The City of Vancouver has publicized an Open House for 6318 Cambie Street for Monday, June 1st, 2015. The proposal for this site will be reviewed at an Urban Design Panel (advisory panel for City Council) meeting just two days later, on Wednesday, June 3rd.
With such a short period between the two events, is there any possibility that input from the public will be incorporated into the design shown at the UDP? The 7-storey, 95-foot tall building proposal with an FSR of 3.25 will be shown to the public between 5pm and 8pm at 6184 Ash Street on June 1st.
Doublespeak and the “Community Open House”
A few years ago, the City’s planning department rebranded what was previously simply called an “Open House” to “Community Open House,” but does this change really involve the Community? Or should these events be more appropriately and honestly called “Information Sessions”? By the time members of the public get to see a rezoning proposal put forward by a developer and supported by City Planners, it is typically already quite far along in the processes and at an advanced stage of detail. They have already engaged in extensive discussions between the two sides. People can often get the impression that they are actually “on the same team,” whereas one would normally expect the public servants to be truly on the side of the public.
The ‘Community Open House’ held on May 21, 2015 for a separate rezoning proposal at 1695-1775 East 18th Avenue was very well attended — so well attended that the City ran out of survey forms. While there was high level of ‘”Community” interest in that large proposed rezoning with 117 units, will the public input make any difference to the material that will be shown at the UDP meeting on June 3rd (where this rezoning will also be reviewed)?
It’s worth noting that there have been changes in time with the City’s survey forms; these forms no longer pose a question on whether the rezoning proposal is “supported” (in a yes or no format). The new survey forms are completely open-ended. Members of the public have the opportunity to fill out a paper-based survey form, and then to place these forms in a box and hope that their comments will be noticed.
Planning staff neglected to mention the fact that one of the properties in the East 18th Avenue rezoning is currently owned by the City and they also completely forgot about the CityPlan Community Vision for Kensington-Cedar Cottage. Staff also didn’t mention the fact that the Interim Rezoning Policy was created without any public process. Could there be a perception by members of the public that the information from City staff was biased and one-sided?
The public comments from a ‘Community Open House’ are reviewed by City planners; the forms are kept (previous FOI requests have shown this to be the case). However, it remains to be seen if City staff will simply dismiss public comments as ‘concerns’ in a paragraph near the end of a future policy report, and then go on to defend why the City supports the rezoning. Is this the extent of ‘public consultation’? If the UDP supports both rezoning proposals on June 3rd and these goes to City Council without any changes, then would it be reasonable to call the ‘Community Open House’ a complete sham?