Rezone for Onni’s Steveston waterfront towers?

Two residential towers may soon rise beside the popular pedestrian walkway along the river on the south edge of Steveston. The site extends east from No. 1 Road for three hundred metres on an irregularly shaped strip between Bayview Street and the South Dyke.

A Friend of Garden City asks by email if there’s a Garden City Lands Coalition Society position on the issue. In brief, no. We have no single position about the proposed towers and the developers’ strategy for obtaining approval. But it’s encouraging that citizens are taking a close look at land-use issues like that Steveston one.

According to a Richmond Review article, “Residents can learn more about the plan and voice their concerns on Sept. 9 from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at the Steveston Community Centre, 4111 Moncton St.” That’s a difficult time for many people coming home from work, but it’s better than nothing.

I have some concerns and see some possible values, but I don’t yet know whether I’ll support the rezoning package or oppose it. If possible, I’ll attend the open house and judge for myself. Since the event is sponsored by the developer, it’s reasonable that it be from the developer’s viewpoint, but I will still critique whether the sales pitch genuinely informs the public.

I’ll measure it against my standard for lack of authenticity, which is the Canada Lands Company CLC Limited presentation on the first day of the Garden City Lands public hearing in March 2008. A vice president from Toronto showed endless slides of CLC projects as though they gave a picture of the proposed Garden City Lands development. However, the Garden City Lands development would been densely packed towers, nothing like the three-storey buildings in idyllic settings the VP was showing. I hope the developers, “the Onni Group,” won’t paint a picture that’s as fictitious as that.

What’s your view of the Onni rezoning proposal? If you care enough to take the trouble, you’re welcome to write a concise critique in a comment below this post.

The “Onni Steveston” category in the Main Menu includes more on this issue.



  1. 1
    April Says:

    On development: between 40,000 and 60,000 people a year come here, and we need to house them somehow. Being pro ALR, I see “stacking people” as a better alternative than taking out farmland to put up suburbs. And farmland is almost all we have left. If we don’t go “up”, then Diane Katz at The Fraser Institute will have her way. So in that case I may support this.

    On Steveston: it’s a lovely place to live. The question is: what makes it that way for you? This is a big deciding factor for those already living there. Do you want traffic lines? Do you want more people on the streets? Does this help out small business, or will it attract Big Box? I don’t live in Steveston, but I do go there frequently and enjoy the level of current activity.

    On Onni: not the best of track records. Hopefully things have changed. I’ve had first-hand dealings with them as a contractor.

    While we would like things to remain the same, it’s not viable or realistic. Compromises must be made on both sides. If we try to see things 360 degrees, we end up with a solution that fits comfortably. It may mean standing our ground on social and environmental issues, but it is possible to have both.

  2. 2
    Ben Says:

    As someone who lives in Steveston and who had considered purchasing from the developer in the previous phases, I feel as though this idea of two towers is a bait and switch tactic.

    Many people who purchased along that track of land understood that eventually the final phase would be built, but the pitch from the developer at the time was that it would be built as a low rise development of approximately 60 or so units and would be mixed residential and commercial lots.

    The idea behind this would be that it would be an extension of the Steveston promenade and that it would fit into existing culture of structures in the area.

    Two towers is the polar opposite of this idea.

    Questions we have to ask are:

    1. Can a development of that magnitude guarantee the safety of the river bed? The Fraser river is a route for millions of sockeye and other species of salmon every year. Even the slightest raise in temperate or any blocking that driving pylons or dredging the sands could cause could have a potential (disastrous) impact on salmon runs in the area.

    2. Where will we put 400 more cars, nevermind those of the guests of the 200+ units. Can Steveston really handle the additional traffic and volume that this will bring to the area?

    3. What other options do we have? What about purchasing the land back and turning it into a public park? Green space is already a premium in Richmond and I am sure that our generation and future generations could benefit from more.

    Notice that every other high density project in the area is only 4 stories in height. Some of the best examples are along the river closer to the marina, where the developers sacrificed land space and density for green space and water systems – creating new habitats for water fowl and many other species of flora and fauna.

    4. What about Steveston itself? Does this project really fit with the culture and vibe that has made Steveston so attractive?

    I do hope that people raise their concerns about this project and are willing to ask the tough questions to help city council make a sound decision.

    • 3
      Marilyn Krygier Says:

      Ben has raised many important issues. I would like to stress that the previous promises from the last developer(s) never came to pass. Where is the extension to the library? To the community center? The park (what park?) The school?
      Omni is promising us two acres of waterfront property. That is so insulting.
      The roads are not equipped to carry the vehicles we already have – note the recent problems when people came to purchase salmon at the docks. The hospital which was not built to accommodate the present population.
      Steveston Village is a tourist attraction. It is quaint, has its own personality, its own heritage and extends from Garry Pointe to London Farms.
      If the city can purchase the Garden City Lands and build the oval they can certainly purchase or expropriate with reasonable compensation. As for the salmon runs – WHAT ARE WE DOING? Why is Fisheries and Oceans not expressing concern since the waterfront falls under their auspices.
      I have lived in Richmond for 50 years and in Steveston for 30 years. Change is inevitable but change with no consideration of quality of life and the protection of wildlife habitat is not acceptable.

  3. 4
    Gord Says:

    Having lived in Richmond for 35 years, we’ve seen many changes and not all for the good. One of the city’s most charming areas is Steveston,and we visit and walk there often, starting at Murakami house along the waterfront to the town centre and on to Garry Point.
    Council has a goal of 120,000 people in the downtown “core”, so leave the towers for that area. Keep the fishing village feel of Steveston; it is a tourist magnet and there is no other place like it in this area. I don’t believe we get 40 to 60,000 people a year coming to Richmond, but even if we did it has to stop sometime as our services ( RGH etc.) are barely adequate now. Let’s do something for the community, and not just for a buck!

  4. 5
    April Says:

    That influx of 40-60,000 people was the figure for people coming to “Greater” Vancouver, not just Richmond. Would be interesting to know what the average is for Richmond though. Sorry, should have been clearer. See everyone this Thursday at the “presentation”?

  5. 6
    Kim Says:

    Gord’s point is well made. There is enough room in the rest of Richmond. Why choke and change our charming Village? Here we have a unique gem in the midst of urban growth and soon it will look like the West End! I came to Steveston 13 years ago to get away from The City. The merchants may well benefit and I appreciate their loyalty over the years but can our street manage the volume of cars? There has been talk about paid parking – yikes! I support progress and even 3 or 4 story buildings but not 10 or 12!

  6. 7
    Al Says:

    I recall a past conversation with a curent Richmond Councillor on how a long term Richmond Councillor was tossed from office at the polls, a large part due to their support for the BC Packers site re-development…the message being that Steveston folks are not to be crossed.

    While I agree that 2 towers are not in keeping with overall ambience, in the overall scheme that is irrelevant. Times change, progress marches on, and their is nothing sacred about Steveston.

    Also, and speaking of elections, duly note the timing of this application. The civic elections will be in 14 months(Nov. 2011), but I suspect this application will be dealt with before July 2011 so that it can be dealt with before it creates too much of a stink. I don’t know which way Council will lean, but it will want it dealt with far before the elections so they avoid the fate of the aforementioned councillor.

    PS Not that trurnover is a bad thing, we have far too many career politicians anyway who in my view only get voted in by name recognition anyway. 5/9 of our Council lives west of #1 Rd……maybe we should call it the Steveston party.

  7. 8
    X-Rusky Says:

    Onni’s sketch for the proposed towers looks horrible. Completely out of character for Steveston area. It will ruin it – there is no question about it. But I can’t even imagine that it is possible to architect something of that magnitude that will fit in. Unless it’s a lighthouse, may be…

    Richmond review has a photo from the open house hosted by Onni on Sept 4th. “Onni VP Chris Evans fields a question at an open house”. Nice shot – the guy looks like a total arrogant corporate clown that he probably is. He should have thought twice about putting on that suit going to the open house.

    • 9
      kewljim Says:

      The Christine Lyon photo at does tell the story well. (It deserves an award.) The woman’s left fist is clenched, and her elbow looks poised to crush one of the towers. Chris Evans’ tensed fingers show the pressure he was under, but the Omni VP seems to me to be trying to gather information through genuine dialogue. The shortcoming is in the proposal. After leaving the open house I went for a walk around the site, an area I know well, in order to visualize the open house buidling models there in their full size, and I couldn’t see a reason to be supportive of the rezoning for something so out of place.

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