A West End resident contacted WEN last night to give a heads up that a significant tree is scheduled for removal at 1188 Bidwell Street. This is connected with the construction of a 22-storey tower by Reliance Properties (CEO Jon Stovell).
Further investigation by West End Neighbours has found that retention of this and other trees near the site was an explicit condition by the City of Vancouver for approval of the Development Application (DE419087). See below for our findings.
It would seem inappropriate that the contractor is posting a notice of removal of this tree. If the City was considering back-tracking on its original position, there should be a public notification of this — from the City. It will disturb some residents to hear that this tree was officially shown for retention, but is now to be “removed and replaced.” The tree canopy in the West End is precious and should be preserved where possible.
We will report back if we hear more information, but this situation raises questions. Why did the City require tree retention and the developer agree to it? What has changed to now allow Reliance to remove the trees? Has due process been followed? Would planting of a young tree in the future really “replace” what risks being lost here? And on a larger scale what is the precedent and message here? Can explicit conditions for City approval of a major development application by a prominent developer be ignored or quietly reversed with the stroke of a pen, in a city that claims to protect its green cover and be the world’s “greenest city” by 2020?
Anyone concerned or with questions may wish to contact the parties involved (see bottom of post).
Shops on the site have been closed for some time and demolitions are under way (the Mac’s store on the corner was recently demolished; meanwhile, Safeway and the BC Liquor Store on the same block are slated to close this month for a separate two-tower development. The entire block will be demolished.).
A letter (right) from Urban One Builders has been posted nearby, saying that the maple tree will be removed soon and replaced at the end of the project, that the Park Board has approved already.
In cases like these, citizens can search for development application documentation and staff reports with specific references to trees being retained.
Unfortunately (as is often the case), the City has completely removed the project information (DE419087) from the official Development Applications web page: http://development.vancouver.ca/
But the staff report to the Development Permit Board (which approved the project on September 8, 2015, under then Chief Planner Brian Jackson) is still available here:
Page 35 of the PDF document shows the trees on Bidwell, including the subject tree, as do the landscape plans on pages 43, 45, 46.
Page 17 of the report notes as part of the Public Notification section:
Street Trees on Bidwell: One respondent requested that the existing trees along the Bidwell frontage be retained.
Staff Response: The application includes protection of the street trees on both sides.
And Appendix A (Page 2 of 5) – Page 20 of the pdf indicates:
A.1.16 delete any notes regarding removal of street trees;
Note to Applicant: Per drawings, all trees on Bidwell Street and Davie Street are to be
- City of Vancouver – Planning Department staff responsible for this project: firstname.lastname@example.org and (mr.) email@example.com
- Urban One Builders, Gary Malone, 604-873-5100, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Reliance Holdings (http://relianceproperties.ca/) (CEO Jon Stovell)
- Vancouver Park Board: http://vancouver.ca/your-government/contact-park-board.aspx
- Vancouver City Council – Liaison Councillors for the West End are Councillor Tim Stevenson, and Councillor Adriane Carr: http://vancouver.ca/your-government/neighbourhood-councillor-liaisons.aspx