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Letter: Willingdon Lands plan carries serious flaws

Inadequate consultation, displacement of renters among drawbacks of Urban Village blueprint
Willingdon Lands Street View
The plan outlines the creation of a mixed-use, contemporary Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh urban village.


I live at the intersection of Smith Avenue and Canada Way which is close to the very huge Willingdon Lands Master Plan or the 'Urban Village.' I call it the 'Small City Project' because of its magnitude. It is at the intersection of Willingdon Avenue and Canada Way, right opposite the BCIT campus.

This project involves several other smaller projects and it is very massive in its entirety. This was a piece of public land that the previous government sold to First Nations people and Aquilini Developer Group in 2014 or 2015 without public consultation and engagement.

The First Nations people along with their developer partner, proposed the plan in 2017 and this year got the permission to proceed with a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, May 31 at 5 p.m. at City Hall in Burnaby.

This was done without proper public and community consultation and engagement. The city planning office in Burnaby based its decision on consulting only 40 people in the community online. They also had a short survey of 81 people online. I am not sure how many of these participants in total were really living in the immediate neighbourhood and how many of them were really neutral and totally independent of this group and developer. 

I was not aware of this project till I got its flyer in my mailbox about two days before the info sessions (they later on presented it to the council as their proof for having a very extensive public consultation in order to proceed with the public hearing). I did not take part in it because it was online and I was not familiar with the process that much. Besides, my computer is old and does not work well either.

There are many seniors living in this neighbourhood and they are not familiar with participating in online consultations either. I came to know later, through talking with the community residents, that they were not aware of this project and the consultation that came with it.

The Burnaby City Planning Office prepared a report and approved the project for public hearing based on consulting a few people among a community of thousands. This report is inconclusive and should be disregarded. There should be extensive engagement and participation of the local community when it comes to a project of this size and magnitude.

The Burnaby city planners. Instead of remaining impartial and neutral and involving the community in their evaluation of this project, decided to take sides with the developer and present this plan as something that would benefit the community and the Indigenous people a lot. It is clearly stated at the end of their report they gave to the city council. 

This project will also create a lot of traffic, congestion, air and noise pollution in an area already congested and busy for a very long period of time (somewhere between five and 15 or 20 years needed to complete the project).

The whole neighbourhood already has a lot of offices and business companies around. Willingdon Avenue, Boundary Road, Canad Way, Smith Avenue, Laurel Street because of more density, are experiencing much higher volumes of traffic than before and a lot of big trucks frequent these roads and the community regularly.

Illegal and suspicious activity is also directly connected and related to population growth and density and this project would create and promote that as well. We are already facing some safety matters and issues in the neighbourhood because of more population growth and higher density

In addition, Brentwood Centre has coffee shops, restaurants, shops, and offices. Metrotown, Walmart, Superstore, are also easily accessible by car and bus. There are two film studios not far away and there is an under construction electronic arts cultural centre which is very close to this site.

The construction of highrises has greatly contributed to the housing crisis, homelessness and displacement of renters in the Lower Mainland. Lands, lots and residential apartments are demolished and their occupants are forced to leave the area to make room for highrises, and this project is also using the same strategy. 

Highrises are not environmentally friendly, they are expensive to rent, buy and maintain and are not affordable housing. They are designed for people who have much higher purchasing power, enabling investors and developers to gain financially from selling them.

There is also room for future expansion and growth of this project, which would definitely lead to further densification and destruction of habitat of animals and trees and more displacement of people and health issues.   


Parviz Paydafar