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From the Editors of Price Tags:

The Arbutus Greenway project is a small study in tactics.

The first tactic is the classic process argument over lack of consultation. Often equated with lack of veto power, this argument can go on forever: there are enough high-level concepts, choices and details to debate until all the participants (elected officials, engineers and opposition alike) have expired, retired or moved to Kelowna.

Secondly, and related, is the attempt to redefine the very meaning of the term “greenway” – not as a transportation corridor that favours people over motor vehicles (a rare commodity in North America) but as a nature walk, a forest trail, a haven for blackberry bushes and able-bodied walkers. And few others.

Despite decades during which greenways have been defined via major planning documents, the opposition hopes to spark a process of re-definition that will take months, years and (best case) decades, and achieve the opposition’s goals by default. Delay equals victory.

But there’s something else going on: an almost unspoken assumption about the intended users of this corridor. A few, or everyone?

Those opposing the temporary surface paving of the Arbutus Corridor were quick to identify (and hopefully defuse) a term that has been associated with the adjacent West Side neighbourhoods for over a decade now: the Crème de la Crème.

The term became popular as a short-hand for that west-side sense of entitlement over the Arbutus Corridor:

As reported in Vancouver Metro, the term was first used in a heated discussion in Council.

The millennium was still young when, during a debate over the future of CP Rail’s Arbutus Corridor, Kerrisdale resident Pamela Sauder stood up at a meeting and uttered the following breathtaking landmark of arrogance and entitlement.

“We are the people who live in your neighbourhood. We are dentists, doctors, lawyers, professionals, CEOs of companies. We are the crème de la crème in Vancouver. We live in a very expensive neighbourhood and we’re well educated and well informed. And that’s what we intend to be.”

 

If the Arbutus Corridor, purchased by all the citizens of Vancouver for $55 million, is to be limited in its access and designed primarily for the benefit of those in the adjacent neighbourhoods, then the use of the term Crème de la Crème is exactly correct.

The dilemma, on the other hand, for those who argue Arbutus should be developed according to the long-term vision for a network of greenways, and be truly accessible in the interim until that final plan is developed, is” What should that look like?” How can accessibility, safety and a respectful recognition of values be accommodated in the short term? How can the right of the many for access be respected as well as the rights of the few to delay?

But if there is a decision to keep the greenway in stasis until some indeterminate process is completed, then that become a decision of exclusion. And most likely, it will be the basis for all future fights to keep the status quo and prevent a rail/tram line from being constructed – the very reason the corridor was purchased in the first place.

Bottom line: will the City agree to allow all residents access to this important transportation and recreation corridor in the city so everyone can think about the final design. Or will the Crème de la Crème delay and win the day for exclusion and exclusivity.

We’ll find out as the Arbutus Consultation process on the temporary pathway rolls out over the next few weeks.