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Building bylaw is bad for trees
Richmond doesn’t, and never did, need a tree bylaw to protect trees.
The real culprit in the loss of our treescape is building bylaw 5300, which essentially allows a lot to be covered with dwelling and hard surface. Given this scenario, trees are razed in order to maximize house sizes and front yard parking lots, with no regard to environmental or esthetic issues.
According to the building bylaw, maximum lot coverage in the single family housing district (R1) is “45 per cent for buildings only; 80 per cent for buildings and any non-porous surfaces or structures inclusive; and the remainder of the lot area restricted to landscaping with live plant material.”
Compare this to a typical 1970s house and carport on a 60-foot lot that covered only 21 per cent of the property. The most damaging elements of the current bylaw are side and rear yard setbacks as little as 3.9 feet (1.2 m) in certain cases, and hard surface coverage of 80 per cent of the lot.
The current building bylaw has been in place long enough for us to see its impact on our private green spaces. Thirty years ago, a typical house had front, side and back yards with room to plant almost anything. Now, you can build closer to the fence line, push the house back on the property, and have a giant parking lot in the front, usually surrounded by a bunker of concrete and steel.
The long-term consequence of the current bylaw is that our neighbourhoods will eventually be denuded of trees simply because builders aren’t leaving enough space for them. We will lose not only the visual impact of trees, but also the sound buffering provided by green growth, especially hedges, between houses. We’re losing the very essence that makes neighbourhoods attractive: landscaping that can be enjoyed by neighbours and passersby.
The current building trend has all sorts of environmental and social implications, from the increased demand for public park spaces, loss of opportunity for children to play outside, continued emphasis on the private vehicle, increasing demand for fuel to heat large houses, and loss of shelter for songbirds.
What can be done to save the single-family neighbourhood? Change the building bylaw to require larger side and back yard setbacks, and reduce the allowed percentage of hard surfacing. Simply, leave more space for homeowners to plant trees and other green material.
For those properties where the builders have paid the $1,500 tree bylaw fee for removing trees, the situation could be mitigated somewhat if the city offered a rebate to each homeowner who could prove that two significant trees have been replanted on their lot. At least that would ensure that some trees are replaced in their original neighbourhoods.
Does this council have the fortitude to change bylaw 5300? For the sake of the Garden City, I hope so.
Free speech and responsibility
I believe in free speech and I believe in fair and accurate representation of facts, being accountable for one’s actions, and standing up for the rights of all Canadians.
Bruce Allen’s comments were discriminatory, based on misleading facts which provoked social tensions and had the potential consequence of inciting anger towards Sikh and Muslim Canadians as well as immigrants. I called for Mr. Allen to be held accountable on this matter and not for the censuring of his speech.
Mr. Allen should be answerable for the fabricated facts upon which he based his argument for immigrants to “shut up and fit in.”
To clarify, there are no laws or rules in Canada that require someone to not wear a veil when voting, a patka in passport photos or to change your last name to immigrate to Canada. For Mr. Allen to suggest that Sikhs and Muslims are somehow running contrary to Canadian rules and laws is completely false. Allen says such laws are clearly “spelled out and easy to get a hold of” when in fact, they do not exist.
It is dangerous to espouse this misleading information because of its ability to incite anger and negative reactions and thus further widen social cleavages.
Instead of “shut up and fit in” as Mr. Allen ordered, we should encourage all newcomers to fully participate in our society. By getting involved in our democratic political process they may peacefully advocate for their concerns.
Upon reflection on Mr. Allen’s comments I feel it necessary to ask this question: At what point does Mr. Allen acknowledge immigrants as Canadians, deserving of all the rights bestowed unto him? Apparently Mr. Allen is unaware of Canada’s history. The fact is Chinese Canadians have called this country home since 1788, Muslims since 1871 and Sikh Canadians just celebrated 110 years of living in Canada. Who has the right to tell them to leave Canada, their home?
As all Canadians do, Mr. Allen has the right to his opinion, but as member of VANOC’s ceremony team his inflammatory and discriminatory remarks could be interpreted as an indication that Vancouver is less than respectful, tolerant or welcoming. That is why I asked Mr. Allen to apologize and take responsibility for his remarks.
As Canadians we are entitled to the fundamental right of free speech, but we must always remember that our rights come with responsibilities. Mr. Allen needs to be held accountable for his remarks.