May 10, 2021

Senakw’s Federal Environmental Impact Approval Process Begins

The Federal Government through Indigenous Services has just closed a request for written comments regarding environmental impacts of the proposed Senakw development which is located on the traditional territory of the Squamish First Nation near the south foot of the Burrard Bridge. The deadline for comments closed at the end of April, but you can read more about the process here.

These comments are being submitted to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, and are part of the planning phase where the public and First Nations provide information to the assessment. You can take a look at the overall  federal process here.

The Senakw development proposes twelve mixed residential and commercial buildings to be built on site near the south foot of the Burrard Bridge in four phases, resulting in the addition of 6,000 units, mainly rental. You can take a look at the website for Senakw here, and also view an introductory video by Khelsilem and Deanna Lewis, Councillors of the Squamish Nation.

The video gives a background of the history of the Squamish Nation lands and references the past and importance of this 10.5 acre  site. There are also  some flyover graphics showing how the proposed towers will nestle beside the Burrard Bridge.

There has been some confusion about lack of notification of the start of this process, but one group which has responded is the Kits Point Residents’ Association who posted their submission on their website.  This group  represents 1,100 households, sixty percent who rent in the area. You can read their full submission here.

The Kits Point Residents Association wants to know more about the environmental assessment process that the Federal government is undertaking, as well as the services, access and egress for the new development on this “irregularly shaped lot which is not fully buildable by virtue of being bisected by the Burrard Street Bridge.”  

The Association wants a baseline study on the flora and fauna of Vanier Park Forest and Vanier Park, and has concerns about the proposed density and livability, and want an evaluation of those factors.  They state:

“Without benefit of a study it is nonetheless possible to say that the Proposed Development is of a scale and mass that is completely out of step with the scale and density of the surrounding neighbourhoods. While we appreciate that City zoning and land use policies do not apply in this case, it is our view that livability concerns of the surrounding neighbourhoods should be a relevant factor when considering environmental impacts. Building mass and scale are concerns to be considered, as are reduced access to sunlight,shadowing, congestion of people and traffic, access and egress for thousands of new residents through quiet residential and park areas, parking, and pressure on City amenities such as parkland and community centres.”

There are several issues that need to be resolved to move this innovative development forward.

It appears that access to Senakw will need to be accommodated through new roads and emergency access through existing parks, and also brings up the issue that more parkland will be needed for this new population. There will also be a demand for  new daycares and schools for children in this development.

Public transportation needs to be planned for and thought of, as well as good micromobility options and pathways. Water and sewer servicing will need connections to city and regional infrastructure, and be financed and built to ensure adequate service to the development. Commercial spaces adequate to serve this growing population will need to be assessed.

Surprisingly the Kits Point Residents Association brief was silent on the issue of  climate change, flooding and sea rise.   Federal or other governments will need to assess how the site is protected and sea rise remedied

The Squamish First Nations have partnered with Westbank Developments, who have experience in local tower construction, most notably with the Woodward’s Building, the Shangri-La and Vancouver House.

Here’s a CBC YouTube video from  November 2019 that shows the Squamish First Nations development site and has commentary from Councillor Khelsilem of the Squamish First Nation and Mayor Stewart of Vancouver.


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