In 1931, an overwhelming 98 per cent of West Vancouver referendum voters approved a plan to sell pretty much all of the mountainside from the Capilano Canyon westward to Howe Sound to British Pacific Properties and, later, zone the whole thing for single-family homes.
Anyone proposing such a thing today would be laughed out of the council chamber and it’s a decision we’d sorely like to revisit. But what’s done is done. What matters now is shaping the development that does happen in the Upper Lands.
The proposal is Cypress Village, "compact and sustainable" community east of Cypress Bowl Road with a walkable commercial centre and 3,700 market and affordable housing units. If it goes ahead, it will ensure the protection of 280 acres of the Eagleridge Lands from residential development.
Cutting down trees to accommodate Cypress Village is by its very definition urban sprawl, even if it is dense, walkable sprawl. Already, we see this becoming an election issue, with politicians pedalling the wishful thinking that the status quo can simply remain forever. But, unless council has the money to buy the land back at today’s market rates, or access to a time machine, we have to make the best of the situation.
From a planning perspective, it is incredibly rare for a municipality to be given a blank slate. It means there is an opportunity for council and the community to envision something truly unique, equitable and sustainable – everything West Vancouver falls short on today.
We can’t undo the decisions of 90 years ago but we can create something that North Shore residents will look back on in another 90 years and be proud of.