Joint community letter RE: BC Hydro SEED proposal

Printable Petition Package 

WEFA logo 25%Lord Roberts Annex

Parent Advisory Council



February 20, 2017

BC Hydro SEED Project Community Requests

West End Families in Action (WEFA) is an advisory panel to the Gordon Neighbourhood House (1019 Broughton St.) comprised of local West End parents.  We hold monthly meetings, invite guest speakers to address the community, and have an active social media presence.  In early February, we held a meeting dedicated to the SEED proposal.  In response to the many questions posed at that meeting, a careful examination of SEED documents, and the attendance of WEFA members at other SEED consultation events, we have drawn up a list of community concerns with the proposed project.

The Lord Roberts Annex Parent Advisory Committee (LRA PAC) is the voice of the parents in the Lord Roberts Annex School. The LRA PAC has discussed the SEED proposal at PAC meetings and during other gatherings at the school. Members of PAC have attended various Hydro open houses and information sessions. Following SEED information and consultation sessions, LRA PAC has identified several areas of key concern with respect to the proposed substation beneath the Annex.

WEFA and the LRA PAC have a common interest in this project. A concern that has been identified is the deficit of meaningful consultation time. The project promises a variety of benefits to West End schools and the community. Notwithstanding these potential benefits, both WEFA and LRA PAC have had very little time in which to consider this significant project and to weigh the merits against the possible drawbacks of the proposal. In our view, consultation had just begun when we were informed that a decision was imminent.

We appreciate the various presentations that have taken place. Nonetheless, we ultimately believe that six to eight weeks is simply not enough time to have a meaningful discussion on such an enormous project that involves so many uncertainties including school funding, community and resource planning, and the health and wellbeing of growing children. Given the interests at stake, and BC Hydro and VSB’s stated commitment and policy regarding community consultation, we feel that our legitimate expectations regarding this phase of consultation have yet to be met.  As such, we would like to see Hydro continue to work with the community throughout the duration of the project.

Should the project proceed, the main concern is that Lord Roberts Annex and the local community receives a fair deal in exchange for the considerable construction impacts and the permanent presence of the substation under the school field.  In particular, we are seeking assurances that the Vancouver School Board (VSB) and Vancouver Parks Board receive fair value for the 99 year lease they will be granting to BC Hydro, and that any contract include specific language that requires project funds to be spent in the local community of the West End, Coal Harbour, and Yaletown.  We respectfully request that the three main parties involved – BC Hydro, the VSB, and the Parks Board – commit to upholding this principle.

We would also like guarantees regarding the degree and form that ongoing consultation will take, to ensure that community opinions remains integral to the design and implementation of this project. To this end, we implore the Park’s Board and, in particular, the VSB, to advocate for West End families and children with respect to any and all future agreements with BC Hydro, so that parents and the community will continue to have their voices heard. Our aim is that, if approved, SEED will develop in a manner that continuously responds to and accommodates the concerns of parents and the community. This advocacy on the part of VSB is particularly crucial at this time.

We have drafted a list of community needs that the SEED project could potentially address if the safety and other concerns can be addressed.  We feel that all are deserving of consideration, whether at this current stage of consultation or at future stages, as the project evolves.

1.Health and Safety of Children and Staff at the Lord Roberts Annex

Of paramount importance, we would like to see an independent baseline study on current levels of EMF on the site, and a guarantee to test the levels on an ongoing basis during the construction, and after completion, for as long as the sub-station is active. Ongoing monitoring is critical to the LRA PAC. We would also like assurances that other safety measures that may come to our attention will be implemented. Further, we would like assurances that BC Hydro will continue to seek out and to develop additional safety and mitigation measures and will implement them as they become available.

We understand that BC Hydro is concerned with the safety of our children.  We also understand there are studies that suggest there will be little to no health impacts resulting from this sub-station. However, there remains a lack of scientific certainty and in the interests of growing children, the parties should recognize that where there are potential health risks, one should err on the side of caution even when there is not full scientific certainty with respect to the risks. In the event that impacts are identified at any point during the operation of the sub-station, we would like some assurance that BC Hydro will be involved (financially and other) in addressing the identified issues in a manner that is satisfactory to the concerned parties.

As noted we respectfully request that BC Hydro continue to meet with community members to discuss health and safety concerns in a meaningful way.  This will require more than quick, “one-way” information sessions. We would like time to have a meaningful conversation that satisfies the questions and concerns of parents and the community.

2.Build the Coal Harbour School

First and foremost we support the construction of the new Coal Harbour elementary school.  This project has been on the drawing board for many years as the neighbourhood has grown and the other local schools reach or exceed their capacity.  Based on your project timelines presented to the community, we expect the new Coal Harbour School will be open in 2020.  We note that several large developments will be built in the surrounding area in the next few years, further necessitating the construction of the school in the short term.

3. Build the new Lord Roberts Annex School

Some community members have expressed concerns that construction of the new Annex school could be delayed.  As we understand the SEED proposal, the current consultation concerns the granting of 99-year leases to BC Hydro by the VSB and the Parks Board.  Based on your project timelines presented to the community, we would like assurances from the parties involved that the Annex school will be rebuilt on its current site by 2025, thereby following the timelines outlined in the SEED documents.

4. Lord Roberts Annex Playground

The PAC at the Annex has been involved in fund-raising and designing a playground for some time.  This has been a careful and collaborative process. LRA PAC would like assurance that this process will not further delay our long awaited playground–that it will be installed straightaway.  We are seeking assurance that once the students are transferred from the Annex to the Coal Harbour school, our playground will be de-installed, put into safe storage, and then re-installed in the new Annex before the students are transferred back from Coal Harbour.  Further, in order to maintain the integrity of the design of the playground, including the memorial, we would like assurance that the playground will be expanded to accommodate the increased capacity of the new school, at no additional cost to the PAC or to the Annex as our funds are extremely limited.  We respectfully request the same architect is involved with the expansion to maintain the naturalized look and feel of our playground that we have worked very hard to achieve.  Further, since the school playground is highly used by the community when school is not in session, we respectfully request that funds be earmarked for this important resource.

5. Address the capacity crunch and safety concerns with King George High School

We recognize that high school capacity in the downtown areas is not currently a part of the SEED proposal.  However, this issue has been raised again and again at our meetings and at other SEED consultations.  If built as proposed, SEED will add approximately six hundred elementary school seats while doing nothing to address the lack of space in the local high school.  King George (1755 Barclay St.) is currently over capacity and in urgent need of seismic upgrading. We call on the VSB and its partners, including the provincial government, to fund the King George upgrading and expansion project immediately.

6. Land for a future school site

The impetus for the current proposal by BC Hydro is the need to replace the aging substations. The site of the current Dal Grauer substation is set to be decommissioned in 2030.  Substations don’t need to be above ground, but schools do.  Dal Grauer is a centrally located site and is just a block from the original King George high school site.  The VSB is in need of more land for future school sites and the Dal Grauer site would be a fair trade for the permanent presence of the substation under the Annex school site.

7. A Strong Start space for the West End

The West End had a “vulnerability” rate of 32% in Wave 6 of the Early Development Instrument (HELP, 2016). There is no Strong Start center in the downtown, and WEFA has heard many times that a lack of available space is a key reason. With the addition of two new elementary schools in the neighbourhood,

space needs to be made for a Strong Start program in one or both of these buildings. Ideally, space would be created at the main Lord Roberts School (1100 Bidwell St.) or the Annex site as these catchment areas have the highest poverty rates in the West End (First Call BC, 2016). WEFA calls on the VSB and its partners, including the provincial government, to fund a Strong Start in the West End immediately.

8. Dedicated number of childcare spots

The idea of childcare space in the new Annex school has been suggested by BC Hydro staff during the SEED consultation.  We call upon BC Hydro to negotiate with the VSB and the City of Vancouver to earmark funds from this transaction for the creation of daycare spaces on this site. According to the West End Community Plan additional childcare spaces are needed to meet existing and future demand in the neighbourhood, particularly for infants and toddlers (0 – 3 years) and school age children (5 – 12 years) (Page 100).

9. A new playground at another site in the West End

The playground at Nelson Park is the ONLY Parks Board playground in the West End.  For this reason the playground is a highly used community resource.  During construction we anticipate that Nelson Park will not be a relaxing place to play and that access to the adjacent Annex playground will be closed for a period of 5 years. A playground will need to be installed at another West End park to compensate for this community loss. Some Parks to consider: Barclay Heritage Square, Alexandra Park, and Sunset Beach.

10. Thoughtful design of school and Nelson Park

With a larger school population and a daycare at the site of the Annex safety issues in Nelson Park are of greater concern. There are already issues with improper needle disposal and tents in the park.  Any changes made to the configuration of the school and landscaping need to take into account principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Taking steps to activate the park space and create clear lines of sight are two strategies to make this a safe public park adjacent to a school and daycare.

11.Community Advisory Panel

Finally, in addition to these community concerns and needs, WEFA would like to emphasize once more the importance of continuing to include the local community in future stages of consultation. This request is echoed by LRA PAC, which would like assurances that future consultation will be in depth and meaningful with the possibility of accommodations where reasonable. Given the interests at stake, and BC Hydro and VSB’s stated commitment and policy regarding community consultation, we feel a community advisory panel, such as those that have been created for other large city projects, should form part of the model for future SEED consultation.


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