Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Urban Growth: Urban Agriculture at South East False Creek

Bachelor of Landscape Architecture Program
University of British Columbia
Graduation Thesis, April, 1999
Alexander F. Kurnicki

Table of Contents


Urban agriculture has been practised throughout the world for thousands of years and is an accepted part of city life in many places; in our city, it is practised in our backyards and a few community gardens. The possibilities are endless as to how urban food production can benefit city life. Community bonding, an enriched sense of identity and belonging, creation of habitat, job creation and the recycling of waste are only a few of the possible benefits. The City of Vancouver sponsored project to create a sustainable community at South East False Creek (SEFC) offers us an opportunity to raise the profile of urban agriculture in Vancouver. Growing food can become a public event. Our parks are currently vast open spaces of turf grass lined with a limited menu of shrubs and trees; they could be so much more, especially if fruit and vegetables can be produced in this landscape. Urban living and food production does not have to be mutually exclusive; in fact, they can be mutually enhancing. This paper, supported by an actual design proposal, suggests that the new urban development at SEFC can have all the amenities of a sustainable urban life, especially if it were oriented around the idea and practice of urban agriculture.

Introduction and Description of the South East False Creek Project To Date

The proposal to develop the area of SEFC did not start with the City of Vancouver Planning Department looking at the area in question and immediately deciding that a sustainable community should be built there. In fact, quite the opposite happened. In 1990, Vancouver City Council adopted the Clouds of Change Report that made recommendations regarding planning initiatives in the city. These included bringing housing and employment closer together, increase housing adjacent to Vancouver's Central Area i.e. the downtown core and that the principles of energy efficient community design be incorporated into the planning of SEFC. Between 1990 and 1994, the zoning of the lands north of First Avenue, between Cambie and Quebec Streets were changed from industrial to residential. It was identified as a priority that the land be used predominantly for housing and in particular, housing for families with children. It was also decreed that the development be envisioned as a sustainable development.

The city set out guidelines to structure the vision it had for the development at SEFC. It was mandated that there be 2.75 acres of parks and public open space per 1000 population in addition to a waterfront walkway. Secondly, there was to be community facilities and services providing for education, social, health and cultural needs of the resident, employee and visitor populations including pools, rinks, schools, libraries, fire, police and day care. Furthermore, these facilities should seek to provide services and facilities to the greater community surrounding SEFC. The Clouds of Change Report recommended that new developments in the city should strive towards making any development more energy efficient by reducing the use of greenhouse gases. This included, through good planning, encouraging people to use more alternative modes of transportation, including public transportation and bicycles. Developments should be more concerned with the depletion of natural resources, those in the forests, oceans and the land, especially with respect to soil fertility. The current level of organic and inorganic wastes should be addressed, seeking to reduce its disposal in other ecosystems. Community cohesion and involvement and job creation should be addressed, which would result in the creation of a total and complete community. Finally, considerations should be taken to address the quality of food consumed, amount of water used, the use of pesticides and the quality of open space (p.116 to 125 of Barrs, 1998).

A development feasibility study was commissioned and a developer named Stanley Kwok was hired. He only looked at the economic aspects of the project. His solution was by no means a world class example of sustainable development. Creekside Landing, the title of his proposed development, found that a density of 3.0 FSR (Floor Space Ratio) was required to achieve any kind of density, such as the 5 000 people the Planning Department has suggested be the number of people to be housed. This solution saw high density housing in the form of high rise towers. This did not meet the City Council's objective of creating housing for families with children. Furthermore, the proposal, citing the high costs of soil remediation, estimated the profit from the sale of properties should be only an estimated $8 million. Meanwhile, a collective of professionals and academics, working under the title of the Sheltair Group, were hired to be the sustainable development consultant. Their report, entitled Visions, Tools and Targets: Environmentally Sustainable Development Guidelines for Southeast False Creek (also known as the Sheltair Report) set out a series of guidelines, objectives, goals and precedents form which individuals could set achievable targets for the development. The report, tabled in April, 1998, was lengthy in its content. One of the most important aspects of this document is the Table of Primary Ecological Indicators and Targets, which, in a summarized fashion, clearly sets out a 'sustainability checklist' for the development. One of the indicators states: 'Amount of produce grown within Southeast False Creek neighbourhood'. The relative target of this indicator is: '12.5% of produce'. This is the target adopted for this design exploration of urban agriculture at SEFC to be the project's benchmark for success.

In light of the Creekside Landing study and The Sheltair Report, the City went to the public as a part of the public consultation segment of the development's design process. During this time, more specifically in the fall of 1998, 10 more alternative solutions were proposed by virtue of tow related processes. In September, Professors Ron Walkey of the UBC School of Architecture and Patrick Condon of the UBC Landscape Architecture Program ran an Urban Form Studio with a combined class from the aforementioned faculties. After six weeks of study, the students came up with seven design options. All seven achieved the design objectives as set out by the Sheltair Report. In the middle of October, the Planning Department sponsored an international charrette which saw the creation of an additional three design options for the site in question. During this time, the Vancouver Park Board released an alternative option that sees nearly 70% of the site as open park space. For the basis of this design exploration, the study will focus on one of the options created in the international charrette (Team 2: 'The Works Yard') and the Park Board option.

What is Urban Agriculture?

Urban agriculture could be described as the basic activity of growing food, whether it be fruit, vegetables or protein (fish or livestock) in the city environment. Robert Barrs, in his work Sustainable Urban Food Production in the City of Vancouver defined urban agriculture as a term to describe the production of agricultural products, including medicinal herbs, ornamental plants and fuel wood in the urban environment. This includes a diverse array of different food production techniques, approaches and products and may be a for-profit enterprise, an important contribution to a family's food needs, or simply an enjoyable pastime (p.8 of Barrs, 1997). In this work, the author will also propose that urban agriculture is the catalyst for the creation of not only the creation of a sense of community where none exists presently but also integral to the success of the proposed community at SEFC.

Urban Agriculture At South-East False Creek: Achieving Sustainability

An extensive discussion of the terms sustainable development or sustainability is not required in the forum of this report. But it is necessary to define both terms. Professor Patrick Mooney of the UBC Landscape Architecture Program has suggested that sustainability be defined as the study of the ways and means by which life on earth, both human and the ecosphere, may be maintained, in perpetuity, at the highest level of quality and function (Mooney, 1997). The Bruntland Report introduced the term sustainable development to the world in 1987 and suggested that sustainability be defined through economic criteria, stating that sustained economic output would perpetuate the standard of living we enjoy today. Countering this point of view were those who proposed that an ecological approach to development, where nature is not managed through technological nor economic measures, but preserved because of its inherent value and worthy of conservation for its own sake. A third aspect of the discussion of sustainability are the social issues that affect our society today. The sense that crime is on the rise, the increasing number of people working harder, but earning less, the rise in the number of the working poor, the coming challenge of the 'baby boomers' becoming senior citizens and the overall sense of alienation of and that we are strangers in our own house (the loss of the sense of community. All of these social issues seem to be more real in our daily lives and overshadow the greater issues of economic and ecological sustainability. All three aspects (economic, ecological & social) of sustainability create a model in which sustainable development forms an encompassing goal of ultimate achievement, which can only be gained by equal emphasis on all three aspects of sustainability. Specifically referring to the project area and the issue of urban agriculture we can understand how the three aspects of sustainability apply. Furthermore, in order for communities to act with any effective concern and resolution of a variety of sustainability issues, communities need a greater amount of control over the production for their own basic needs (p. 94 of Paterson, 1997). Therefore, these sustainability issues must be made to be local issues.


Soil Erosion and Degradation. The loss of arable top soil through wind and soil erosion, soil structure and fertility loss through improper soil tillage practices, soil salinization, soil acidification, soil contamination by chemical residues. As increasing amounts of land are rendered untillable, more areas will have to be cleared for agriculture. Most of this will occur in rural areas, thus putting pressure on ecologically sensitive areas. Urban agriculture can relieve some of this pressure by using derelict lands within city limits and practising intensive agricultural methods of production and soil conservation.

Habitat Destruction. Mono culture farming and the over use of pesticides challenges the existence of wildlife in its proximity. Urban agriculture can create gardens that are heterogeneous in its structure and composition: trees, shrubs, perennial and annual plants could grow together, creating a rich environment, friendly to wildlife such as birds and insects. A landscape that is biologically diverse and free of biocides will contribute to the creation of a diverse and balanced ecosystem.

Loss of Agricultural Land to Urban Development. The loss of ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) land to urban encroachment should be a key concern of our society; ignorance of this issue is the only reason that the public is not aware of the consequences. The loss of land in our province means that we have to import more food from elsewhere, therefore we become reliant on others for one of our most basic needs. The GVRD's Livable Region Strategic Plan and Vancouver's City Plan see that creating density within already developed areas is key to reducing pressure on the development of rural lands. Using derelict sites, left over pieces of open space after development and portions of already designated open space (parks) for urban agriculture would see this activity fully integrated into the urban fabric. A rich urban form would result. People having access to fresh produce at the neighbourhood level is an excellent way to educate people about the issues of food security.

Pollution and Resource Use. Our current method of agriculture production is highly energy consumptive. It takes more energy to produce food then the amount of energy that the food actually has. The resource use from the transportation, packaging, storage, display and disposal of food is immense. Urban agriculture sees food production happening right where the consumer lives; there is no need to transport it any great distance (no fossil fuel burning vehicle necessary for cultivation either), nor is there any need for any of the intermediate steps of food delivery. The grower can distribute the food him/herself.

"Ecological Footprint". This concept was introduced by William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel of the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning to measure the entire ecological impact that humans have on the world; it is considered a measure of sustainability. It is specifically defined as the measure of the amount of ecologically productive land needed to produce the materials and energy and assimilate the wastes used to grow, transport, fertilise, package, store and display the food we consume (p.14 of Barrs, 1997). By this definition, Vancouver's ecological footprint is far larger then the 11 000 hectare area encompassed it the city's total area. Urban agriculture can reduce the ecological footprint of food consumption by:


Food access and food security for low-income citizens. People growing their own food can produce substitute the low income they have with nutritional and healthy food of their own choosing. In addition, it could provide meaningful and fulfilling activity for people with little or no work. These people are not lazy.

Expanding the supply of fresh, healthy organic food available in local markets. The food grown would be made available to the community through some sort of distribution system that would see people supporting themselves in a local market.

Increasing local control of the food production system. Once people begin to see the fruits of their labours and how healthy the community's landscape has become, a sense of ownership will be instilled. The landscape will be seen as one to be relied on and taken care of; a transparent system of food production and distribution will exist. They will understand what has gone into the creation of the at food. Others substantiate this belief. To that end, Moura Quayle stated in her Provincial Interest: Options Paper in the ALR that,' Many people would argue that the best, the safest and the most dependable source of food for our cities is not the global economy, with its vulnerabilities and complex transportation network. It is our own agricultural landscapes.'(italics author) (Quayle, 1998)

Fostering community cooperation and development through cooperative gardening. Gardening is an inherently cooperative activity which creates community through the spirit of sharing knowledge and plants; the embodiment of the 'many hands make light work' philosophy.

The consumption of more fruit, grains and vegetables over fish and meat. With the increased availability of locally grown fruits and vegetables, people will encouraged to consume more fruits and vegetables and less meat. It takes much more energy to produce a unit of meat then a unit of vegetable matter; a vegetarian diet represents a major saving of resources.


Encouraging urban agriculture through economic incentives and market opportunities. Money could be made from selling food individually to homeowners, having a stall at the local farmers market or becoming a part of a community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangement with the local community. This aspect of urban agriculture needs to be further explored in order for it to become a credible activity on the face of the landscape.

Encouraging local economic development and job opportunities. The type of agriculture proposed for SEFC would be very labour intensive. The lack of mechanical equipment, the use of organic methods of production and the principle of sweat equity driving the entire venture would necessitate the employment of more people then are presently employed in conventional farms today. This would be an incentive for lower income people to live in SEFC and live in the community as a part of a housing cooperative where they pay as much as they can and in return grow food for the community. Furthermore, small or home-based businesses will arise to support agriculture: expert advice, composting services, seed collectors and distributors, seedling grower and tool supplies and repairs.

Nature & Community Building

There are many communal benefits to growing food in the city. Growing food is one way one can come closer to nature. Vancouver is blessed with a very wild and treacherous landscape right at its door step; it is very easy for people to access this landscape. But people can not go there all the time because of time or economic constraints, not to mention because of disability or lack of opportunity. Urban agriculture occurs in the immediate landscape of the home and/or the local park. This immediacy can have several benefits. Through intimate contact and understanding, natural processes, common to the greater landscape, can be understood through the growing of plants on the balcony or garden plot. Understanding these processes makes one aware of the life generating phenomenon that occurs when a seed meets the soil and water and sunlight are added to mix; the alchemy of the event cannot but inspire wonder and respect for the land. Furthermore, harvesting the fruits of this wondrous miracle and ones own labour is truly rewarding and gratifying; a sense of empowerment is instilled in the person with the knowledge that what was a summer of effort has produced a bounty of nutritious food.

The urban environment can be an inhospitable, aloof and inaccessible environment. To some, it does not seem to care for its citizens like a family does, even though so many find 'home' in this built form. We can become so familiar with the entire city, yet never meet neighbours or know of what is going on in our own village (vs. our vast knowledge of the global village). The buildings, concrete and lack of green space can make it hard to breathe and grow in the city. The tempo of the city seems to be beyond our control: 'the city never rests'. Our modern lack of natural tempo causes fatigue and inefficiency (Stainbrook). Further, the complexity of the built environment and technology causes stress (West). To this end, we seek out any green space we can in order to become rested and regenerate ourselves. People will lengthen their journeys to merely pass by natural elements (Lynch). We go and sit in the park or escape for the weekend to the country. But for the everyday hectic pace of the city, even a brief experience with nature can be a restorative one (Lewis). Urban agriculture can offer refuge to the restless and stressed soul of the urban citizen. For food growing to be successful in the city, it has to be convenient and readily accessible to the busy people of the community;╩Alexander suggests that green spaces should not be any further then a three minute walk from any one person's residence (p.800 of Alexander, 1977). With food growing, a reconnection of the 'people-plant relationship' can be reestablished and become the basis for a healthy society (Lewis).

Currently, the green space in the city is really quite foreign to us. It takes on some sort of strict form that is more analogous to Versailles then to the mountains of our native landscape. As Charles Lewis states in Green Nature/ Human Nature: The Meaning of Plants In Our Lives, 'Green nature in contemporary urban settings bears some analogy to the that of Versailles, being planted with the strict geometric grids of streets and buildings... (where) the trees, shrubs, lawns and flowers that decorate metropolitan centres may be considered as elements of a garden constrained by its urban matrix (p.28 of Lewis 1996). Later on, Lewis talks about the landscape gardens created at the end and turn of the century in North America. These gardens were created for the new world: they embodied the need to create a restorative environment for the underclass in the new cities of the industrial revolution, where they could be reminded of the countryside from where they have just come and where the classes could mix in a utopian environment. Frederick Law Olmstead, the creator of these grand urban parks, proposed a new role for vegetation; to use its ability to relieve the stress of city life... parks would be 'lungs' for cities, places for social concourse, where people could relay and breathe air that had been cleansed and refreshed by trees (p. 31 of Lewis, 1996). South East False Creek could become the model for the new millennium and society that we need to build in order to live more harmoniously with each other and the earth. Urban agriculture could become the 'pantry and provider' for the community, just as the parks were the 'lungs' for the city in the early part of this century. The new urban parks, where various socioeconomic classes could mix in a new utopian vision could be among the vegetable patch of the community garden.

Reintroducing green nature to the cities has many community and natural benefits. Lewis states:

If urban agriculture is to help create community, we must define what community in fact can become in the new development at SEFC. The root of the word community is the Latin word communis which means common in the sense of sharing equally or together with others. The word communication has the same root meaning in that an idea or notion is made common or widespread (p.99 of Quayle, 1997). The urban landscape sends many different messages; it is confusing to understand that we all in fact feel a sense of community, but feel very distinct and individual from one another. Both messages, affirmations of belonging to a group and being recognizable within a group, are increasingly difficult to communicate in the urban landscape. The urban landscape is becoming more anonymous and less livable in the process (p .99 of Quayle, 1997).

In Growing community: A case for hybrid landscapes, Moura Quayle and Tilo Driessen elaborate on what they see as the essential elements to creating community. They state, 'In the neighbourhood, tinkering, gardening and fixing up, if seen from the public street, are activities that draw comments, sometimes unwanted advice, helpful hints or nosy questions. People feel encouraged to talk to each other when there is something obvious to talk about.' Later, the author goes on to say, 'Words of support make the person doing the work feel valued as a part of a social group; their role as an appreciated member of the community is affirmed' (p. 102 of Quayle, 1997). From this sense of identity grows the awareness of neighbourhood and togetherness. With time, these neighbourhoods accrue stories and legends; people begin to make their mark on the local landscape. It may at times become erased or dirty, making it is harder to see what has happened; the landscape becomes a palimpsest of memories. Established neighbourhoods are warehouses of memories where an individual life takes meaning and where the neighbourhood is a microcosm in which the larger world is contained (p. 102 of Quayle, 1997). With respect to community gardens specifically, creating identity both community and individual (italics author) can be achieved through interpretations of rules and traditions in light of aesthetics and personal taste. Even the concept of messiness can be accepted and be beneficial in the community. It lowers the threshold to manipulate the place, to take ownership and to give a face to an area. It also sponsors discovery, adventure and imagination. In the spirit of temperance, hybrid landscape messiness must resist crossing the border into neglect (p. 104 of Quayle, 1997).

The community gardens at SEFC thus must have some order to them to create distinctive plots, but a balance must be struck that addresses the need to create a community face and identity. Through urban agriculture and the local production of food, communities become empowered. By producing things ourselves, the things we produce take on new meaning; they enter into our daily discussions and their production fosters self initiative. At the same time, those goods that move between communities also take on additional meaning; they represent the producing community and become part of that community's identity (p. 94 of Paterson, 1997). Finally, continuing with the sense of community, a commons would serve as the public domain of everyone. The use of this piece of communal real estate fosters community because consensus must be achieved through discussion and thus a collective identity and sense of future is created. This type of landscape would be new to North America (p. 95 of Paterson, 1997). The landscape of SEFC will be also new to North America.

Site Analysis: Yesterday and Today

The area of study was once a tidal mud flat and rich estuarine ecosystem. When Captain George Vancouver came upon present day English Bay, False Creek extended all the way east to the escarpment at Clarke Street. There were several salmon bearing streams running into the area, namely from the heights of present day Mt. Pleasant and Fairview Slopes. Over the years, especially in approximately the last one hundred, the shoreline has advanced, closing in on the open water, destroying forever the rich ecosystem that once existed in this mixed estuarine and mud flat environment. On this reclaimed land, Vancouver,s industrial history was created. Steel works, shipbuilding and forestry related industries conducted business. Specifically at SEFC, Dominion Bridge (Ship ) Building built freighters for the war effort in both world wars.

In the past 30 years, industries started moving out of the city and relocating elsewhere. This left land behind that was highly polluted, but located on a desirable waterfront location. Developers saw potential in these derelict lands. False Creek South, centred on the Granville Island Public Market, was the first housing development to occur on the shores of False Creek. This medium to high -density development was very successful and is seen as one of the more desirable places to live in the city. It was seen as a model for the future developments within and without of the city. The mix of community services, public open space and proximity to commercial districts and public transportation resulted in a development that had various housing alternatives in it, such as housing co-operatives and public housing. The next major development to occur was at False Creek North. After the industrial enterprises and Expo 86 vacated the site, a development company called Concord Pacific created the high rise development that dominates the north shore skyline of False Creek. Among these high priced high-rises are set various urban parks containing sports fields and community centres, such as the very successful Roundhouse Community Centre. The Centre attributes its success to its highly integrated use of space, mixing cultural and sports activities under one roof. Southeast False Creek is the last portion of formerly industrial land on the shores of False Creek to be slated to become housing.

The site is currently under going a process of transformation. Several industrial complexes have vacated, while several more have yet to leave. For example, several lumber storage facilities still exist. In 1997, the Canron Building was demolished. On the western half of the site is a City of Vancouver Public Works Yard. Various grades of aggregate are stored in very large piles. Construction vehicles and heavy machinery are parked in a variety of sheds and buildings. The Vancouver Police have a parking lot under the Cambie Street Bridge. The Police Dog Squad is also housed here. On the other side of the site, the eastern half has been recently paved over (Summer, 1998) to accommodate the Vancouver Indy. This very popular event has a lease on the site until early into the new millennium. A local dealership uses a portion of the site for a storage facility for new cars. At the foot of Ontario Street, there is a very interesting building. The Domtar Salt Building was once a storage facility and distribution centre for salt. Distinctive in character, colour, detail and architecture, this heavy beamed wood structure has been slated to become a focus for the community, to function as either a community centre or public market; it would seem that the potential for this building is unlimited considering that it will be the only piece of heritage in the new development. The remaining open space, between the existing buildings, is completely paved and devoid of any vegetation.

Site Vegetation and Views Beyond: The Site In Context

The predominant vegetation on the site is situated along the shoreline on the northern edge of the site. The two major species are Platnus x acerfolia, London Plane Tree and Sequoiadendron giganteum, Giant Sequoia, with a few other pioneer tree species interspersed; these are Robinia pseudoacacia, Honey Locust, Alnus Rubra, Red Alder and Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa, Black Cottonwood. The first two pioneer species are nitrogen fixing; they have a symbiotic relationship with a particular kind of bacteria that lives in nodules in the roots of these trees. In return, the bacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen and make it available to the trees, which use the nutrient to grow. This makes these trees especially suited to this site because of the poor nutrient quality and contamination of the soil. The two species mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph were planted as a visual screen for the World Exposition that happened on the opposite side of False Creek, in 1986. The then existing industries were obscured from view and the trees have remained in place after the end of Expo and after the industries have vacated the site.

Now that the site is, or soon will become, a virtually open site,, vistas out from the site will be both impressive and expansive. The trees do not obscure the present view to any extent. The future development will most likely see the elimination of these trees because a seawall system or some sort of shoreline recreation system will be created. This shoreline system will definitely capitalize on the views to the North.

The Cambie Street Bridge is an imposing element that obscures ones view down the western reaches of False Creek and to the north shore of False Creek in that same sector. The bridge is relatively nondescript in character and is not a visual highlight in the vicinity.

In the greater landscape, the North Shore Mountains loom as an imposing and wonderful backdrop to the city's skyline. This view is slowly being obscured by the mid-ground view of the city skyline. Included in this mid-view is the eastern half of Vancouver's Central Business District, BC Place Stadium, GM Place and, right on the water, the Plaza of Nations. Moving east is the less dramatic skyline of the Downtown Eastside. But, this is in the shadow of the False Creek North development that will stretch from the Granville Street Bridge to Quebec Street once it is fully completed. Presently, it is situated in the central portion of the north shore of False Creek. These high-rises are very imposing and stand alone from one another because they are separated by large tracts of open space with little or no ground oriented buildings of any sort.

The 'Space Ball' dominates the terminus of False Creek. Science World, like the Plaza of Nations, is a left over from Expo 86. Since the end of Expo, it has served as the home to Science World, a science and technology centre where people can come and learn about how things work and happen in an exciting and amusing environment. It would be encouraging to see Science World adopt a more sustainable and ecologically oriented point of view considering the nature of the proposed large scale development that will be situated right nearby. Behind and to the northeast is the City Gate development by the Bosa Development Corporation. ╩The present character of the development is similar to what has occurred thus far along the north shore, except that there is far more more ground oriented and medium rise buildings attached to the apartment towers. Just beyond this area is the railway station and bus depot. Furthermore, at the intersection of Terminal Avenue and Main Street, both major arterial routes converging from all four cardinal directions, the Skytrain rapid transit system 'Main Street' station is located. Several major bus routes converge here as well. Taken all together, this area is a major hub for transportation and transit. Further beyond this node and the City Gate development are the False Creek Flats, an area of reclaimed land that is just on the cusp of a period of transition.

Presently, the area is industrial, with many warehouses, light industrial activities and tow large rail shunting yards. On the northern portion are the Finning/Caterpillar lands. The company has recently (1998) relocated its enterprise to Alberta and thus is slowly vacating the property. The city has designated this area to become the high tech industrial park for the city. The development at SEFC could be seen as a housing opportunity for the people who will work in this high tech precinct. This would be in line with the City's objective of having the development planned to be a complete community, with the work place and housing in close proximity to each other, thus reducing the citizenry's reliance on infrastructure i.e. roads.

Directly behind SEFC, between First and Broadway Avenues are warehouses and light industrial enterprises such as automotive oriented shops, high technology and light industry. There is more housing mixed in as one approaches Broadway and the entire area is bound by a thick edge of commercial activity. On the upper slopes beyond Broadway, Fairview Slopes and Mount Pleasant dominate the skyline and is predominantly residential. The main focal point for this view is City Hall, which is situated to the southeast, right on the ridgeline. Urban agriculture has never been tried at SEFC before.


Overall, our regional climate can be described as a maritime influenced Mediterranean climate, resulting in cool, dry summers and warm, rainy winters. There are approximately 361 frost free days and nearly 1950 hours of sunlight in a year. In particular, the site specifically is very exposed. It is open to the elements, namely wind, rain and sun. The prevailing wind is generally from the west (the ocean). This sea breeze effect is especially strong on summer afternoons when the land heats up and the cooler air over the water comes into replace the rising air over the land. The reverse effect occurs at night time and in the early morning, but generally to a lesser degree, with the winds blowing at a lover velocity. In the winter, storms generally come from the southeast; the land and sea breeze effect is negated due to the cooler climate. Interior wind patterns within the site are affected by the previously described buffer planting along the foreshore. But because of the site's openness, winds that are only several tens of meters inland beyond this buffer planting will reach speeds near the speeds of those on the open water. Once the physical planning stage of the design process begins, planners should take care to mitigate the wind tunnel effect created by buildings.

The sun exposure is high because there are no tall buildings to the south of the site (the tallest building fronting on First Avenue is three stories high) and the ridgeline of Fairview Slopes and Mt. Pleasant is far enough back to not be a factor. If the buildings of City Gate continue north along Quebec Street, this may restrict the sun exposure; if they were kept low i.e. to a maximum of 10 stories, this will not be a factor. Considering that the only structures remaining once the site is finally cleared for development are the Cambie Street Bridge and the Domtar Salt Building, the shadows cast by these two structures will be a factor. Considering the Salt Building will most likely be apart of a main square or a civic centre of some sort, therefore this will not effect any areas designated for urban agriculture. It has been proposed in several designs that a buffer of trees be planted along the western edge of the site to offset the effects of noise, air and visual pollution cast from the bridge. The bridge, which is some 30 to 40 feet in the air, coupled with a tree buffer planting some 50 feet high at maturity would create a very imposing solar access barrier and cast a substantial shadow. In both of the master plan concepts I will be modelling my design from, there is a proposed open space area immediately adjacent to the bridge area. Ground oriented urban agriculture will be more of a challenge here then on any other part of the site because some portion of the afternoon sun will be lost. This may be seen as a benefit because it will cool the crops in the high heat summer days, but this will probably not be a factor because the cooling effect of the water and the fact that there will be so many other environmental factors, such as soil contamination and air pollution, holding back the general performance of the plants. Proper crop selection for this area will be of paramount importance.

The total annual precipitation in Vancouver is approximately 1200mm. This precipitation usually comes in the form of rain, the bulk of which falls in the winter months of November through to March. During this same period, Vancouver will experience at least one heavy snowfall of approximately 30 to 40 cm, which usually disappears within several days of its appearance. The rain falls rather consistently, coming in on a succession of systems that flow off of the ocean. Occasionally, the onshore flow of these maritime systems, typically of low pressure, are interrupted by a continental polar high pressure ridge flowing in from northern Canada. As a result of this event, Vancouver experiences dry and cold weather that occasionally causes considerable damage to plant species that are of marginal hardiness. In summary of the issues concerning rainfall, because the most rainfall occurs in the winter and plant growth occurs in late spring to early fall, when the rainfall is not as plentiful, it would be prudent to adopt water conservation measures. Catching water in cisterns, in order to store water for later use, using grey water from households and applying mulches to soil would all serve to be adaptive to our climate and reduce our reliance on the regional water system.

Soil Contamination

Past land uses in SEFC have created a soil pollution problem that requires some attention. Pioneering industries in the area contaminated the soil by causing the accumulation of waste from various industrial activities. Accumulated chemical waste now requires significant remediation in the are in order for future development to take place. Historically, industries which were located in SEFC were perdominantly related to ship building but also include various forestry related industries, including saw mills and steel works. The list of soil contaminants is significant, including pollutants such as: nickel, zinc, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), mercury, copper, PCB's and cadmium. If urban agriculture is to take place at SEFC, the soil must be remedied for two primary reasons. First, the plants need a relatively healthy soil structure and content to ensure proper plant growth and to minimize possible contaminants absorbed by the plant's biomass and thus recycled by the ecological system in SEFC. Second, any possible adverse health issues in people must be avoided. It is people who will have to tend the plants growing in SEFC and will therefore come into contact with the currently contaminated soil. To minimize any health risks, the soil must be especially clean where food production will occur where there will be significant human activity.

There are various methods of dealing with soil contamination. The simple and conventional way of dealing with it is to cap it, which involves either sealing the contaminated soil in concrete shell, using an impermeable membrane made of industrial grade plastic/PVC or by removing the contaminated soil completely. Removing the soil involves excavating the soil and sending it to a dump site where it can either be treated or sealed to prevent contaminant leaching. The main concern in the management of such a contaminated soil is to prevent human contact with polluted and possibly hazardous soil. These strategies include: removing the poisoned soil, blocking the pathway between the poisoned soil and people in SEFC or by isolating people from the soil.

The cost of any soil remediation is usually very high. Preliminary conservative estimates place the cost somewhere between 27 and 50 million dollars. Regardless of which remediation method is used to treat this environmental challenge, it is going to cost lots of money. However, there is a way to decrease costs and still effectively treat the area concerning the poisoned soil. The method involves entombing the highly contaminated sites or 'hot spots' underneath buildings or playing fields, leaving the rest of the relatively clean site for land uses which involve direct contact with the soil (i.e. gardening). However, the whole site must be raised in elevation by approximately 1m for the entombing method to be effective because of the expected sea level rise (due to global warming and the associated melting of the polar ice caps) would expose the entombed soil to leaching by the encroaching water. The best strategy to deal with soil contamination and urban agriculture at SEFC will be one that utilizes the technological option of using PVC membrane and bentonite clay as the primary and secondary sealants. In addition, the site will require an additional 1m of soil over the areas where passive open space land uses will occur (i.e. public parks) since buildings and active open space land uses will cap the soil using concrete. The additional meter of soil on areas where ground-oriented urban agriculture will occur, will be soil of high nutritional and microbial content to create suitable soil for agriculture. Strategies for rejuvenating the soil include: adding composts and manures, using soil additives derived from sewage sludge and planting pioneer species (especially nitrogen fixing plants).

Site Access and Circulation

As it stands now, SEFC is an island, isolated from the transportation infrastructure of our city. No roads cut through the site; this will change as buildings are created and people will have to move within and without of the site. The current situation sees the site surrounded on three sides by major arterial routes. The Cambie Street Bridge and Main Street carry lots of traffic throughout the day, in and out of the downtown core. Second Avenue carries similar traffic loads in addition to having heavy truck traffic as well. There are already two established bike routes in the vicinity. One is called 'The Ontario Street Bikeway' that begins where Ontario Street intersects First Avenue. The route extends south through the city, crossing all major east-west streets, making it a crucial connection that is suited for cyclists. The other bike route is called 'Seaside'. It is an extension of two bike routes, one that extends from the 'Off Broadway' route and the western half of the 'Seaside' route. This route provides a major recreational component to the False Creek area. Finally, there is a water taxi connection from the northeast corner of SEFC that connects with the rest of False Creek.

Programming Urban Agriculture: Places, Facts & Figures

There are many elements that go into building a green space. For that matter, there are many kind of green spaces where people can enjoy nature and growing food in a community setting. In A Pattern Language, Alexander et al explain all of the 'ingredients' necessary to go into growing nature where we live. Their recommendations are set out in a series of rules or typologies by which one follows.

No. 172: A Garden Growing Wild. 'A garden which grows true to its own laws is not a wilderness yet not entirely artificial either. It goes on to say that it is important to strike a balance between cultivation and wilderness. A garden growing wild is healthier, more capable of stable growth then the more clipped and artificial garden. The garden can be left alone, it will not go to ruin in one or two seasons. Grow grasses, mosses, bushes, flowers and trees in a way which comes close to the way that they occur in nature: intermingled, without barriers between them, without bare earth, without formal flower beds and with all the boundaries and edges made in rough stone and brick and wood which become a part of the natural growth.' (p. 802-03 of Alexander, 1977). This structure of growth mimics what occurs in the natural landscape; plants grow where they are able to grow, finding their own niche. This method of cultivation is similar to the kind espoused by the 'father' of Permaculture, Bill Mollison and agroecologists such Miguel A. Altieri and M. Fukuoka. Food can be grown in a similar fashion as the one suggested above, where the structure of a plot is mixed and varied with a variety of edible plants.

No. 173: The Garden Wall. It is stated categorically that, 'Urban gardens and small public parks don't give enough relief from noise and bustle unless they are well protected. To be useful, in the deepest psychologically sense, they must allow the people in them to be in touch with nature- and must be shielded from the sight and sound of passing traffic, city noises and buildings. This requires walls, substantial high walls and dense planting all around the garden. From some kind of enclosure to protect the interior of a quiet garden from the sights and sounds of passing traffic. If it is a large garden or a park, the enclosure can be soft, can include bushes, trees, slopes and so on. The smaller the garden however, the harder and more definite the enclosure must become. In very small garden, form the enclosure with buildings or walls. Even hedges and fences will not be enough to keep the sound out.' (p. 806- 08, Alexander, 1977). Southeast False Creek will be very dense: lots of buildings and lots of people, relatively close together, in the middle of the city. It will be important for people to have access to places where they can find respite and a natural surrounding in the same place. Even food growing take place in the most intimate place.

No. 177: The Vegetable Garden. This is probably the most applicable one to this project. 'In a healthy town, every family can grow vegetables for itself. The time is past to think of this as a hobby for enthusiasts; it is a fundamental part of human life. And, in an ecologically balanced world, it seems almost certain that man will have to work out some balanced relationship for his daily food. It takes about one-tenth of an acre to grow an adequate year round supply of vegetables for a family of four. This means that every house or house cluster can create its own supply of vegetables and that every household which does not have its own private land attached to it should have a portion of a common vegetable garden close at hand (italics author). It is important to teach of the land's capacity to grow things'. In conclusion, 'Set aside one piece of land either in the private garden or on the common land as a vegetable garden. About one-tenth of an acre for each family of four. Make sure the vegetable garden is in a sunny place and central to all the households it serves. Fence it in and build a small storage shed for gardening tools beside it.' (p. 819- 21 of Alexander, 1977). It is more then likely that not everyone will have immediate access to the ground because it will be impossible to house everyone in ground oriented housing. Therefore, it is crucial that those who have to live in above ground units are ensured of access to places to grow food. This could occur on the ground, but also on rooftops and floating barges.

No. 178: The Compost (sewage). Addressing the sustainable issues of food production through the use of recycled nutrients. 'Arrange all toilets over a dry composting chamber. Lead organic garbage chutes to the same chamber and use the combined products for fertilizer.' (824- 26, Alexander, 1977). Sludge would return some of the lost nutrients back to the land. Furthermore, composting toilets or the use of solar aquatic sewage treatment systems reduce infrastructure costs and pollution to water bodies. The resultant humus would replenish the soil greatly, especially since the soil quality at SEFC will be extremely low. Water could be also recycled from bathing, washing and the kitchen sink in each household and diverted to a central cistern, especially in the summer months; little or no filtering would be required to make this happen.

The technical programmatic information comes from the work of Robert Barrs. Mr. Barrs wrote his master's thesis for the UBC School For Community and Regional Planning entitled Urban Agriculture: The Potential for South-East False Creek in 1998. In this work, he has laid out the planning framework for urban agriculture to occur at the development in question.

Barrs begins by identifying four suitable places, among others, to grow food.

The amount of waste production that 5 000 people will create is quite large. And the potential to capitalize on this resource is enormous. Barrs calculates that the waste stream from the community could fertilize 130 to 230 acres at 300 pounds of nitrogen/ acre/ year, which is considered a generous amount; adequate amounts of phosphorus and potassium are also available. But there is a societal phobia about the use of human waste around food; we are accepting of the use of far more noxious smelling manures, such as chicken manure, but we are unwilling to use sterilized human waste. The waste should be tested on a regular occasion to appease public concerns and monitor for the presence of dangerous bacterium. Outside sources will have to account for deficiencies and imbalances in micro nutrients.

On page 132 of his report, Barrs gives a chart demonstrating the per capita consumption of common foods by Canadians. According to this chart, which includes vegetables, fruits, fats and oils, grains, mild products and meat, in order to feed 5 000 people, 2200 hectares are required using open field techniques. Therefore we are unable to grow all our food in the city limits of Vancouver, let alone at SEFC. But using intensive growing methods and techniques, conceivably, the 12.5% target could be achieved. Yields obtained and therefore quantity of food produced depends on a number of factors.

  1. Growing method used
  2. Type and relative size of the growing spaces available
  3. Type of food produced
  4. Technologies used
  5. Level of skill available
  6. Amount and quality of energy (solar & fossil fuel) and inputs (composts/ fertilizers) used.

Focusing on growing methods, Barrs looks at three very different methods: conventional open field farming practices, green house production and the John Jeavons' French Biodynamic Method. There are other methods of production available; two that interest this author especially are the agroecology methods of M. Fukuoka's Natural Farming method and Bill Mollison's Permaculture method. These alternative forms of food production maybe explored by the author in small scale models.

According to Barrs, the conventional method would need 102 acres (41 hectares) of land to produce the amount of vegetables and fruit adequate for 5 000 people. The yield would be approximately 17 600kg/ha or 1.76 kg/m2. Community gardening is much more intensive and could deliver conceivably higher yields due to the greater density of planting and amount of care. According to a Ministry of Agriculture Horticulturalist, 1000 ft2 could feed a family of four.

The Jeavons' French Biodynamic Method delivers very larger yields for the amount of land required. Realistically speaking, only some of the techniques he uses could be applied to our region. His figures are based on a warmer, sunnier California climate, high quality compost, cultivating the soil to 24 inches and a very high level of skill. According to Jeavons, the average person should consume 320 pounds of vegetables and fruits per year on 100 ft2 (9.5 m2). Therefore, 5 000 people could be fed on 10.5 acres (4.5 hectares) or two- thirds of the required 16 acres of land required for SEFC according to the 2.75 acres/1 000 of population.

Greenhouse production is very energy intensive, using a very precisely controlled artificial environment to produce vast amounts of produce. This technology is proven; the Dutch method of greenhouse production is used throughout the lower mainland. Yields are 9 to 30 times greater then that of conventional methods and 4 to 5 times that of Jeavons' methods. One year's supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, for one person could be grown on 25 ft2 (2.4 m2) of greenhouse space (!). During a recent visit to Gipanda Greenhouses of Delta, the owner stated to the author that with the ideal climate of that part of the lower mainland and precise climate control, 350kg/m2 of tomatoes could be produced per year at a cost of $500 000/acre of construction costs for the greenhouse and employing 3 to 4 people per acre. The drawbacks of greenhouse production are sustainable in nature. This form of production is incredibly energy intensive therefore has a proportionately large ecological footprint. But there maybe solutions. The hydroponic mix could somehow use waste from the population; waste heat and passive solar gain on rooftops could offset some of the energy inputs. Using the solar aquatic sewage treatment system devised by Nanaimo's Eko-tek Ltd. in combination with food production could be a possibility worth exploring.

Conclusion: with a combination of conventional small scale farming, the Jeavons method (adapted to our region's climate) and greenhouse production, the target of growing 12.5% of the food consumed by the population could be definitely met and surpassed.

Finally, Barrs makes 14 final recommendations that would ensure food production becoming a major contribution to the sustainable community at SEFC. A policy on urban agriculture should address:

1. Creating the space needed to grow food. Space must be designated for greenhouses, community gardens, rooftop gardens, vertical gardens,balcony gardens, fruit tree and berry orchards, barges and an urban farm for small livestock. The land must be set aside from market land speculation so that there is stability in the tenure of these properties and the tax base is not varied according to the value of the crop grown.

2. Ensuring adequate solar exposure. The buildings should be arranged and the growing sites located so as to have the maximum amount of solar exposure possible.

3. Providing adequate nutrients. Composting of organic wastes and harvesting of sterile human sludge from the solar aquatic treatment system and/or composting toilets should provide enough nutrients.

4. Providing economic incentives: appropriate retail opportunities, credit and capital, subsidies and tax credits. Farmer's markets and allowing community gardeners to sell their produce and zoning land for food production so appropriate levels of taxation will be imposed would help to subsidize this activity.

5. Attaining a high level of skill. What will be done here will be leading edge in sustainable design, especially the greenhouse and solar aquatic treatment system located on the rooftop. Research funding and opportunities should be created. Highly skilled horticulturalists should be available to lend advice to gardeners.

6. Overcoming policy and regulatory barriers. Zoning and bylaws should be reexamined to explore the idea of allowing livestock and greenhouses into the city.

7. Growing food as close as possible to the point of consumption. Little or no transportation lowers costs and CO2 production. Employing local micro food processors and having a local growers market would further lower the impact.

8. Reusing and recycling wastes for the purposes of food production. Several measures could be used. Community wide solid waste production treated and distributed to the urban gardens. Collect and store rain water. Look at using sewage and grey water for food production (from community only, ensuring no heavy metals are in the waste). Incorporating solar aquatic sewage treatment into greenhouse production (Eko-tek says that 1.5 acres of Greenhouse would treat the waste of 5 000 people- 1996 figure). Utilize the waste heat from buildings by locating greenhouses on rooftops (70 to 80% of greenhouses' ecological footprint is from its use of natural gas for heating. Roof tops are 5 to 10 oc warmer then the surrounding landscape.

9. Using sustainable techniques and approaches. Measures should be taken to create a holistic system that seeks to integrate with various related systems and reduce inputs. Using the three R's of waste reduction: reduce, reuse, recycle.

10. Equality. Creating a system that provides equal access to healthy and nutritious food to everyone, regardless of the their economic class or means and reduces the existing economic inequality of city dwellers.

11. Making land uses compatible. Unpleasant smells (composts, livestock) and noisy activities should be kept away from residential areas.

12. Making food safe from soil contamination and air pollution. Lead in gas is no longer a problem. The contaminated soil will be removed. More investigation must be done into the effects of air pollution on food quality and nutrition.

13. Dealing with the problem of theft and vandalism. People will always take something from the gardens. Chronic thieves must be identified and made responsible for their actions. Education and signage is key.

14. Overcoming the perceptions that urban agriculture is inappropriate. The City must be lobbied to change the by-laws that applied to urban conditions of a century ago. Educate the public as to why the issues of sustainability matter to them and that growing ones own food is a way to meet ones responsibility to fellow citizens. Change the perception of what is 'messy' (usually an ecologically minded landscape) and what is 'well tended' (a manicured and unsustainable landscape requiring high inputs of energy and time). A demonstration garden, such as the one run by City Farmer , would be excellent.

Precedents: Looking To Others

Urban agriculture has been practised for thousands of years. The City Farmer web site ( posts articles about urban agriculture activities from around the world: from bee hives on top of sky scrappers in New York City to quails in Fredericton to fish farming in ponds of human waste in Calcutta. There is no shortage of examples from which to learn. But there are several successful examples from our city that one could learn from and improve upon. But first, there is an interesting model from Cheyenne, Wyoming that is worth noting because it involves community cooperation and greenhouse production.

The community garden grows all year round under a 5 000 square foot greenhouse heated solely by the sun. Senior citizens, the handicapped, low-income people and juvenile offenders volunteer to care for the garden, providing food for themselves and a surplus for such programs as Meals on Wheels and the Salvation Army. A new community root cellar that provides food storage also enables the greenhouse to act as a citywide food distribution centre, which proved useful during a disastrous flood several years ago (p.25 of Garden, 1985). The various mix of gardeners results in interesting friendships amongst individuals who would otherwise never interact with one another. This gives a sense of belonging and empowerment to traditionally marginalized individuals from mainstream society.

In North Vancouver, there is a small farm of four acres called Maplewood Farm. It is situated in a neighbourhood that has a community school right across the street from it, residential properties abutting the farm's fence and light industry just down the road. At the farm, which is open all year round and seven days a week, the public, especially the younger members of our society, are educated about farm animals from around the world. There are horses, donkeys, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, geese,chickens and rabbits. And a very large Vietnamese Pot Belly Pig. This farm has stalls in barns and corals where people can enjoy looking at the animals as they go about their daily business. Professional staff take care of the animals and gladly talk to the public as they perform their chores of managing the farm. The farm hosts visiting school groups regularly and visitors are allowed to walk freely anywhere on the site. What is most interesting about this farm is its location amongst seemingly conflicting land uses. Planners and civic health officials often reason that livestock of any sort can not be located safely in residential neighbourhoods, let alone in the city because of supposed health concerns. The Maplewood Farm example seems to show that farming activities and human communities can coexist safely.

The Strathcona & Cottonwood Community Gardens in East Vancouver are a vibrant and central aspect of the neighbourhoods they are situated in. These two very successful community gardens have a waiting list and are looked to by others in the city who are interested in starting a community garden of their own, as a model to follow. The gardens are in the heart of a lower class neighbourhood and industrial zone in the heart of the city. A group of individuals in the early 1990's got together and started clearing land that was left over and adjacent to an existing park. After some effort and earthworks, plots were created that were serviced by running water. Today there is a small meadow with bee hives, a marsh, composting and mulch piles, common tool sheds and green houses, a 'green' constructed meeting house, an orchard containing numerous heritage dwarf apple varieties, a herb garden, a propagation area and of course, many garden plots. People pay $10 to join the garden and $15 a year in membership fees and in return are asked to keep their 12 foot square plot neat, not to use any chemicals and contribute a number of volunteer hours every year. The garden has as many varieties of edible and ornamental plants as any botanical garden . Finally, the gardens are run by a non profit, volunteer society called the Strathcona Community Gardeners Society (p.16- 19, Barbolet et al, 1998).

From the Victoria Day weekend until late autumn, or when the fresh vegetables run out, the East Vancouver Farmers Market is happening in the parking lot of Trout Lake Community Centre. The market recalls the days of old when this event was a fixture in every town or city: farmers bring fresh produce from the country on Saturdays for Market Day. Four years ago, this market was started by an individual that wanted this to happen in Vancouver. After collecting a group of like minded individuals and lobbying the appropriate authorities in the health, city ordinance and park board offices, the market began. It started as a small trickle, but farmers and people soon came after realizing that there was an enormous demand for fresh, organic food. People can rent stalls for a nominal price and are only requested to price fairly so as not to undercut any other farmers or producers offering a similar product (p.123, Barbolet et al, 1998). The atmosphere is very energetic and eclectic; the variety of produce offered is enormous and the quality is excellent. Besides offering in season fruit and vegetables from local farmers, city people offer home made products, usually baked goods and preserves. The crowds are constantly changing as new people come in, eager to shop as others leave, satisfied with their bounty. Local performers and musicians busk in the middle of the open space created by the ring of stalls. People come from around the region to either sell or buy produce; there is definitely a demand for these kind of markets.

The Final Design

The format of the final presentation was 14 sheets of large paper sheets (25"x 38") which were mottled gold in colour. The order in which they were displayed is the same order in which they will be explained below. Included in the drawings, which appear in reduced format following this section, are two introductory boards, a concluding panel and a copy of a hand out that accompanied my presentation.

Sheet 1. This is the title page and introduction of the project's context. The image underneath the title 'Urban Growth' is a linear montage of photographs illustrating the transition and connections that can be made between agriculture and urbanity. This panel sets out the context and topic of the project: urban agriculture at the future sustainable community to be built at South East False Creek. Two maps are included which locate SEFC in the city and within its immediate context.

Sheet 2. Urban agriculture defined and the introduction of the philosophical background of the project. The basic premise of the board is to introduce the project's belief that the design requirements for a healthy urban community and for food production in the city are not incompatible; they are, in fact, complementary and mutually enhancing. The board includes images of urban agriculture and agriculturally related activities that could happen in the city. In all, the images and words attempt to set the mind set in which to view the project. Sun, soil and water are introduced as the three essential elements to be dealt with.

Sheet 3. Site Master Plan at 1:1250. This plan shows the overall proposed design framework for the entire site. In general, starting from the eastern end of the site, from the area along Quebec St. to Manitoba St., this is the area of highest urban development and density. Two particular aspects of this area are the 'eco-tower', an example of 'green' high rise architecture, along the water front and, centred around the Domtar Salt Building, the 'Urban Market'. Located adjacent to this building, is the largest of all the greenhouses on the site (eight in total) which grows a variety of commercial vegetable crops, which are sold at the market nearby. The greenhouses are heated with geothermal energy. All green waste is diverted into the recycling and compost centre where it is decomposed and packaged as a highly nutritious soil amendment. Without the handling and transportation costs that produce from far away have, produce grown and sold here in SEFC have a very high profit margin. All the greenhouses employ local citizens and are non-profit. Greenhouses on barges terminate a number of community greenways that permeate the site, connecting the city seawall system with the bike routes along First Ave. and Ontario St.; the use of barges introduces the idea of recycling decommissioned barges for other uses. The Columbia Street Wetland is a greenway that takes advantage of the ephemeral nature of the storm water system and turns it into a feature to celebrate the cleansing attributes of nature and water. Moving east past this wetland greenway, the area of study is identified around a space comprised of several elements that are common to the entire site: community garden plots, apartment buildings, an urban farm, community greenways and a greenhouse. Further to the west is 'The Rise', a forested berm designed to be a buffer to the noise, visual and air pollution created by the Cambie Street Bridge. This area features the regenerative and cleansing qualities of nature with respect to the highly contaminated soils in this area.

Sheet 4. The Site Plan at 1:250. This detailed site plan is intended to be a representative portion of the entire site; a microcosm, if you will. The apartment building along First Ave. is surrounded by a bioswale landscape that is fed with water from the units inside the building. The southern and western faces of the building are vertical and the northern and eastern faces are stepped. The reason for this tiered nature of the buildings is to allow light into the areas behind the building where most of the food production areas are located. Behind this building is a back alley lane and turf covered car port. Beyond this is a wide planting beside the greenhouse. To the north and east is the double lane greenway and communal garden plots. Beyond this is the raised heritage fruit tree orchard and the compost area. This compost area is designed to process green and animal manure from the urban farm and the greenhouse and use the waste as a resource: divert the waste from those two buildings into the communal garden plots and the greater landscape. Next to the greenhouse and composting area, traversing the greenway, is the urban farm, which includes several pasture areas, including 'The Rise', where the goats and sheep are to be grazed. Several section lines where cut through this site plan and are illustrated and explained below.

Sheet 5. Site Section A-A. Traversing the site on a north-south axis, this section illustrates the relationship between the building on First Ave. and the greenhouse behind it. In the section at 1:200 scale, it is interesting to note how far away the greenhouse is located away from the apartment building. Solar access into the site dictated this decision. Also, from the site analysis, it was noted that this area is the point of high soil contamination from past industrial activities and air pollution from traffic on the Cambie Street Bridge. The location of two sizable greenhouses seemed logical. They are for food production and year round gardening. The apartment building has a planter and grey water filtration system that is explained below.

Sheet 6. Axonometrix and Detail of the Cantilevered Planter and Grey Water Filtration System. These two drawings illustrate the technology for filtering grey water and providing a place to grow food in the very sunny south and west faces of the buildings at SEFC. Grey water from each unit flows into the trough system, which runs the length of the entire building. After filtering through the growing medium, which also contains some wetland species, the cleansed water is diverted to the landscape bioswale surrounding the building before it is diverted into the city system. This trough system offers a place where people can grow food and harvest for daily meals any number of increasingly available plants suited for people short of growing space. The evaporating water and hanging vegetation cool and shade the apartment units during the very hot and intensely sunny summer days.

Sheet 7. Site Section B-B. This section traverses the detailed site plan on generally a east-west axis. The most important aspect of this section is the organization of the communal plots. The communal plots are 16m x 16m sections, which are further subdivided into quarter sections (8 x 8 meters). Any three of these quarter sections are always under cultivation, while the fourth quarter section is left fallow and planted with a cover crop for the entire season. This rests and rejuvenates the soil. In the end, each quarter section is left fallow at least once every fourth year. The plots are shared amongst a group of people, for example ones from a the same building nearby. The plots immediately adjacent to the community greenway are rented out to individuals who are on a low or fixed income and who wish to supplement their income with sales from the crops grown here. The idea is that passersby on the greenway will see that these people are being productive and are growing some beautiful things for everyone to enjoy. These plots also act as a very thick garden wall to the semi-public activities behind.

Sheet 8. The Aerial Perspective. This drawing illustrates the organization of the area described in the above paragraph.

Sheet 9. Elevation C-C. The important aspect of this section is to note the distance between the building and the greenhouse. The reason for this is that in order for a greenhouse to be economically viable, solar access must be maximized. In the space between the tiered apartment building and the greenhouse, a back alley lane, a carport and vegetation are located here. The road surface is paved with permeable paving stones. The carport is covered with a turf roof. The berm's function is to be a barrier between different uses and act as a hedgerow habitat and thicket for the area. The berry crop is either a resilient species of raspberry or blackberry or some sort of currant. There is a lane that allows service vehicle access into the greenhouse.

Sheet 10. Elevation D-D. This elevation also shows a berry crop being grown right beside the greenhouse. The community greenway passes between two areas of intensely agriculturally oriented activities. The greenhouse creates a strong wall, yet still translucent and open to scrutiny. The plots on the east side of the greenway are the ones that are dedicated to the use by those who wish to supplement their income by growing a high value crop. Note the slope of the plot; nearly 10% in order to catch more solar radiation and thus lengthen the growing season.

Sheet 11. Elevation E-E. Picking up on the notion of Christopher Alexander's Garden Walls, this elevation clearly illustrates how enclosed areas create intimate and safe places in an otherwise flat and open site. The walls are created by using old concrete blocks, recycled from the many demolition sites around the city that are filling up dump sites around our region. From personal experience, the use of concrete block is perfectly suited to create a tight and highly articulated wall, full of interesting knooks and crevices. Again, note the slope of the plots. The raised orchard creates an area prominent, yet secluded in which to retreat to and observe the activities on the site. The compost area is immediately adjacent to the communal plots for the convenience of the users.

Sheet 12. Elevation F-F. This is a detailed elevation of the Barn, the central feature of the Urban Farm. The Barn and the adjacent greenhouse share a service lane that is located near to the compost recycling area. There are two floors in the barn: a complete ground floor, where the livestock are kept and a loft area for storage of feed, hay and straw. The entire building is structured upon old timbers from demolished industrial buildings and steel beams from buildings formerly on the site (the Canron Building) and sheathed in a skin of corrugated sheet metal. The animal hospital and veterinary clinic is located here because it is close to the greenway and seawall system, where users, such as dog walkers will notice it. This also provides income support to the Urban Farm.

Sheet 13. Barn Isometric. This is an exploded isometric that shows the elements that comprise the barn. The floor plan illustrates the circulation paths through the building and how visitors and maintenance people alike can use the building. The intention of the building is to have the viewer easily understand how the building is put together.

Sheet 14. The Concluding Panel. This sheet is intended to illustrate to people that the project does not have to in fact end here; it is hoped that the legacy from this project continues on into the daily lives of the viewers. The panel suggests several ways how this could be made to happen and resources of where to find more information.


The inclusion of urban agriculture as a major component of the development at South East False Creek will greatly enhance the future community's inhabitants sense of unity and belonging. The design further clearly demonstrates that this notion of growing food, some what radical for our city, is a valid use of urban space. Urban agriculture promotes the idea of sustainability in a very real way: as a daily activity where one nurtures soil and plants to yield a crop that will sustain the care giver. This use of civic space offers the citizen a different experience interaction with the land then is currently occurring; a passive role is replaced with a active one that sees many benefits. Specifically for SEFC, the possibility of urban agriculture, and in particular, specific design interventions proposed by this project, suggests that there are economic, social and ecological benefits to be gained. Property values will increase because the already attractive seashore properties will have an added landscape amenity that creates a unique atmosphere. The greenhouses will create job opportunities on the site itself. People will find self-worth and a real role in their responsibility for tending a landscape that nourishes them, sustains them economically and that is enjoyed by local inhabitants and visitors alike. The diversity of plant life in a concentrated area will create a unique pocket of green in this part of the city and become a romantic foil to the industrial activities of just a few years past.

This is a living design; people will grow food whether or not urban agriculture, as a planning directive, is finally adopted into the development that will become SEFC. Balconies and derelict spaces will slowly turn green and a fruit or vegetable will be harvested one day as a result of a one person's perserverance. But it does not have to be this way. Growing food can bring many benefits, such as those described above and more that may arise because food is being yielded from the rejuvenated soils of SEFC. Let this project become an impetus, a nucleus, seed that will germinate ideas for South East False Creek.

Works Cited

Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S., Silverstein, M., Jacobson, M., Fiksdahal-King, I., Angel, S. A Pattern Language; Oxford University Press, New York, 1977.

Altieri, M. A. Agroecology: The Scientific Basis of Alternative Agriculture; University of California- Berkeley, 1986

Barbolet, H., Murrills, A., Pritchard, H. Farm Folk/ City Folk; Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, 1998.

Barrs, R. Urban Agriculture: The Potential for South East False Creek; Masters of Planning Thesis, U of British Columbia, 1998.

Barrs, R. Sustainable Urban Food Production in the City of Vancouver: An Analytical and Strategy Framework for Planners and Decision-Makers; down loaded from the City Farmer Web Page:

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Revised Monday, May 17, 1999

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Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture