Monday, October 30, 2017

Mall proposal

Regarding the Century Group proposal presentation for changes to the mall. 

There should be a serious concern in our planning department and council about building density when we have limited access and egress into town.

It was suggested that the proposed first phase adds 75 automobile trips hourly to traffic. This figure was come to by the same process that suggested that the Southlands would add little to the traffic load of 56th Street. 

Both developments are along 56th Street. To suggest that 52nd street should be considered a means of egress for these developments is unrealistic. 56th street will bear the brunt of traffic for these developments.

At market rates it is unlikely that people can afford to live in this development working for minimum wage in one of the shops. They will need to work elsewhere putting more cars on the road.

Southlands when completed will add 950 housing units adding an additional 1900 automobiles to the community. These houses will require at least one working person to support the mortgage. This will mean an additional 950 automobile trips added to “rush hour” traffic.

It was suggested that this won’t be the case due to demographics. “Older people will sell their homes and downsize to the Southlands”. Following this logic they will sell their larger homes to a younger couple with at least 2 children of driving age. This will mean more (than 950) cars added to rush hour as both adults will likely be working and children will be driving to college.

Or, following the same logic. When the retired people pass on and sell their small homes to young families, what will that add to the traffic?

And this is all just phase one; there is more to come: All under the guise of enhancing local business. It is hard to believe this project will enhance local business. The storefronts are directly off the street with little direct parking. With the additional traffic it is hard to believe anyone will get out of their cars to buy a loaf of bread let alone stop for none-essentials.

If the idea is really to “re-energize the retail environment” or create a “green heart” to town the proposal is sadly lacking. The six story building is reminiscent of failed US housing developments. The plan does nothing to change the National Geographic “strip-mall hell” image of Tsawwassen. Adding more density and little in the way of an actual “active downtown core” only diminishes quality of life.

Lastly, to hold a presentation like this in a public building with paid municipal staff is suggestive of council support. Staff actually suggested this is paid for through permitting costs. Permits do not cover their costs at any level of development. At this stage it should be a corporate presentation. It should be at arm’s length with no municipal involvement other than to collate feedback.  

If our planning department is truly a "planning department" all these considerations would be on the table and openly discussed. It is, for instance, hard to believe that any traffic study would show negative trending towards automotive use. Our history would indicate a move to alternative vehicles not fewer vehicles. Certainly for a municipality that wants a 10 lane bridge to this community it is illogical to think fewer vehicles are in our future. That fact should be what our planning department should be looking at alongside all proposals.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Below is a transcript of a letter to the editor of The Optimist (Feb. 17) from Todd Stone, Minister for Transportation and Infrastructure. My (slightly edited) response, sent to both The Optimist and the Richmond News follows.
Re: Former premier says bridge is a bad idea, Feb. 8

Recently, Mike Harcourt has been suggesting that a twinned tunnel is the best option to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel. This is simply not borne out by the facts, or by the opinions of the thousands of consultation participants that took the time to share their views over a period of more than four years.
The existing 60-year-old tunnel does not meet current seismic standards, nor can it be brought up to current standards without risk of damage, which could render the crossing unusable. This same risk would require that a "twin tunnel" be built much farther upstream (or downstream) to avoid risk of damage during construction.

As a result, compared to building a new bridge, construction of a new (or twin) tunnel would take more agricultural land, would be more difficult and risky to construct, would be more environmentally invasive and require more long-term maintenance.

It would be more seismically vulnerable if the old tunnel was retained. And it certainly could not be done for the $1.7 billion Harcourt suggests.

Harcourt also suggests the bridge project will cost $4.7 billion, rather than $3.5 billion, citing an Oxford study on international transportation projects from 2003 that found bridge projects over the previous 50 years were on average 30 per cent over budget. What he didn't relay while advocating for a tunnel was that the same study has tunnel projects worldwide at more than 48 per cent over

More importantly, the study he references is from nearly 15 years ago, and our experience with major infrastructure projects means we are much more accurate with our estimates than before 2003. I'll point to the recently finished and opened Evergreen Line to reinforce this point: We built that line $75 million under its $1.43 billion budget - despite the many challenges we faced along the way.
I am confident we will build the Massey replacement bridge within the $3.5 billion budget.
Harcourt also suggests we wait 20 years to fix the worst traffic bottleneck in B.C., while the population continues to grow. That is simply not an option.

I do agree with Harcourt that traffic congestion and bottlenecks, among other things, are harming our economic future. That's why our government has taken action, by replacing the Port Mann, and by adding the South Fraser Perimeter Road, Canada Line and Evergreen Line. We've also recently announced plans to add capacity to the Alex Fraser, and improve Highway 1 through North Vancouver.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Protecting our farmlands

We need to protect our community from urban sprawl.
There will be incredible pressure on Delta to develop should the Massey Bridge be built. Residential development will not be the only source of pressure. The CEO for the Port of Vancouver (PoV) has made it clear that the Port wants access to more land for industrial purposes. This has caused speculation. Speculation always drives up land prices.

Recently the city of Vancouver raised the fees for development permits. They made it clear that the costs for development are greater than the income that permits generate. This means that the capital costs for all development is subsidized by the taxpayer. In a city like Vancouver where infrastructure is largely in place this is a lesser concern. Development follows high density zoning patterns. Once density is achieved the increase in tax base helps cover the operating costs of that infrastructure.
The operating costs of servicing infrastructure (ie roads, sewers and amenities), is less likely to be covered for a municipality like Delta. The only thing that will improve this is density. It will take many years for that kind of density to be in place. For all those years the residents of Delta will be covering not only the capital costs for development, they will be subsidizing the operating costs.

In order for this density to happen in Delta we lose farmland. This encroachment of farmland is happening across the world. Populations increase and farmland is diminishing everywhere.  This makes it increasingly difficult for production levels to keep up with world needs. Add to that the climatic difficulties we’re experiencing and we find our grocery costs increasing every year. Water shortages, floods, frost and hail storms in temperate zones are now regularly occurrences.
All this makes it ever more important to protect the farmland we have. To suggest that we can just import our food is irresponsible. We have the opportunity now to protect our food needs and not be reliant on imports. Self-sufficiency will be instrumental in Canada’s well-being.

This will require planning on a scale not seen before. Industrial and residential growth need to be planned along with infrastructure needs and preservation of our agricultural land base. The only way this can be achieved is through co-operation and governmental transparency.
Presently our communities aren’t so much planned as they are politicized. Decisions are made in isolation with little value placed on community input. Without clear reasoning from our politicians an atmosphere of distrust is created. BC’s triple delete scandal has made a mockery of our ‘Freedom of Information’ access to government decisions. Many documents are now redacted in order to “protect certain parties”. If those “certain parties” are not the citizens of BC, who are they?

In order for our communities to be planned and successful our democratic process has to serve us. Our values need to be protected as well as our assets. Without due process or careful planning our quality of life will deteriorate and be less than it can be.

Looking forward to a new bridge

This was a response to a letter to the editor in the Optimist. It was not printed in the Optimist but the Richmond News did run a copy of it.
RE: ‘Looking forward to a new bridge’ Optimist January 20.

Five years into the bridge discussion, personal preferences still seem to rule opinions.

The issue of the bridge is not one of transit/transportation. YES access over the Fraser needs to be improved. There is no question that the tunnel is inadequate.

The Fehmarn tunnel planned between Denmark and Germany is over 17 km long and priced at approx $4 billion. It includes four traffic lanes and a transit lane and there is no concern over safety.

The Massey tunnel has had an unequaled safety record during its lifespan. The only safety concerns are government spin. That and the ‘dilapidated’ appearance of the tunnel are meant to convince us the tunnel is not safe.

What we need to understand is the hidden agenda with the bridge. This agenda has nothing to do with transit infrastructure.

The bridge is an excuse to remove the Massey tunnel. The tunnel is the only obstacle stopping the Port from dredging the Fraser River. Once dredged, the intent is to make the Fraser Surrey Docks a deep sea port to handle more trade with China.

The bridge is a vanity project for the Federal Government and the Port of Vancouver, not just Christy Clark. There is a reason our member of parliament is quiet on the subject of an environmental review. There are international interests at stake. If the Province can sell the idea of the bridge, the Port hopes to slip the planned harbour in without the appropriate studies or planning affecting traffic or the Fraser Delta and Estuary.

The result of this is an incredibly poorly planned and expensive piece of traffic infrastructure that does not serve greater Vancouver. It only serves those of us who chose to live South of the Fraser, irrespective of the tunnel.

Yes there is growth South of the Fraser and this needs to be addressed. A 10 lane bridge will increase this growth exponentially causing ‘urban sprawl’. Urban sprawl is the most expensive type of municipal area and growth to service.

The “Pacific Gateway” plan is the federal initiative driving this bridge. BC taxpayers will end up paying for it.  We will pay for its construction, we will pay for crossing it and Delta taxpayers will end up paying for the urban sprawl it generates.

It’s our responsibility to inform ourselves. All three levels of government are being less than truthful on this issue.

Peter van der Velden


This was first posted in Nov. of 2016
Would the real Carla Qualtrough please stand up!

Recently Rookie Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam MP Ron McKinnon sent a letter to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr stating that the Kinder Morgan pipeline is “detrimental to British Columbia and should not proceed” (Vancouver Sun Nov. 17). It is good to hear that now several MP’s from BC have spoken up for their constituents.

When Prime Minister Trudeau was elected he vowed to “be the Prime Minister for all Canadians.” In his victory speech on October 19, 2015 in Montreal. He went on to say that “We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together."

Sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case for all the Liberal Party endeavors. Here in Delta there is a struggle to preserve the Fraser River and Estuary as well as our agricultural land base.  All are under threat from the Federal Crown Corporation of the Port of Vancouver. Inaction from the Federal Liberals is dividing our community.

Ottawa has been mum on the issues of Port expansion. They have left it to the Victoria to take responsibility for the removal of the Massey Tunnel. The Provincial proposal to build a ten lane bridge quietly hides this defining reason for the tunnel removal. Victoria has added to the spin by declaring they are not proposing to dredge the Fraser. This has also been claimed by Port CEO Robin Silvester. Through FOI requests we know this is just not true. It is the only reason to remove the Massey Tunnel which is the limiting factor to deeper dredging.

Port expansion plans have already put enormous strain on farmland in Richmond and Delta. Speculation is raising the cost of farmland immensely. Environmental concerns over Terminal Two expansion have only now rippled the waters. Environment Canada has finally spoken up on the issue of Biofilm. This issue has been on the forefront of Respected Professionals opposed to the expansion for years.

Carla Qualtrough, our elected Member of Parliament expressed concerns over these issues during the election. Since the election she has been mum about Port Expansion. Her only comment on the tunnel removal is concern over traffic problems. This hardly seems reasonable. Most of the tunnel traffic neither originates nor ends in her constituency.

Yes, we need an improved crossing for the Fraser. Let the plans for that crossing be driven by regional planners and not by Port of Vancouver needs. Would our elected Member of Parliament please speak up for her constituents like some of her counterparts!

Peter van der Velden

This was first posted on Dec. 10, 2016

RE: T2 Stance unchanged: MP. Optimist Fri Dec 9.

“We need a robust environmental assessment process in Canada that wouldn't even let this kind of discussion start happening.” A direct quote from MP Qualtrough’s campaign 

So far the only assessment undertaken is the Port of Vancouver assessment for T2 which was recently shown lacking by Environment Canada. A ‘robust environmental assessment’ could only be an independent assessment with respect and interest in public input. All Port ‘public input sessions’ have been little more than one-way streams of information.

Ms. Qualtrough states that "We have a really, really sensitive estuary and ecosystem that we're dealing with that matters to… the world. Our estuary is pretty unique." If she were really, really interested in the effects on the estuary and the Fraser River she would show that to her constituents. She would demand an independent full assessment.

Her refusal to get involved speaks volumes. She has not spoken out or supported the bid to have an environmental review (ie ‘robust environmental assessment’) done for the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge. This bridge is proposed to allow the Federal Crown Corporation, Port of Vancouver, to remove the tunnel and dredge the Fraser. Make no mistake; the bridge is a federal initiative not a provincial project. What the bridge does for planning of traffic or transit is completely wrong for Metro Vancouver.

All Port proposals, T2, the bridge, dredging, jet fuel handling, etc., should be reviewed with one complete environmental assessment. These are Federal initiatives under the Liberal Party. The present piecemeal approach is completely inadequate. If Ms. Qualtrough really believes her stance has not changed I suggest she looks back at her quote: “Under a Liberal government, we would look at the cumulative effects of all these different things and that's not happening now.”  It is still not happening under the government she is a part of.

Ms. Qualtrough also mentions the need for a new ‘business case’. The Port has had to change their business case through to the year 2050 in order to justify T2. “The science” of the environmental effects cannot be spun or molded like a business case. Do the right thing Ms. Qualtrough; support Metro Vancouver’s bid for a full environmental assessment of all Port projects on the Fraser. Show your commitment to Delta!

Peter van der Velden


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The environment and the industrialization of the Fraser River

There has been a lot of pressure on Vancouver and British Columbia to allow the industrialization of the Fraser River. The Port of Vancouver (POV) under the guidance of Robin Silvester has established itself as the driver for the Pacific Gateway Plan. Many people, groups and professionals have spoken out against much of this development. For years preferable alternatives have been studied, discussed and proposed. Most of this has fallen on deaf ears as the environment appears to have taken a back seat to the economy.

At the AGM for the Port “Sustainability” as defined by Robin Silvester takes the following order: 1-The Economy, 2-The Environment and 3-Community. This would suggest that jobs are more important than the environment. If we severely compromise or destroy the planet with climate change (through industry/jobs) there will be no jobs. In order to have sustainability the Environment must be considered before the Economy. That is not to belittle the importance of the Economy. By all means, we need to survive. However, Prime Minister Trudeau was elected with the understanding that he recognizes the importance of the environment in the balance of sustainability.

The industrialization of the Fraser is the starting point of further degrading our fish supply and food chain. It stays the course of known industrial development (as opposed to “new” or “alternative” development) at the cost of the environment. It is not known or studied how further dredging of the Fraser will damage fish stock. It is not known how much damage will be done by the increase in the salt wedge due to the deeper channel. This will affect both fish stock and farm irrigation practices.

The Fraser River is the primary and possibly the largest source of Chinook Salmon. This species has already seriously been affected by many factors, most man-made. As a result of the dwindling salmon stock (and other factors, also man-made) the “Southern Resident Killer Whales” residing in our coastal waters are at peril. Salmon, primarily the Chinook from the Fraser makes up 97% of the Orca diet for the three resident pods. The pod numbers have decreased to about 80 and they are presently the only killer whale listed as endangered by the American Fish and Wildlife. The Canadian equivalent, COSEWIC, has also listed these pods as endangered.

These issues about the Salmon, Fraser and farming are just a few of the many detrimental affects the proposed Port developments have. There are issues over jet fuel, LNG gas handling and shipping, and urban sprawl and industry taking over valuable farm land. Not to mention the shipping of coal from the USA, which American ports have wisely refused to handle. How is it that the many environmental concerns over the Fraser expressed by the public have been waved off as insignificant? Why is our new Federal Government being quiet on this subject?

The Port of Vancouver is a Federal Crown Corporation and has a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen. Instead it is a corporation that claims to be community minded while showing little community concern. Claims of hundreds of hours of collaborative community involvement and thousands of hours of scientific study are regularly made. The fact that the city of Richmond, one of the most affected communities, is against this project speaks volumes. Now that the Board of Metro Vancouver has spoken up against the bridge will there be recognition of the issues? It seems unlikely as the first to respond was a collection of Chambers of Commerce in support of the Pacific Gateway Plan, thus supporting the bridge. Sadly the Vancouver Sun opinion piece carried a number of erroneous claims and failed to speak of the negative effects of the proposed bridge.

Where is the Board of the Port in all of this? It is the Board that should be driving the Port and the communities that should be driving the Board. This issue was recognized by our local MP during the election. So far no recognition of the issue has been made and any change to the Board or Board structure is no more than rumour.

Will this bridge be built? Premier Clark has said that contracts will not be signed until after the election. Ultimately we will have to see who wins the next Provincial election. Should the Liberals be re-elected, the bridge would seem to be a done deal.