viewscape-destroying Walmart mall back at council

Self-image of the proposed Walmart on the north edge of Alderbridge Way, Richmond, BC, from page 143 of agenda package for Richmond council’s General Purposes meeting of Sept. 17, 2013.

Update, Sept. 17: The intense and lengthy meeting went fairly well. The Walmart mall proposal was referred back to staff to fill in gaps. It is likely to come back to council (in the form of the planning committee) in two weeks—on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 4 p.m. Here are my speaking notes for my five minutes of input to council on the issue. More details on this blog (nearer the top) between now and then.

On Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at 4 pm (Anderson Room, City Hall), Richmond staff will try again to get council to acquiesce to the Walmart mall plan. It destroys the  wildlife corridor—and almost all life—between Alderbridge Way and Alexandra Road for roughly 450 metres from Garden City Road east.

My focus here is on the developer’s supposed response to the public concern about the loss of the unique and priceless panoramic viewscape as one looks northward from the City Centre area on and around the Garden City Lands. At the risk of numbing readers’ brains, here is how the staff report describes the response:

In order to address public concerns regarding the loss of existing native vegetation along the north side of Alderbridge Way on the development that includes a combination of native coniferous and deciduous tree planting, SmartCentres has proposed a planting strategy along the north side of Alderbridge Way that includes a combination of native coniferous and deciduous trees. SmartCentres drawings include simulated views of the proposed development from the Garden City Lands, which demonstrate that the proposed informal, native planting along Alderbridge Way, in combination with the relatively low proposed building heights would not block skyline or profile views of the north shore mountains from the south or central portions of the Garden City Lands. (Agenda package, pages 135–6)

This article begins with the closest thing to an illustration of it. The staff document includes no illustrations or clear explanations that demonstrate how the viewscapes would be conserved. Obviously they would not be. It is very disappointing.

A quick change of scene: At the Garden City Lands Ideas Fair, staff kindly welcomed the Garden City Conservation Society, and they set me up with a well-placed table. The topic that visitors constantly brought up was the Walmart mall and the views. Numerous visitors asked me to show them where the mall would be and what it would look like. They  didn’t like it at all. Not one visitor said it was okay, let alone a good idea. If the viewscape destruction actually happens, practically all citizens who firsthand will feel the loss when they see the Walmart mall and the viewscape destruction, and it will be tragic if things ever come to that.

Back at the staff report: It also brushes off other concerns in the 24 emails and letters from citizens about the Walmart mall effects, including the loss of most of the last ESA remnant of the natural wildlife corridor that existed along Alderbridge all the way from Garden City Road to No. 4 Road.

However, the report reminds us how staff and the developer have gone to great lengths, including a natural screen, to please another developer, Polygon. We’re just asking for equal treatment for the people of Richmond, especially the people of the City Centre.

Over to the Vancouver Sun: A recent Sun article mapped 2011 census findings about low income areas in Metro Vancouver. Along with Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Richmond City Centre area was shown as one of the lowest-income areas. The article introduced an online interactive map, which shows a median family income of only $42,517 in much of the City Centre. One part is even lower at $38,773. The people living in the City Centre and Walmart area always seem to get shortchanged, but they have at least had a place with panoramic viewscapes that are practically unmatched in the world. Now staff want to replace that wonderful source of livability and dignity with what amounts to a 450-metre-long billboard with mountain peaks peeking over it to silently admonish those who let it happen.

Furthermore, no one will benefit, not even the Walmart mall. When people see what has happened, Walmart and all the other parties who have had a part in it will be despised forever.

The staff report also brushes off other concerns in the 24 emails and letters from citizens about the Walmart mall effects, including the loss of even the ESA remnant of the natural wildlife corridor that existed from Alderbridge to Alexandra. However, the report reminds us how staff and the developer have gone to great lengths, including a natural screen, to please another developer, Polygon. We’re just asking for equal treatment for the people of Richmond, especially the people of the City Centre.

I typically speak and write with understatement. I never say I’m outraged. But this time I’m saying it. The treatment of our citizens, especially our less privileged citizens, is an outrage beyond words.

_________

A related note:

I should also add briefly that staff are still asking the City take responsibility off the Walmart Mall developer’s hands for buying Garden City Road lots to reduce the traffic congestion from the mall. As a taxpayer, I can’t support that either. If the developer can’t do what it’s supposed to do, then the City could adjust its community plan so that all the basic residential lots that make up the Walmart lands get earmarked for sports fields, along with restoration of the wildlife corridor along Alderbridge Way from Garden City Road to No. 4 Road.

_________

Some related articles on this blog:

Stewarding the viewscape legacies of the Garden City Lands

Respect the people, nature and legacies

Friend of Garden City re Walmart mall

Walmart-mall wisdom from Rick X

Please show me the Alderbridge wildlife corridor

Reminder: Anderson Room, 4 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. Agenda package here.

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