Appeared in North Shore News – May 28, 2010
West Vancouver town hall is busily hyping its vandalism of the district’s most peaceable, genuine “people’s place” — Argyle Avenue from 13th to John Lawson Park — having detected that the feel-good but bad-vibes Spirit Trail project isn’t universally loved.
This area is West Vancouver’s equivalent of the European-style public square. It is insane to destroy it in favour of recreational cyclists, skateboarders and bladers.
Last night, too late for my deadline, town hall sneaked in an Ambleside Waterfront Plan Open House which, as of last weekend, hadn’t been flagged on its official calendar. West Vancouver’s most dedicated and knowledgeable council-watcher, Carolanne Reynolds, stumbled on it through a Ferry Building Gallery message.
This “open house” asking for public input was utterly bogus. Fact: The morning before council’s April 12 meeting unanimously approving the project, an earth-mover was on the Ambleside Beach sands behind Argyle Avenue, ready to roll. The decision had already been made behind the usual closed doors and the public council discussion was a farce.
Town hall has stepped on the accelerator to whip through this barbarism — demolishing the millennial clock (an initiative of Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones’s predecessor, Ron Wood) at top speed and patting down fresh turf — before it gets much scrutiny.
But, not to be parochial, how has the Spirit Trail — a 35-kilometre vision of hearty, healthy cyclists and chest-expanding backpackers linking Deep Cove and Horseshoe Bay — fared in its progress, including through North Vancouver?
Reader K’nud Hille sums it up: “Only the easy pieces have been picked so far, including a few hundred feet from/to nowhere along the Mosquito Creek Marina; a couple of kilometres from/to nowhere along West First Street/Welch Street and through the neighbourhood Welch Park Strip; and a couple of kilometres from/to nowhere behind Park Royal Shopping Centre and the Ambleside sports fields.” (My Secret Agent MT0218 beautifully describes the latter as looking “like the start of a cattle drive on the Ponderosa.”)
Hille isn’t alone in scorning the belief that cyclists and pedestrians can coexist on the same trails and seawall walks, citing Stanley Park and New Westminster. Is it possible that there are enthusiasts for the Argyle section, but they’re keeping quiet? Maybe.
Owners of properties on the north side of Bellevue, looking south over Argyle Street and facing the water and downtown Vancouver skyline, might conceivably be among them. Once the houses and probably the trees are gone, their view will be hugely enhanced. Herewith the addresses, ownership, street-level businesses where applicable, and current assessments of some of them:
– 1467 Bellevue Ave. (Bellevue Natural Health Clinic), Benevolent Realty Enterprises, $4,625,000;
– 1427 Bellevue Ave. (Canada Post), Sarah W. Lai, $5,656,000;
– 1455 Bellevue Ave. (Walker Place), Bellevue Properties Ltd. — a handsome, multi-tenanted project of Chuck Walker, whose (very charming and smart) daughter, Shannon Walker, is now a WV councillor — $13,095,000;
– 1571 Bellevue Ave. (containing many doctors’, realtors’ etc. premises), $2,573,000; suite 203, separately listed, is attributed to Noordin Madatali, assessed value $3,000,000;
– 1507 Bellevue Ave. (Dentistry-on-Bellevue), North Bellevue Holdings Ltd., $4,961,000;
– 1875 Bellevue Ave., Broadway Properties Ltd., $13,368,000.
With enhanced views, in which direction would you expect the market value of these properties to move?
No one can be blamed for self-interest. But destroying mature Argyle Avenue’s present peaceful mix of pedestrians, dog-walkers, runners, casual young cyclists and, yes, very slow-moving cars needed by frailer and child-transporting people to get to the area, demonstrates that town hall politicians, public sector unions and entrepreneurs will lightly roll over people taking time to stop and stare and chat — or to attend classes at The Music Box, or concerts at the Silk Purse.
Constant Reader knows my affection for the latter — a gem of high-quality, low-price concerts. Disclosure necessary? I donate to the Silk Purse (but seldom attend).
I suspect most councillors — who now have retreated on abolishing the boat ramp and allowing a beachfront seafood restaurant — wouldn’t know the Silk Purse if they fell over it. Town hall’s treatment of it is not merely indifferent, it’s aggressive. Mayor, councillors and bureaucrats should be ashamed.
The new beach path is right on the property line, literally six metres, 20 feet, from the piano. Noisy passersby especially in summer would make concerts utterly impossible — and the end of nearby parking is a death warrant. Town hall’s fair-haired boy is the Kay Meek Centre, a very different, splendid but also flawed gem: Its shared space with West Van secondary and especially its almost scary night parking are problems.
I’m amazed at former Silk Purse board president David Schreck’s optimism that the foot traffic “may be a good thing — more people will become aware of it.” Well, attendance is strong now. But Schreck — former New Democrat MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale — accurately added: “Relocation would essentially kill (the Silk Purse).”
Its directors are publicly silent. My guess: They’re too nice. And, not so nice, they doubtless include supporters of Goldsmith-Jones, and in this small town are reluctant to speak up, many compromised by their connections or ambitions. (I’ve sought other prominent people’s opinions and their silence speaks.)
I hesitate to respond to News letter-writers. But I count the following as personal friends, salt-of-the-earth people.
Neale Adams, former newspaper colleague and the gentlest of men, writes a witty letter supporting the Spirit Trail and looks forward to cycling along it. Thanks, Neale, and remind me to warmly recommend a cement factory on your street — which is near Cambie and 25th, Vancouver. A tad distant from the scene.
Marc Strongman, co-chair of the Spirit Trail Committee and member of a family I admire and have broken bread with, gently admonishes me. He recalls the difficulty of learning to cycle on the North Shore as a boy. I fearlessly predict that Argyle as it is would be a far better place for children to learn to ride than Argyle as it will be. On Victoria Day a mom and her two small children were doing just that, the street with its throngs amiable and tolerant.
Marc reveals: “Never, ever has the trail been considered a bicycle commuter route.” Zounds! That would be its chief, or only, justification.
Are these a lot of words for a little issue? I think not. The larger movement of which Argyle Street is a part is toward a very different town, especially the redevelopment ahead for Marine Drive in Ambleside, certain to drive out many small, non-chic existing businesses. West Vancouver is doomed to become a ghetto of three classes: The well-off, the rich, and the stinkin’ rich.
It’s already afoot. A lot of older people are land-rich and everything-else-poor. You can see them counting coins at the Ambleside Safeway, hoping they outlive their change purses. Few younger people, our children, have a hope in hell of buying here.
The big bass drum hyping Vancouver as a grrreat cosmopolitan city welcoming the world, beaten by Premier Gordon Campbell, the Liberals, and West Van’s power structure — I turn my deaf ear toward it. This will not be a pleasanter West Vancouver.
© Trevor Lautens, 2010