Salt Spring Island Archives

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The Island’s First Architect

Hank Schubart & Ivan Mouat

Interviewed by J. Watson and S. Mouat, 1995-96.

1969 - 1998

population growth
Channel Ridge development

Accession Number Interviewer
Date May 1996 Location
Media 2 tape cassettes Audio CD mp3 √
ID 147 Duration 41 min.




Unknown Speaker 0:00
I'd like to think about how this island has has developed over the years, if you've been here 29 years, yeah. So that was.

Unknown Speaker 0:13
And we came from San Francisco, 22 years in San Francisco, previous to that in New York. So my old background in planning and architecture started when I was very young. And I was, as with most youngsters, sort of shoved around during the war years, and then came back to New York, and then was horrified to see the changes that took place there and the quality of life, because being brought up in New York was a big city. And it was crowded, but it was a fun place to live. And it was safe. And we wrote all over miles on the subway for Nicole. And we went to school. And so I saw on New York during the it's what I would call it hay day, as far as the mass generation. And then, in the post war period, it's got to be rude and difficult, or crowded, awful traffic. So we moved there in what I consider to be the San Francisco heyday in the late 40s, right after the war. And then we watched that, and we actually lived in Tiburon, Oakland, all of that land, get highly developed in San Francisco go from a sort of provincial city to a really big crowd. So every 20 years.

Unknown Speaker 1:52
You make a transition? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 1:54
So from that point of view, I'm very biased. And when we arrived here in 67, we didn't need a building permit. You just got a shovel and a two by four and went out and built. The builders that were here were very nice guys. But they were basically all very unsophisticated. Practically no control, except the electrical department that even that was very cool. I'm saying really is space was. Free, and it's no longer free.

Unknown Speaker 2:36
Yeah, no, no,

Unknown Speaker 2:37
no, that transition, right, is, as far as I'm concerned, is a matter of right and wrong. It's a matter of scale. I prefer to live a more free life less bureaucratic schemes of control. I have mixed feelings, because I like to see the planning and aesthetic controls that are, are being attempted. On the other hand, I also appreciate people going off in the woods and doing what they want to do is going to hurt anybody else, and not being so that there's a paradox that concerns me.

Unknown Speaker 3:23
And then the what there

Unknown Speaker 3:26
was no car do you would know islands trust there was nothing. This was an unincorporated area. And as a matter of fact, when I arrived, I was so caught up because of previous experience in both San Francisco and New York. I was so concerned about what would happen to these islands. And to this whole area, knowing full well what development would take place in Victoria Vancouver. And the inevitable consequence would be a tremendous amount of development. So I undertook with a few other people that first planning efforts on the arm Jack Russell was one. He was on the original advisory planning commission or committee that we started with Adrian wolf Milner, surveyor. Adrian and I and three, four others. And some interesting people came out of a meeting of the van chamber of commerce with a planning committee and started the whole development. Then the CRD eventually was formed, took it over it it started at the time when there was a very large scale noise and unpleasant development, which you may know about over magic lakes, the state of Pender Island.

Unknown Speaker 4:56
I remember hearing about it. Yeah, it was sort of a without restrictions, no. Proper to ruin delay. Yeah. And so that's when the CRD was formed.

Unknown Speaker 5:09
Yeah, that's when the provincial government actually put a, what they called a 10 acre kill community plans were developed. And that's what engendered this whole plan. I

Unknown Speaker 5:23
think Jack Russell was, was frustrated with by the 10 acre phrase, because here he had eight and 10 America, sitting on them wanting to develop them and couldn't do that. And he was totally frustrated. How did you find out?

Unknown Speaker 5:41
Originally, I had done a house for a young designer in Sausalito, and in 1952. And he liked the house very much. And he called me up in 1966, and said, Would you be interested in designing a house for Canada? And I said, Well, if you send me up, I have to look at the land, of course. And I'd be very interested because Maggie, and I'd already talked about moving out of San Francisco and doing something different. And so I came up for about three or four days, saw the island, and that was

Unknown Speaker 6:27
well, so you had to get your license and everything. Yeah, take your boards or whatever.

Unknown Speaker 6:34
We were saying. Yeah, we, we did become Canadians. As soon as we were able to. We decided we took our kids out of school, and I gave up my practice, and we sold her house. We just moved lock stock and barrel to Salt Springs. And at that time, we bought three pieces of property. This was one of one our houses. And it was very reasonable. Everybody here thought we paid much too much. But we bought, including the house, we bought seven acres for 22. And we were able to make the move and it was pretty thin. There was no architect on the Thursday,

Unknown Speaker 7:22
I'm sure. Well, when you said that, that you were instrumental in was this for Ganges? No, no.

Unknown Speaker 7:30
The island for the highway was taking the position that everything here should be the island. The island. Yes. Okay. At that time that were very, very strong feelings between Beaufort and Ganges,

Unknown Speaker 7:44
I heard rumblings.

Unknown Speaker 7:48
But we did everything to mitigate that. And there were a lot of corporate people on the committee and so on so as to make sure that it was a very broad committee, to people as a matter of fact, it was amazing. And probably about 20 people, a representative.

Unknown Speaker 8:07
So now, from that, to now,

Unknown Speaker 8:12
I'm very sorry about what's happening. Are you Oh, very sorry. Did

Unknown Speaker 8:16
you expect this? Yeah, you expected it?

Unknown Speaker 8:19
Well, I knew that any place is lovely is this. And it's close to Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, and so on inevitably, would become very attractive to Arjuna. And that whole question of scale, and I think as radical as it was, and very much hated by some people. There was a proposal to have all of the violence in the San Juan Islands in a sort of national park in your National Park, which would have been a very interesting thing in terms of preserving truly preserving the natural people allowed to live here and to work here has been done very successfully Point Reyes and of course now Cincy sure life goes on in spite of the fact that it avoids what really is the worst problem which is the cutting up of the land for for profit and and of course, as an architect and having done a lot of hazards as part of the problem, but I've tried to do it as gently and as nicely as and however, if anybody had said to me anywhere along the line, this place is so good. You don't want to develop it and you'll have to make your living some other way or Moodle. I would have gone I mean, I respect the island. To the very extent that they've done that.

Unknown Speaker 10:09
And as lovely as it is, I just felt it wasn't, it didn't have much individual.

Unknown Speaker 10:18
I think if my answer generally, and my feelings are very strong that if a place would be allowed to grow organically, in other words, if it weren't a matter of somebody coming in and doing large scale subjugation of land, and people would move in and find a job, and maybe do small scale logging, maybe doing small scale carpentry. And that's the beautiful thing about all the villages and small towns all over Europe, because I'm created in a manner which I consider to be organic, in other words, that the people's livelihood was from the land itself. And the towns were built for their protection. But there wasn't this tremendous push to bring people in in order to sell more land and develop more land. That's what's been, to me the most disturbing happened all over in France. I mean, the Mediterranean coast, disasters Spain and Portugal. Men have a way of sort of just falling their nest. And, and to some extent that's been done here, although I must say, I acknowledge the fact that with the trust, and with the planning controls and efforts made to keep things reasonable, that the overall result is very pleasant. I mean, much better. But it's getting so choked up the cars, the cars. In Ghana, the roads themselves everything, the number of driveways and mailboxes anymore. But the channel the amount of conflict, as you get more crowded, with more conflict between people around each other doors. They use each other's water and you have to devise means to protect so they don't

Unknown Speaker 12:25
intrude Vancouver. I've often said to my husband, we live in San Diego, my gosh, if these A would be totally developed

Unknown Speaker 12:34
now, but that's only a matter of time until

Unknown Speaker 12:37
here. Yes. Well, that's that's what I feel. And do you have any thoughts on how that

Unknown Speaker 12:47
can? Really, I think the only way it could be done is absolutely undemocratic and absolutely unacceptable politically, and that is just literally declared. But people live here work here, and just covering it with an iron fist to say that otherwise, it's going to be utterly suburbanized. More and more people will mean more and more traffic, and more and more ferries more commuting. It will no longer be a rural community I think even now, it's something of a joke to call it a rural community. Really well it is because so many of the services are so dependent the cities surrender to happen with a foolproof very Yes. I mean, that's an exam we used to go down to the eight o'clock ferry or the 930 theory and fix cars on the no everybody on the ferry. And that scale thing is just completely changed. And if

Unknown Speaker 13:55
they if they do away with the long harbour ferry

Unknown Speaker 14:00
Well, the general the general tendency is what I call implosion. In other words, what they do is concentrate cars concentrate ferries, and it's just all

Unknown Speaker 14:14
I don't think they found out the traffic that the full Fergana road will have if they have this hearing.

Unknown Speaker 14:25
Oh, sure. I've seen it or no, that's an assessment although the actual design and supervision of the roads highways Ministry of Higher Yeah. But that's that's been a very unfortunate thing. CRD for instance, govern sewers. And the island trust never inspired the fact that they're in charge of land use and land use planning. Never had any input and never. And politically, I guess they didn't they like business, but I have very strong feelings about this diffusion of responsibility. So that you have, since we have no municipality, then you have planning is in pigeonhole sewers and certain other health controls are in another. And subdivision approvals and planning of subdivision is in another ministry. There are moves afoot now to concentrate these things, a greater extent and also a real move toward the municipality, which I think ultimately.

Unknown Speaker 15:48
Well, I understand a lot of people are talking about that we're not getting rid of the island's trash, you would still

Unknown Speaker 15:58
Why don't want to get rid of the well, yeah, okay, from what I

Unknown Speaker 16:02
understand is Salt Spring becomes a municipality, that the taxes will go up. And but we'll have our own government, so to speak, that we still have to answer to the islands,

Unknown Speaker 16:13
because their mandate is controllable.

Unknown Speaker 16:20
And in reading a little bit of history, about 100 years ago, it was proposed that Saltspring B became a municipality and the idea was, was dropped. So, but I understand that the taxes will go up because to pay for, for this kind of government. But you might, you might have more satisfaction. Theoretically, we do with the trustees, but you have your own government. Body in Victoria, telling you what and what not to do. I think this is the reaction right now provides primarily people off the island and and they really haven't been given the input from from islanders of focus committees and functions. That evidently their ideas have not always been.

Unknown Speaker 17:16
I think the real mistakes or tragedy occurred. When the trust was first born. It was an all party committee that formed a trust party. Yeah, it wasn't just NDP, it was liberal and conservative, and all the members of that forming committee, it was appointed by the governor was a very thoughtful and energetic and very, I think, strong ideas. One of the things that was bandied about and I think was very seriously a part of the original trust formation was that in order to protect the islands, they would have effects on veto power over ferries, and large scale pollution, in other words that they would recommend to the provincial government, the kinds of strategies and controls that would preserve and protect the islands. You can't prevent traffic. If you're a planner, of traffic, and transportation is a huge part of it, you can't do anything with it unless you're in a position to control the input. And on the island, you have the great advantage that if you control never exercised. In other words, they said to provincial governments, we want to preserve and protect the islands. In order to do that you have to have a large, large, long, forward looking growth strategy that will manage fairies that will help you make it more difficult for people to travel. And first of all, you begin to develop more organic development. What I mean,

Unknown Speaker 19:12
and the super fairies coming up. So that would be one way. I wonder too about, oh, maybe water isn't the proper amount of water.

Unknown Speaker 19:26
But I think that what lies at the root of it really is is the long term strategy, strategies and goals of the provincial government which A is in favor of development, in favor of jobs in favor of financial growth of GDP. And as long as you have a government that takes that position, in relation to the natural resources, and all of the power seizes on a flow from that strategy. I've got lots of opinions. I think that there's there's a failure to trust they are critical is that they have not exercised the kind of control over those developments sufficient to assure quality. Control. I was very much involved in the development of channel Ridge, for example, did the original plans. And one of the reasons I got involved was that I had agreement on the part of the development, first of all, to set aside 25 acres of watershed and not develop it so that St. Mary's lake would be protected. That was one of the conditions and other conditions. The roads, would be through roads, with feeder roads going to small groups and clusters of houses so that the main road would maintain a rural character, and then the development themselves would be more clustered, more village character. There were a lot of things in the plan, which were agreed. And once the plan was passed, and the zoning is passed, the arms and the potential, then they did not monitor the development with the result. Developers then just ran and changed the entire planet. Oh, yeah. And they know this, I've been quietly as possible. And in fact, at 1.1 of the real estate people in Ireland was advertising watch. They're in a subdivision designed by. And I was so incensed since it's been changed on some of the stuff

Unknown Speaker 22:11
that I took a full page and paid for getting the case that plan has been changed. And that the Trust has not held public hearings, as I thought they should all change. That, oh, yes, I am.

Unknown Speaker 22:34
Now, I was just driving up there on Sunday with some friends and impression is that they're not clusters.

Unknown Speaker 22:42
So no, I know, they've just gone out, but roads, driveways long they were supposed to be completely free to protect the nicest clusters. And the whole thing is very much

Unknown Speaker 23:03
the sewer. The sewer, that battle for 20 years, when it was finally resolved that tremendous improvement. The development so what is your you know, what brought the condominium?

Unknown Speaker 23:25
Well, I think you have to take a longer view and I think my feeling is that. First of all, let me say this about the sewer. The Battle of the sewer was putting it in the harbor. Point, I don't think agrees with that I think he saw primarily as an anti development movement. But as far as most of us are concerned, were opposed to what was done. Never work against the sewer. We were against dumping the DNA. Well, when it was originally proposed the outfall and out as far as

Unknown Speaker 24:14
growth dumped there. And as a result of that, it was forced. But basically from all I know having done a lot of

Unknown Speaker 24:30
the principle of putting it in the water is one of the number of deaths and and the effluent could have been used as water on the hillside. And there were all kinds of material that Britain places were done without something. So that was the largest struggle as far as And there were many systems that were proposed. And the CRD just absolutely turned. We even went so far some groups of people got together and bought a sizable piece of land, so that there could be an effort to dispose of the asset.

Unknown Speaker 25:28
We all were aware of the fact that the decisive height and weight that the sewer plant, which then the day has happened, we were aware of, and it was on the way to a much larger issue. And I think that's why it's flipped so badly.

Unknown Speaker 25:54
And so it wasn't just there, there were a large number of people who were just basically against dumping

Unknown Speaker 26:05
or putting it in, in the

Unknown Speaker 26:09
well, now, he claimed that the quality of the water is very, very

Unknown Speaker 26:13
good. I don't want to get into an argument about that. And we all have our views. And I am not ascribing any. To anybody. All I know is that when you asked me about condominiums, which is I think that a proper method of treatment is essential, because we never could have built more densely. And I think, inevitably, that as the population grows, there are certain numbers of people who do not want to own and can't own single family. So a certain amount of small scale, mini M development partners is a probably a good balance. And it depends how they're done, and how dense they are and where they don't. And, but I think that you can tuck small apartments away. And again, there's been no large scale shopping so older people can walk from your house, this is one of the ideas a new village

Unknown Speaker 27:42
the village, channel, Richard was designed to be about the same size and the population over time I think that the really big ideas govern the planning and planning efforts with the concept of density zoning, that you know about as a result of the density filming, that was very sincere effort to try and control a population you know,

Unknown Speaker 28:19
well, not really.

Unknown Speaker 28:22
Jack Russell was involved. Basic idea was to take the whole land area of Salt Springs and zone it in such a way that when it was fully satisfied, it would provide only for a population of X number of people. And after live discussion is found an optimum power population would be printed out at 15. Or although after the zoning was actually organized, laid on paper, I did a study with a friend of mine quite convinced it will go to 26 which I think is fair. The subdivision process, you had 100 acre piece of land and in a zone that provides for an average density of five acres. In other words, that 100 acres will only allow 20 lights. There could be 20 little lights and with a balance left open, or there could be 20 Big locks each one five acres. So rather than saying this zone is a five acre zone, it's the density of one the whole sort of pressure to develop in accordance with a population with is very much carried out. But it's been modified by guest houses actually suite, all the other ways of getting around legislation that's where the trust is not

Unknown Speaker 30:19
sold that is owning

Unknown Speaker 30:24
three zoning out of the community zoning is the legal means of the transfer of making the transition from the overall can to specific maps that show where how developed.

Unknown Speaker 30:45
What, what do you think of this?

Unknown Speaker 30:50
That's another subject. And I think that I'd rather not get into the reason being that I have a long history of being involved in planning. And I don't at this point, because of my age, previous activities, I don't want to I want it to be learning for the people who are going to live here, I want to follow orders just enough human cry already. So I'm staying overnight criticisms of the whole process. But again, because I think, let me put it this, this, I will say is that I think that the idea that you can go five years, 10 years or 20 years, and do a plan and consider a finite plan, the only month is an impossibility that they always go beyond the time a day, we're supposed to be updated every five years at 20. And that was legally required, I believe, as far as for what I would much rather see the trust adopt a series of objectives and goals in a very broad constitutional sense. That would serve future the island and then every year, take a look, review everything

Unknown Speaker 32:16
we find.

Unknown Speaker 32:19
So that the planning process is a continuing process and not a defined and then that takes a lot of planning process because people feel then that it is evolving and is subject to change taking place. That's why they're doing it. And I don't think that's right.

Unknown Speaker 32:50
No, I don't think it is either. And so they're going out of office in this school of Trustees,

Unknown Speaker 32:58
because they're they're afraid that some other groups who are not as both planning as they consider themselves Oh, well everybody's talking

Unknown Speaker 33:09
about it. In fact, Scott point had the residents had a meeting yesterday and Charles badgered from America and I guess America eyebrow and about point I guess resume are all prepared to hire a lawyer original here

Unknown Speaker 33:38
you were the developer

Unknown Speaker 33:39
well I was the planner and worked with me

Unknown Speaker 33:46
and you know I really have never driven can you go do you turn left just before the ferry

Unknown Speaker 33:55
Yeah. Right after the end and then there are all kinds of signs saying right like America preceded who was the president

Unknown Speaker 34:08
but if it says private Dr. Do

Unknown Speaker 34:11
well just tell him I sent you you can do that. It's very much like is it against the watershed

Unknown Speaker 34:33
had a tremendous battle. They wanted to run the road all the way through and connect to Beaver which would have meant that whole area

Unknown Speaker 34:53
did you know he was an interesting guy Eric

Unknown Speaker 35:07
Matthew isn't here anymore he moved to Kansas and you're allowed to. So three of our chokes me up six and three of them are duels. We have a daughter in San Francisco who's American who never works here

Unknown Speaker 35:37
obviously you don't give up. You're American. You can become if you're an American, right, and you decide to take Canadian citizenship, you don't forfeit your American citizenship unless you disclaim.

Unknown Speaker 35:55
Okay. Voting. Your children? Do they vote?

Unknown Speaker 36:03
Yes, they're Canadian.

Unknown Speaker 36:05
I am talking about in America. The only thing

Unknown Speaker 36:08
I think under American law and I'm not absolutely sure that I don't think you can serve in the foreign foreign army. But you can vote you don't The only thing that takes away your American citizenship is if you give it up. That was the big constitutional decision we're subjected to in other words, if you're born citizen nobody can take it away. And give it up

Unknown Speaker 36:42
it's interesting to

Unknown Speaker 36:45
know I don't really I think a great deal of has to do with the state of depression for did it so this is such a desirable place especially for Canadians. Back east.

Unknown Speaker 37:04
Bernie to find that as smoothly as a magnet and of course, the Chamber of Commerce and the real estate agents and anybody you're just advertising it all over. The wonderful story about somebody pushed an article in The New York Times this was about five or six years ago about in the Travel section section about this wonderful place to go for vacation in the backwoods. And there was a spread and pictures as a result our friends who run well very many to telephone calls from New York to reserve play remember seeing that article one woman called him said I don't want to be about the Tony

Unknown Speaker 38:06

Unknown Speaker 38:12
when you there was a travel article in Los Angeles Times Yes. And there wasn't a San Diego when you when you look in the in the driftwood and see the faces the many faces of all the realtors on this island, I think in comparison to what it was. We just have I guess some of them have have left because times have

Unknown Speaker 38:41
inevitable as long as you have the kind of society we have nice places are going to be advertised. I lived in for three years in the south of France and back in 1960s

Unknown Speaker 39:06
when you have this population, that's totally because they're happy to be there

Unknown Speaker 39:19
are what what I've been doing

Unknown Speaker 39:24
various experimental sewage disposal. And I still I mean, I think that now, some of the standards and I realized what are some of the standards for the disposition of sewage in the harbor the effluent have been downgraded from the original AP is a process which I'm afraid do the pressures. I think it's perfectly fair at the development should take place in the bill. which that was part of the original. And I rather like the density of development city, because people can live there without and a possibility for developing sewer. And I think it's very unfortunate that the people who were opposed to dumping in harbor was seen as a sort of block on develop. We were a block on time, we tended to block quick acceptances for all kinds of reasons. But the reason was to do it in a way which was a series of times, and there were all kinds of different ideas, which we had because we were a small community. Horrible political pressure to get it over might have really sort of made a major contribution, at least in this area, to a system that says it all and that's where it broke down.