Here is an update on our previous story (“1188 Bidwell: Proposed big tree removal (maple, 7 storeys high) appears to violate City’s development permit conditions,” 18-Aug-2017).
The concerned resident stayed in touch with the City after surprising officials there by inquiring in August about a sign indicating the seven-storey-tall maple tree would be cut down, and WEN dug into the development approval documents to discover that the tree was supposed to be preserved.
Below is a September 6 memorandum back from the City’s project facilitator, which we share here, with permission.
Bottom line: “… the tree cannot be retained due it presenting a hazard to the public…”
On the positive side, the City did a good job of communicating with the concerned resident and reporting back. And this case put senior officials on notice that the public wants transparency and that the departments involved need to take more care with reviews of big developments — prior to and after approvals.
On the negative side, in this case it became clear that the relevant departments had not been in adequate communication with each other and there are still unanswered questions about the process. When it approved the tree removal this summer, the Park Board apparently did not know that the City required Reliance Properties to preserve all existing trees as a strict condition to win the development approval for a 22-storey tower by 1188 Bidwell Street. And Reliance had formally committed to do so.
We also need to look at the back story.
Something went seriously wrong along the way. What needs to change and improve City processes in the future?Vancouver is aiming to be world’s “Greenest City” by 2020, and has proudly proclaimed its policies about protecting the “urban forest.” A living tree of this height and age is irreplaceable. For the development application, a certified professional arborist was presumably hired to review the trees around the site, and upon such a review, both the city and Reliance concluded that all the trees could be preserved.
Every single item in the project facilitator’s list of reasons to cut down the tree was known prior to the approval by the Development Permit Board: (1) constricted nature of the site, (2) existing / proposed utilities, (3) construction process, (4) building design, (5) sidewalk remediation, (6) tree type, and (7) geographical location (high winds).
So the final result is disappointing for several reasons. Reliance now has permission to destroy the tree. The City did not provide any public explanation about what made it change its mind. The maple tree is to be “replaced with a suitable substitute,” but nothing can really replace the multiple functions of the existing seven-storey maple tree, at least for a few generations into the future.
For the record, images below show the scenes at and near the site at Bidwell and Davie as of September 5, 2017. Clockwise from top left: 7-storey maple, a tagged Princeton Gold Maple planted three years ago on the opposite side of Bidwell Street (note the trunk diameter no more than the diameter of a wrist), another scene of the typical “replacement” maple, another tree at the northeast corner of the site, the scene from diagonally across Bidwell and Davie, a scene looking toward the opposite side of Davie, the construction site seen from the rear lane, and another scene from the lane showing the big maple and a second mature tree.
[Note: Bold is by WEN for emphasis.]
CITY OF VANCOUVER
MEMORANDUM 06 Sept, 2017
Regarding: 1188 Bidwell-DE419087 -Tree Removal Notice Review
Attention of: [Resident]
c.c Anita Molaro- Planning
Amit Gandha- Parks Board
Lee Beaulieu- Landscape
Chalys Joseph- Engineering
David Autiero- Development Services
Further to your enquiry to the project facilitation group, the City of Vancouver convened a meeting with the Planning, Engineering, Parks Board, Landscape and Development Services department’s representatives on the 30th of August to review the tree removal notice issued for the single tree located at 1188 Bidwell. This meeting examined the rationale for its removal and also investigated if any opportunity existed to retain it.
It was determined that the constricted nature of the site, existing / proposed utilities, the construction process, building design, sidewalk remediation, tree type and geographical location (high winds) all were contributing factors towards requiring its removal. Altering the building design would not be sufficient for its retention alone. As a result it was concluded that the tree cannot be retained due it presenting a hazard to the public following the extent of adjustment required to retain it.
All other trees are to be retained at the site and the single problematic tree removed and replaced with a suitable substitute as determined by the City of Vancouver’s Park Department and at the expense of the developer.
If you should have any questions or require anything further please feel free to contact us.
Carl Stanford| Project Facilitator
City of Vancouver | Development, Buildings & Licensing
515 W 10th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4A8