Appeared in the North Shore News – October 26, 2012
IF West Vancouver council buys the Grosvenor-driven “revitalization” of Ambleside, expect more public hostility.
Council will. The fix is in. No shrewd mammoth developer like Grosvenor wades into small ponds like West Vancouver without first calculating its exact depth – and which small-town politicians and bureaucrats will help lace up their boots to cross it. (If previous mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones comes to mind, OK.)
By the time the mere public learns of it – in another case, think of council’s closed-meeting approval of the Pattison “bus shelters” – it’s a done deal. Grosvenor’s uninformative information storefront on Marine Drive was a joke without a punch line, smiling young women without facts, PR without substance. That passes for “public consultation.”
Town hall cunningly wrapped up its war of upmarket condo-dwellers and high-end shoppers against Ambleside’s more modest and especially older citizens in a big pink bow of multiple projects. Bafflement by bulk.
Anchored by Grosvenor’s already strongly denounced, guidelines-jumping seven- and eight-storey towers at West Van’s 13th Street “gateway,” those projects council unveiled last week will cumulatively drive out human-scale Ambleside. (The north side of the block will be next – it won’t do for the nouveau riche on the eighth floor.)
Let me be kind, a momentary lapse, I promise: West Van has unusual problems, daunting for any council. One, God in her wisdom created little actual WV soil, a thin strip between seaside and mountainside. Obviously she favours ox-stunning real estate prices. Two, for 80-odd years it’s had one overarching – but, to be fair, careful and conscientious – super-developer, British Properties. Bigger than council, arguably.
The third huge factor is Park Royal Shopping Centre. You can almost hear the whoosh as ever-expanding Park Royal sucks business activity from Ambleside’s Marine Drive and beyond. With its almost limitless parking, the centre has relentlessly waved in traffic from an Ambleside where finding street parking has become hard labour.
Above all, more parking is ignored in the multiple-faceted plan, the one thing that could really goose Ambleside (and Dundarave) retailing. But it fashionably peddles more bicycle trailways for recreational cycling.
A few other considerations:
Converting “newly-acquired properties at 1468 and 1472 Argyle Avenue into ocean-front restaurants.” Putting aside that West Vancouver has no ocean – to find it, turn west, sail for 90 minutes, and cross a large island – will Carmelo’s, Chez Michel and other excellent restaurants warmly welcome nearby competitors leasing waterfront from town hall?
Keep the very few, colourful Argyle houses as houses. They add variety to the beach and after-dark safety.
Food carts/trucks: See above re competition. Anyway, Feastro the Rolling Bistro and the like may fit downtown Vancouver’s demographics. But in West Van? Your great-aunt munching shrimp burgers or halibut tacos on the street? Yeah, right.
“A business case for a new Arts Centre on the 1600-block of Bellevue.” Why? The Ferry Building, Silk Purse, library, and many private galleries aren’t enough?
“Upgrades to the Silk Purse Gallery to create a more usable outdoor space.” That’s puzzling. As well as small art shows, the Silk Purse – in decline since well-connected Cheryl Karchut’s leadership, and Victoria’s cuts to the arts – holds music concerts. Upgrades? Usable outdoor space? Explain.
“More closures of Argyle Avenue to vehicle traffic for other opportunities.” Meaning? This is West Van’s popular promenade, also offering scarce parking space for the area, especially for the frail attending the Silk Purse, the Ferry Building, the Harmony Arts Festival. Vehicles and strolling families coexist comfortably. It’s a solution for which the town hall’s meddling mandarins seek a problem. Leave it alone, council.
“The Streetscape Project, which aims to improve sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, street furniture, bike connections and other open space elements in Ambleside Village.” Translation: Gimmicks to lure unwary tourists beyond Park Royal to a North Carmel-by-the-Sea. Someone even suggested cobbled roadways. Warning: Never trust anyone who uses the word “streetscape.”
Make your own list.
. . .
WV council unanimously passed third reading of leaky Westshore Place’s rezoning application. Town hall acknowledged Westshore sought to resolve “life safety and building envelope issues resulting from unauthorized balcony enclosures . . . weather walls . . . were removed most often without building permits.” Like, illegally. Council-watcher George Pajari was in full flight:
“Unbelievably . . . you’re recommending no penalty for the bylaw infractions (or) the building code violations, and, oh, by the way, we’ll give you increased property value to the tune of $30,000-$50,000 per unit . . . with no community benefit.” Yes, for problems “caused by the strata owners themselves.” Great example for others.
Westshore’s advocate: Former mayor Mark Sager. Smart lawyer, Mr. Sager.
© Trevor Lautens, 2012