January 13, 2021

The Thin Edge of the Hedge~Sidewalk Users Versus Homeowners, Victoria/Vancouver Edition

CTV News in Victoria  reporter Jordan Cunningham interviewed a puzzled homeowner couple who were upset that someone had called the City of Victoria’s bylaw officers regarding their very sizeable hedge. The hedge quite clearly encroaches on the sidewalk, and the homeowners could not understand why someone would not talk to them ahead of calling the City about getting their hedge trimmed back.  The homeowners talked about the fact they knew the latin name of the hedge, that birds lived in it, and how they “seasonally” trimmed their hedge.

Mr. Cunningham cleverly did the Homer Simpson “disappearing in the hedge” meme and spoke to people using the sidewalk who expressed no challenge with the hedge. You can view his CTV News video story here.

But the sidewalk really represents the “thin edge of the wedge” about public property and the right of all sidewalk users to have safe, comfortable and convenient access. If you were using a mobility device, or had a stroller and were also holding onto a child you would want the full width of the sidewalk. Sidewalks are to be accessible to everyone, not just the fittest passersby.

The homeowners were quite sure of their rightness, and even penned a letter which they somehow affixed on the hedge, and in the note they point out that the “BYLAW Officers have now threatened us with REMOVING the hedge”.

Of course the bylaw officers were completely in their right~the image below clearly shows that the hedge is planted on the city boulevard. The cedar fence on the adjoining property is placed on the property line. When the homeowners purchased the house, it would have been evident that the hedge was encroaching on the sidewalk, and that keeping it tightly trimmed and tapered back would be a very prudent thing. That would have been something that should have been discussed and disclosed in their property purchase.

The same thing happened when the City of Vancouver took over Point Grey Road as part of the Seaside Greenway. You may remember there were demonstrations and admonishments when the City of Vancouver took back city owned land in front of the private residences along the water that had been filled with hedges and fences to keep the public out.

Tanya Paz assesses the Point Grey Road  situation very succinctly at 1:40 in this Global New video.

I wrote about the Point Grey Road residential encroachments in the post “The Elephant in the Yard on Point Grey Road. We had to cut the comments off on that blog post as one resident wanted to argue about the actual elephant sculpture (it is full size) that is on Point Grey Road, again gated in with a fence that encroaches on private land. But in this case, the elephant in the yard  I was discussing was literal~if you do decide to put a tall hedge or landscape item abutting an existing city sidewalk, do expect at some point the city or the public might want to take their sidewalk access back.

And for people in Vancouver-to find out where the private property line is, look for the Vancouver Water Works cap in front of each property.That clearly delineates the private  property you can keep elephants, hedges, and fences on, from the public, city owned realm.


Images: CTVNews,SandyJames


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  1. In the 1980s, then-C0-Director of Planning Dr Ann McAfee commissioned the firm I worked with (The Hulbert Group) to address “monster houses” in Vancouver. As part of our research, we interviewed many residents and resident groups. One finding—Vancouverites find fences, gates and walls on the street offensive and un-neighbourly, BUT a 3m high hedge is just fine. Go figger! This finding does not address hedges crowding sidewalks (which I agree is a real concern for all the reasons stated). But I understand the passion Vancouverites (and Victorians) bring to the discussion. Politics is the art of managing the irrational!

  2. The Point Grey Road sidewalks are the perfect pandemic sidewalks, as they are enough to allow social distancing. Tanya Paz’s comments are right on. I was cycling through there one night and I noticed the city markings of the edge of the sidewalk, it was obvious to me why they were upset; they didn’t want to give back what was not theirs.

    I’ve run all the street in Vancouver and I’ve been astounded by the number of sidewalk intrusions. I likely should have reported many of them. It is bad enough for a pedestrian of runner, but some would be impossible to navigate in a wheelchair or scooter. Homeowners have an obligation to ensure that their plantings don’t make sidewalks unsafe or unpassable.

    One of the worst cases is Wesbrook Crescent on the UEL lands, where the sidewalk has been almost completely taken away by a hedge and is unnavigable. As you can see from this Google Street View, pedestrians just use the grass.


    1. I remember going through there as well while all the signs about “the city murders trees” etc. were up and noticed the city markings for the property line and thought to myself that some very very entitled people live along this street (well, duh).

  3. Anything that constricts the sidewalk needs to be remedied. It can be hard enough to keep safe distance with families and other groups walking 2 and 3 abreast without having to edge towards the centre due to green walls.
    I for one don’t understand why it is illegal in Vancouver to build a front fence more than 42″ high but you can grow a cedar rampart any height you like. They are unfriendly and reduce the security of those within as well as those outside.

  4. Speaking from the perspective of the hedgehog, why not require the owner to increase the width of the sidewalk and leave the hedge alone? Humans like nature I am told, it calms them down.

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