March 13, 2014

Why please the rich on Point Grey Road?

Peter Ladner added a comment to The New Point Grey Road – 4 that I wanted to copy here – first, so it wouldn’t be missed; second, to add my own comment.  Which is this:

I never put any credence in the idea that a Vision council would close PGR at the behest of the rich – good ol’ Chip, in particular – to please their friends, contributors or the Mayor’s new neighbours.  So I was surprised when that kept being repeated as a presumed motivation.

It doesn’t make sense.  First, that a centre-left party would be willing to do such a thing. I’m pretty sure they didn’t get a lot of votes from the north side of PGR, and aren’t likely to now.  (Hello, Nelson Skalbania.)  They’d be more in danger of losing support from their base.

Second, in the face of local opposition, the first instinct of a party in power is to spend the money somewhere else, preferably closer to their supporters.  I well remember when I was on Council that as we were planning a Nanton Street greenway, it created some modest resistance on the West Side.  Given both opposition and other choices, the money ended up being spent on the East Side.  One need only walk or cycle the 37th Avenue Ridgeway to see the difference: almost no amenities west of Ontario; abundant traffic calming, public art, street furniture and pedestrian lighting to the east.

So why take the heat on PGR?  I presume because it’s part of a long-standing, cross-party commitment to completing the Seaside Greenway, creating a continuous car-free route as close as possible to the water – whether seawall and/or bikelane.  The NPA led the way, in my partisan opinion, with the work we did on the Seaside route on the north side of English Bay: a lane taken on Beach, parking eliminated or reconfigured, and yes, the paving of a separate lane through the greensward starting at the foot of Cardero Street. 

With clear opposition to extending the seawall on the foreshore below PGR (hell, today it would be impossible to build the seawall around Stanley Park), the current PGR creates the next best thing: a link between Kits Beach and Jericho, and there’s no real substitute for that.  It was worth taking the heat.


Here’s Peter’s take on the same issue and the reaction of a local resident:

I sometimes wonder how much of the opposition is cover for a totally understandable screw-the-rich instinct. What would the reaction to this closure be if the adjacent residents were all lower income? Why aren’t people outside this area happy that disproportionately higher property values along PGR mean higher city taxes for those benefiting from this closure and therefore lower taxes for everyone else?

People overlook the fact that the ridiculously rich people on the north side of PGR are a small minority of beneficiaries of this change. I estimate that a majority of the beneficiaries north of 4th are tenants, not to mention other people from around the city who will now be able to enjoy this street and its five rarely-used waterfront stairways.

Other than the odd angry outburst, there’s no evidence that life is any worse along 4th Ave.

Here’s one PGR resident’s expression of relief, from the West Kitsilano Residents’ Association website:

“Regarding the impact of more traffic on these side streets due to the change of making PGR open to everyone in the city including those of us living on PGR who no longer are kept up at night to 11am with load radios blasting from idling cars backed up at the PGR & Alma traffic light.

“Nor do I have to wait to get into and out of my car when parking or leaving my home because of reckless speeding commuter traffic who had no regards for the fact that we live on the street. Also I can walk my dog on the sidewalk since bikers, who feared for their life riding on PGR (especially between Blenheim and Alma) were riding on the sidewalks!

“My question to those now regrettably having to live with extra ‘local’ traffic on their streets: Are you dealing with 9-10 thousand commuter extra speeding cars? This was the nightmare we were living with for years.

“PGR is now being used by many more people- bikes, seniors parking and visiting the Parks, kids on bikes enjoying riding with their parents. And we now hear birds singing- that’s right with speeding traffic starting at 5:00am every weekday (7:00am on weekends) we actually hear the chirping of birds.

“I understand that change causes inconvenience but if you weigh the facts I think you will find that a commuter highway with 10,000 speeding cars daily prevented us from having a neighborhood.

“Oh one last thing- people can now talk to each other on the sidewalks and now we can hear each other talk in our front yard. It has been really really awful with all the traffic speeding through our neighborhood.

“Please walk or bike or drive slowly enjoying the views, or even park your car on the many many parking spaces available on PGR and enjoy the public parks.

“I am so relieved to have our neighborhood available to us.”

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  1. So that’s why 37th Avenue west of Granville is such a terrible route for bikes! The sheer volume of cut-through traffic is amazing.

  2. Although some North-siders did sign the petition to close Point Grey Road to commuter motorists, the initiative on the part of residents was led by South-siders, who had had their fill of the extremely dangerous road conditions. Indeed, the writer of the letter you have quoted is a South-sider who devoted time and effort to this cause on behalf of all Vancouverites. Conversely, I have not met Chip Wilson, but I have often thought about the disservice paid to him by those who wrongly suspect his collusion with the City Council to close the road, as well as the disservice to those of us who are not recognized for our work on achieving this long overdue neighbourhood goal.

  3. It’s interesting that people are so angry about a minor road change, but not remotely bothered by the insanely regressive zoning of Point Grey. Developers would instantly build more housing there (alleviating pressure on lower-income neighbourhoods) if it weren’t for the well-off NIMBYs.

    How is “I want to drive there!” a more populist cause than “I want to live there!”? I just don’t get it…

  4. The extent of the “PGR closed for the rich” meme has been quite surprising to me. It’s been brought up in conversation by earthy friends who I imagine biking down Ontario and artsy friends who I imagine biking the Central Valley Greenway.

    1. Maybe we can take advantage of that and do similar street improvements in other parts of the city. Anybody in East Van have a good suggestion for a street? Get your neighbours together and get in touch with council; make your voice heard!

    2. Closing Pt. Grey Road was the most practical way to complete the seaside route. Both alternatives would have been far more expensive and disruptive.

      At the same time you cannot deny that it enhanced the exclusivity of a “north of fourth” address.

      As a true win-win move everyone can legitimately point to someone they don’t agree with who benefitted and claim it was done solely for them.

      1. The most practical way would have been reclaiming the right of way from wealthy property owners who had encroached upon it. I’m sure Peter Ladner can elighten us on how easy that would have been.