ONNI Developer Destroying Green Space in East Vancouver – with photos

I received this letter recently and am sharing it here with you. I’m very concerned at the brazenness Onni shows. Regular citizens face consequences when they cut down heritage trees without a permit, but not developers with friends in high places. Even more disturbing is the complete lack of response or concern from the City. I applaud Janis and Lorne for their vigilance and calls for accountability, and all their hard work to keep East Vancouver green and under the control of citizens.


I join Janis and Lorne’s call for a halt to Onni’s development permit until a transparent investigation of infractions can be conducted.

Hello Mr. Louis,

 I am writing to let you know about the cutting down of heritage trees on East 2nd Ave, across from our home, Mainspace, after reassurances from the city that the trees would not be cut.  Our morning quiet was rudely interrupted on the morning of Aug. 27 with the sound of a chainsaw.  After calling the 311 line, we discovered that ONNI did not have a permit to cut the trees, and called the police.  Of course, by this time, the trees were down.  We have tried contacting city officials and councilors with no response.  I am attaching some photos of the aftermath, and also a letter from our Strata Council President, Lorne Milne.  If you can help us in any way, or if you are able to raise the issue to the ‘powers that be’, we would be grateful.  It is interesting to note that for the couple of trees left we found out that ONNI has obtained a permit!  It is shocking to me that after cutting heritage trees illegally, ONNI has now been granted a permit to cut the remaining trees.  Please help.
Thank you,
Janis Suess

Lorne’s letter:

RE: ‘De-Greening’ of East Vancouver!’: Onni Development cut down 4 Mature 5 Story high trees along North Side of E. 2nd/Great Northern way) where they are about to build the Canvas Condos.

**Please share this e-mail with the Mayor, City Council & Park Board Members**

In 2012 on behalf of neighbourhood residents we had proposed converting the City Land ‘Green Space’ Triangle east of 377 E.2nd (Prince Edward along East 2nd/Great Northern Way & East 1st next door to the Omni Development Property) to a Parkette.

Janis Suess & I met with City Engineering at Broadway & Cambie to discuss the proposal.  We were highly disappointed to hear that an opportunity to create more park & green space in East Vancouver was abandoned & that Onni Development was in negotiation with the City to buy a portion of the existing Green Triangle!

We were advised that it would not include the strip of land that this remaining row of major trees stood on or endanger them (5 mature trees located within 10′ of the sidewalk) which would provide sight line protection from viewing the Onni Development future Condo’s.

Contrary to what we had been advised by the engineering department the property has been stripped of all trees!.  On Wednesday August 27, 2014, 8:00am  I heard loud machinery coming from the Onni site & saw a faller preparing to cut down these remaining trees.   I phoned the City’s 311 hot

line & spoke to a City employee who had no specific knowledge about a Tree Cutting permit.  City Hall was not open until 8:30 & no more details were available!  The 311 receptionist then put me through to the Non-Emergency Police Number so I could report it to the police.

By 8:30 before anyone could react this amazingly swift & skilled faller had felled the 4 major trees running from E. 2nd Crosswalk (@ Brunswick) to the newly installed Thornton Street!! In addition they had cleared numberous trees in the middle of their propoerty. They hauled away all the fallen trees rapidly during the week.  Obviously Onni strategized their slick movements to get the job down before City Hall opened or neighbours could realize what was happenng!

I am shocked & dismayed about the loss of these beautiful heritage trees.

They were part of the line of trees running along the from the Vancouver Detox, pass the Finning Foundry building & the Finning lands alll the way to Glen.

Prior to Finning donating their property to the University Consortium they were an excellent corporate neighbour regularly landscaping their streetscape so that their industrial entity co-existed with the large east Mt.Pleasant residential community overlooking their site.  In prior years When the Finning had previously been in a re-zoning application many public forums were held (with City Staff, Finning’s realtor Bob Laurie, etc.) on their site & at the various Artist Loft Amenity rooms in the neighbourhood.

I attended all those meetings & spoke to saving that line of trees repeatedly.  In fact I was the person who drew up & proposed the adjoining Great Northern Way Bicycle/Inline Skating Multi-Use Pathway (that runs along the North Side of E.2nd & Great Northern Way & has recently been extended along Thornton to E. 1st) to City Council, the Vancouver Bicycle Committee, & various Cycling Groups).

Since falling of the trees I have heard from City staffers. It appears that the City in fact was not transparent or honest in communicating with us & that they did sell all of the Green Triangle to Onni (without advising any of the neighbours).  I am dismayed by the loss of the trees & equally dismayed with the city’s lack of democracy & transparency in respecting neighbourhood input & greening of East Vancouver!  We hear a lot about the West Side issues (Arbutus Corridor gardens, Kitsilano Beach Bike Path, Pt. Grey car traffic closures) but the East Side is very low profile!

I request that the City put a halt to Onni’s development permit & conduct a very public inquiry into how the City’s development process is working with neighbourhoods to create greener & more citizen friendly communities!

Perhaps it would be a very appropriate time for the massive Onni to bequeath the former Green Triangle to the Parks Board & to re-green it!


Lorne Milne


onni north side of property

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3 Responses to ONNI Developer Destroying Green Space in East Vancouver – with photos

  1. Pingback: TEA & TWO SLICES | On Sore Lululosers And Clearing Oppenheimer Park’s Tent City : Scout Magazine

  2. Dodge says:

    So what now? We’re all dismayed by Onni’s practices and the blind-eye that the city is turning but how can we push for “a halt to Onni’s development permit until a transparent investigation of infractions can be conducted.” ?

    What do you see as the most affective way of raising awareness and affecting change here?

  3. P. H. Finch says:

    This reminds me of the tragedy of the small city I grew up in.

    Xxxxxxxxx* Ontario had a remarkable collection of very early houses (circa 1830s), most of which had an arboretum adjacent.

    Back in the 1960s, local developers played a lot of dirty tricks, like trying to pull down such houses overnight without a permit.

    I remember one Georgian style house that had 3 foot thick walls, floor beams mortise-and-tenoned into the walls and first-growth hardwood throughout. It took over a week to do the deed, and the arboretum was callously chopped up.

    A bunch of bland cookie-cutter houses with big garages dominating their facades, leering blankly out at a featureless cul-de-sac, usurped the space where the stately trees once stood.

    The sale of the houses easily paid for the slap-on-the-wrist fines the developer, who was allegedly a personal friend of the judge, and the mayor. Just one of the boys.

    All the grange houses in the city fell, one by one, some suffering such ignominious fates as becoming a drive-in McDonald’s site, a Canadian Tire, and other similar unimaginative uses.

    It was all seen as “progress,” yet few people seemed alarmed by it: rather they took pride that they felt they were “modern”–just like the mythical “big city.”

    The unspoken questions were “progressing from where to where?” and “precisely which big city do you want to emulate?”

    Vancouver’s architectural history is much newer, not so much a brick-and-stone one, and not a natural history obscured by massive clear-cutting. Vancouver’s recent history is one of wood, and of a close connection with the natural setting and the even a connection (however tenuous) with the people who inhabited the land before colonization.

    Perhaps that is what elicits such a visceral reaction to the wilful demolition of natural beauty in our midst.
    However cosmopolitan we may think ourselves to be, many feel the loss–and so we should.

    Vancouver needs to grow up, but not at the expense of its humanity, as is so often the case with so many cities. We should grow up, proud of the tears shed for wrongs done, unashamed to admit we are attached to that which makes our city truly unique–and angered when unbridled greed robs of us of what we value.

    If we want a city we can thrive in, we need to be openly, outrageously expressive of our values. We need to become passionate stewards of the land we borrow, and compassionate advocates of all who need our voice and solidarity.

    We need to ask the simple question: if a tree falls in the city, does it make a sound?

    * Name obscured to protect the guilty who could probably sue me writing this!

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