Strathcona residents want more transparency in viaduct removal plan

The chair of the Strathcona Residents Association says the citys plan to tear down the Georgia Street viaduct could be a great thing if done right, but he doesnt think the city has a good enough plan.

Pete Fry doesnt believe the city is being transparent about development plans for the area east of Gore Avenue and has planned a protest rally for Monday.

Its reckless to remove the viaducts without a plan east of Gore, Fry said.

The rally by the SRA will be held on April Fools Day at Hawks Street at Prior. The city is playing the residents of Strathcona like a fool, Fry said explaining why the rally is scheduled for April 1.

The city presented a proposal last month including traffic calming along Prior, but Fry and other Strathcona residents left the meeting disappointed because of the absence of a more comprehensive plan.

The SRA, with co-signatories the Ray-Cam Co-op, the Strathcona BIA and other groups in the community, sent a letter to the mayor and council Feb. 26 outlining immediate actions they want taken before they agree with the removal of the viaducts.

The demands in the letter include a 30-kilometre speed limit on Prior Street along Strathcona Park and reducing Prior to a two-lane road with a separated bike lane.

The increasing speed of gentrification in Strathcona and Chinatown have many people suspicious of the citys plans to redevelop and connect a new expanded six-lane Pacific Boulevard to Prior Street. Housing prices along Prior are expected to skyrocket in the next few years coinciding with the viaduct removal plan.

Prior Street traffic and congestion have been a thorn in the neighbourhoods side for years. The four-lane road has had its fair share of accidents including a car that smashed into a house in February.

Fry is critical of the city for dumping highway traffic into residential neighbourhoods.

Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs says what will happen east of Gore is a work in progress.

The SRA is demanding that decisions made immediately, Meggs said.

We have to keep in mind this will open up enormous possibilities. It will expand park land and heal the break on Main street.

The fate of Cottonwood Community Gardens is in the mix of heated issues surrounding the citys Eastern Core strategy because of the possibility of widening Malkin Avenue where the garden is located.

The once toxic dump has been turned into a thriving food growing area.

Oliver Kellhammer, the founder of Cottonwood Gardens, said the SRA wants us to support them to widen Malkin Avenue where the garden is located, and we cant do that.

Kellhammer said the SRA have become very politicized around this particular issue, this traffic calming agenda. They want us to take a stand and that is not our mandate.

Fry said in a later to the Courier that the SRA does not want to widen Malkin and that any suggestion of doing so has come from the city.

Widening Malkin Avenue would wipe out a key piece of ecological infrastructure, Kellhammer said. He said Cottonwoods position is not up for negotiation and never will be.

Kellhammer said he was told by a city staffer that the city would not touch the Cottonwood site.
(This story has been clarified since its original posting March 27.)
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