Governed by a slate of councillors who vote en bloc, CNV seems to be running the city with an eye to the extra revenue
By Fiona Walsh
What change would the Grand Boulevard Ridgeway Residents Association (GBRRA) like to see in our neighbourhood? Firstly, the main cause of our discontent is the fact that the City of North Vancouver has already exceeded the rate of population growth, proposed by the Regional Growth Strategy – Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping Our Future, which calls for a population of 56,000 by 2021, up from 48,000, in 2011. In 2016, our population was already 55,000, with approved housing developments to accommodate another 5,000.
At that rate of growth, the City could reach the 2040 projected population of 68,000 by 2025. Who or what is driving this rapid population growth? Developers? Politicians? Policies? As a result of this seemingly uncontrolled increase, our neighbourhood is suffering from traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, a lack of community facilities and a lack of affordable housing. Traffic gridlock on East Keith Road and Grand Boulevard can be seen as early as 3:00 pm, as all the out-of-area workers, who can’t afford to live on the North Shore, are headed home across the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.
Sutherland Secondary School students get out at 2:50 pm and the intersection of East 19th and Grand Boulevard has long line-ups in all directions. An hour later, cars headed for Hwy 1 by Boulevard Crescent are often lined up as far south as East 13th St. The number of construction projects, causing road closures and detours, and the lengthy time to completion cause delays all over the City, making it very difficult to travel anywhere. We feel that the City has failed to plan for infrastructure upgrades to accommodate the increased population, before people arrive. Ridgeway Elementary School was renovated in 2012.
Since then, the playground has been reduced in size by the addition of a number of permanent portable classrooms, i.e., permanent structures which began as portable classrooms. This appears to result from the closure of Ridgeway Annex, south of East Keith Road, and its sale to developers for residential housing. The City of North Vancouver has failed to plan for the influx of people, and, because the School Board saw that the student population was declining, as was provincial funding, schools were closed and valuable school property sold, in an attempt to balance the budget. Where will the students from all those new projects — e.g., the Moodyville developments on East 3rd St. and below — go to school?
The people who are being displaced cannot afford to buy or even rent in the new buildings. Many of our children who were born and raised in North Vancouver cannot afford to live here as adults.
The Harry Jerome Recreation Centre was built in 1966, when the population was considerably less than today. Since then the John Braithwaite Community Centre was built in Lower Lonsdale, but the Harry Jerome redevelopment has been put on the back burner, for many years, for lack of funding. Why didn’t the City collect enough funds from all the developments that they have been approving — with density bonuses that exceed the Official Community Plan guidelines — to pay for this redevelopment?
The Grand Boulevard area, with rezoning to increase density, needs community facilities for its residents. The push for increased density, which provides increased tax revenue for the City, is causing older, more affordable rental housing to be torn down and replaced with expensive multi-unit developments. The people who are being displaced cannot afford to buy or even rent in the new buildings. Many of our children who were born and raised in North Vancouver cannot afford to live here as adults.
The GBRRA Executive would like to suggest some possible solutions to these problems. Many years ago, the issue of traffic on Grand Boulevard was a heated neighbourhood discussion. Grand Boulevard East is an arterial route, whereas Grand Boulevard West is called a collector. This means that the houses on the west side — the quieter side — are more desirable. Some residents would like to see the flow of traffic moving northbound on Grand Boulevard East and southbound on the Grand Boulevard West, similar to Keith Road, west of St. Andrews Ave to Marine Drive, where there is a large median, including Victoria Park.
Of course, when the residents of the west side vehemently rejected this suggestion, the subject was dropped. Regarding needed schools, we would like to see the City work more closely with the School Board. New residential development approvals should require provisions for new schools. As well, we would like new community facilities for children and adults, including the growing senior population, to be funded by developers. The lack of affordable housing is a crisis in our City and in our neighbourhood.
The City should insist that developers provide at least an equal number of affordable units, as were there prior to the redevelopment, for those residents who are being displaced. The City of North Vancouver, governed by a slate of councillors who vote en bloc, seems to be running the city with an eye to the extra revenue from developers. Who benefits from that revenue? We’d like to see more consideration given to policies that benefit the residents.