Residents’ association takes Vancouver to court over agreement for Squamish Nation-led development

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A group representing residents in part of Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood is taking the city and the Squamish Nation to court, asking a judge to quash a key agreement concerning a housing development planned for the area.

The Kits Point Residents Association filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday asking for a judicial review of the agreement to ensure the city will manage utilities, fire and policing at the 11-tower Sen̓áḵw development planned for the neighbourhood.

The association — which represents more than 1,000 households in the area — wants the court to declare that the city didn’t give residents a fair chance to offer feedback or express concerns around the development.

“The city did not provide residents of Kits Point or Vancouver generally with any details of the service agreement or an opportunity to be heard … despite city staff’s assurances that it would engage with community and the impact of the project on surrounding neighbourhood,” the petition reads.

“The city incorrectly and unreasonably believes that since the [Squamish] Nation was not required to consult city residents, it too was not required to consult or hear from its residents.”

The Sen̓áḵw development would see 11 towers built at the head of Vancouver’s False Creek, on expropriated land the courts returned to the nation in 2003. It would bring 6,000 new rental homes to the area by 2027, according to planners.

Members of Squamish Nation and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau break ground with shovels at the future Senakw housing development near the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pictured during a ceremony breaking ground at the Sen̓áḵw housing development on Sept. 6. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

At a groundbreaking ceremony last month, the Squamish Nation said the development is the largest Indigenous-led housing and retail development in the history of Canada.

The City of Vancouver issued a brief statement about the legal action on Thursday.

“The city is reviewing the legal petition and will respond in due course,” it said in an email.

The nation deferred comment to the city.

The property set aside for the Sen̓áḵw project is located at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver, near Vanier Park. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The residents’ association said it tried to get details about the project before the services agreement was signed, but claimed staff “repeatedly” told them they could not discuss details because discussions were all being held in camera, or behind closed doors.

The petition says the city’s actions were “unlawful, unreasonable” and violated the Vancouver Charter — the rulebook governing how the city operates.

“A host of interests and issues need to be addressed and negotiated … including impacts on services, infrastructure, environment, public amenities, parking, traffic and transportation, livability and local taxes,” the petition says.

The residents’ association said it is not opposed to the development, but concerned about the “size, density, heights of towers and the effect on the neighbouring residential area,” including Vanier Park.

The federal government is providing a $1.4-billion loan to the nation to help finance the first two of the development’s four phases. Ottawa said the loan from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is the largest in Canadian history.

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