Blog by Kevin Wong

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Vancouver's Point Grey Road Set to Become a ‘Park for the Rich’ With New Plan Restricting Traffic

Point Grey Road, home to Vancouver’s swankiest oceanfront mansions, is set to become a residents-only street for the city’s elite under a new plan released Wednesday.

However, some residents living elsewhere in Kitsilano fear the area is being turned into a park for the wealthy, where home values will skyrocket as traffic is forced onto neighbouring streets.

The $6-million construction proposal would block off the road from Macdonald Street to Alma Street, diverting an estimated 9,700 commuter cars each day.

“We’re converting that section of Point Grey Road into a local neighbourhood street with local access for residents,” confirmed city transportation manager Jerry Dobrovolny.

But Tomina DeJong, who lives with husband Fred Lockwood at Macdonald between Second and Third, doesn’t like it.

“I’m distraught and outraged,” said DeJong, who organized a meeting last month about the plan. “It looks like a park for the rich. It will mean that now we have between 10,000 and 12,000 cars a day, and there will be 7,000 to 10,000 more on our road. And we carry three very high-volume buses. How are those buses going to get through?”

“(Point Grey Road) now carries about 10,000 cars on average a day. It will go down to about 500. It means their property values will suddenly jump and ours will be lower. And it will also be at the expense of safety on Macdonald Avenue and the flanking streets as well.”

The exorcism of cars from the elite street was one detail tucked into the 68-page Kitsilano bike lane proposal, a project pegged as a means to connect cyclists from the Burrard Street Bridge to Jericho Beach.

“I’m not sure all the residents will benefit as much as a certain number of residents will benefit,” NPA Coun. George Affleck said, referring to those living along Point Grey Road.

The bulk of the diverted cars are expected to be pushed along Broadway, 16th, 12th and 4th Avenues.

The new plan will also axe 200 parking spots from the total 1,000 along the route, Dobrovolny said.

Additionally, sections of York Ave. will become one-way streets, eliminating through traffic.

Cheryl Ziola, executive-director of the Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has big concerns about the plan, citing a survey of members that concluded 60 per cent were opposed to closing the road to commuter traffic.

“It was unfortunate it became polarized, a bikes versus cars issue,” said Ziola. “We wanted it to be more of a shared use road. Everyone paid for it, so everyone should be able to use it.

“And closing the road will make a lot of congestion in other areas, like Fourth Avenue. It might have made more sense to get appropriate transit in place first.”

Ziola said most chamber members hoped the city would delay the matter and look more deeply at the implications.

“There’s also significant parking loss, impacting merchants on Cornwall all the way down. It makes it difficult for merchants who rely on commuters. But I don’t think we’re all that surprised. I think some of these decisions were made a long time ago. The priorities are pedestrians, cyclists, transit, and vehicles are at the bottom of that list.”

However, a recent chamber newsletter quoted Christian Johannsen, owner of Foot Solutions in Kitsilano and the KCC chairman, saying he believes a compromise is the best option.

“Given our city was just voted No. 5 of the Top Sustainable Cities in North America, we must have a vision that is forward-thinking to retain that ranking,” said Johannsen, a cyclist, in the newsletter. “Otherwise, we may as well just look forward to a grey smog blanket if we continue to accommodate vehicles alone. We may never rival Amsterdam in terms of the cyclist population, but if we don’t build it, they won’t come.”

Laurence Estrin has lived on the south side of Point Grey Road for 40 years and says the wealthiest residents, such as Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, can sit in their backyards with million-dollar views and ignore the problems generated by all the traffic.

Instead it’s the residents on the south side of the block and surrounding streets that deal with the consequences of the commuter traffic.

“You can’t open your windows and doors here; the fumes from the cars and the sound pollution is terrible,” said Estrin, who supports the city plan. “It’s going to get worse because the number of people who are moving out to the new residences in UBC are going to increase the traffic quite a bit.”

However, further south on 4th Avenue just east of the intersection with Macdonald Street, Rick Martin says he is against any more traffic flowing by his Momento Coffee House and Mac Market computer store.

“At rush hour at every light there’s easily 15 to 20 vehicles backed up,” Martin said. “The pollutants that we have to clean off every single day — it’s crazy, it’s absolutely crazy.”

Martin said any cyclists travelling down Point Grey Road should migrate, like he does, to the traffic-calmed Third or Eighth avenues nearby, which have “great big bike signs on the road and there’s a great amount of respect” for cyclists.

According to city numbers, 18,000 Kitsilano residents have taken part in the community-wide consultation process since talks started in January.

“There has been some feedback for us to slow down, there’s been a lot of feedback for us to speed up, and there’s been a lot of support for the project overall. There’s no shortage of opinions and strong opinions,” Dobrovolny said.

Council will wait a week for the public to analyze the dense document before inviting speakers to share opinions at council next Wednesday.

For Affleck, it feels like the vote has already been cast.

“The record of Vision Vancouver is that every plan that has come to council has passed. It’s unlikely it won’t pass, but miracles happen.”




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