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

An Open Letter to City Hall

Golden Poplars

Our Notre Dame Neighbours group has written many, many letters to the City of Vancouver over the past few months expressing our concern over the glaring lack of community consultation re the proposed Notre Dame McCarthy Stadium. We’ve quoted permits and traffic plans and made points about parking, noise, traffic, safety, drainage and fears for the quality of life of our neighbourhood.

This blog post by one of our members is a letter of a different sort — a heartfelt Open Letter to the City of Vancouver –

Delicate Balance

Reference Documents

Below you will find links to the original permit documents issued to Notre Dame School, — a permit to construct a graded grass practice field (not sunken), set back 5.5 metres from the Kaslo Street poplars to avoid damaging their roots. There are no seats visibly included in this permit as it was meant to be a practice field only.

The first link is a Press Release issued by Notre Dame School in January 2017, in which they outline their plans for the site. They have since removed the document from their web site, but we include it here in the belief that it is an accurate description of the school’s ultimate ambitions.

Notre Dame Stadium Press Release 2017

Notre Dame Stadium Timeline

Notre Dame Minor Permit Amendment Operational Notes, September 2018

Minor Permit Amendment Request Jan 2018

Original Notre Dame Permit Apr 29 2008

Community Notice April 29 2008

Permit Conditions Feb 2007

2007 Permit Highlights

Arborist’s Report March 2007

Transport Management Plan 2007

Fire Department Concerned About McCarthy Stadium Traffic

In a welcome development, Vancouver’s Fire Prevention Division has requested an updated traffic study for the area around Notre Dame Regional Secondary. This comes nearly six weeks after Notre Dame Neighbours asked the fire department how McCarthy Stadium crowds and traffic will impact emergency response times at our Number 14 Firehall.
Here’s what Rick Cheung, Assistant Chief-Fire Protection Engineer told us in an email on 22 Oct 2018:
“Thank you for your feedback. Based on the information, I have recommended to the Development Services Department that the permit applicant provide an updated traffic study for the construction of the bleachers at the outdoor playing field.”

It’s significant that Assistant Chief Cheung spent some time reviewing the situation before asking for the new traffic study. His initial reaction to us was that there would be no impacts. Clearly when he examined the proposed changes more closely he changed his mind.

Notre Dame needs to take the safety of our community seriously. McCarthy Stadium is too big a change from the 2008 permit to proceed as a minor amendment. The school needs to apply for a new development permit with full and meaningful public consultation.

A Visual on the Notre Dame Stadium Problem

An aerial view of Notre Dame School and the surrounding area shows at a glance why the addition of a destination sports facility on that site and in this neighbourhood is such a bad idea.

Notre Dame stadium problems

A comparison of the size and location of Notre Dame School as compared to other high schools with sports fields shows the problem in an even clearer light.

Other schools with large sports fields:

  • Have MUCH BIGGER campuses and more students
  • Are located in less densely populated areas
  • Are partly bordered by park or woodland to provide buffering between sports field and neighbours

The red box is the size of Notre Dame’s campus. Blue borders mark the campus sizes of the other schools.


What You Can Do to Find Out More

We are currently going door to door with a petition to ask City Hall to not allow the school to switch from a grass practice field to a stadium via the current minor amendment to the 2008 permit. The petition asks that the matter be put into a new building permit so that community consultation would have to take place before anything is finally decided. Please look for our volunteers coming to your door with the petition. If you are able to help out by taking a petition and canvassing your local area for signatures, please contact us at:

We can also keep up the pressure by continuing to:

  • Write to City of Vancouver Mayor and Councilors
  • Write to City Staff

If you’d like to add your voice here are:



School Reaction to Local Concern

The day after the flyer was circulated, linking to Notre Dame’s press release about the planned Stadium, the school removed that page from their web site.

Apparently they did not want us to keep this press release, written in 2017 and on their web site until Sept 21, 2018:

(Note the wording stating that this is “not simply a sports field” and the estimated viewing capacity of up to 2,000 people.)

Juggler Field web site Sept 2108

On Sept 28, the school published the revised page below, making an effort to make the project seem less ambitious.

Note that it says “minor amendments were made limiting seating to only hold the present school population of 740.” The last permit for this project, granted in 2008, had NO seating, so it’s hardly accurate to call seating for 740 a “limitation.”

The fact that there will be no artificial lighting is mentioned. Artificial lighting was in the original plan in 2004 and we have no way to know that the City will not grant another “minor amendment” in the future to allow lights.

In the last paragraph, mention is made of working “with neighbourhood groups seeking access” to the stadium.

Is this an offer to allow neighbours to run laps on the field? Will they loan it to the local Tai Chi group?

Or is this actually a way of saying the school will be renting the facility out for non-Notre Dame sports and other events?

Juggler Field Sept 28-18

Notre Dame Neighbours – A History

Notre Dame Neighbours is an informal community group. We are all City of Vancouver residents living near Notre Dame Regional Secondary School in East Vancouver. We formed in 2005 in response to Notre Dame’s plans to redevelop their school and grounds. We support other community groups who are also working to keep our communities strong, healthy and peaceful.

We also acknowledge that we live on the traditional unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples including the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

Back in 2004, the City of Vancouver was prepared to allow the school to move ahead with any construction it pleased without notification to, nor input from, the neighbourhood. A swift and strong reaction from residents convinced the City to change course and allow meaningful consultation.

A City sanctioned process took place and neighbours were able to review and comment on the school’s development plan.

It was clear at these meetings that while residents liked some aspects, they totally rejected Notre Dame’s proposal to remove the landmark poplar trees and construct a stadium with lighting and an artificial turf field. Neighbours were also concerned about hours of operation and did not want Notre Dame to allow outside groups to use the field.

During the City of Vancouver’s consultation process and, in response to the growing opposition to the development, Notre Dame agreed to remove the stadium and its lights from the plan. They agreed to build a new grass playing field, with no stands and retain the poplar trees. The field was supposed to be for school use only, with limited hours.

In the 2008, Notre Dame received approval for this redevelopment (City Permit DE410128).

This plan allowed residents to stand down, confident that Notre Dame would build something positive for itself and the neighbourhood.

Construction on the school buildings (Phases 1 & 2) proceeded slowly until 2016. The parking lot and field remained undeveloped. Nothing happened in 2017.

In March 2018, Notre Dame quietly submitted a proposal to the City of Vancouver for an amendment to the 2008 Permit. Neighbours were not informed of this.

The new plan is identical to the original community rejected proposal, only this time there are no lights. Once again, the school wants to remove the landmark poplars and create an artificial turf field within a stadium. It is now called McCarthy Stadium.

It is as if the City of Vancouver permit consultation process never took place.

Notre Dame Neighbours reject the schools amended plan for a stadium. We support the original 2008 plan. That is what should be built at Notre Dame.

Local Concern Re Planned Stadium

Last week’s arrival of this flyer on the doorstep was the first clue many Notre Dame neighbours had about BIG changes proposed for our community.

ND stadium flyer 2018 single.indd

NOTE: The day after the flyer was circulated, Notre Dame School removed the web page mentioned on the cover of the flyer, above (

Here is the information that was removed:

Juggler Field web site Sept 2108

Highlights from the Deleted Page:

In point 3, there is reference to the original plans being followed (the original plan was for a stadium and was strongly opposed by local residents in 2005).

Notre Dame agreed,  under community pressure, to the remove the lights from the project. That still stands. But, apart from that, we are “back to the original plan”.

It states that: “Notre Dame will have a football/sports stadium with an all-weather athletic field (not simply a sports field).”

Point 6 indicates that they hope to attract up to 2,000 spectators.


Flyer, second page:

ND stadium flyer 2018 single.indd

We Are NOT Against a Sports Field

To reinforce the point made in the brochure, we are NOT against the students of Notre Dame School having a sports field of their own. On the contrary, we can’t really understand why it has take so long for them to get one.

What we ARE against, is the possibility of a destination sports STADIUM being brought into our small neighbourhood without our consent or consultation. Supporters of the project say that it not a stadium, merely a field with a few bleachers. However, the fact that the project is actually officially called the McArthur Stadium, and the statements made on the now-removed Notre Dame online statement, make us skeptical that that a field with a few bleachers is the limit of the plans for the site.

Why Will No-One Talk To Us?

We are made very uneasy by the lack of communication from the school. Attempts to speak with Notre Dame representatives by email, or in person, have been unsuccessful. Information from the school web site has been deleted as soon as our flyer pointed it out.

Letters from many neighbours to the Vancouver City Project Coordinator who is dealing with this permit, Claudia Hicks, have met only with the repeated message that the upgrade of the grass field project (approved in 2008) to an artificial turf field with stadium seating, (meant to host 2,000 visitors, as evidenced from the now removed Notre Dame web site) is a MINOR amendment.

Given that this part of the school restructuring will have BY FAR the biggest impact on the immediate community, and given that people who live only feet from the project have received NO NOTIFICATION from the school or the City about the changes about to come, we are still strongly campaigning for a public consultation process before final approval is given to this project.

Why is this such a hurried and non-transparent process? The application to amend the permit from grass field to artificial turf stadium was made in February 2018, yet no community announcement was made by the City or the school.

Looking for Communication and Compromise

As with all things in life, compromise is the best way to proceed.

As this situation currently stands, however, the City of Vancouver and Notre Dame School are not open to any compromise, or even communication.

We are looking for a way forward — a way in which the students of Notre Dame can have their sports field and we, the school’s neighbours, can retain our sanity.

Ideas for next steps include:

  • a petition
  • a media campaign
  • lawn signs
  • protests
  • more letter writing – to MPs, MLAs, the mayor, councillors …

If anyone has suggestions and/or would like to volunteer for any of these, or other projects, or just to keep up to date on developments — please get in touch at