Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Garden City Lands

with 5 comments

A blog has now been set up to deal with this issue

And the following letter appeared yesterday in the Richmond News under the heading ” City Engaged in Fear mongering”

Tuesday, February 05, 2008
The Editor,

Coming this week to a theatre near you is a series of drop-in open houses. The City of Richmond is promoting them as an opportunity “to provide information about the Garden City lands proposal and to encourage the public to be part of the design and decision-making process.”

Be part of the design and decision-making process? That should be interesting! Up to now there has been nothing for the public to see that would help them to visualize who would get what, and for what, if this Agricultural Land Reserve treasure in the heart of the city is removed from the ALR.

The Canada Lands Company, the Musqueam Indian Band and the City of Richmond are putting together a second application to the Agricultural Land Commission to get these contested lands removed. There will be a massive effort, funded largely with our tax dollars, to build a case that these lands should have their ALR protection taken away. That action would allow residential and commercial towers to be built on them, along with perhaps enough park and other amenities for the increase in population.

What’s different about the second application, as compared to the first one that the commission rejected back in 2006? This time around, an underlying “buy in or else” threat is being aggressively pushed to build fear. And the concepts of community wellness, healthy lifestyles, urban agriculture and environmental sustainability have been borrowed from alternative plans presented by citizens. But those plans were proposed for the entire Garden City lands, not just for the parcels — far less than half the property — that the city might eventually get about five years from now.

No doubt the open houses, like the discredited Richmond Community Survey, will be designed to create an impression of public support for taking the lands out of the ALR. Be aware that you will have the opportunity to make your views known in a public hearing process, which the city is legally required to provide. It is the next step after the open houses.

Regardless of what your opinions might be on this issue, the Garden City Lands Coalition, a new community group with a mandate to keep the lands in the ALR, urges all Richmond citizens to attend one of the upcoming open houses on Feb. 8 to 11. Be part of a process concerning a very important piece of Richmond land.

A wise decision has the potential to make our community a city of the future — with the foresight, imagination and courage to protect our fertile farmlands with pride, recognizing the food-insecure world we now face.

The Garden City Lands Coalition,


Written by Stephen Rees

February 6, 2008 at 8:46 am

5 Responses

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  1. Best of luck with the public hearing.

    It is hard convincing people of the realities of food production as we near the end of the petroleum age. I like the bumper sticker that says ‘when the food’s gone we can eat the money’.

    Just a thought: With the need to train 40 times the current number of farmers right around the corner; maybe an organic farming college and allotment farms could be proposed.


    February 6, 2008 at 5:00 pm

  2. Urban farming initiatives are advancing in many areas of Canada and the U.S. because it is an effective response to many modern-day challenges – food security, climate change, finite resources, and health and nutrition crises. The most important testament to the interest in urban farming is coming not from governments, but from aspiring entrepreneurial farmers who are ordering the self-directed online SPIN-Farming learning series which I have co-authored and which debuted last year. What they are responding to is the availability of a farming system that integrates agriculture into the built environment in a commercially viable manner, and removes the two big barriers to entry – entrepreneurs do not need much land or financial resources to do SPIN. They need own little, if any, land. SPIN can be practiced on as little as 1,000 square feet, or it can be located on a half-acre of city-owned land, or it can be multi-sited on several residential back yards. It requires minimal infrastructure and is therefore low capital intensive. Irrigation relies on the local municipal water supply, and the only mechanized equipment is a rototiller. Because of its sub-acre scale, labor requirements for a SPIN farm are minimal and can be readily obtained within the network of family, friends or the local community. By re-casting farming as a small business in a city or town, SPIN positions it as integral part of urban and peri-urban economies, rather than something a part from them. SPIN is as close to a frnachise-rady farming system as you can get while still repsecting the creative and place-basd nature of farming. As such, it can “mass produce” sustainable agriculture.

    While citizens and governments internationally are beginning to recognize urban farming as an asset to their communities, urban sub-acre farming is gathering strength on its own and is enabling a growing corps of first generation professional farmers to set up their farm businesses wherever they live. Most importantly, there is a rapidly expanding customer base of consumers and institutions willing to pay premium pricing for locally-based food production. In short, there is now both a will and a way to foster successful entrepreneurial urban farming enterprises, whether they be sited on Garden City lands or other sites that are deemed appropriate.

    Roxanne Christensen

    February 7, 2008 at 7:00 am

  3. I dunno – is Spin spam? If it is, it is at least relevant spam, so I have approved it.

    Stephen Rees

    February 7, 2008 at 11:38 am

  4. I am glad that there is some interest in keeping the Garden City lands as agricultural land. The truth is that the whole transformation of industrial and farmland into residential land worries me (and well, it is the focus of my research anyways!)


    February 8, 2008 at 2:49 pm

  5. Thanks, Stephen, for including our Garden City Lands Coalition letter on your blog.

    In an above comment, Greg proposed an organic agricultural college and urban farms. Exactly! Dr. Kent Mullinix of Kwantlen University College, which has its Richmond campus about a hundred metres from the Garden City lands, proposed something like that to Richmond City Council on Feb. 5, with a strong supportive presentation by Shane McMillan. Right now, you’ll find links to their presentation in a news item in the “Welcome” post that is always the first item in the Garden City Lands blog, (When the news changes, the links will still be available from the blog, but in the “Digging Deep Resources.”) That news item also includes a link to another great proposal, the Richmond Sustainable Food Systems Park, which was put together by the Richmond Poverty Response Committee.

    Like me, Shane is one of the directors of the Garden City Lands Coalition. We have quite a challenge ahead to keep the lands in the ALR, and all support is very welcome.


    February 13, 2008 at 2:31 am

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