LAUTENS: B-Line poses a stinging political problem for West Van

A swarm of citizens will make a beeline for West Van’s 6 p.m. council meeting Monday with stinging attacks on TransLink’s B-Line proposal.

That’s the plan of Nigel Malkin, an apolitical neophyte who has organized supporters against the proposed priority B-Line traffic lanes, restriction of private traffic to a single lane in each direction, and some reduced parking on Marine Drive from 13th to 24th streets.

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Days after TransLink released its plan, Malkin rallied more than 100 B-Line placard-waving protesters who clogged Marine Drive and 13th. More East Vancouver than sedate West Vancouver, right?

Don’t underestimate the possibility that if brand-new Mayor Mary-Ann Booth and councillors defend or lamely surrender to TransLink’s plan, throw in a few detail changes as sops, they could be politically taken to the cleaners – fittingly – by the scion of a family that began in the cleaning business in England more than a century ago. Malkin vows to keep up the war through the next election even if he loses the battle.

This protest doesn’t resemble the opposition to then-mayor Michael Smith’s travel cruiser-sized Grosvenor beachfront building, or his $700,000 contribution to making road access easier to Park Royal Shopping Centre and otherwise smoothly stroking its divisive expansion at traffic-clogged Taylor Way and Marine Drive.

The West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce types were heartily behind Smith. The opponents were largely “little people” – whom he scorned as chronic “naysayers” and those who “didn’t have a life.”

Not so much this time. The proposed hop, skip and a jump B-Line – four stops from Lions Gate Bridge to 24th Street – would flash past many already struggling Ambleside and Dundarave businesses and shrink other Marine Drive traffic to one lane in each direction and less parking. What a gift.

Alongside Malkin – note well, not necessarily led by him or sharing his blatantly reverent messages to council – are B-Line opponents including prominent business and community leaders with much wider political experience and clout.

Chuck Walker of the Walker Group, one of WV’s biggest taxpayers, landlord of a row of top retail stores in the 1400-block of Bellevue: “If the goal is to close down Ambleside retail they are right on target. With the current construction of new retail/office facilities coming out of the ground on Capilano Road, the 100-year-old buildings in Ambleside will make it appear a ‘ghost town’ similar to what downtown Detroit was a few years ago.

“But there is always a positive in a negative – this will make available multi properties in Ambleside to accommodate construction of ‘low rent’ apartments subsidized (by city council) units for city employees – sounds like the Democrats from California have arrived here, did they cross the border late in the night?”

Recent councillor candidate with international business credentials (on the Michael Smith level) Jim Finkbeiner: “Among other things, the proposed B-Line has serious implications for businesses along the proposed route. ... The only real long-term solution to the North Shore traffic congestion is another crossing (probably a tunnel which would include rapid transit). This is not even on the radar screen of our political masters.”

Another small businessman and sometime council candidate, David Jones: “TransLink behaves much like the travelling salesman in old Western movies selling a dubious ‘cure-all’ tonic to the townsfolk at a hefty price. ... The proposed B-Line will not solve traffic congestion, bring shoppers or workers to West Vancouver, move residents around more efficiently, create affordable housing or save the environment. ... I have not met one resident that supports the plan as it was presented in November.”

A late, thoughtful protest came from Duncan Pearce, The Urban Garage, Clyde Avenue.

Skeptics (like me) suspected the protest would peter out. Wrong. Malkin plans his campaign with near-military precision. Strategy meetings. Direct lobbying of councillors. Phone and email campaigns. Petitions. Posters. Flyers. A website, On Monday this week Malkin led a small rally between 8 and 9 a.m. alongside Irwin Park School, where there would be more buses and less parking in the B-Line turnaround block of 24th Street. Tuesday he and volunteers were counting buses to refute TransLink statistics.

Also on Monday, WV council – which lost a public relations opportunity early on with a vague, lame announcement by Mayor Booth – met with TransLink officials. More fuzzy words: “Council decided to move forward with community consultation.” Details and “additional data” from TransLink were to be released today. The showdown, though, is likely to be Thursday, Jan. 24 when council plans a community meeting on B-Line.

Classic case. Mile-high planners like TransLink. It has no proverbial skin in the game. Cars and human flesh and business that are irritatingly in the way of progress are just blobs moved around on computer screens.

A TransLink employee told Malkin that the B-Line was a done deal, end of story. And its website resonates with council’s acceding “partnership.” But, questioned, lawyer and Coun. Craig Cameron – who has an open mind on the present proposal – responded: “The B-Line is not a done deal. TransLink won’t force it on us if council doesn’t support it. They have made that clear.”

TransLink has already posted signs arrogantly assuming it’s a done deal – “The Main-Marine B-Line is Coming!” – and that West Van will have to lump it.

• • •

Over the Christmas season many turn to spiritual self-reflection. Such as the familiar: Every day is a gift. Except for most days between Nov. 1 and March 31 in Vancouver.

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