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Citizens and developers abruptly find themselves seeing eye-to-eye, as Marathon Realty’s Phil Boname speaks out on the latest issue to arouse civic outrage: the proposal to build a tunnel under the First Narrows.
The proposed $177 million crossing, the latest civic undertaking from rabidly pro-development Mayor Tom Campbell (others include the Pacific Centre project, turning the entrance to Stanley Park into a Four Seasons Hotel and bulldozing large portions of Chinatown for an expressway), has been poorly received by the public, business owners and the media, who accuse the N.P.A council of being out-of-touch with public opinion. The crossing has already gained high-profile opponents such as Sun columnist Allan Fotheringham, U.B.C Planning Professor Robert Collier and Federal Urban Affairs Minister Ron Brasford.
“Frankly, I’m surprised there may even be an opportunity for a plebiscite on the question,” Collier says, in an address sponsored by the Citizens Council on Civic Development. “So what if we don’t build it all at once? We need some dialogues about what it means to build a better city.”
“The city survey (they just got around to it now, after we’ve been told the third crossing is all set),” writes Fotheringham, “shows that only one fifth of downtown workers live on the North Shore. That’s on the whole North Shore – how many use the spacious Second Narrows Bridge? By contrast, just about a third — 32 per cent — of the downtown employees come from Burnaby or Richmond[...] The city survey confirms what we were talking about last week: 40 per cent of downtown executives live on the North Shore. Those are the people who wield influence, and know where to make the noises. Executives don’t live beyond Boundary Road or in Richmond.”
“If we (Marathon) are to make money over the long run, as opposed to the quick buck tomorrow, then I can’t see any advantage in providing greater access to the downtown by the private automobile,” Boname complains. “To turn over substantial acres of land for parking and roads and other automobile-related services is not good for the big developers, and it’s not good for the taxpayers.”
In the days to come, city council will announce that no plebiscite will be conducted on the crossing (likely a tunnel connecting the North Shore with Brockton Point) and in response, critics will step up their efforts, circulating petitions against the development. However, neither Campbell nor Port Authority Chairman Bill Rathie will be able to drum up sufficient civic or financial support for the project, and, with Campbell’s retirement from office in late 1972, the project will languish.
“Mayor Tom Campbell, the Pushmi-Pullyu of local politics, puffed up his pigeon breast and announced that there would be no plebiscite held on the question of the third crossing,” Fotheringham will write, in the Sun, several days later. “’Those who want to oppose it, ignore them’ he advised, in a memorable statement that will be well remembered when the N.P.A. asks for endorsement in the December elections. The pertinent fact is that the N.P.A is no longer representative of the feeling of this city. The people who live in this city know it and the N.P.A, within itself, knows it.”
IMAGE: The Dunsmuir Tunnel (later part of the Skytrain line) circa 1930. Image courtesy of the Vancouver Archives.