Lansdowne Live

Some misc observations on Lansdowne Live, and in particular the meeting last night at arena Tom Brown arena.

1. Opponents are well organized, sporting custom printed apparel and carry bags (made of recycled hemp, I hope) and handing out reams of photocopied green paper that may have required the souls of every tree in the Glebe. Of course, the Glebe trees are still there (at least along Ralph and Percy when I walked up those streets yesterday) so trees from some other place were sacrificed. Sacrificing somewhere else seems a common theme.

2. The green shirters took off their shirts to sit among the audience or ask questions at the mike, at last night’s Live meeting, thus appearing as ‘unaffiliated’ citizens when they hissed and boo’d answers and people they didn’t like. As the meeting ended, the team uniforms were pulled on again. We require lobbyists to register so we know who is meeting whom, it might be nice if citizen lobbyists for one particular cause did the same by keeping their shirts on. (I wore a sweater and jacket throughout the meeting, the air conditioning worked well and continuously despite the crowded room).

3. Cullen, running for mayor, repeatedly referred to Bayview as the best site. He did not mention any alternative sites, certainly none in the Glebe or Ottawa South. He did not mention whether the local residents should have any voice in the matter. He gave every impression his mind was completely made up.

4. I am amazed at the ability of residents and politicians  to call for consultative planning but conveniently ignore the fact that the Bayview site already has a plan for 1600 medium density housing units and a 300,000 sq ft civic building (envisioned in the 2004 study final to be the library, which is now going elsewhere). But no where was a 25,000 seat stadium mentioned. I reviewed this with city planning staff and other community groups, and they confirm a stadium was not on the books. I also reread the Bayview report. Nary a stadium in sight, despite Martin claiming that residents have been consulted.

5. Getting into the Live meeting at Tom Brown was like running a gauntlet of time share salespeople in Mexico, with hyper-ventilating sales people pushing the merits of their real estate dreams. The alternatives to Lansdowne only look attractive because they are not fleshed out, they are conceptual ideas only, being compared to a detailed Lansdowne plan. Of course it is easy to pick at the detailed plan and fantasize about the vague one. Sell the sizzle.

6. I am constantly amazed at the people – politicians, architects, professors – who use one set of words to tell us why Lansdowne is Bad Plan (parking horrors! ugly stadium! sensitive neighborhood!) but then switch vocabulary when suggesting alternatives such as Bayview (civic structure! pedestrian paradise! transit nirvana!).  Residents of the Bayview area may be lower income than the Lansdowne area but we are not stupid.

 7. I am surprised how many people latch onto flimsy straws that support their views without thinking it through. Parking around Lansdowne – now and in the future – will be a problem. So will transit access. So people jump to the Bayview site as solving all this because its on one or more LRT lines (so would the Carleton site, but hey, that’s too close to … ). Well, Bluesfest is located just a few hundred meters east of Bayview, equally right on the transit line, and the neighborhood was plagued with parking problems as thousands of attendees drove to the event and tried to park on lawns, bouelevards, and park space when they couldn’t find free on-street parking in the first block off the site. What will make all these people suddenly decide to take transit to the stadium?

8. People at the meeting derrided the park and ride schemes proposed in the Lansdowne Live plan, saying no one would park at Carleton U ($$) or Billings Bridge (because the mall is open 7 days a week and most evenings). But then, how would transit work for Bayview if people aren’t expected to park at Lincoln fields, College Square, St Laurent and other shopping centres to take the LRT? Is the City expected to provide new larger park and ride lots for 24,000 cars? If so, shouldn’t we consider where and at what cost?

9. Martin proposes a Bayview stadium that is sunk into the ground to partially hide it. As a resident of the Bayview area, and a walker, I can certainly attest to what planners know but seldom boast about: Bayview and LeBreton are low lying areas subject to cold winds from the west and north. They are, in short, thermal sinks. This might be a contributing reason they have always been low income areas. A sunken sadium would be even lower. Can Mick Jagger say “Brr”; Can Kiss-y cats fluff their fur? Surely outdoor concerts would be more comfortable at Lansdowne.

10. And just where does the Bayview parking structure go? Under the sunken stadium, five stories below the River level? And all those people leaving Bayview in their cars … are they using the Ottawa River Commuter Expressways, even though using the Driveways is disparaged for Lansdowne? Which is it: NCC roads are usable, or not?

11. When the City first faced two competing stadium bids, I was surprised at how quickly centretown residents ruled out Kanata. Much of this is a knee jerk reaction, an antipathy to suburban development which must be derrided as dormitory land and forbidden to diversify. To my mind, the Scotiabank site was pretty attractive: it’s far away from me, residents who move in will know they are getting the open air concerts forbidden to the sensitive ears of downtown residents, and it might be enough incentive to extend the LRT to Kanata sooner than later, so we can get rid of BRT in favour of LRT. And it has plenty of parking already.

12. Will the Green Shirt fiscal-hawks be around when alternative stadium sites are being planned for? Or are they really just opponents of a stadium at Lansdowne disguising their opposition in the guise of fiscal and procedural rectitude?

13. If a stadium is bad for established neighborhoods, such as the Glebe/Ottawa South, why is good for other residential areas? Wouldn’t honesty require Lansdowne location opponents to oppose stadiums in other residential or urban areas and favour industrial locations? Alas, no such subtle thinking was apparent last night.

14. Questioners focussed on the long term viability of Lansdowne Live: what will become of the stadium in 30 or 60 or 100 years? The obvious answer is that sole city ownership has proven itself a failure as the stadium is crumbling around itself; the Live plan delivers a cash stream to keep the stadium maintained. Would that people were so concerned with the long-term consequences of all city decisions and expenditures.

15. Three politicans were present last night. Cullen took every opportunity to promote himself and Bayview, although Bayview is far from his ward (maybe that’s why…). Kitchissippi ward councillor Leadman was there. She represents Bayview area, but said nary a word pro or con Bayview or even that maybe, just maybe, the surrounding community should be consulted and impacts on the area considered. Such admirable restraint! Wilkinson was there too, and did not embarass herself. Holmes was not there to put in a word for her ward which abuts the Bayview site.

16. The city manger Kent Kirpatrick handled hostile questions with grace and skill and in-depth knowledge. It was in marked contrast to the three politicans present. Kirpatrick for mayor !

Finally, a note on my own personal view: I do not think stadiums are easily integratable into urban areas, anywhere. I think stadiums are a component of a vital urban area that offers diverse entertainments and environments, even though I cannot recall ever attending a Lansdowne stadium event.  I am not adverse to looking at Bayview as a stadium site. I am adverse to being stuck with a stadium because an affluent bureaucracy-savy neighorhood gets a below-mediocre council to suddenly jump off a hot stove onto the nearest, ill-thought-out alternative. If Lansdowne Live is killed, what is the alternative?