News Local

Condo tree shows Vancouver’s green virtue signaling

By Ada Slivinski, 24 Hours Vancouver

Eugenia Place. (Wikipedia/Henrik)

Eugenia Place. (Wikipedia/Henrik)

This fall, condo owners at Vancouver’s Eugenia Place will have to fork over $35,000 each to replace a tree on the top of their building.

The 37-foot high pin oak on top of the tower was part of the requirement for a city building permit put in place in 1987.

Last summer, water restrictions in the city are what – according to condo owners – left the tree without adequate aqua for three months. This on top of inadequate root space meant the tree was dying and needed to be removed.

The building’s original architect, Richard Henriquez, designed the building around the tree but when Tree Care Industry Magazine asked him back in 2008 about how the tree would be cared for, “I never thought about it,” was his reply.

Henriquez talked a lot about the tree's poetic justice and the symbolism for old-growth forests, but admitted he didn’t think about the care required or how much space the roots would need.

The result? A final bill for replacement estimated at $554,000 and that’s before the cost of the tree itself: $500,000 to replace a tree. Though the tree is a nice symbol, it doesn’t do much to balance out the tower’s carbon footprint.

Is it worth the hefty price tag? Hardly.

Think of all the ways that money could be spent to actually make the building greener, but the tree is a requirement of the permit, which means Vancouver places more importance on appearing green rather than actually being green.

It's just like the city’s emphasis on building bike lanes that sit near empty during the rainy parts of the year, which cause traffic backlogs and idling cars. The city looks like they are environmentally conscious trumps rather than producing positive changes.

The cost of planting one tree (not on top of a condo building) is estimated at around $75. This means condo owners at Eugenia Place could effectively plant 7,300 trees for the price of the one they’ll be installing on their roof.

If Vancouver really wants to be the “Greenest City” by the year 2020, they need to stop virtue signaling and focus on meaningful change – even if it doesn’t look as flashy. They can change the rules so the owners at Eugenia Place can choose what they want to fund.

By all means, plant some greenery on the roof, but why force a beautiful old pin oak up there when it’s just going to die from a lack of root space and water?