Another Letter to City Hall

This wonderful letter to City Hall was written by Sarah Groves who is both an environmental scientist and artist.

04 December 2018

Dear Mayor & Councillors:

Re: Request for development permit amendment at Notre Dame School and environmental stewardship

Although environmental issues did not feature prominently in the October election, environmental stewardship is the backbone of a sustainable city and must be an integral part of every planning decision, especially as Vancouver aspires to be the greenest city by 2020. Continuing development pressure from urban densification through redevelopment, laneway houses, etc. compromises environmental values throughout the city and must be making the objective of planting 150,000 trees by 2020 (City of Vancouver, Urban Forest Strategy 2014) and keeping them healthy a significant challenge. In this context, protecting existing mature trees must be a priority.

The request by Notre Dame School for an amendment to its 2008 development permit is a case where environmental considerations appear to be absent from the decision-making process. The proposed “minor” amendment would replace a natural turf field with artificial turf, a synthetic product with no capacity to trap carbon dioxide, none of the cooling effects of natural turf, and ecological value similar to a slab of concrete. This installation would require the removal of a stand of mature trees, a community legacy and amenity of ecological value.

Even small patches of green space and trees have ecological value and can provide important habitat and networks of habitat that support biodiversity of resident and migrant species. The historical decline in tree canopy cover in Vancouver has occurred project by project in small increments that produce large cumulative effects. The proposed “minor” amendment to the development permit for Notre Dame School (located in an area of the city with low tree canopy cover) would contribute irreversibly to this trend and should not be considered without a new development permit application that will allow full and open public consultation and consideration of the proposal.

Yours truly,

Sarah Groves

Cc. Sadhu Johnston, City Manager

2 thoughts on “Another Letter to City Hall

  1. I say shame on you for even fighting this. I am a neighbor of the school. I am so close that I can see into the kids classrooms. These kids are not part of an elite group. They are kids. Kids that have to be transported to or run to fields several blocks away from the school in order to take P.E. class. This school has tirelessly raised funds to see their kids have a field on site. A field that sadly looks like a deserted lot right now because of this ridiculousness. I am a neighbor that went to the open house when they originally received permit approval from the city YEARS ago. I had my concerns along with my neighbors. The school made the effort to look out for this neighborhood. They still do. I find that a great majority of the people posting on this site seem to have some prejudice against independent schools and for that they should be ashamed. This is just a highschool trying to make the kids school experience a better one. They should not be faulted for that. I work in the public school system and what is being built at Notre Dame is nothing in comparison to what is available at several public high schools – all of which are in residential communities as well. I say put up some resident only parking signs and call it a day. Let the kids have their field. Turn your efforts to the greater good. Help those in need of help. Stop being selfish. This field will not impact this neighborhood the way you are portraying.
    Above all, stop speaking on behalf of “the neighbors of Notre Dame”! We are not all on board with your rhetoric!
    Kind Regards,
    A concerned neighbor.


    1. Clearly we have a different opinion on this matter. One thing we can certainly agree on is that the students of Notre Dame deserve a field, but the dismal state of the campus and lack of field is entirely the choice of the school, as field construction could have started as soon as the building were finished in 2010.
      To go over the history again. Around 2005 the school requested a permit to build the new school wings that they have now finished, plus a lit full-sized, lit, football stadium to host games. Many neighbours opposed that last part of the plan and protested accordingly.
      In 2006 agreement was reached when neighbours who opposed the stadium and the school agreed that a grass practice field would be built.
      A permit was issued for that in 2008, with traffic plans, arborist and engineering reports all pertaining to that plan. The City required that the school enter into a “good neighbour” agreement with local residents and keep us apprised of new developments at the school. This did happen for about a year, but for the last decade the school has not communicated with the local community.
      Far from keeping local residents in the loop, Notre Dame went to the City to request a “minor” permit change that would change the agreed-upon grass practice field to a full sized sunken, artificial turf field with stadium seating.
      This facility will be used for games on evenings and weekends. We are concerned that it will also be rented out all year round to bring revenue to the school. We have no way of knowing exactly how much noise, traffic and parking problems will be brought to the area because no study has been done on it. We are asking that such a study be done, which seems to us a very reasonable and sensible request.
      Meanwhile, direct requests for information from the school and the archdiocese have gone unanswered. I understand that the City now requires the school to at least hold an open house in February so we can find out more on what exactly is planned.
      The kids are kids. Not part of an elite group, but kids who, we all agree, need a field.
      The school is, however, a private school and, as such, is a business. It will need to make money to pay for this new and expensive facility, if goes ahead. We should all be aware of that. Most of the staff, alumni and parents of Notre Dame do not live in this immediate area and so will not be affected by McCarthy Stadium.Those of us who live in the neighbourhood will be left to deal with the increased traffic, parking problems (parking permits are not the answer, merely bumping the problem to adjacent streets with no permits) and general noise problems.
      While this web site does not claim to speak for everyone in the area, we do know, from speaking to many of our neighbours and going door to door with a petition that hundreds of local residents are against this project going ahead without further studies into how it will impact the community. The pro-stadium opinion is already well represented by Notre Dame’s own web site, newsletters to parents etc. and by creating this web site we are trying to provide an outlet for opinions other side of this issue to give some balance.
      Thanks for contributing your opinion to the web site.


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