Fundamental questions for a wise Council

From Statement on “Neighbourhood Planning Priorities” Motion, 4 November 2010

By Carole Walker
Download: Carole Walker, key questions to Mayor & Council, 4-Nov-2010

Mayor and Council:

On September 23, 2010, while discussing the motion on Transparent Neighbourhood Consultation, Mayor Robertson said:

  • “We really need to make some fundamental changes in how things are done.”

I agree that fundamental changes have to be made. Until those changes are made going ahead with even one neighbourhood planning process will be a waste of time, energy and money. And in the meantime rezoning must be stopped or one community after another will lose its character, diversity, liveability, affordability, and heritage.

  • “The West End is one of the great neighbourhoods of the world I would say and it has been stitched together through patchwork of process through many decades.”

I agree that the West End is a great neighbourhood.  We are such a neighbourhood largely because willy-nilly development was halted. A planning process which engaged the community was undertaken. The Policy Guidelines and Zoning that came out of that process were respected by both City Councils and developers until about two and one-half years ago. And, I might add, that there has been a lot of development within those Policy Guidelines and Zoning in the last 20 years. This proves that old processes and plans do work unless you change the goals.

  • “We need an evolutionary leap in how we do planning and development in this city and it has to bring neighbourhoods, developers, and the building industry, our planners and city staff and our council here together working in  sync  to have real solutions that make our city better, that allow us to respond to the challenges of affordability, climate change and environmental pressures and to aging in place and keeping our communities cohesive……”

Yes, Mayor Robertson, now we come to the crux of the matter.  This where the first questions have to be asked and answered in depth and with understanding before any meaningful planning can be undertaken.  Here are the questions:

1.      What will make our city “better”?  What does “better” mean?  How does each of Vancouver’s 22 neighbourhoods fit into making the City “better”?

2.      What does “affordability” mean?  “Affordable” for whom?  How is “affordability” created and maintained? How do we know?  What drives up all housing prices, whether rental or owner occupied accommodation?  What role does zoning and/or other factors play in “affordability”?   How and why?

3.      What are the needs and wants of “developers” and the “building industry”?  Are there limits to those wants and needs?  If so, what are they?  If there are no limits, what are the consequences for “climate change” and “environmental pressures” and indeed for “keeping our communities cohesive”?

4.      Are there limits to the population growth of the City?  If yes, what are they and what are the consequences?  If not, what are the consequences for the City, the environment, climate change, “community cohesiveness” and “affordability”?

5.      Can all wants and needs ever be met?  If yes, how?  If not, which will be satisfied and which sacrificed?

These are big and pertinent questions.  As I see it, only when these questions are answered will community plans have any hope of being sound, sustainable and workable for even the shortest of time.

In conclusion let’s answer the big questions and then get on with good, sound planning for as many neighbourhoods as possible.  “Put the horse before the cart” as the saying goes.

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