12. Our Stanley Park

Whether you want to save the Garden City lands or pave them, your view matters now. You can share it with the Agricultural Land Commissioners who have been asked to remove the property from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Unlike some members of Richmond Council, they will listen to you.

I for one will write to the commissioners about our community need for park. In planning Richmond’s high-density City Centre, our council hasn’t set aside enough parkland. The Garden City lands, 136 acres of green space east of Garden City Road between Westminster Highway and Alderbridge Way, could be part of the solution.

Back on Dec. 17, council unanimously agreed on three Richmond uses of the Garden City lands, and all are park uses: urban agriculture, community wellness and healthy lifestyles, and showcasing environmental sustainability.

Those uses could occur within or outside the ALR. However, if the lands are removed from the ALR, the parkland will be just the leftovers after 68 acres go to high-density residential and 22.4 acres go to a trade centre. (As the mayor explained, the city is forced to include the trade centre.)

What’s left for park uses is 47.6 acres. That’s just enough to meet the City Centre standard (3.25 acres within the City Centre per thousand City Centre residents) for a Garden City lands population of about 14,650.

Coincidentally, the best estimate for the proposed development is about 14,650 residents. That assumes units averaging 1200 square feet and households averaging 2.8 people, as in the 2006 census. A city staff report provided the other needed statistic, the total floor area of the development. For details, see “The 14,650 Coincidence” in the Garden City Lands blog.

So far we’ve seen that the city’s share of a developed Garden City lands would not provide any parkland to offset deficiencies in the City Centre. Next we’ll see how the proposed development would actually cause a parkland deficit.

To begin, be aware that the City Centre standard is just a supplementary safeguard. It is not a watered-down replacement for the city-wide Richmond standard (7.66 acres of park per thousand residents).

If we apply the city-wide parkland standard to 14,650 new residents on the Garden City lands, the requirement is over 112 acres. Since only 47.6 acres could be available, the Garden City Lands development would actually make the parkland problem worse.

To buy non-ALR land outside the City Centre, the cost is typically about $2.5 million an acre. Offsetting the development’s parkland shortfall could cost $160 million.

As we’ve seen, the basic way to meet community needs with the Garden City lands is to stop the development. That will only happen if the Agricultural Land Commission refuses to remove the Garden City lands from the ALR. Then the lands will at least continue to be green open space with ecological values. And they will be available for food purposes in a future where even dinosaurs will see the need.

If Canada Lands Company CLC, the caretaker owner on behalf of the taxpayer, starts showing community social responsibility, Richmond should be able to buy the lands, using its right of first refusal at the renegotiation stage. At the City Centre land value of at least $5 million an acre, 136 acres would usually cost at least $680 million. However, the purchase price for the Garden City lands should be at their ALR value. That’s roughly one-fiftieth as high.

In a popular vision, the lands could even become a unique park for residents and tourists. It would be a Stanley Park with an agricultural theme in keeping with Richmond’s heritage and growing commitment to local food security.

As far as I can learn, all 136 acres would count as both farmland and parkland, even if some is used for Kwantlen Polytechnic University urban agriculture education. And, with trails, lakes, and gathering places throughout, it would be a wonderful park.

Whatever you think, inform the Agricultural Land Commission. You’ll find contact information on the Garden City Lands Coalition website, which also links you to a petition. Simply by adding your name, you can be heard.


  1. 1
    Julian Hudson Says:

    Trails, lakes and gathering places are not good for the land. This is what’s wrong with many “save it” people; areas end up being “saved” for humans NOT nature that those people claim to be concerned about.
    Your “wonderful park” would be an ecological disaster, with the need to bulldoze, compact, and build just as any development would. The only difference is that it would be more easily reversible.
    With amenities come more amenities, trails lead to signs that need concrete to stabilize them, gathering areas lead to bathrooms and parking lots, more people leads to garbage, dogs, more resource use and eventually major ecological impacts.
    It seems there are 100 uses for this land for every 100 people that stand up for it. This isn’t a vision, it’s a nightmare.
    I for one wish to see the least impact possible. Farming or a wild space like the one down the road and that’s it. If it’s going to be a park, consider that there are already way too many places with services for people and very few places for nature to just be.

  2. 2
    kewljim Says:

    Thanks for your comments about “Richmond’s Stanley Park,” Julian.

    It’s important to note that the comments are related to a page that was posted on this blog in April 2008, and the Richmond Review published it as a column at around the same time. The context is a crucial aspect.

    At the time, the City of Richmond was submitting the second application to the Agricultural Land Commission to exclude the Garden City Lands from the ALR, primarily for high-density development. The application claimed at great length to be meeting community need. A major purpose of the column was to encourage citizens to write well-thought-out letters to the commission showing that the lands could meet community need better with ALR uses.

    Thanks to the massive persuasive effort by citizens, the strategy succeeded. Since the commission did not accept the community need argument from the city and its development partners, the application was rejected.

    Then as now, the “Save Garden City” people were a coalition with a basic shared goal. There was no need for them to form and express a single specific vision for the Garden City Lands. They just needed to be essentially consistent with ALR uses for community benefit.

    As it happens, though, most of the best informed citizens who have worked to save the Garden City Lands for many years do want the least negative impact possible. That is an aspect of the PARC concept of listening to the lands that is described in this blog. It starts with recognizing the various kinds of current reality, including the one that the lands are now parkland that the City of Richmond acquired at considerable expense.

    At best, the future of the Garden City Lands will be as city-owned ALR parkland for agriculture, recreation and conservation for community wellness. It is fairly possible to accomplish all of that in complementary ways, not mutually harmful ones.

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