squamish Nation’s right to achieve a constructive development on its reserve.
We have reviewed the past history of Squamish Nation peoples’ experiences with Canadian governments and industries and are glad to see that COV and Squamish Nation have signed a reconciling government-to-government agreement and that COV is continuing to undertake ongoing reconciliation actions and activities.
The pertinent fact that KET is raising for civic information and discourse is that the Squamish Nation has partnered with Westbank Corp and proposed to construct on the Sen̓áḵw reserve, a development of a highly concentrated set of 12 Towers, reaching 59 stories, that is to provide (almost entirely) market priced, leased and rental units for 10-12,000 people, on a small narrow, triangular plot of land that is bisected by one of Vancouver’s major bridges, and borders on the coast and Vanier Park. The size and scale of the development is precedent setting and extraordinarily out of context with existing COV planning, zoning and livability.
COV Executive (Mayor Kennedy, Council and City executives), per the Vancouver Charter, have the power and responsibility to govern COV Resources (infrastructure, services, transportation, community centres etc), Livability (traffic, parking, biking, street aesthetics, shadows and view corridors etc) and the environment. Sen̓áḵw is a reserve and is thus not part of COV land, but the reserve is surrounded by COV land and, in order for development to proceed, must necessarily connect to and affect COV Resources, Livability and the environment.
COV Executive has the authority and responsibility to manage the COV Resources, Livability and environment in the best interests of its citizens. Any development on Sen̓áḵw will cause impacts on and to these COV responsibilities.
Thus, in agreeing to enable the development by providing access to the necessary municipal Civic Resources, COV clearly has a need and responsibility to negotiate with Squamish Nation and Westbank to protect or enhance its Civic Resources, Livability and environment. The most significant impacts of the development will stem from its size and scale. So size and scale is the central issue that should be negotiated by the parties.
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. See for example: Urban Reserves & Treaty Land Entitlement |City of Fort St. John (fortstjohn.ca) and this has been acknowledged by Khelsilem, the Squamish Nation spokesperson.
From the beginning COV Executive has publicly taken the position that they had “no jurisdiction” over Squamish Nation development on reserve land and declined and abdicated its responsibility to negotiate the primary issue: the size and scale development. This erroneous position resulted in the proposed Sen̓áḵw size and scale doubling over time to 12 concentrated, skyscraper towers reaching 59 stories, hosting a density that is 10 times that of Manhattan, and more than 10 times the density of the West End. The density has been universally described by City Managers, planning experts and the media to be “massive”, “enormous” and “unprecedented”.
COV Executive response to this has been consistently that COV has in effect “no say” or ability to negotiate size and scale. This declining, to negotiate size and scale, is a mistake, which resulted in COV Executive abdicating its statutory management authority and responsibility.
COV Executive has no electoral mandate to facilitate development in Vancouver that is incompatible with existing COV land use bylaws and planning, yet it proceeded to negotiate with Westbank Squamish Nation on this basis, while actively preventing citizens from obtaining access to any basic information about the effects, the issues and the positions of the parties. Contrary to its commitment to transparency in government, the COV Executive decided that it would conduct all discussions and negotiations on agreements necessary for the development to proceed in strict secrecy
The following factual points are demonstrated in the Backgrounders:
- Too Much Density: The Sen̓áḵw development as currently proposed is extremely large in size and scale and ought to be reduced to minimize its impact on Civic Resources, Livability and the environment. The proposed density is an extreme outlier compared with existing COV plans and bylaws and compared with US and Canadian municipal neighborhoods.
- No To Towers: Vancouver neighbourhoods and many experts and citizens in Vancouver are saying “no” to towers being proposed under the Broadway Plan and the Vancouver Plan, because density can be achieved less expensively and more in accord with COV neighborhoods. These tower developments are much smaller in size and scale than what is being proposed for Sen̓áḵw. Lower, wider buildings would fit better into the adjoining neighborhoods and parks.
- Bad Process: The City of Vancouver (COV) has maintained that it has no jurisdiction to negotiate size and scale of Sen̓áḵw because the development is on reserve lands and outside of COV’s jurisdiction. This is incorrect and misleading, because the development requires COV Resources to be able to proceed, including fire and policing services ,as well as connections and adjustments to municipal infrastructure, transportation, traffic and parking systems, increases to community services, and…approvals by COV of construction and engineering on Vancouver streets. Further KET understands that the parties know that these matters have been negotiated previously between First Nations and other municipalities. The requirement to attain COV Resources and access Vancouver engineering and streets during construction gives COV Executive the opportunity and authority to negotiate the size and scale of the development on behalf of and in the best interests of its citizens. COV Executive wrongly decided they had no jurisdiction to negotiate the size and scale and would not negotiate these issues. By doing so the COV has abdicated its legislated authority.
- Lack of Transparency: COV’s approach to the Sen̓áḵw development lacks the transparency that Vancouver citizens have a right to expect, as it has chosen to negotiate in secrecy with Squamish Nation Westbank.
- Lack of Consultation: COV has chosen to not consult with its citizens about the impacts and effects of the Sen̓áḵw development on COV Resources and citizen Livability. No level of government (whether COV, the Federal Government, which has primary jurisdictional authority, or the Squamish First Nation) has consulted with neighbouring communities with respect to any impacts of the development.
- Use of Park Land for Development Access Roads: This lack of transparency and consultation extends to discussions that COV and the Parks Board have had with Squamish Nation Westbank and the Federal Government regarding the conversion of park land in Vanier Park for use as an access road to the Sen̓áḵw development, which road will enable Squamish Nation Westbank to achieve the proposed extreme size and scale.
- COV Conduct Should be an Election Issue: The above concerns ought to be brought openly to Vancouver citizens for public scrutiny and discussion in the upcoming civic election.
- Reduction of Scope and Scale Must be Negotiated: COV and Squamish Nation should negotiate for a considerable reduction in size and scale (residential units should be reduced to 2000) as a condition of providing of COV Resources, and COV must inform COV Citizens about the status of negotiations.
For the reasons provided in the Backgrounder, KET submits that the process undertaken by COV Executive is fundamentally flawed and should be halted and subject to a review on administrative law principles and/or the results of the pending civic election.
All of which is presented by KPRA Executive Team to Kits Point residents and other COV citizens for their consideration.