(Update 27-June-2011) In the next several weeks, City staff will be coming forward with recommendations to City Council about how to carry out consultations and develop new community plans in several neighbourhoods of Vancouver, including Grandview-Woodland, Marpole, the West End, Kitsilano, and Fairview. There will be implications for everyone in Vancouver.
- The official City website for these initiatives is here (http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/cityplan/Visions/nextplan/index.htm), including documents and a report on a big workshop by the City on May 7, 2011.
- The next event is an open house by the City on July 7, 2011, as a last step to get public input before staff report to Council.
- Grandview-Woodland Area Council has done a nice summary of the situation here (http://www.vcn.bc.ca/gwac/Planning/index.html#community_plans).
CityHallWatch comment: Planning in Vancouver needs to balance many interests, respect heritage and existing policies, while also accommodating change for the future. Land use decisions affect every aspect of livability and life in our city, and also affect billions of dollars of investment and future private profits. Citizens need to be aware of what is going on and have a say in how these processes are determined.
(Update 17-Mar-2011) After Council discussion in November 2010, City staff are now reviewing options for several neighbourhoods needing community planning processes in Vancouver. Implications are huge. A meeting planned for early this year was postponed now to April 9. Critical decisions are coming about which neighbourhoods get planning processes, and what they will look like. More information here: www.vancouver.ca/community planning.
Vancouver is entering a critical moment in the planning of several communities. This is in the context of huge tensions — between developers and the City on one side, and the people of communities on the other — in the face of developers’ pressure on the City to approve major rezoning applications in mature and existing communities. By nature, “rezoning” means over-riding the existing zoning and planning guidelines for height and floor space and so on. Some communities have said NO to rezoning without a comprehensive plan of what’s coming, while some developers have gone to great lengths to get their requests approved. But the City’s Planning Department only has the resources for one community at a time. There are currently five officially listed as needing these resources.
In this context, Clr Andrea Reimer put a motion before council for public comment on Nov 4. Click here for the draft text. (The motion was passed with no changes.)
This could be good, but it could also be bad. Much depends on the details.
- For general information on community plans and planning, visit here: www.vancouver.ca/communityplanning
- For the latest documents on discussions about the next community (or communities) to get planning resources, visit here.
- The City has selected five communities on its short list to plan next: Fairview, Kitsilano, Marpole, Norquay-Woodlands, West End
The critical part of Councillor Reimer’s motion asks staff to report back on “implications of undertaking up to three additional neighbourhood planning processes, including potential impacts on finances, staffing, other ongoing planning processes, and/or changes to the process used to develop the additional neighbourhood plans.”
Staff may have a hard time executing this order without further clarification, which we believe should be done before the motion is adopted. Otherwise, the staff’s task could be extremely difficult. What needs further discussion are matters like this: (1) What kind of plan are we talking about? Is it identical to the Mount Pleasant process not yet completed? (2) Who should have input into the design of the next plans? Should this inquiry be directed exclusively by staff? Or should the neighbourhoods themselves have a say in the design of the planning process? (3) Are the needs of each neighbourhood identical? Should their planning processes be identical? Can the processes not be tailored to their most urgent (and unique) needs, in order to be more efficient? Will the costs and time frames not differ depending on the needs of each neighbourhood? (4) Do the five neighbourhoods currently on the list actually want to have a planning process? (5) Is it wise to launch planning processes in four communities at one time before reviewing the experiences of the two communities most recently planned? For example, what did the Mount Pleasant Community Plan cost all Vancouver taxpayers? (We understand it was about a million dollars). How long did it take? (Apparently, four years from start to date, with council adoption expected this autumn.) What did it achieve? What lessons were learned? Has the community accepted its outcomes?
The bottom line is this: “What would be a wise approach to community planning for these neighbourhoods?”
In city planning, it is rarely about what you set out to do, but rather how you do it. In every planning school, it is taught that an inclusive and respectful public process gets the best long-term results.
Why? Should we not simply defer to the professionals? Do they not know exactly how to plan every neighbourhood for everyone’s benefit? From park space to daycare to local retail to schools to transit, don’t they know the best mix? Who are we to question them? Aren’t they hired to work for us?
Welcome to “1984” and the world of tyranny and moral hazard. Welcome to hell.
The history of humanity is full of the perils of excessive deference, and democracy emerged to rid the world of civic slavery or slavish complaisance, as well as the cycles of violent revolution that punctuated such unsustainable political milieus.
It has been conclusively shown that the people who live in a neighbourhood who know better than anyone else how their community works, what it lacks, what it needs, what makes it special, and what makes it home. Social health and stability depend on self-determination.
Compare the sensitive contextual relationship you have with your local haunts (if you live in a “complete community”) to the general and ubiquitous Walmartification of North America, all carefully enabled by civic planners. If you think Vancouver is immune or different, the number of big-box, non-local, retail establishments within the city limits has increased geometrically in the past 20 years and roadway widening continues apace.
This has all happened despite the fact that once upon a time a few brave people, progressive politicians, and a well-timed recession stopped the building of a highway through Strathcona into downtown. This was a project proposed and defended by the leading planners of the day. What happened to our civic pride in sustainable living that defeated that tyrannical predation and saved the city of Vancouver in some many ways?
We need to awaken that fortitude to assert our knowledge of our communities and our genuine needs, or we will most certainly experience the worst of the planning-mediated real estate collapses that have recently swept across North America. If we are not diligent in defending our neighbourhoods, we will see the most dramatic real estate collapse in North American history, caused by poor community planning, overbuilding, expanded homelessness, and then urban flight.