image from save the cob garden
This is an interesting story that has been going on for quite some time in East Vancouver.
There is a lot at the corner of Napier Dr. and Salsbury Dr. in East Vancouver that had become "overgrown" with large trees, a few of which were rare, and two century-old pre-fab worker's houses (which were listed #6 on the City's Heritage schedule of threatened historical structures). In addition, there was a cob house built by local residents (picture above). For decades, local children played in the gardens, which were cultivated by locals. The owner had no objections to this use. The lot became a de facto park over time.
After the death of the owner, his estate sold the lot in 2005 to a developer, Niebuhr Construction, for a reported $700k. The developer had plans to demolish the gardens, heritage structures and the cob house in order to erect two duplexes on the property. These plans were vociferously challenged by local residents, who eventually lobbied the Parks Board to purchase the property and maintain it as a park and learning centre. The Parks Board agreed, and offered the developer market value. The developer refused to sell it, and hired homeless people to squat on the lot, and to keep children and locals out. They also destroyed any work that the local gardeners did.
Finally, the locals appealed to the Board of Variance, who proceeded to overturn the development permits. The developer took the City to court, and the City Council fired the five member board en masse, and hired a new board friendlier to the developer. The new board reversed the fired board's decision, and the court case was dropped. Then the fired Board of Variance went to court to challenge their termination. For the whole saga, check The Republic stories here and here
Recently Niebuhr Construction sold the property to another developer for $1.2 million. Last week I drove by and saw that the two heritage structures had been torn down, and a lot of the trees removed, and the gardens bull-dozed. The cob house still stood. Tonight I drove by and saw that the cob house is now gone, and there is an excavation pit on the contentious property.
Okay, so it's a free market, and the owner is allowed to do as he pleases, but it's a damned shame. A quite nice neighbourhood has had it's guts torn out in the spirit of growth.