Please vote for ALR farmland defenders in the 2018 election of Richmond Council

October 17, 2018

Bulletin, Oct 19Pro-Farmland candidates say, “Limit ALR house size in Richmond to the BC limit.” That will protect farmland FOR farmers but AGAINST speculators. All FARMERS will remain able to exceed the limit. And the limit allows a huge house: 500 square metres = almost 5,400 square feet). Vote Pro-Farmland: RCA, RITE and Roston, etc. Ignore the confused front-page ad (Richmond News, Oct 18).

Some events bring out informed courage. The Richmond Council meeting of May 14, 2018 stands out for that. In council chambers dominated by ALR land speculators and the like, nine memorable defenders of Richmond soil held firm in battle. They emerged with honour and can yet win the war.

Shortcut: The graphic at top is the executive summary. The rest of this article refers to it. Have a look at it. (And click on it for a larger version, and use the “Previous” arrow, <, to return here.)

The key motion was to reduce the allowed size for new houses on farmland from 1000 m2 to 500 m2. That was within the Ministry of Agriculture’s guideline for saving ALR farmland.

A YES majority would have stanched our rapid loss of vital farmland. But only three council members voted YES: Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Councillors Carol Day and Harold Steves. (They stand out in red in the “Situation” row of the graphic.)

Sadly, the other six voted No.

Happily, six of us citizens who spoke to council at that meeting—calling for a YES vote on the motion—are now council candidates, along with Malcolm, Carol and Harold. They’re in red (replacing some councillors) in “A solution,” the lower row of the graphic:

  • Next to Coun. Carol Day in the lower row, we have Kelly Greene, John Roston and Judie Schneider.
  • After Mayor Malcolm Brodie, that’s Niti Sharma.
  • After Coun. Harold Steves: Jack Trovato and Michael Wolfe.

Michael, John and Niti have been resolutely effective for conservation for years. Adding the three of them to Richmond’s  council (seemingly driven by developers and speculators) would transform it, very much for the better.

Kelly is so capable she nearly took John Yap’s MLA seat. Judie is an energizer who overcomes whatever with joy. Jack is an assertive organizer. So it would be good to have them on council too.

In the election for Richmond Council—Saturday, October 20, 2018—many other candidates for Richmond Council promise to protect farmland too. The details are in the survey results at Richmond FarmWatch. You may find that some of them are even more ideal for you. In fact, two of them got this blogger’s vote, along with seven people from the lower row of the graphic.

For the next four years, 2018–22, please elect a mayor and eight councillors who will stand up for ecological and agricultural conservation and help Richmond to wear its Garden City badge with respect again.

(Click the graphic for a larger version. Use Previous arrow < to return.)

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Notes about the graphic, motion, guideline and minutes:

The graphic: The upper row of the graphic actually maps how the council members were seated at the May 14, 2018 meeting.

The motion: The defeated reduced size of 500 square metres equals 5,382 square feet. It applies to new construction of houses on ALR farmland. The limit is intended mainly for non-farmers, since farmers have an existing means to exceed any limit.

The guideline: The stated intent of the Ministry of Agriculture in setting a size guideline for ALR residences is to direct residential uses away from farmland.

The minutes: Access the minutes of the May 14, 2018 Council Meeting, refer to R18/9-11 (2) for the motion and to R18/9-11R18/9-4 (3) for notes about the “delegations,” citizens who addressed the issue.

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Farm Fest rejoices in Garden City Lands crops

August 14, 2018

Farm Fest on Saturday, August 11, 2018, was a great day for the Garden City Lands. All around, people were obviously having a wonderful time, and the exhibitors like Richmond FarmWatch and the Garden City Conservation Society were delighted with all the interaction. Citizens were learning while being entertained, and the exhibitors and other very informed participants were interacting with each other when they found time to tour.

The Sustainable Agriculture staff and students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) were finally able to show crops on the lands, after working toward it since February 2008, over a decade.

For those who were used to touring what’s now the Kwantlen research and teaching farm—but when it was open field—it was surprising to be standing well out on the Lands and feeling on the same level as Garden City Road. That was when looking west, as shown in the photo, toward the large condo buildings across that road. It is all possible because Kwantlen and the City of Richmond were able to bring in a very thick layer of soil from Sea Island, where it had been excavated for airport runway construction.

Kwantlen’s Dr. Mike Bomford explained that the effect of the Garden City Lands being the Dominion Rifle Range for a long period had been underestimated. The remnants of used ammunition had contaminated the soil. By bringing in the YVR soil, the City and KPU actually now have very suitable soil for organic farming. Quite a difference!

As well, that upper layer will enhance the sequestering of the vast amount of methane that nature has stored in the peat below. The area is, after all, on the edge of part of the Lulu Island Bog. Sphagnum bogs are especially good for capturing and storing methane, reducing greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

An important bonus is that the higher elevation of the cultivated layer will be helpful for drainage, with the lower level, including a lot of peat, still retaining water.

From the beginning of the efforts to save the Garden City Lands from dense development, the Save Garden City movement stressed the importance of having a university partner to take the lead in farming, including research, education and community outreach. KPU stepped up to seek that role, and the community is very fortunate they kept the vision. The world is too, because the KPU project is already attracting wide interest, and it will be on the leading edge in a range of ways.

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Note: The Kwantlen research and teaching farm has essentially been envisioned as an important element for the Garden City Lands since the Sustainable Food Systems Park concept was first presented to Richmond council in early 2007 by the Richmond Poverty Response Committee task force that is now the Richmond Food Security Society. The educational element is listed on page 4 of the report.

KPU seed lab puts Garden City Lands farm on leading edge

August 12, 2018

The new farm infrastructure and seed lab for the Kwantlen Polytechnic University research and teaching farm on the Garden City Lands are very consistent with the Richmond citizens’ vision that kept the lands in the ALR. A million-dollar investment is funded about one-third by the organic seed industry and two-thirds by the provincial government. As well, the federal government is matching the provincial funding (bringing the total to about $1.68 million).

Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham was on the Garden City Lands recently to see for herself. In the above photo, Ms. Popham (centre) is discussing corn with Sustainable Agriculture students. The seed lab and classrooms are about a hundred metres away at Kwantlen’s Richmond campus. Below, Dr. Rebecca Harbut of the Sustainable Agriculture faculty is showing Minister Popham the seed lab. It will make the KPU program a leader in the struggle to save food seeds for farmers—and from domination by giant seed companies.

Here is the KPU news release about the seed lab.

Welcome to Garden City conservation

August 12, 2018

Richmond, British Columbia, Canada has long been known as the Garden City. This blog aims to provide informed in-depth opinion on a range of conservation issues of interest to the Garden City community, which is centred in Richmond but extends around B.C. and the globe.

Coming and  Recent Events—Farm Fest on the Garden City lands

Richmond Farm Fest, Saturday, August 11, Garden City Lands, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Garden City Conservation Society, Richmond Nature Park Society and Richmond FarmWatch will all have tent booths.
Update:
Leaders of Garden City Conservation and Richmond FarmWatch ranged from enthusiastic to ecstatic in their responses
. For instance, they said it was “a great day” and “a successful and engaging event” and “the sort of happening the Garden City Lands Coalition envisioned when they successfully fought to save the Garden City Lands from dense development for this kind of park.”

Background for newcomers

It began when the citizens had a vision for the Garden City Lands, a 136-acre field in the city centre that had always been green through historical good fortune. By acting together and with BC’s Agricultural Land Commission process, they saved it—from dense multi-billion-dollar development—for the higher value of its Agricultural Land Reserve uses for community wellness. That is one of Richmond’s priceless legacies from the past for the present and the future 20, 50 and 100 years or more from now.

Turn down the pH in here!The lands have become a city park, with a major park enhancement process under way, and the citizens aim to help steward the lands in the ALR for agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community wellness. That would include restoration of the sphagnum bog on much of the lands. Sphagnum moss, illustrated at right, is the keystone genus (group of species) that spent millennia leading the forming of the lands.

Saturday,

We began as the Garden City Lands Coalition and evolved into the Garden City Conservation Society, active in various conservation issues in Richmond and beyond, with many “Friends of Garden City.”

 Current and Recent Events

OS Permaculture Design workshop at the Red Barn, Terra Nova Rural Park,Richmond, BC, on Saturday, June 2, 2018 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free. To register, see the Permaculture Design event poster.

Sunday, June 10, 2018, 1:30–3:30 p.m., Annual Gathering of the Garden City Conservation Society. Details soon.

Saturday, June 16, 2018, 1–3 p.m. Annual General Meeting and Farmland Policy Presentation. At Kwantlen Polytechnic University, 8771 Lansdowne Rd, Richmond. Details here.

 

Subscribe to this blog or the Garden City e-News

To follow this blog, use the field near the top of the Menu (at left). When there’s a new article, you will receive an email notification that you can click.

If you support the Garden City Conservation goals, you can subscribe to the Garden City e-News. You will receive a brief emailed issue (one page) no more than an average of twice a month. It is very simple to unsubcribe. It is also simple to subscribe—here.

Celebrate the life of Ray Galawan

July 24, 2018

We mourn the passing of our revered Ray Galawan.

A beloved Richmond farmer and the founding farmer of Richmond FarmWatch, Ray was dedicated to farmland conservation.

Please honour Ray Galawan by reading about him here—and by carrying on his generous dedication.

Ray lived all of his life in Richmond on his farm on No. 4 Road. He was a fourth generation farmer, and he was proud to be the great grandson of Thomas Kidd, settler farmer, poet and great Richmond citizen.

Ray helped Bob Featherstone, his friend since elementary school, to farm strawberries on Ray’s farmland. After retiring from a career as a machinist, and having always kept his hand in farming, Ray became more involved on the farm and became Bob’s right-hand man in his vegetable and berry fields.

Ray also fished along with lifelong fisherman friend Gus Jacobson and Gus’s son Russ, and in recent years Ray was an important part of the Finn Slough community.

Ray was always helping with repairs to boats, wharves and buildings, cleaning the slough and chopping wood for friends and neighbours.

He lent his mechanical expertise and wide array of skills generously, doing tractor work and mechanical repairs for many, many farmers and fishers in the community over the years.

Ray Galawan was dedicated to protecting a farming way of life in Richmond.

He founded Richmond FarmWatch in 2013 when he discovered dumping on a Finn Road farm.

Ray and FarmWatch approached city officials and—by tractor—led a convoy to City Hall and then to Premier Christy Clark’s office in West Point Grey.

Along with Bob Featherstone, Ray also led a months-long “watch” in a hut at the gate of the farm where waste was being dumped. They got support from the neighbourhood, and many people joined the anti-dumping cause.

The success of Ray and FarmWatch came with an Agricultural Land Commission stop-work order and the cessation of dumping on the farmland.

The City of Richmond then strengthened its soil bylaw.

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In late 2017, remediation of the site took place as the soil was screened of demolition-waste fill.

Today the farm fields are planted in crops, as they were for a century.

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Celebration of life for Ray Galawan:
Wednesday, July 25, 2018 at the Celebration Hall at Mountain View Cemetary at 11:30 a.m. It is near 41st & Fraser in Vancouver and accessed from 39th or St George Street. (Click thumbnail map to enlarge.)

But celebrate especially by reading about Ray and his great granddad Thomas Kidd and carrying on what they stood for.

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This article, in loving memory of Ray Galawan, a great Richmond citizen, has been adapted from a Richmond FarmWatch newsletter. Text by Kimi Hendess with support from other Richmond FarmWatch members. Photos by Mik Turje, Chung Chow, Sabrina Henry, Teresa Murphy, Steve Bridger, Erika Koenig-Workman and others.

Update: Some people called Ray “Perfect Ray” because he never half-did anything. The Celebration of Life was in keeping with that. It was a wonderful, thoughtful, bittersweet occasion, thanks to the family, celebrant and friends, with around two hundred taking part. Rest in Peace, Ray.

Save our ALR! And revitalize it!

April 23, 2018

The ALR is our land bank. Agriculture minister Lana Popham wants to save it, and her ALR Revitalization Committee is doing well.

Your survey input will help them prove how strongly you and all British Columbians support revitalization. Please do the survey in an informed way.

Looking through our ALR Revitalization Survey Guide (PDF) will bring you up to speed. Or just go to the survey if you wish, but you’ll still find it worthwhile to refer to the guide.

Feel free to skip survey questions. Please at least do the multiple-choice ones, using our suggested answers unless you disagree.

Thank you for doing the survey! You’re a good citizen who saves our soil!

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Note: The deadline is Monday, April 30 at 4 pm.

Here’s the very informative and thought-provoking Richmond response to the survey about revitalizing the Agrcultural Land Reserve and Agricultural Land Commission (prepared by staff and approved by council).

Here’s the ALR Revitalization Survey Guide in Word. If you support the directions of ALR Revitalization Committee (Minister of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee), feel free to adapt the document for that purpose.

The truth that could save our soil

February 5, 2018

Richmond’s current farmland survey says, “The Ministry of Agriculture’s guidelines suggest a maximum house size of [a stated floor area].” It’s as though one size fits all parts of the province. Not so.

In reality, the ministry’s Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas suggests limiting new houses on local ALR land to a “floor area commensurate with urban areas.” With that guideline, the maximum ALR house size can vary to suit each BC municipality.

Our city staff calculated the size limit for new ALR houses in Richmond at about 300 m2. (They said 303 m2, but let’s round it.) They informed council in their report of April 19, 2017.

The point of the guideline is to stop making the local ALR land more attractive than the local urban neighbourhoods for building urban homes. With the 300 m2 limit, we’d succeed. The callous loss of farmland could end.

We would, I hope, still let farm families build beyond the basic limit to meet verified farm needs. Richmond’s bylaw to streamline that process could be tweaked to enable up to 500 m2 of farmhouse for those exceptions.

In these ways, we can save our soil for our farmers to farm.

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Notes:

Before doing the survey, it’s helpful to read and print this colourful Survey Guide or this black version.

Let’s Talk Richmond calls it Farmland Housing Regulations 2018. The survey page also includes info about open houses on Feb 7, 8 and 15.

Ministry of Agriculture Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas, 2.4.6.5.3, page 19: “The maximum floor-area—farm residence(s) is the lesser of floor area commensurate with urban areas or . . . 500 m2. . . .”

Also read the “SOS” article on this blog.

SOS: Use farm mansion survey to Save Our Soil

January 31, 2018

Save Our Soil, Richmond FarmWatch, Richmond, BC, Canada

Take a firm stand to Save Our Soil
in the new round of Richmond “Farmland Housing” consultation.

Tip: Print out this PDF of bold answers.

That way, you can use your computer screen to do the survey.

Do the survey at Let’s Talk Richmond.

And don’t get buried in the piles of verbal dung.

Richmond FarmWatch urges bold answers like these:

# 1: Maximum farm home plate? Other. 1000 m2

# 2: Septic system within farm home plate? Yes.

# 3: Limit house footprint? Yes.

# 4: Increase house height? No.

# 5: Reduce house size for properties 0.2 ha or larger? Yes.

# 6: Appropriate limit for farm house size? Other. 3,200 ft2 (300 m2)

# 7: What should other levels of government do?

Some examples:

Apply the foreign buyers’ tax to farmland!

Strengthen the ALR.

Stop farmland speculation.

Help new farmers get into farming.

Protect farm leasers from owner-predators.

Discourage land investors from buying up farms.

Step up Agricultural Land Commission enforcement.

Clarify that houses in the ALR are required to be for farm use.

 

Also Save Our Soil at a Farmland Housing open house:

2–5 pm on Wednesday, February 7 at Richmond City Hall

5–8 pm on Thursday, February 8 at Richmond City Hall

5–8 pm on Thursday, February 15 at East Richmond Community Hall

 

Here’s the direct link to the survey feedback form.

Also read “The truth that could save our soil” on this blog.

Thanks on behalf of the ducks

January 24, 2018

Ten years ago, “Save Garden City” spirit swept over Richmond, B.C.

The Garden City Lands, “the people’s lands,” a huge 55-hectare open field in Richmond City Centre that had always been publicly owned, seemed doomed to dense development. With immense effort, the people—loosely organized as the Garden City Lands Coalition—saved the Lands from development, enabling them to become a public park instead.

Citizen Sharon Doucelin recently sent this note about the Garden City Lands to Jim Wright and the Garden City Conservation Society after rainy weather had created a lake:

Thank you for all the wonderful hard work you have done to make this happen.  As I drove by the park today, I saw the ducks swimming in the lake.  It reminded me of how upset I was as a younger person when the city allowed apartments to be built on the southwest corner of what was then the Lansdowne track. 

I worried for a long time about the ducks and geese who lived in the pond/wetlands there and where they would go.  I’d like to think the ones I saw today are descendants who have come back.

We replied:

Thank you very much for sharing this, Sharon! 

It’s wonderful how this has brought you happiness, which would not have been possible if so many of us had not pulled together to save the Garden City Lands from dense development.

And Sharon wrote again:

When the Garden City Lands Coalition first started, I didn’t think there was much hope to save the lands from the almighty dollar.  But thanks to perseverance and faith, we can still see the mountains and provide a home for those wonderful birds.   Thank you again.

New insights into the Massey Crossing

November 26, 2017

What will happen to this location? It is the north end of the George Massey Tunnel, between the maintenance cove for BC Ferries on the west (left) side and the Canfisco dock and plant on the east (right) side.

The BC Government will soon decide, and the Garden City Conservation Society keeps providing input. Later today, we’ll send the Minister of Transportation our “Five factors pleading for priority—Massey Crossing.” Click on the link and read five insights on the first page, and you’ll suddenly feel a whole lot more informed about the Massey Crossing.

Help Richmond Urban Forest—before 11:59 pm, November 12, 2017

November 11, 2017

Have your say in Richmond’s Urban Forest Management Strategy survey at LetsTalkRichmond.ca. You have until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017.

You can look over the survey here. If you have a large screen, you can have this article and the survey open side-by-side.

Skim past the introduction to the questions. Recognize that some of them are worth your time far more than others, and you don’t have to answer every question. Make preliminary notes, including whether to answer particular questions.

You would answer #1 but might skip #2 (because of unclear directions) or just mark all the items as “4-important” or “5- Most important.”

If you are going to answer #3, you might as well choose “Very satisfied” or “Very dissatisfied,” since the other three options all mean the same thing. (If you are somewhat dissatisfied, then you must also be somewhat satisfied, and vice versa.)

With questions 4 and 5, the main one to answer is #5. If you think “Unevenly spaced, variously sized trees” would be best for the urban forest, then you would write the number 3.

It’s worth doing #10 and often answering “Strongly agree.” Be aware that you can just skip an item. (However, once you have clicked a rating, you can simply change the rating but no longer skip the item.)

You might want to skip confusing items. Example: For “Require replacement trees for every tree removed unless the tree was hazardous,” does “Strongly disagree” mean that you strongly don’t want removed trees to be replaced? Or does it mean you strongly don’t want to exempt hazardous trees from replacement? (It’s anybody’s guess.)

For #12, “The three things I MOST VALUE about Richmond’s urban forest,” here’s an example, one person’s actual answer.

Where the urban forest is flourishing:

  1. It makes Richmond seem like a Garden City.
  2. It enables all kinds of life to thrive below and above the ground.
  3. It is a key factor in community wellness.

For #13, “The things I LEAST VALUE about Richmond’s urban forest,” one can list many things (not just three). This is perhaps the most useful part of the survey, so it is worth some thought. This is an edited version of a set of suggestions from another person, Cindy Lee, who is a leader of Save Richmond Trees:

The lack of protection for our mature trees.
Excessive limbing of protected trees.
Change in ground level by builders that leads to a tree’s death.
Concrete fences that are killing mature trees, as they suffocate the tree’s roots.
Not enough medium-size native street trees in established neighbourhoods.
Little consultation between city, architects and builders to retain trees.
Absence of a neighbourhood tree watch program to watch over protected trees.
Insufficient staff in tree bylaw department.
Lack of an annual tree sale like Vancouver’s.
Non-existent volunteer tree planting program.
Insufficient trees on farmland.

Too few urban tree corridors.

For #14, there’s no need to write an essay. For “My ideal image of Richmond’s urban forest” (in 2050), one person wrote this: “From the air it looks like a forest.” Worth aiming for!

 

Yay, Michelle, Kelly, Lana, Laura and John!

October 30, 2017

The Garden City went to Victoria today to advocate for the ALR.

Our representatives from Richmond exchanged ideas with the Honourable Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, a friendly host.

From left to right in the above photo, the group consists of Michelle Li, Kelly Greene, Minister Lana Popham, Laura Gillanders and John Roston.

They came to the BC Legislature bearing the best of gifts, organically grown food from a Richmond ALR farm. You can be sure that Lana Popham—as agriculture minister and as a longtime farmer—appreciated it.

All of them were representing FarmWatch, along with the Garden City Conservation Society. Most of all, they were representing many hundreds of citizens who signed letters of support that the visitors brought with them (as shown), along with millions of British Columbians who care about the ALR.

What can we say? Yay, Team!

(Click the photos for larger versions.)

This 1-page chart shows the Recommendations to the BC Government on this issue.

An open letter to BC MLAs who support the ALR

October 28, 2017

Thank you whatever help you can manage!*

Every one of you—every green, orange or red MLA—please act together on this as British Columbians, transcending everything else.

You probably know that Richmond is fast losing its ALR farms to non-farm mansion use. While that city’s ALR has been almost defenceless, perhaps you can deter the pillage before your community and its ALR are hit as hard.

For better or worse, the legislature’s action or inaction will have wide ALR effects. We need you all to amend Section 18 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act.

Let Section 18 forbid “a residence with a floor area of more than 500 square metres” on ALR land. For years and for all of BC, that has been a Ministry of Agriculture suggestion in its Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas.** Make it law!

Then ask the minister to fix the guide advice on how to set local limits. It’s hard to know how to act on gobbledygook like the guide’s “commensurate with urban areas” standard, but Richmond staff found a way. They came up with a farm residence limit of 300 square metres.

Siding with election-expense funders, Richmond council ignored the staff method and embraced the speculator method: to brainstorm “compromises” between the proposed BC limit and infinity. The outcome was ludicrous too.

Beyond passing that BC limit into law, MLAs can’t force any local council to do its part, but the guide could show it how. It could express the “commensurate” principle like this:

In order to direct the largest residential uses to non-farm areas, a municipality may set a lower floor-area limit for ALR residences below the provincial limit. It would typically be the average floor area the municipality permits on urban lots that are zoned for detached houses.

The related Richmond staff calculation of 300 square metres (3,230 square feet, a big house) would serve the purpose. Be aware that a Richmond bylaw already gives farmers an efficient means to be permitted to exceed the local limit if need be. This approach could easily be implemented by municipalities throughout BC.

Be aware, too, that Section 18 of the ALC Act already forbids any building “to be erected on the land except for farm use.” To enforce it, the strict approach (not recommended here) would be to end any and all construction of non-farm residences on ALR farmland.

When ALR speculators protest the updates to the ALC Act and bylaw guide, perhaps you can tell them what they strictly deserve.

Sincerely,
Your faithful ALR***

Bcc: All who respect, defend and help revitalize the ALR. See final note.***

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* This letter was prompted by “Green’s Weaver takes aim at ALR speculation, “ Richmond News, Oct. 18.

** “2.4.6.5.3 Maximum Floor Area—Farm Residences” is on page 19 of the Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas, page 19 (PDF page 26), just before 2.4.7.

*** On ALR behalf, the Garden City Conservation Society wrote this and a recent letter to the Honourable Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, with a “Bcc” to all ALR supporters. The Letter to Ms Popham, written in collaboration with Richmond FarmWatch, addresses this topic in depth.

Garden City Conservation Society and the ALR

October 17, 2017

Introduction: One facet of the Garden City Conservation Society is conservation of ALR land. This recent article recaps that story. Click on the graphic for a large version, which shows the Garden City Conservation Society at Richmond Harvest Fest 2017.

The Garden City Conservation Society embodies a Richmond movement to respect and conserve ALR land for ALR uses: agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community wellness.

In the late 1980s, as the Save Richmond Farmland Society, the movement battled to save Terra Nova, farmland in the northwest corner of Lulu Island. The results include Terra Nova Natural Area and Rural Park, along with the Sharing Farm.

A decade ago, the movement evolved into the Garden City Lands Coalition. With great support from the people of Richmond and beyond, we helped save the Garden City Lands. (At the time, it was a huge federal field of ALR in the Richmond City Centre, with most of it slated for dense development.)

It was also a chosen battlefield for ALR opponents, and its fall would have been a major setback for the ALR in BC. Thanks to the highly effective citizen action, the ALR won, enabling the City to buy the Lands as ALR park.

Our ongoing action has included immense efforts in 2014 that helped limit the harm from the “bill to kill the ALR.”

In our recent return to the Garden City Lands for Richmond Harvest Fest, we carried on the tradition.

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If you are supportive, you’re a “Friend of Garden City,” and there’s a free newsletter, the Garden City e-News, via email about once a month. You can subscribe to the Garden City e-News here. (It is very simple to unsubscribe whenever you want, and your email address is never used for anything else.)

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This article is essentially an excerpt from a recent letter to Lana Popham, BC Minister of Agriculture, from the Garden City Conservation Society with regard to the epidemic of mansions that broke out on ALR land in Richmond this year.

Come by the Garden City Conservation booth at Harvest Fest!

September 28, 2017

Update: Harvest Fest was informative and fun. Congratulations to all involved.

Friends of Garden City, you’re all invited!

To what? The Garden City Conservation Society booth at Harvest Fest.

When? Saturday, September 30, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where? The Garden City Lands.

Where’s that? Main entrance on Garden City Rd, south of Lansdowne Rd.

 

Who’s leading it? Mainly two talented and generous teachers:

Mr. Michael Wolfe, a conservation biologist, knows and loves the ecology of the Garden City Lands. He has lively displays and answers to your questions.

Ms. Suzanna Wright welcomes kids of all ages to the colouring table, featuring her Lulu Island Bog line art. Colour it there or take the handouts with you.

Anyone else? Richmond Nature Park Society will share the booth. Other volunteers will join in. Richmond FarmWatch will be nearby.

 

Links? Learn more about Richmond Harvest Fest and the Lulu Island Bog colouring sheets, and download them and coloured versions.

 

Who deserves to celebrate? You do! We all do!

A few years ago, the community saved the Garden City Lands from dense development by the City of Richmond and two powerful partners:

  • We demanded that the Lands remain green as open-land park.
  • We became a grassroots tsunami, the Garden City Lands Coalition.
  • We persuaded the Agricultural Land Commission to leave the Lands in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) for community benefit.
  • Together, we won! Let’s celebrate on our Lands!

Safest Massey Thruway Renewal Project

September 6, 2017

Update: On Sep 6, 2017, the BC Government announced that independent experts will review the Massey Project. Very good news!

Victor Wei, P. Eng., Director, Transportation, City of Richmond, is welcoming community input about current Massey Crossing options. Since the responses from the Garden City Conservation Society (GCCS) are well received, the GCCS and Jim Wright have provided a series of four responses:

  1. Massey Options Rationale Sheet
  2. Massey Thruway Renewal Project (MTRP)
  3. Safest Massey Tunnel Option
  4. Why two 2-lane-tubes to add 4 lanes?

How “the developers” got their way in spite of Day

August 1, 2017

Ever wonder how “the developers”* get their way with Richmond? Is it that council members are developers at heart or beholden to developer money that gets them elected?

Maybe not. Maybe we simply have clever developers.

Let’s look at an example, the recent public hearing about a house-building bylaw update. A key intent was to ensure sufficient backyard space.

That could let living things thrive—even sturdy trees and birds that are happy with them. Also, it might let neighbours see more sky, not a towering wall that blocks the sunlight and feels like prison with no parole.

The good news is that city staff who deal with house building are adept at consultation. Staff had met with builders about the bylaw revision and also analyzed input from almost 800 citizens.

Despite the usual pressure from developers, staff had kept their balance and brought promising changes to council’s planning committee.

However, that committee has been stacked in the developers’ favour for months, ever since Mayor Malcolm Brodie deleted Coun. Carol Day from it and inserted Coun. Alexa Loo.

When the developers presented the committee with their preferred regulations to replace the staff advice, everyone except Councillors Harold Steves and Chak Au voted for the developer wish list.

But the decision had to face the full council in the next stage. After a hard-fought battle, the consultation-based staff proposals got restored. They were then brought to the public hearing, the final stage.

It slipped out at the hearing that the developers’ shrewd young leader had met with a core group of allies to plan how to get what they wanted.

They’d settled on phrases to keep repeating while aiming to reduce the depth for backyards on most lots to 20 percent of lot depth (from 25 percent, which is one-quarter more). The trick was to make the intrusion into the backyard just a single storey and to show it at low height at the public hearing.

They introduced it after most citizens had spoken, so the developers dominated near the end. Their key phrases, along with visuals, framed the change as a small design preference, enabling a modest “rental unit.”

But past performance is the best predictor of future performance. In that reality, the single storey would likely be 5 metres high (plus roof), as tall as older two-storey houses.

It’s a trophy-house design preference, not oriented to affordable housing or neighbours’ sunshine.

The astute Niti Sharma exposed some of that, but other citizens who could have debunked the developers had already spoken.

At the end, people were allowed to speak again—supposedly for three minutes with strictly new content. The developers’ leader got away with speaking last for ten minutes, hammering home the previous key phrases.

Final result: Only Councillor Day held her ground. Despite her vote, the developers largely got their way.
____________

*A footnote: “The developers” is the usual label, but some in the industry are admirably different.

Conservation leads to new lives

June 29, 2017

With Canada Day two weeks after Father’s Day, it’s a time for grateful reflection. For me, that includes my family’s arrival in Vancouver in late June, 65 years ago.

We came by ocean liner, the MV Georgic, from England to Halifax, and then crossed our new country by train. In the battered photo, we’re stepping into the future on the deck of the Georgic—the children in order from two to seventeen years of age and then our parents. I’m second youngest.

During the voyage, my father gave the keynote speech at a banquet. It told the story of the ship.

I listened and learned the Georgic was a motor vessel, not a steamship. It began life as a passenger liner in 1932 but became a troop ship in World War II. In 1941, German aircraft bombed it at anchor south of the Suez Canal. Ammunition stores exploded, and it burned and sank, a total loss.

Incredibly, it was refloated a few months later and towed 1,500 miles to “British India,” where my future father, an engineer, was chief executive of the Karachi Electric Supply Company. To help the war effort, his electricians restored the motors and everything else electrical (March–December 1942).

After structural work in Bombay (now Mumbai), the Georgic was a troop ship again. After the war, it was refitted as a passenger liner once more, enabling our Atlantic voyage in 1952.

The story ended like this: “And that was how the Georgic came to be known as ‘the ship that lived again’.”

Later, the Georgic’s final voyage brought British troops home from Hong Kong in 1955. It had served longer after death than before it.

My father retired young for health reasons in 1959. Encouraged by George Norris, sculptor and friend, he took up sculpting. He’d gather driftwood from the sea, notice latent form, and carve exquisite sculptures from it. In essence, they’re like the sunken shipwreck with value after all.

Dad died in 1976. Just four of us in the photo are alive for Canada’s 150th birthday, and we all live the Georgic spirit in our own ways. Through my conservation efforts, you may have shared in it.

Jim Wright is past president of the Garden City Conservation Society.

Support the 2017 Oxfam Richmond Walkathon

June 16, 2017

Orval Chapman, longtime Friend of Garden City, is a tireless volunteer despite the severe ongoing effects of being knocked down by a car several years ago. Currently in his mid-eighties, he is a co-organizer of the 2017 Oxfam Walkathon, which will be on Sunday, June 25.

Here, with a photo of Orval, are their poster (click for a larger version) and letter:

Several African nations and also Yemen are now facing the worst famines since the Second World War.

On Sunday, June 25, 1:30–4 p.m., the Richmond Oxfam Committee will once again host a Walkathon at Garry Point Park in order to help. The government of Canada will be doubling all donations up until June 30.

Please join our Oxfam Richmond Walkathon, gather some pledges, or donate to this worthy cause. We would like to have all donations by June 25 so they can reach Oxfam in Ottawa in time. You can also donate online.

Thanks very much!
Richmond Oxfam Committee—Orval Chapman, Carol Rennie, Don Maclean

An  anniversary: Canada’s 150th birthday year is also the 50th anniversary of the Miles for Millions Walkathons across Canada, raising funds for victims of famine in Africa since the 1960s and 70s.

The Fraser Estuary is trending well

June 14, 2017

There’s a promising trend for the Fraser Estuary, the union of mighty river and Salish Sea that begot the Richmond islands, much of Delta and more.

A citizens group and Ecojustice, along with Surrey and New Westminster, recently took the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to court. They are aiming to prevent the barging of immense amounts of thermal coal through the estuary. While we wait for a decision, we’re spared the hazards of dirty coal, and we can read an informative report here.

Another dire threat from the port is their proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2, a new artificial island of fill in the mouth of the estuary. (Click image for larger version.)
A federal review panel for the Terminal 2 plan keeps asking tough questions—this month with a focus on marine life. I’m impressed.

The port has announced that it’s now less intent on dredging the Fraser ship channel deeper. That may be part of the port’s strategy to get Terminal 2 approved, but it’s also an opportunity to stop harm to the estuary.

(Note: If the port doesn’t have to include the environmental impact of dredging as a “cumulative effect” of projects in the estuary, it has a better chance of getting Terminal 2 approved. After that assessment by review panel, the port could consider deeper dredging again.)

We trust a new government will listen well and sift through the old one’s half-decade of Massey Replacement content to find what’s ideal for transportation, safety and the environment.

They could revive the pre-Christy plan with extra insights.

The “Expanding the Tunnel” graphic shows the essence of it, with the eco-excellent “Green Tube” providing two new lanes.

That and the four-lane “Legacy Tube” would comprise the expanded Massey Tunnel in the Highway 99 corridor.

However, it could be best to place the Green Tube upriver, further east, as a new tunnel.

In that case, it could connect with Richmond’s Nelson Road, which leads into Highway 91, with just a minimal effect on farmland.

Either way, the aim is to increase the transit capacity by two lanes. (The Green Tube may not be directly used for transit but enables it.)

At least to begin with, Rapid Buses are the likely mode, planned long ago.

The Green Tube is the urgent need. Done fast and well, it could initially divert traffic from the Legacy Tube to expedite the many overdue and near-due renovations. (Legacy lanes could close for the work, a pair at a time.)

After the external phase of the seismic retrofit, that would entail refurbishing of the Legacy Tube with a new ventilation system, installing of ceramic tile throughout, renewal of the in-tunnel transmission line, and other refinements.

Beyond the tunnel, the renewal would include the seismic retrofit of highway approaches, as well as better overpasses and interchanges. That is described in the Phase 2 Guide for the Massey Project and shown here. (Click to enlarge.)

I’ve addressed the obvious, but the new government may do better. Perhaps, for example, they’ll work with the port toward extended operating hours that help reduce the route-clogging port traffic at peak hours.

A fast-tracked BC environmental assessment would be great. The previous Massey Replacement assessment seemed to skirt the process, but I picture this one embracing it.

In short, we humans are getting in tune with the estuary. Hurray!

_______

Notes: This blog includes an extensive Massey Project section.
For an overview of threats to the estuary, see Let the Fraser Live.
Also, have a look at the Garden City Conservation Society’s input to the City of Richmond’s Transport Department about current options for the Massey Crossing, the Massey Options Rationale sheet.

Welcome to 2017 gathering—June 21st

June 7, 2017

Update after the event: Here’s a video of a few of the Annual Gathering participants doing Aztec dance.

Dear Friends of Garden City,

Join in our 2017 Annual Gathering on Wednesday, June 21, at the Richmond United Church hall. Our theme is celebration.

As our June 21st date coincides with the solstice, it’s a perfect chance to honour the earth—and to celebrate all who protect her.

And let’s dance together! A bit of dancer-friendly Aztec Dance will enable us to experience conservation in an ancient way.

Note: At left, Sharon MacGougan is dressed for Aztec dancing and holding a conch for it.

But taking part as a dancer is optional. In the circle, all will share in experience of the present that connects with past and future.

Along with celebrating past achievements, we will look ahead to future ones, celebrating the possibilities with a wishing tree.

Art teacher Suzanna Wright (left) will facilitate that with the help of her instant-art skills.

Suzanna will also be greeting you at the sign-in table, and you can pick up her Lulu Island Bog colouring sheets there. (Learn about them here.)

The event also serves briefly as the annual general meeting of the Garden City Conservation Society.

It’s free—no charge except the $10 annual fee for membership in the society. Looking forward to seeing you!

Let us know right away that you’re coming—or thinking about coming. Our Sign-Up Form allows for shades of maybe. Like us, it is unique and has worked well for years.

Let’s celebrate together!
Sharon MacGougan
President, Garden City Conservation Society, and Aztec Dancer

–––––––––––––––

DETAILS

Please respond:
Visit the Sign-Up Form now to express interest in the gathering and/or to enjoy the unique sign-up approach.

Timetable for Annual Gathering on Wednesday, June 21, 2017:
6:30 pm on: Sign-in, chat and snack (wraps, local strawberries, beverages, etc.
7:00 pm: Start on time.
8:30 pm: Celebration cake and time to chat.
8:45 pm: Clean-up.
9:00 pm: Bye!

Snack: Deliciously healthy finger-food and coffee/tea/juice from 6:30 pm. Delicious cake at 8:30. It can even serve as a light dinner if need be.

Membership in Garden City Conservation Society (to 2018 AGM):
Join/renew, $10 (cash or cheque), at the sign-in table or online (PayPal or credit card) if you support our purposes.* Donations welcome too.

Location:
Richmond United Church hall, 8711 Cambie, on the north side of Cambie Rd just west of Garden City Rd. Park in stalls marked B or C or unmarked. The hall entrance is near the northwest corner. Click the thumbnail at right for a larger image.

Aztec dancing: Click here to see Sharon MacGougan and her Aztec Dance team in action. In the 90-second video, they are dancing at a Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House cultural event earlier this year. Click the thumbnail at right for a larger image of the team.

* Purposes of the Garden City Conservation Society:

  • To help steward the natural legacy of Richmond’s Agricultural Land Reserve area called the Garden City Lands for agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community wellness.
  • To research, educate and act to help steward other natural legacies of the “Garden City,” Richmond, in consultation with government and community.
  • To encourage respect for the legacy name “Garden City” as a community value.

Celebrate success in spite of failure

May 24, 2017

Richmond’s new farmland bylaws put a limit on the largest mega-mansions, but they still batter our endangered ALR farmland.

That’s because council, obeying the farmland-owner lobby, set a farmland house-size limit that’s two to four times what it should be under the Ministry of Agriculture guidelines.

Their so-called compromise obliterates the ministry’s aims, such as minimizing any loss of ALR farmland to non-farmer residential use. If the Serengeti National Park compromised its 2,700 endangered elephants council-style, they’d end up shot.

If you’re pro-elephant or pro-farmland, it’s a less than pretty picture. As Richmond’s ALR legacy gets tossed aside, what can we still do?

Celebrate! Celebrate that Councillors Harold Steves and Carol Day did everything in their power to educate their colleagues. Celebrate that Harold, 80 years young, worked all night to prepare his final case for ALR values and shared it with vigor at the public hearing.

Celebrate the seven hundred citizens who took part in early consultation. Celebrate that three hundred citizens then got involved—with self-sacrifice for the common good—to put council in a position to not torpedo the ALR.

Celebrate how citizens mastered the issue to simplify all aspects for council members who have difficulty with reading or finding time for it.

For example, John Roston used graphics to unmask the fallacy that people with the occupation of farmer should always be treated like farmers. John would say that a farmer who is also a surgeon should be treated like a surgeon when removing appendixes and like a farmer when milking cows.

The graphic shows that the new bylaws smile on farmers, and it’s fine they’ve been enabled to easily exceed the house-size limit for non-farmers. But the bylaws should not coddle farmers in their land-investor role, especially when they demand a sky-high house-size limit to inflate the selling price of their land.

Despite John’s input, the council members who fawn on landed farmer-investors clung to an imagined duty to assure their wealth. So we have a bylaw that allows huge farmland houses up to 1000 square metres, as specified by the head farmer-investor.

Skewed council thinking has persisted even though the farmer-investors revealed their perspective early on. One even said, “The elephant in the room is land value,” but some on council wouldn’t heed it if it sat on them.

In contrast, Richmond could have progressed toward protecting our battered farmland and the fragile status of newer lessee farmers—with livelihoods at the lessors’ whims. They are the future that an oblivious council squashes.

We’ve needed to mourn, but let’s get back to celebrating our citizens who made success possible (even though it got blocked). Let’s renew our focus, energy and resolve, and let’s keep up the thoughtfulness.

The trick is to start. Please take a moment to be one in spirit with our farmland lessees, voiceless but vital.