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Ken Ohrn attended the community meeting on April 29th, hosted by the West Point Grey Residents Association, with respect to the Jericho lands (map here):

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Jericho

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About 350-400 people attendednded this meeting in a big gymnasium on the provincially-owned land west of the Jericho Lands (the former DND Jericho Garrison).

The demographic mirrored the name of the association since, like me, the vast majority of attendees were grey-haired, or with good and bad hair colouring jobs. There was a scattering of under-40’s, and very few under 30. The vast majority were European. I counted 12 bicycles in the racks outside the venue when I left.

The presenters were:

  • Chief Ian Campbell, Squamish First Nation
  • Chief Wayne Sparrow, Musqueam FN
  • Matt Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh FN
  • Robert Howard, EVP Real Estate, CLC
  • Deana Grinnell, Jericho Project Manager, Canada Lands Company
  • David Eby, NDP MLA
  • Michael Robinson, Province of BC, Real Properties
  • Elizabeth Murphy, WPGR Association

The First Nations, fittingly, went first. The speakers were assertive, bordering on aggressive, in affirming their legal position with respect to land ownership in BC. The speakers were clear about their determination to gain for themselves a place in wider Canadian society that provides FN opportunities for education, partnerships, work in the professions, economic strength and so on. This coupled with traditional values around sustainability.

Shamefully, near the end of this segment, a few hostile yells broke out, demanding that the meeting return to the agenda, and that some were walking out. Personally, I applaud the FN speakers for their clear message, which was likely being heard by some for the first time.

Ms. Murphy, the moderator, took the mike to say that this was a part of the agenda – and hearty, sustained applause broke out from the audience. It was a truly embarrassing and shameful episode, and it is clear that the colonial bully mentality still exists as a minority world view.

Bob Howard of CLC advised that no planning was underway, and no detailed preparation. CLC, however, will be the project manager (Deana Grinnell), and oversight will come from a Management Committee with representation from all the owners. Mr. Howard advised that project decisions are subject to municipal authority and approval. Since CLC is arm’s length from the Federal Gov’t, the project will not be imposed on the community by them. Presumably, the City of Vancouver and the Region may find representation on this Management Committee. We’ll see.

CLC’s intent is to create a moderately detailed plan, install infrastructure, create standards and design guidelines of various sorts and then sell portions of the land to individual developers for construction – within the plan’s guidelines.

CLC’s Mr. Howard showed several sample developments:

  • Rockcliff (Ottawa) 310 acre former military base
  • Garrison Crossing (Chilliwack, former military base) 153 acres
  • Currie (Alberta) 550 acres
  • Greisback (Edmonton) 610 acres

Quite frankly, from the scant material shown at the meeting, these all looked like cheesy car suburbs – in my mind completely unsuitable for the Jericho Lands.

Deana Grinnell of CLC (Project Manager) advised that formal public engagement will likely begin in the fall of 2015, and will run at least 12-18 months before a preliminary design is available. Meanwhile, she will begin to assemble her team and to start geotechnical, archeological and topographic studies on the land.

David Eby, NDP MLA for the riding was mainly concerned with the fate of the adjacent parcel to the west of the Jericho Land parcel. This land is owned by the Provincial Gov’t, who have recently announced it is in play. Mr. Eby is concerned about lack of process by the Province, possible lack of consultation, and whether these plans will be coordinated with the Jericho Land project.

He also advised that affordable housing is not top of mind for the CLC, and that this component of the project is more than a bit murky, despite crying need in Vancouver (major sustained applause from the audience). “We don’t need more empty luxury condos”, he said to more enthusiastic applause.

Mr. Howard of CLC responded that the CLC does not build social housing, since they are mandated to be a commercial developer.

Michael Robinson of the Province (Real Properties) spoke to the provincial land situation. The Province has a duty to consult with First Nations on any changes, and these talks have not begun in any meaningful way. Responding to an audience question, Mr. Robinson advised that similar FN agreements have concluded in a wide range of outcomes, including outright transfer of ownership to the FN. For this reason, community consultation cannot yet take place.

In response to an audience question about what the FN want from the Jericho Lands development, the FN speakers advised that this Jericho Lands agreement is historic. The FN want to be good neighbours and to work with existing residents – with sensitivity to the neighbourhood, to Mother Nature and to a 1000-year view of sustainability.

I may have missed some of the remaining discussion, since I left at this point, with about half the audience remaining. Clearly, its early days. The Provincial land’s future is not very close to any sort of clarity. The public seems to already be clear about strong interest in social affordable housing and not “empty luxury condos”. There was no mention of the immense opportunity to extend the Broadway subway to Jericho and incorporate transit-oriented design into the project.