There are pros and cons to bringing them down. COPE executive member (and past Parks Board Chair) Anita Romaniuk is in favour of removal but with a number of concerns addressed in the following message sent to the mayor and council regarding today’s meeting:

Re: Georgia Viaduct Removal October 21, 2015

Dear Mayor, City Councillors, and City Staff:

The construction of the current Georgia/Dunsmuir viaducts had adverse effects on the neighbourhoods it passed through, including the destruction of most of Hogan’s Alley, the historical site of Vancouver’s black community, and the funnelling of traffic onto Prior Street, resulting in traffic speeding through the Strathcona neighbourhood and endangering both residents and those wishing to access Strathcona Park, which lies to the south of Prior Street. While I support the removal of the viaducts, my support is a qualified by the following concerns:

1. The removal of the viaduct will result in a large swath of land being made available for other purposes, or “mixed use” as it is described in the report. Part of this use will undoubtedly be housing. We desperately need housing for low income and homeless people in Vancouver, and a significant portion of this housing, which the report implies will comprise at least some high density construction, should be truly “affordable”, and not just units available at market rents, which in Vancouver have become unaffordable for many. If there are to be incentives attached to higher density, surely some of this should go towards low income housing, at least 20% for such a large site as this.

2. As a former Parks Commissioner, I am heartened that the construction of the long-awaited completion of Creekside Park will finally take place, in an expedited manner according to the report. While I appreciate that the planning and construction of this park is supposed to be expedited, I request that the construction phase NOT be derailed once again by requests from the developer to use the park site as a staging area for storing contaminated soil, or traffic detours due to construction, or any other such use that has been put forward over the past two decades, repeatedly delaying the construction of this park. A generation has grown up, and another generation passed on, waiting for this park to be built. No more delays.

3. The plan for traffic movement is still a work in progress. While the plan for traffic movement in the area of the viaducts themselves (Pacific, Expo, Quebec) seems reasonable, the devil is in where the traffic goes after that. Quebec can easily funnel traffic to Terminal, but it can also funnel it southward towards Main and Kingsway, both already busy arterials. It appears that some east-west traffic might remain on Prior, with a degree of traffic calming (street parking), with other suggestions being Malkin and National in addition to Terminal. Will the traffic calming on Prior be sufficient? With respect to Malkin Avenue, the report does refer to the enhancement of both Strathcona and Cottonwood Community Gardens, which I support, but it is not clear about what happens if more traffic is funnelled onto Malkin, which travels alongside both of these gardens. We have already lost one small community garden in this area, the Purple Thistle youth garden on Parker, whose garden was first destroyed by an adjacent business when a small encroachment took place, followed by the shut down of their drop in centre when they could not find a more accessible space. We cannot afford to have an increased traffic flow on Malkin impact Strathcona and Cottonwood, and perhaps something can be done in the planning for this area to accommodate a youth organization such as Purple Thistle (with the youth themselves involved in the planning).

4. Finally, the historic importance of Hogan’s Alley should have recognition in any plan for this area if the viaducts are removed. This should be done in conjunction with Vancouver’s black community. Perhaps a cultural centre and/or support centre for Vancouver’s diverse ethnic and immigrant populations could be built in this location, along with a multi-media facility highlighting and celebrating the history of Vancouver’s black community.

The post-viaduct period will provide both challenges and opportunities. It should benefit all Vancouverites, regardless of age, income level, or cultural background.

Thank you

Anita Romaniuk

Parks Commissioner 2003-2005

COPE Park Board Candidate 1993, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2015.

Georgia Viaducts – The Devil is in the Details