Date: June 27, 2002
Author/Local: Harv Weidner/604-871-6538
RTS No. 2773
CC File No. 8008
P&E: July 25, 2002
Standing Committee on Planning and Environment
Director of City Plans and the General Manager of Engineering Services in consultation with the General Manager of Parks and Recreation
Still Creek Rehabilitation and Enhancement Study - Recommendations for the Grandview Boundary Industrial Area
A. THAT Council endorse the ten year action plan contained in the Still Creek Rehabilitation and Enhancement Study as outlined in Appendix A at an estimated cost of $1.2 million, subject to continuing funding from the Still Creek Enhancement Fund, the GVRD Still Creek Facility Renewal /Replacement Capital Budget, senior government green funding and environmental grants from private sector sources;
And FURTHER that staff actively pursue opportunities for senior government funding and corporate sector grants for the purposes of advancing the ten year actions to enhance Still Creek.
B. THAT Council endorse the 10 to 50 year action plan as contained in the Still Creek Rehabilitation and Enhancement Study as outlined in Appendix A in principle, subject to more detailed investigation of the costs and benefits of the individual projects, completion of an Integrated Stormwater Management Plan for Still Creek, and report back from staff on the results of this further study.
C. THAT the report back from staff contain a review of the Best Management Practises contained in the Still Creek Enhancement and Rehabilitation Study and an implementation program for cost-effective and appropriate actions.
GENERAL MANAGER'S COMMENTS
The General Managers of Community Services and Engineering RECOMMEND approval of A through C.
On July 12, 1988 Council endorsed Still Creek to be maintained as an open water course, and to pursue daylighting, enhancing the Creek, and providing public access to a continuous pedestrian/bicycle pathway linking Burnaby Lake to the B.C. Parkway at 29th Avenue Station.
On April 24, 1990, the Still Creek CD-1 Guidelines were adopted by City Council.
On September 16, 1993, Council supported including the Renfrew Ravine/Still Creek area in the GVRD Green Zone.
On June 14, 1994, Council approved an Inflow and Infiltration Reduction program in the Still Creek area to eliminate sewage discharges to the Creek resulting from sanitary and storm sewer cross-overs.
On June 6, 1995, Council adopted CityPlan which directs that priority be given to actions that protect the environment, that parks and public places be diversified, that natural areas be protected and that more extensive greenways be created to explore and enjoy on foot or bike.
On May 2, 2000, Council endorsed the draft Brunette Basin Watershed Plan and that it be considered when carrying out City activities in the Still Creek drainage basin.
On July 27, 2000, Council established the Still Creek/Greenway Enhancement Fund with contributions from the Vancouver Film Studios for the lease of Cornett Road.
On March 15, 2001, Council adopted the Liquid Waste Management Plan which calls for developing Integrated Stormwater Management Plans (ISMPs) in areas service by separated stormwater systems.
On April 23, 2002, Council endorsed the recommendations of the Creating a Sustainable City report which outlined a program for incorporating sustainability into all city operations.
As part of recent area planning work in the Grandview Boundary Industrial area (GBIA), this report summarizes the Still Creek Enhancement and Rehabilitation Study recommendations and seeks Council approval of an implementation approach. Council is also requested to consider companion reports on adoption of the GBIA Area Plan and Guidelines, and adoption of a DCL By-law.
BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY
Council endorsed policies to daylight, enhance and protect Still Creek 14 years ago. Since that time, staff have undertaken an inflow and infiltration program in the area which has eliminated the sewer cross-over contamination from private properties. No other significant changes have occurred due primarily to a lack of funding and public awareness of the Creek. As the area's only natural amenity, an enhanced Still Creek could become the recreational focus of the GBIA and surrounding neighbourhood, an opportunity to help address stormwater issues and improve the stream ecology, as well as an important educational tool to promote environmental awareness.
In 2000, Council endorsed the Brunette Basin Watershed Plan. The Still Creek watershed is a large part of the Brunette Basin. The Creek is the last remaining partly open creek in Vancouver's built-up area and a logical focus for local actions to support the Brunette Basin Plan. About 550 meters of the 1,400 meters from 29th Avenue to Boundary Road (i.e. 40%) is culverted and about 325 meters of the culverted sections are on privately-owned parcels of land. Much of the remaining open portion of the Creek is in the GBIA where land use changes, redevelopment and substantial increases in employment are anticipated. In planningfor this change, the Creek represents the best opportunity for creating unique water-focused recreational spaces for workers and surrounding residents. The Creek is under private ownership throughout the GBIA and the GVRD has a right-of- way agreement to allow it to access the Creek for maintenance. As part of comprehensive planning for the GBIA, a consultant identified opportunities for Still Creek enhancement in the area identified in Figure 1, but focusing on the GBIA. The Still Creek Rehabilitation and Enhancement Study is on file in the Planning Department.
The Still Creek Rehabilitation and Enhancement Study
The Study examined the entire Still Creek Watershed while focusing on enhancement and recreational opportunities in the GBIA. Short-term, cost-effective improvements are suggested to build toward longer-term daylighting, stormwater retention wetlands options, and a Still Creek Greenway. Together the options would help address stormwater management issues, improve water quality, create unique recreational spaces along enhanced stream side areas, and ultimately return the Creek to a more natural state. Achieving this goal may take 50 years or more but key directions must be established so opportunities are not missed as redevelopment occurs. The ultimate plan can be achieved through a series of incremental actions. A detailed list of both the 10 year and 10 to 50 year actions and their estimated costs is provided in Appendix A.
GBIA - 10 Year Action Plan
The short-term (10 year) actions focus on improvements to the stream and streamside areas and include stream widening where possible, replanting to native plants and adding stream complexity. To raise public awareness and build support among owners and residents, public art, seating, interpretive signage and other educational efforts would accompany the improvements.
One of the most significant short-term improvements proposed is to narrow the pavement width on the 3400 block of Cornett Road by removing a parking lane and widening the streamside area by 6 metres. Prior to implementing this and other significant enhancements, further consultation would occur with affected owners.
Figure 1 - Still Creek Study Area
The estimated total cost of the short-term work would be $1.2 million over ten years. Most of the funding for these improvements would come from the Still Creek Enhancement Fund which is accumulating at $80,000 per year. The remainder of the work could occur through a combination of the GVRD Still Creek Facility Renewal/Replacement capital budget and environmental grants from the federal government's Green Infrastructure Program and private environmental groups. The grants could help fund some of the smaller projects. Staff have been working with the Steelhead Society in applying for various grants over the past year and have so far been successful in obtaining a grant of $7000 from the TD Friends of the Environment program, and one of $4,600 from the federal government's Urban Salmon Habitat Program, Fisheries Renewal BC. These and similar grants will act as "seed" money to purchase materials. This should help attract donated equipment time, and community volunteers for planting and stewardship. Together these projects will build momentum and establish support for the more significant improvements.
GBIA - 10 to 50 year Action Plan
The long-term actions proposed involve daylighting the culverted sections of the Creek, creating 2 major retention pond/wetlands (controlled lakes lined with plants and used for temporary water storage, pollutant filtration and passive recreation), completing the Still Creek Greenway and creating other public amenity spaces in and around these new features. The improvements would provide recreational and amenity space for GBIA employees and area residents, and benefits for stormwater management and stream ecology. Redevelopment of affected sites is generally required to provide opportunities to negotiate rights-of-way or purchase land outright for retention pond/wetlands for water storage & recreation. In certain situations, the City could purchase key parcels in advance. Staff would investigate the benefits of pursuing such purchases if and when opportunities arise.
Funding for the 10 to 50 year action plan is estimated at approximately $9 million including land costs. Considering that this expenditure would be spread out over 50 years, it amounts to less than $200,000 per year. Other than funding from the proposed GBIA DCLs, which would cover a small percentage of the two proposed wetland costs, and the Still Creek Enhancement Fund, funding sources for the 10 to 50 year actions have not been determined.
Given the complexity and scope of these proposals, staff suggest Council endorse them in principle only pending development of an Integrated Stormwater Management Plan (ISMP) for the Creek with Burnaby and the GVRD. In addition, once this more detailed analysis is complete, proposals such as the retention pond/wetlands will require consultation with the affected property owners before Council can consider final approval.
Guidelines for Private Development Near Still Creek
The existing Still Creek CD-1 guidelines address general environmental issues and require development to setback 3 metres (10 feet) from the Creek. Since these guidelines were developed in the late 1980s, the science of stream enhancement and stormwater management in urban areas, and public expectations have advanced. The province has developed the Streamside Protection Regulations, which call for much greater protection for existing waterways and Council has endorsed the Brunette Basin Watershed Plan and committed to moving the City toward more sustainable practices.
The current Still Creek CD-1 Guidelines apply only to those sites zoned CD-1 shown in Figure 2 below. In light of the progress in stream protection noted above since the original Still Creek guidelines were developed, staff recommend introducing Creek related guidelines for all sites in the GBIA. The sites adjacent the Creek would continue to play a more substantial role in the protection of the Creek, but all sites that drain into the Creek would need to contribute to its protection. It is hoped that during the Renfrew-Collingwood Visioning program, the community will embrace similar directions for the portion of the Still Creek watershed in their community.
The companion GBIA report recommends rescinding the existing CD-1 guidelines and incorporating the relevant guidelines in the GBIA Rezoning and Development Policies and Guidelines. Guidelines have been added which request simple techniques to reduce stormwater run-off such as using stormwater swales (planted ditches which help to filter and infiltrate water) bordering parking areas. More complex solutions such as green roofs would be encouraged but would need to await more detailed analysis of costs and benefits. Requesting developers to provide the simple inexpensive techniques would be an initial step toward eventually requiring greater on-site stormwater retention once further study of costs and benefits currently on-going, and the ISMP for Still Creek have been completed. Introduction of these more extensive measures will likely require a comprehensive approach that considers the additional costs of these measures and takes a city-wide approach.
The other significant change in the guidelines is that the stream side setback for adjacent buildings and hard surfaces has been increased from 3.0 metres to 5.0 metres, in part to respond to the Provincial Streamside Protection Regulations. Although these regulations still have yet to be implemented and their future is uncertain at this time, staff conclude that this small increase is warranted and represents a reasonable response in an urban setting like Vancouver. A few affected sites will also need to comply with City Flood Proofing Policies by raising their grade above the 200 year flood level (generally .5 to 1.0 m higher) when they are redeveloped.
Figure 2 - Sites Regulated by Still Creek CD-1 Guidelines
Outside the GBIA - Renfrew Ravine/Park
Outside the GBIA, the study focused on the three areas where the Creek remains above ground. Like enhancement proposals for the GBIA, these areas offer opportunites to improve the overall health of the Creek and provide recreational and educational opportunities for the Renfrew-Collingwood community.
In Renfrew Ravine, Still Creek remains largely in its natural state. A group of area residents - the Renfrew Ravine Committee - has been active for many years cleaning up the Ravine, removing non-native plants and spearheading the creation of a natural park space on 29th Avenue adjacent the Ravine. In Renfrew Park, the Creek has been channelized, its natural banks replaced with stone and concrete retaining walls. A naturalization of the Creek with the addition of one or more wetlands would increase the amenity value of the Creek and provide stormwater and water quality benefits. Just south of Grandview Highway, the Creek runs through a narrow concrete channel where water velocity is extreme during storm events. The study suggests a small retention pond/wetland be created to slow the water and provide water quality, amenity and recreational benefits.
All these conceptual proposals will be reviewed and discussed further with the community as part of the Renfrew-Collingwood Visions Program.
Enhancing the Still Creek Watershed
The visible portions of Still Creek are a small component of the Still Creek watershed and what happens in the watershed is inseparable from the health of the Creek. The study recommends other watershed-wide initiatives to support the enhancement actions for the Creek. As an example, Council has recently considered several pilot projects to test new practices to reduce stormwater runoff and provide other benefits. These include new street designs similar to Seattle's "SEA Street" involving narrow pavement and landscaped swales to allow stormwater to percolate into the ground. Also, the "Country Lanes" concept is another possible future project involving using 2 narrow concrete driving strips with permeable surfaces on either side as an alternative to fence to fence lane pavement. These ideas will be considered for the Still Creek watershed after the ISMP is complete and discussions on these and other watershed initiatives occur as part of the Renfrew-Collingwood Visions Program. Staff will report back with a program once these processes are complete.
Staff held 2 public open houses to present the results of the Still Creek Study. On November 19, 2001, an open house was held to present the draft Still Creek enhancement options to landowners. Invitations were sent to the 44 landowners and tenants adjacent Still Creek and2 landowners attended. Comments were generally positive with some concern expressed about the scope of the 10 to 50 year actions. There was no comment on the proposal to increase the building setback from 3 to 5 metres.
At a later GBIA open house on February 28, 2002, representatives for Superstore expressed concern with proposed expansion to the streamside area and the retention pond/wetland suggested for their unused parking area proposed as part of the 10 to 50 year actions. In response, staff note that these projects are at the conceptual stage and more detailed analysis of their costs, benefits, size and location would occur as part of the ISMP for Still Creek and future discussions with landowners.
A second open house was held on November 20, 2001 for the landowners not bordering the Creek, GBIA tenants and the general public. It was attended by about 60 people, primarily residents of the Renfrew neighbourhood. Response was extremely positive to the draft Still Creek enhancement proposals with many expressing willingness to help bring the plan to fruition through volunteer work.
The Still Creek Rehabilitation and Enhancement Study has provided a comprehensive perspective on actions that should be considered to preserve and enhance Still Creek and provide recreational amenities for the GBIA. The land use changes and redevelopment anticipated in the GBIA, the Still Creek Enhancement Fund, the provincial government's Streamside Protection Regulations and the Brunette Basin Watershed Plan, all provide a context and an opportunity for positive action. By approving the recommendations in this report, Council will have initiated steps to ultimately achieve the goals of daylighting and enhancing Still Creek, thus achieving long-standing objectives for the last remaining Creek in a built-up portion of Vancouver.
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(c) 1998 City of Vancouver