City of Richmond : Townhouses proposed for site formerly eyed as a park

City of Richmond : Townhouses proposed for site formerly eyed as a park

By Matthew Hoekstra – Richmond Review
Published: September 18, 2012 10:00 AM
Updated: September 18, 2012 10:26 AM

As many as 240 townhouses will be built in an area designated as natural parkland if city council approves an area plan change for West Cambie.

Planners at Richmond City Hall Tuesday urged council’s planning committee to make the change for a 4.86-hectare (12-acre) site near Alderbridge Way and No. 4 Road.

In March, council voted 6-1 to allow development on the land, reversing a 2006 decision to turn the area—currently privately owned and occupied by large-lot single-family homes—into a natural park.

Now staff are pushing for townhouses, one of two options it presented at a recent public open house, the other being a mix of townhouses and apartments. Staff say townhouses would complement developments to the north.

According to a staff report, a city hall survey yielded 21 responses. Besides collecting comments on the housing options, staff also fielded other suggestions for the land: retain the park and build an animal shelter.

A resident of the neighbouring Wishing Tree townhouse complex also responded, expressing “concerns that many owners of the units…were promised that the lands next to it would be protected as a natural park when they made their purchases.”

Staff noted the city bought the Garden City lands in 2010 and that “some of these lands may be available to West Cambie and city residents for a variety of open space and other needs…”

Creating a park would also cost the city approximately $23.6 million in land costs, according to a 2006 estimate.

A public hearing is tentatively set for Oct. 15.



I noted this issue in a previous post.

As a brief review, the West Cambie Area (ie bounded by Garden City Road, Cambie, # 4RD. and Alderbridge) had an Official Community Plan drafted several years ago.  The area noted in the article was designated as “Park” by the City.

In other words, while City had various zoning designations of the area(ie West Cambie), mostly  to facilitate higher density housing, the city also has parkland designations placed on certain properties. Thus, these properties would be ,in essence, frozen with a single buyer ie the City. This has been a contentious issue in the past, as some parties have accussed Local Gov’ts of freezing land and thus lowballing the price. However, it is my understanding that Local Gov’ts must pay prices on par with the surrounding zoning. In other words if properties in the area are averaging $ X per sq ft….the Local Gov’ts must pay the same price ie $ X per sq.ft..


” Planners at Richmond City Hall Tuesday urged council’s planning committee to make the change for a 4.86-hectare (12-acre) site near Alderbridge Way and No. 4 Road.”

” Creating a park would also cost the city approximately $23.6 million in land costs, according to a 2006 estimate.”

I find this interesting, that the City, which has effectively frozen these property owners options for close to 8 years, is in serious backtracking mode,  thinking that the Public can’t see through this. You see, way back when..the City had far broader vision and would acquire land parcels and assemble them over years even decades. 

EXAMPLE:  McMath High School land assembly, in Steveston, ……. had gone on for years before the school was built.

However……My own premise is that the evidence clearly suggests is the Developers now run the show. Since the Terra Nova fiasco ,…..One major developer bought up……err Optioned  ….acres of land in the North McLennan area, which had no OCP.

Then the City felt obligated to play catch up…..and began to act as a competing buyer (FYI I have  alot of the inside scoop on this…one Realtor was double dipping…very UNethical..presenting offers from the developer..then the City).

In the end…a HUGE land swap was negotiated, ( a neighbour showed me the records) whereby by the Developer made out like  bandit..

The West Cambie area has been a major_______ ??? for decades…..the City had no idea what to do with it….as the area is under the Flight Path for YVR. aka lot  of NOISE. In the mid 1990’s, there was already an effort to zone the area for Higher Density.


However, a new runaway was built that directed more air traffic and the resulting lawsuits. It appears the issue was resolved insofar as YVR wanted to be immune from lawsuits….thus the City adopted higher building standards…Noise Bylaws…. to abate noise….as well as “fine print” when one purchases a unit that indemnifies the City from liability as well.

However Shit is S-H-I-T is SHIT.  

It is not the fault of West Cambie property owners per se……..they have been victimized by poor City planning and YVR greed. However, that does not mean the City should bend over and capitulate to what clearly was a cabal Developers who sought more land to rezone and then flog to more dupes of the housing bubble.

The point is….this Developer lead push to rezone land has caught up to the City. It froze the property owners land, the land prices increased, now the City cannot afford to purchase them.  The price quoted is based on 6 year old prices aka approx. $24 Million for 12 acres in 2006. I would submit the market price is much higher, or was much higher, hence the owners lost a lot of potential fair market value by a hesitant City. I am quite sure the owners , either as a group or individually, wished to sell to the City, and the City balked. IMHO, if one of the property owners was bought by the City, the others would have a term of reference, and the City would be forced to buy them out. Thus the city solution is to buy no – one, though in essence it had de -facto drafted a deal to purchase them all. There may be developers pushing the City to release this land, but the City also risks a collapsing real estate market, and that these property owners may lose a lot of potential gains with the City ever changing actions.

Thus, with no evidence to the Contrary, the City of Richmond cannot afford to purchase these properties, and their only “out” is to release them from the frozen mode. It is trying to fool the Property Owners, (via the classic “fear” people have re: Gov’t)….who IMHO should form a group and get a good Lawyer. I know it would/could  be Fi$cally painful for the other Richmond citizens, but in the spirit of fairness and equality , a lesson must be learned .

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