Though it caught us off guard, Darren and I were happy to hear that BC Hydro is again proposing to locate a substation under Nelson Park. That may sound like a weird thing to be excited about, but there are many aspects of the proposal that make it a win for families, neighbours, and our city as a whole. It makes sense to locate this vital piece of infrastructure underground at a location on seismically stable bedrock. It is also good for tax payers, as BC Hydro won’t need to purchase valuable land to build an unfriendly building, nor will they have to pay a developer to lease space in a parking garage.
The cost savings are so great that BC Hydro is offering to use them to build two new schools and social housing for the West End. The first school would be located at the parking lot of the Coal Harbour Community Centre, and provide space for 320 students. This long planned building would also see affordable housing built above. The second school would complete in 2028 and be a modern replacement of Lord Roberts Annex, with an upgraded capacity of 510 students. As Darren and I are hoping to start a family in a couple years, and still call Vancouver home in 2028, we appreciate that these schools would be ready by the time our children need them.
However, the consultations took no time at all to get ready as they are currently underway! Without any fan fair, BC Hydro started the consultations with an open house on May 1st. Not to worry though, as there is another large open house planned for May 17th\, as well as smaller round table discussion for today (May 7th), May 10th, and May 15th. If you can’t make any of those dates, there are online materials and info boards, plus a feedback form to fill out as well.
Also on the website are reports from last year’s proposal, which reveals some shocking public feedback. With all the benefits of the proposal, it’s hard to believe that only 144 people from the West End and 54 for Yaletown took part or submitted a response. Of that total, only half were in favour of the idea of an underground substation, with 33% unsure if it was a good idea, and another 33% were opposed to it.
Even worse, some of those expressed opinions that are grounded in misinformation, as 45 people opposed the project because of their fears about EMF radiation. Added to this total was a 196 signature petition from the Lord Roberts Annex PAC. While Better Call Saul dramatizes psychosomatic disorders, a very real mental health problem, health agencies are clear that concerns about EMF fields are unfounded. While no one can be faulted for having mental health difficulties, it is troubling to see that some people were opposed for purely selfish reasons. Unbelievably, these people expressed fears of lowered property values, and/or a loss of views caused by an underground substation….
What these reports reveal is that BC Hydro simply didn’t have enough public feedback or support to move forward with the project last year. Unfortunately, they have now purchased land in East Vancouver as a back-up option in case community consultation again fails to provide the social licence to move forward with this cost-effective solution. The Vancouver School Board makes their decision to whether allow BC Hydro to proceed on June 25th. So make sure to attend one of the open houses or leave your feedback for BC Hydro here or email the Vancouver School Board at LRAproposal@vsb.bc.ca . Just make sure you do so before the consultation period ends on May 31st, that is unless you’re too busy managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.