Completing Vancouver’s famed seawall with a 2.5-kilometre stretch linking Kitsilano and Jericho beaches would carry a “preliminary” cost of about $10-million, says the chair of the city’s parks board.
For the first time Sunday, Sarah Blyth put a price tag on the proposal that an anonymous private donor is said to be offering to cover – one that would add to 22 kilometres of seawall through central Vancouver that is basically the parks board’s biggest facility. Work on the seawall began in 1911.
“Inch by inch, we fix it as it needs fixing. We’re looking at expanding it, making it longer and filling in gaps.”
Of the projected cost, she said “it’s just preliminary” and based on talks with staff. “There’s a lot more research to do.”
She said further details will be disclosed July 23 in a motion she will bring forward at a parks board meeting.
The project is bound to be controversial because it will bring tens of thousands of pedestrians within close proximity of some of the region’s most expensive real estate – homes overlooking the proposed seawall should the project proceed.
“Donations are obviously welcome and very helpful to kick start a project like this. This is really preliminary so we need to go through a lot of public consultation working on seeing if it’s possible,” she said.
But a councillor with the minority NPA party, who raised the idea then learned the mayor and the majority Vision Vancouver party had been working on the same plan for some time, said he has a problem with the propriety of a private donor covering the cost.
The announced largesse comes a week after word that a couple, acting anonymously, are providing $30-million to house the homeless at a renovated manor house in Vancouver.
The funds are going to covering operating costs for Taylor Manor, a building constructed in 1915 that is being renovated to house 56 residential units.
George Affleck said he is worried about any perception of the city granting favours to such generous donors without disclosing who they are. “All the elected officials should know who these people are,” he said.
At this point, he said the donors in both cases are known only to a few city insiders.
At the “bare minimum,” Mr. Affleck said the donors should be disclosed to council in camera.
“I don’t know who these people are and it’s not to judge who these people are. It’s really about openness, making sure that we’re following certain procedures so there’s no bias towards any group or person that could be perceived as potentially some sort of corruption,” he said.
He said the issue is one of transparency. “It’s that basic word in governance,” he said, noting that there is always the question in Vancouver politics of developers gaining sway with donations. This issue is similar because it involves donations channelled through Vision leaders who are points of contact for the donors.
“I have a problem with that when you think about decision making whereas in an election campaign, they disclose everything,” he said.
Ms. Blyth said the office of Mayor Gregor Robertson was dealing with the donor in the case of the seawall, and that Mr. Robertson’s office would have to address the issue. The mayor’s office was unavailable for comment.
Gordon Price, director of the city program at Simon Fraser University and an NPA councillor who served six terms, said the seawall has to be finished, either along the beach area or with a formal walkway on the Cornwall and Point Grey roadway above the beach.
“We’ve let it go for a long time,” he said. “[The city] is going to have to make a decision on how average people can get from Kitsilano to Jericho.”