Dunbar residents packed the gymnasium at St. Phillips Church for a Town Hall on the evening of Oct 25th. Over 230 people were in attendance with standing room only, including three members of Vancouver City Council (Councillors Affleck, Ball & Carr).
The Dunbar ReVision team summarized the current status for a 6-7 storey development proposal being explored by Pacific Arbour at Dunbar and West 30th Avenue. The organizers also spoke about the new Interim Rezoning Policy that impacts arterials. The group established that no one is opposed to senior housing in Dunbar – the type of housing suggested by a new development project. It was rather the form and density of the Pacific Arbour proposal that is controversial. Under the CityPlan process the Dunbar Community Visions Program was completed and approved by Council; the document clearly states the form and type of growth supported by the residents (for details see the city’s website here).
A number of guest speakers presented, first with Elizabeth Murphy who provided additional details on the Interim Rezoning Policy and the impacts on arterial streets. She suggested that the rezoning process in Norquay should be carefully watched as this provides clues to the policies that might be approved citywide. Jonathan Baker pointed out that cities can do basically whatever they want to do with respect to land use planning, and said that current council policies ‘have privatized planning’. Councillor Adriane Carr mentioned a number of ways that residents can contact the city to express their opinions, and she also drew upon her extensive experiences with the Wilderness Committee.
A long open microphone session was available for the audience to share their comments.
Councillor George Affleck told the crowd that 250 people are not enough, even greater numbers are needed to get involved. Councillor Elizabeth Ball shared from her experiences growing up in Dunbar. She suggested additional ways of contacting City Hall including calling 311 and for sending individually written emails as these count for more than form letters.
One of the residents told the audience of recent activities of companies assembling blocks near arterials (within 100m) in Dunbar. Another participant said that ‘our voice is being taken away’ and said that the current system is ‘destroying our city’. A revolution is necessary.
A key message that resonated during the evening is the need for neighbourhoods to support each other. The planning department has been able to ‘pick off one neighbourhood at a time’. Unity is needed citywide to counter the ‘divide and conquer tactics’ of City Hall. The need to engage in social media and not just traditional media was highlighted (with web, twitter and email), and the importance of actively connecting with the mainstream media was stressed.
The Dunbar Revision group also responded to development industry pundits who used expressions like ‘creating fear’ (when describing the information from their group) by simply sticking to facts, and by quoting directly from documents and statements made by proponents of the Dunbar development in question. The council-approved Dunbar Vision states a maximum of 4-storeys might be permissible in an identified area (and not 6-7 storeys in a single family zone). A resident echoed the sentiment, “the Dunbar Vision fits in with our community and who we are.”
The Dunbar residents were reminded by the struggles by long time residents to keep extremely high density tower developments out of their community. A resident had bought house her house in 1964, and she recalled that time the company Block Bros. intended to put in a highrise right near where she lived; community pressure had been successful in defeating this proposal. This was summarized as ‘the power of One’ resident in mobilizing a community. Block Bros was the original developer of several highrises in the West End in the 1960s, including Beach Towers (pictured).
A speaker reminded the audience of much wider Metro Vancouver development issues, such as Regional Growth Strategy with the upcoming Regional Context Statement (for approval by July of this year, valid until 2040). Conflicts such as the ones in Dunbar and across the city are being played out all throughout the region.
There was a noticeable absence of planning staff. It makes one wonder: are planning staff interested in Dunbar Planning Issues? Or hearing from residents? Should attending community organized grassroots events be a goal of the City’s planners?
Residents are organizing a petition. They are looking at direct action days including a future rally at City Hall (to go from ‘the Power of One’ to the ‘Power of Many’), with ‘neighbours being neighbours’. Participants were encouraged to get out ‘of their comfort zones’ and participate in direct action, get involved and to grow their numbers. Final summary: “We’re in this together.”