Appeared in the North Shore News – June 10, 2011
Morality Officer Lou Kingerley of the Hamilton Police Service once asked a sad little waif who came to his professional attention: “Are you pregnant?”
She shyly whispered: “Well, I’m just a little bit pregnant.”
West Vancouver on Monday became just a little bit pregnant with infill housing — its enthusiasts/apologists Couns. Michael Evison, Trish Panz, Shannon Walker and Stanley Cup-level tiebreaker Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones in earnest denial that it would set a precedent, but would help the needy West Vancouver old folks (ha), and would contribute to saving the environment, and town hall’s watchdogs would keep keen eye and tooth monitoring the effect that Michael Geller’s stuffing nine homes into three Fulton Avenue lots will have on neighbourhoods, near or far.
On the next item, past and current taxpayer-funded costs of pre-construction plans for AmblesideNow, it was instructive to watch Walker question whether quite so much was needed — by the end of the fiscal year, $3,384,000 — and whether it would all be spent, needed or not, and chief financial officer Grant McRadu solemnly assuring her that staff will keep spending under regular scrutiny. If you closed your eyes very tight you could almost believe that two human beings were actually having a serious, spontaneous discussion.
Nobody mentioned the money. Just as no one mentions that AmblesideNow would replace the human-scale, street-level businesses in the 1300-block Marine Drive and eventually far beyond, with slick shoppes and sleeker residents generating more upscale business and more taxes, and a glitzier, Grosvenor-designed entrance than the present embarrassing — to those of progressive (meaning business-cosy) bent, like Goldsmith-Jones — small-town look, and how I’d like late great urbanist Jane Jacobs’ opinion of that.
On the Geller plan, Bill Soprovich, oldest councillor in the world or at least in the only important part, West Van, reminisced about “the little magic things of living” in West Van. Hey, Sop, you’ve just handed the ad guys a perfect sales line, like for paradisical sunny islands marketed as unspoiled to eager spoilers!
Panz favoured “moving forward.” Guaranteed to paralyze most brains.
Also supporting Geller, Evison rejected claims of violation to the official community plan, declaring that clause H3 “allows something a little bit different.”
Walker, whom I’d peg as a possible future mayoral candidate and who has the calm assurance helped by being the daughter of Chuck, whose Walker Place on Bellevue was assessed last year at $16 million, disbelieves that “the neighbourhood is under siege.” She also wittily turned aside the view that developers would be heartened by Geller’s successful application: “If (they) see the difficulties they won’t be encouraged.”
Opposed to the little-bit-pregnant team backing Geller’s project were Couns. Soprovich, Michael Lewis and Michael Smith, all with long private business experience and unlikely candidates for closet socialism, and who, Constant Reader may well have guessed, this observer likens to white knights protecting the fair maiden’s virtue.
Lewis: Odd, the people in favour “don’t live in the neighbourhood. . . . The interests of the people in the immediate neighbourhood trump that of a real estate developer.” Or should.
Smith: “We have failed in the fact that this community is divided. . . . We have to seek the right path, and this isn’t it. … The process (has been) driven not by council, but by a developer.” He dissented, “reluctantly.”
Citizen speakers at this second act of the public hearing were an interesting study. Maggie Pappas submitted that Geller’s units would be “just what I want,” repeating “affordable” or “affordability” several times. Down-sizers who think such small homes are affordable should check what they give up against what they get. After the dust has settled on the sales, legal, moving and utility re-connection costs, prepare for shock.
Another woman, frighteningly modern, in a household of three, repeatedly and proudly invoked these units’ attraction for “The New Single Family” (and she pronounced the capitals).
George Pajari cited “inconsistencies” in two reports from the same consultant just two weeks apart, and urged another postponement of the public meeting until staff produced a substantial, written report.
A fascinating deposition: Opposed. The proposal pits neighbour against neighbour. Has a negative impact on West Van’s character. Signed, Jim Pattison. Yup, that Jim Pattison, West Van’s most famous and respected multi-billionaire.
But all was for nought — a charade from the start, in my view. With councillors divided 3-3, Mayor Goldsmith-Jones, chief executive officer whose vote Geller would have good reason to bank on, let his ambitions slide in as easily as Roberto Luongo waves in the puck on one of his bad nights.
© Trevor Lautens, 2011