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Letter: Shouldn't Burnaby City Hall symbolize something?

The location and design of Burnaby City Hall should honour Indigenous people, this writer suggests.
Symbol: Burnaby City Hall's design and location should be meaningful and symbolic, this writer suggests.


Ideally, I would like the location and design of Burnaby City Hall to honour the Central Coast Salish peoples on whose ancestral lands we live. I would also like city hall to represent the values of inclusion, democracy, sustainability, efficiency and service. I would like city hall to have some style and be a pleasant place for public servants to work!

“Honouring the Central Coast Salish peoples” — the city would have to ask our local First Nations how to do this.

“Inclusion” could mean making city hall easily accessible for people of all abilities, economic statuses, various languages and cultural backgrounds, etc.

“Democracy” could mean providing a large indoor meeting space at city hall for city-public engagement, as well as an outdoor green space to be enjoyed by city staff and the public. It could mean designing city council and committee meeting spaces that are less intimidating for citizen delegations.

“Sustainability” could mean a city hall heated and cooled by geo-thermal supplemented with solar energy, built with sustainable building materials according to the latest step codes, with good air filtration, well serviced by transit, providing secure bicycle lockups and showers for staff with adequate onsite parking and EV charging stations for staff and the public.

“Efficiency” could mean enough staff to do the work needed at city hall. It could look like less “red tape” and quicker processing and inspection times. It could look like everyone at city hall coordinating their efforts; not working in silos. It could look like easy transportation access to city hall for staff and the public.

“Service” — City hall serves the community. Service includes listening well, communicating openly and honestly and working hard to meet the needs of the people being served. (Public servants also need to be treated fairly and appreciated for all they do for us.)

“Style” — Do we really want just another highrise tower to be the symbol of our city? Could we not seek submissions from a three different architectural firms to see if they could create designs that reflect citizens’ values of how we want our city to be now and for years to come?

I think we should look at city hall sites that could promote these sort of values.

I do not agree with the city directive that all city staff have to be housed in the same building. I believe that the parks commission and engineering could exist very well in different buildings — maybe other departments, too? 

I do not agree with the city directive that three sites, all in Metrotown, are the only sites that should be seriously considered. Why can we not look at Clarke Rowe’s fourth option? Why can we not look at rebuilding city hall at Deer Lake as a number of your contributors have suggested?

I do not understand why the City Hall Survey asks citizens whether they want to see the following in a city hall development: meeting rooms for public use, child care, art gallery, cultural venue, housing, restaurant/café, retail shops and other. Surely, we should be discussing these other facilities in the context of examining the Deer Lake Plan, the Metrotown Downtown Plan and other local community plans and the new Official Community Plan?

Burnaby’s 1998 Official Community Plan states its time frame as follows:

The OCP for Burnaby is primarily concerned with policy direction for the next 10 to 15 years. However, in keeping with the Regional Context Statement requirements, it also presents a general scenario and preliminary directions for the year 2021.

What we have seen in Burnaby is city council authorizing policy directions for the city well past the time frame that was anticipated in the 1998 OCP. It is time for city council to include broad citizen feedback in its decision-making, without overly controlling the conversation.

There needs to be more work done on “visioning” for the new OCP, and the location of Burnaby City Hall should be part of that, not an isolated decision.


Christine Cunningham