Hee Haw! Let's go farmin' like Michelle Obama

Post by Mike Klassen in

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Community cultural activities, nice homes at a fraction of city cost, with running water & modern gadgets...sounds like Vision City!

Get on yer overalls, y'all. It's time to start plantin' the garden, uh, on the first day of summer?

Ah, never mind. We're so excited about today's latest photo op with Vancouver's farmboy Mayor in his City Hall veggie patch that we hardly pay attention to little things like announcin' gardens when the snow is fallin' and plantin' them weeks past the time yer supposed to.

Yes, Gregor's Garden, the so-called "Quick Start" action of his GCAT group decided last February, is finally starting four months later. The Greenest City Action Team continues to meet secretly to come up with ideas on how to make Vancouver greener (and score Gregor political brownie points), assembling most recently on June 1st. The group's minutes have not been posted since last March.

We've already written about the process (or lack thereof) that went into Gregor's Garden. It happened liked this, King Gregor surveyed the land from his third floor office window, and decreed it shall be a garden. Boom. Done. Staff, get to work on Hizonner's whim.

Now 36 people, including someone who moved here 8 months ago, are taking over this rather sizable patch of public land, for themselves. Unlike many community gardens around Vancouver, which wind up on the sides of railway right-of-ways, or city-owned dead space on a street corner like Clark & Broadway, Gregor's Garden is pitched in the middle of a prominent public space surrounded by government buildings, retail and single-family residential properties.

You'd think that the City might have had a plan for this prominent, and underused park space next to City Hall prior to the 2010 Games. And you'd be right.

Proposed upgrades
Plans for upgrading City Hall grounds

According to the Vancouver Sun Robertson's garden has a budget of $25,000, with additional services (no price tag attached) from Engineering on hooking up watering systems on the lawn, and another $18,000 coming from a national non-profit group called Evergreen who are building the gardens. Evergreen list the Tides Canada Foundation among their many sponsors.

To date no one at City Hall has indicated publicly where that budget for Gregor's Garden came from. It has never been discussed or approved in City Hall chambers.

A much longer process, however, has been in place for the future of the City Hall front lawn (we're certain the Mayor knew nothing about it before making his decree). In fact, there is a whole website devoted to the continuing improvements to the grounds at City Hall. The City Hall Campus Improvements site gives you an understanding of just some of the work that has already been undertaken to make the North Lawn into a public space Vancouverites can be proud of.

Revered landscape architects Durante Kreuk were hired to create a plan that involved extensive public consultation, including comment on the project from the Vancouver Heritage Commission.

Durante Kreuk Ltd., a landscape architect firm originally retained by City of Vancouver Engineering Services for the Cambie Streetscape Improvements Project, was hired to develop the conceptual plans for the proposed improvements. The design team met with various advisory bodies and the final scheme was submitted for a minor development permit in September, 2008.

...The project is anticipated to be completed in 2009.

The goal set forth by previous councils was to remake the North Lawn into a vital public space. Years of neglect had led to trees and shrubs becoming overgrown and hiding the view from Cambie Street. With the 2010 Games inviting the world here it was felt that this would be a good incentive to improve the visual appearance and accessibility of this park space.

But with a wave of his mighty hand, King Gregor put an end to this time-consuming and costly process, and turned the space over to 36 people who "won the lottery" by getting an expensive garden plot at City Hall.

As we reviewed in an earlier post, Vancouver's community gardens policy framework is clear on how these spaces should be created and approved:

  • The garden is developed at no cost to the [Park] Board, except that prior to the first season, the Board will, at its cost, prepare the site for planting by removing grass, ploughing the soil and adding compost.
  • A community consultation process indicates neighbourhood support for the garden.

So there we have it. Gregor's vanity garden has already cost the City over $25,000 when only sod removal and trucking in compost is what the City should agree to, and the garden has been created with a wave of the Mayor's hand instead of a community consultation.

Just sounds like another day at Vision Vancouver's Silly Hall.

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