Stephen Rees's blog

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

Kits Beach to Jericho

with 14 comments

There was a proposal to build a path along a new seawall from Kits Beach to Jericho. This part of the shore is underwater at high tide, but there are several access points and it is possible to walk between the two beaches at low tide. I did that today in about an hour. A shoe salesman told me that my walking shoes have “aggressive soles” – which I think means a deep tread. This certainly seemed to be useful as the beach is often covered in sea weed, wet sand and loose mussel shells.

While I thought that the Parks Board had put off the idea, there are those who are concerned it might be revived and there is to be a meeting about that on Wednesday October 3, 2012 at 7:30pm at Kitsilano Sailing Club. It may be helpful to those who have not visited this part of Vancouver to see what it looks like. Hence the set on flickr.

The set covers the foreshore from Trafalgar Street (the end of the current pathway) to yacht club at the eastern end of Jericho Beach, and then back along Point Grey Road to show all the access points along the way.

Path to Kits Beach

No doubt if a seawall was constructed it would be wider and not have steps in it too allow for use by bikes, roller bladers and so on, as with the rest of the seawall. Actually, I am not sure that this is a virtue. At present, the area is not accessible unless you are willing to do a bit of clambering and rock hopping. I have seen people carrying their bikes along here, and wondered why they bothered. I have also been in a minor contretemps with a female cyclist on Point Grey Road outside Brock House. She was riding on the sidewalk – with a child on a bike trailer behind her, and simply rode “through” me – not stopping to apologize, if she was even aware of my existence, since she was talking over her shoulder to the child. Not that this is to characterize all cyclists, of course, but it is one of the things one remembers.

So you are here now

This plaque by the end of the path seems to sum it all up nicely. If there were a seawall along here to Jericho, it would become all about speed, as it would be treated in the same way as the seawall around Stanley Park which is a one way race track for those on wheels – and a bit of a hazard for the pedestrian flaneur. I told you at the top it took me about an hour – but that was not intended to be a challenge. After all I was stopping all the time to take the pictures. I was also on my own, but I think the walk would be much more fun with a small child or a marine biologist, and make the whole thing last even longer (keeping an eye on the tide, of course).


The seafloor is actually interesting even without the flora and fauna. Shelves of sandstone jut out interspersed with areas of gravel. There is, mercifully, not a lot of mud along here.


Some of the riparian owners have quite elaborate arrangements to give themselves access – and keep others off their own property.

Disused private access

Others have neglected upkeep. But all along is plenty of evidence that while the foreshore is indeed a natural and wild area the edge of land is anything but. In many places significant amounts of effort have been expended either to secure additional space or to prevent erosion – which I suppose amounts to the same thing.


Local street artists have done their best to reduce the dull greyness of the concrete used in these installations.

Steps to Balaclava St

There are intermediate access points along the way if you want a shorter walk or if the tide takes you unawares. These steps are about halfway along at the foot of Balaclava Street.


There do seem to be places where the property owners have very little concern about the visual impact of their “improvements”. I suppose because these have been in place for so long that they would have grandfathered “rights” if the City did decide to impose some kind of code of practice here. Also bear in mind that Point Grey Road has some of the highest priced property in the region. It also seems to me to reduce the value of the “wilderness experience in the heart of a big city”.


When I first heard about the idea of “completing” the seawall, I must admit I was initially attracted to the idea. After all you can never have enough routes that are completely forbidden to motor vehicles and adjacent to the water. I also expected that the loudest protest would come from the property owners. But it now seems to come from “the Point Grey Natural Foreshore Protective Society”. Actually one or two of the property owners actually seem to welcome people to the beach.

Welcome, Stranger  - Rest a While

I did provide a link at the top to the Parks Board meeting July 23 highlights, but just to be clear here’s what it says about the current position

The first motion: that the Park Board, as the organization that manages the seawall with City Engineering, direct Park Board staff to work with city staff as appropriate to develop options for connecting the seawall from Jericho to Kits Beach and provide a timeline and cost estimates for these options, as well as address any environmental and First Nations concerns with the proposals, was deferred.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 26, 2012 at 4:26 pm

14 Responses

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  1. Great piece, Stephen. I grew up in that area and am quite familiar with it, but your photos really make it more real. I believe that private property rights, obligations, the City’s ability and authority to control and regulate private “improvements” and other works such as retaining structures, “riparian rights”, crown foreshore rights, leases and licenses, environmental impacts and considerations, are all extremely complex and probably quite misunderstood.

    They add up to a great ball of issues. And of course, add to that the potential recreational and transportation options. It will be very interesting to see how it all falls out, but I am hopeful. I believe that there is a good potential for this to come to fruition. I don’t see why it shouldn’t.

    There are privacy issues and issues to do with increasing accessibility to private property, but I do hope that these can be resolved at a reasonable cost to the public purse.

    Adam Fitch

    September 26, 2012 at 6:29 pm

  2. Interesting post. I don’t live in Vancouver, but am vaguely familiar with the area.

    But…the bit about painting all cyclists the same chafes me a bit, regardless of your link to the Slate story. I was hoping you’d be a bit above that. I realize that the existing seawall has its share of jerks, but so do the automobile-choked streets. I don’t think all drivers are jerks because of the actions of one–or several. As someone who is interested in various forms of “alternative transportation”, be it by foot, bus, train, or bike, I really get nauseated by (insert form of alternative transportation) vs. (insert form of alternative transportation) speak.


    September 26, 2012 at 9:40 pm

  3. Yes, I appreciate that and, of course, I am cyclist sometimes too. And when I am, I have a rich fund of stories about jerks in cars and, especially, pick up trucks.

    It really points to what would need to happen if a seawall were to be built. It would not be a modest footpath, such as the one that exists at the western end of Kits now, and which I illustrated. It would have to be wide enough to provide for bi-directional traffic for separate streams of pedestrians and wheeled traffic (bikes, roller blades etc). Therefore it would have to be wider than the path around the Stanley Park seawall and thus have significant impact on the environmentally sensitive foreshore.

    AND she was cycling on the sidewalk

    Stephen Rees

    September 27, 2012 at 7:24 am

  4. Thanks for this piece, Stephen.

    In the comments Adam suggests that the issues around the idea of providing official public access to this portion of the Kits foreshore are complex. I suggest they are quite simple:

    Public Ownership: The division between public and private ownership is at the high water mark. Clearly, this beach is public, therein the real issue is whether to improve (or not improve) access. In my opinion, public access to the waterfront in cities defined by water is an admirable goal, but it must be done with sensitivity to the natural environment. The private property owners will just have to live with that. In principle, their wealth should not be used to leverage restrictions to public property, though admittedly problems with nighttime party animals remains an issue with almost any beach regardless of the income level and influence of adjacent residents.

    Private Encroachment: Some of the private structures in the photos may be technically illegal because they encroach beyond the top of bank or HWM, but some owners may argue that the shoreline has eroded into their property, so there may be a case or two where the registered older property boundaries may in fact now be below the eroding bluff and a metre or two out on the beach. There are zoning bylaws covering the height and extent of structures within 6m of the PL, which means that the cantilevered deck may be illegal unless they got a permit. I doubt it. Exceptions, of course, include water leases for private docks, which are permitted under application to the provincial government.

    Environmental Issues: The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is the final authority governing this marine site. Though marine and plant life found in the intertidal zone may be abundant, they are not necessarily rare or endangered. Erosion, erosion control structures, marine pollution and ground-based seawalls obviously represent the greatest disruption and threat.

    Public Structures: A new seawall must account for its environmental impact. I contend that a Stanley Park-like seawall structure that is built directly on the shore would be inappropriate in this location due to its impact. Instead, a dock structure placed 15-30m out in the water and parallel to the beach may be the best option to afford public access to the waterfront while protecting the integrity of the beach. It would be relatively light weight. The dock could join the land at the tips of peninsulas, and could allow the occasional stair down onto the beach at intervals where the dock and beach are closest. The dock should be wide enough to accommodate separated bike lanes (i.e. 8m minimum, 4m for pedestrians and 4m for two-way bike traffic).

    The case for the Kitsilano Pier: If such a structure was contemplated, then I’d also suggest it could be designed with one or two larger piers (e.g. 10-15m wide) placed at right angles that jut a lot further into English Bay with seating and shelters and food carts allowed at the ends. The sand banks are pretty shallow there and pile-supported structures could go out 100m or even 200m in some places. If a large version of this structure was built, then it should accommodate services like power and water to be illuminated like any street sidewalk, and have drinking fountains and phone booths (for emergencies) spaced accordingly.

    Many cities have piers that add an exciting dimension to the waterfront experience and contribute greatly to their unique identities. I’ve been on the Santa Cruz and San Diego piers and found them to be serious focal points in each city. The Santa Cruz Pier juts into the open Pacific and there are usually large sea lions sleeping on the timber frame structure below. There were railed off openings to allow people to see them. (There is now evidence that piles made from inert materials like concrete and shaded by a deck structure would create local habitat for herring roe, an important food species for salmon and seals.) Hot dog stands, musicians and continuous seating were abundant. The San Diego Pier had a wide fishing and shaded seating node at the end. I’m not suggesting Vancouver goes to the extent of England’s Brighton and Blackpool piers or the old Atlantic City boardwalks and pier which had buildings constructed on them, usually restaurants and casinos. But the ‘Kitsilano Pier’ could have very friendly and attractive connotations to residents and visitors alike, and if done right could respect environmental concerns and allow greater appreciation of the ocean with a more direct experience.

    There is a good case to be made for the Kitsilano Pier.


    September 27, 2012 at 10:55 am

  5. Regarding conflicts between pedestrians and bikes, I believe grade separation, appropriate path / pier width and differences in elevation work quite well, though of course there will always be congested spots and cowboys. Some areas where people are apt to congregate rather than travel through would require cycle-dismount zones perhaps marked with barriers such as rows of staggered bollards spaced pretty closely (i.e. 60-70cm) but with an accessible gate for wheelchairs designed like a switchback.

    What I’m leading to is that this ped-bike conflict is sometimes unnecessarily inflated and stems unfairly from the heaviest peak-use periods (e.g. Canada Day weekend on the Stanley Park seawall).

    Design, if done right, can largely mitigate these concerns.


    September 27, 2012 at 11:20 am

  6. @ADVENTURPDX “I really get nauseated by (insert form of alternative transportation) vs. (insert form of alternative transportation) speak.”

    excellent point.

    Adam Fitch

    September 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm

  7. Stephen. you state: “Therefore it would have to be wider than the path around the Stanley Park seawall and thus have significant impact on the environmentally sensitive foreshore.”

    Who says that the fireshore is environmentally sensitive, and who says that a big seawall would have a negative impact? I am very ccurious about that.

    We have had many kilometers of seawall built around Vancouver’s shores over the years (eg: Stanley Park), including recently (false creek south, false creek north, oympic village, coal harbour, now woutheast vancouver and marpole). Have there been any negative environmental impacts. The ocean is a big place. Are there any statistics or research on this?

    Adam Fitch

    September 27, 2012 at 1:13 pm

  8. @Adam go back to the original post click on the link “meeting about that”

    Stephen Rees

    September 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm

  9. While shoreline such as or is the exception rather than the rule, building a seawall here would be analogous to building a freeway along Burrard Inlet. Leave it as it is. An oasis of tranquility


    September 27, 2012 at 10:15 pm

  10. I have to agree with Stephen about bikes. In the past 2 years and especially the past 4 months I had several very close calls with bikes coming from behind me without warning on the SIDEWALK. The E.U. doesn’t require bikers to have a helmet, but lights attached to the bike and a BELL are mandatory.

    Cars are a danger to pedestrians for sure but so far no car has crowded me on a sidewalk… bikers here are riding way too fast, compared to cities where bikes have been part of the culture since the early 20th century (Europe, Japan etc.).

    Red frog

    September 27, 2012 at 11:02 pm

  11. […] Kits Beach to Jericho ( […]

    A Wink « myothervoices

    October 1, 2012 at 6:14 pm

  12. For those who can make it to this meeting tonight:

    Sheila Byers, Terry Taylor and David Cook will be speaking for the Point Grey Foreshore Preservation Society against the proposal to build a sea-wall along Kits/Jericho beaches.
    Where: Kitsilano Yacht Club 2401 Point Grey Road
    When: Wednesday October 3rd., 7:30 pm
    While the Parks Board seems to be against this proposal, the development has the support of the Mayor and certain donors. So major public resistance will be necessary to stop it. Please come to the above event to familiarise yourself with the issue. If you wish to speak contact Doug Hawrish at (604-788-1670) or Mel Lehan at (604-731-0599)

    Bill Kinkaid

    October 3, 2012 at 7:04 am

  13. For another reason why there is pressure to provide an alternate route for cyclists to Point Grey Road see the end of this piece in today’s Globe and Mail.

    I had originally seen the residents of this road as likely opponents of the seawall idea. I was, apparently, wrong about that.

    Stephen Rees

    October 3, 2012 at 9:23 am

  14. @adventurepdx – excellent piece by Brent Toderian in Spacing Vancouver

    Stephen Rees

    October 9, 2012 at 8:29 am

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