Number one concern: a public washroom on False Creek seawall

Right now, people who travel the South False Creek seawall have a long way to go before they can “go.”

As part of its South False Creek seawall project, the City of Vancouver is proposing in a single-stall, self-sanitizing public washroom next to the entrance to the Spruce Harbour Marina.

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Not only is the location about halfway between the Cambie and Granville bridges but it also has access to water, electricity and the sewer line, says director of transportation Lon LaClaire.

The existing infrastructure makes an expensive project more feasible, he says. The money comes out of a fund from paid advertising on bus shelters.

“We’d love to see [a public washroom] and there’s a huge need for it,” says marina resident Wendy Bryan. “We were looking at taking it on as a project ourselves. We often have people in dire need of a washroom and we were accommodating them privately.”

However, there’s a but — a big but.

“It’s a very congested area for traffic,” says Bryan who, with others in the marina, is worried about safety. The proposed location is right next to the marina tenants’ loading and unloading area. Garbage and recycling trucks are here regularly, it’s where service vans park and residents use it as a transfer hub.

“We all live out of wheelbarrows,” Bryan says. “Everything that goes on and off a boat gets taken in a wheelbarrow,” adding to the busyness of the area around the proposed site.

The marina’s first choice is a spot five metres away. The second choice is a bit farther along the seawall but would require cutting down a tree, something they are loathe to do, Bryan says.

south false creek seawall

The South False Creek seawall project has created lengthy detours. The City of Vancouver hopes to finish the project by the return of warm weather. - Dan Toulgoet

Bryan says that “the mayor has given us some very good people to work with” on the washroom project.

Mayna Vancaillie, a senior project manager with the City of Vancouver’s engineering department, has responded to the marina residents about their concerns. “The current location at the edge of the park is the only place we’ve found so far that meets all of the design objectives (e.g. adjacent and universally accessible from the seawall, roughly in the middle between Creekside and False Creek Community Centres, able to be serviced),” Vancaillie wrote. “That said we are reviewing the area again for alternatives that meet the design criteria. I will be in touch once we have more information.”

Joyce Freer, who lives in a co-op building overlooking the location, is less pleased with the consultation process.

Freer has started a neighbourhood petition against the proposed location for safety reasons and says everyone she’s talked to is against it, too. She hasn’t had much time to devote to the petition because of a family emergency and, having distributed it in paper form throughout the neighbourhood, does not yet know how many people have signed it.

She prefers a location at the west end of the Charleson dog park.

Larissa Warrington, the chair of the False Creek elementary school parent advisory council, agrees with Freer's choice. "The best area would be by the dog park as it is still close to the school but not right next to the school, marina entrance or residential areas. I understand this isn't the most cost-effective location but hopefully we can find a solution that appeals to both cost and community considerations."

Warrington also agrees with Freer that people are upset about the closure of Charleson street to vehicular traffic, which is intended to give commuting cyclists an alternative to the seawall. The street which runs parallel to the park is now accessible only to transit buses and cyclists as part of the seaside bypass bike route.Freer and Warrington say the closure is making life difficult for people who live in the area. Warrington says there was very little consultation between the city and the school PAC. "Itseems that the only contact we had with the city was at a public consultation meeting where one of our executive members expressed concern regarding the use of the school ground as a thoroughfare for commuting cyclists. We certainly did NOT agree to the closure of Charleson Road to vehicle traffic as this closure negatively impacts our families by removing a major access point to our school."

cherry trees
To create the new separated bike and pedestrian path along the South False Creek seawall, the City of Vancouver had to cut down these cherry trees, which angered some people in the neighbourhood. - Cate Simpson

The need for a public washroom came up during the public consultation process for the project to create separated bike and pedestrian paths on the oldest portion of the seawall, LaClaire says. (Not everyone along the seawall is happy with the project.) Currently, when nature calls there’s no way to answer on the seawall between the False Creek Community Centre and a cluster of businesses closer to Cambie Street. There is a public washroom up a small hill near the playing field.

Wendy Bryan says the marina residents have other ideas to improve life along the seawall in response to a recent letter from the city to lease-holders in the neighbourhood. The city is encouraging all co-ops to add to the affordable housing stock.

Usually there are three options for growth, Bryan says: inflow, expansion and re-development. “We can’t inflow on the water and we can’t go up or down so our solution is to expand,” she says, which is part of the reason they welcome having a public washroom in the area. The marina is also considering adding more kayak storage spaces since all the current spaces are rented.

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