The following press release was issued by OCOP! on 6th June:
OCOP! members are concerned that the City wants to build dozens of high-end condo towers across the East Vancouver neighbourhood they love. This would displace low-income renters and pave over the community’s cultural and heritage values.
“This isn’t a NIMBY thing about view corridors,” said local resident Garth Mullins. “This is about stopping gentrification and displacement. Grandview-Woodland has always been welcoming to people from all parts of the world. We want to make sure the community remains welcoming and affordable – not just another homogenous forest of upscale condo towers”.
The City now wants to discuss the future of the neighbourhood through a Citizens’ Assembly. The City recently published its draft Terms of Reference for the Citizens’ Assembly but OCOP! says, “go back to the drawing board”.
OCOP! remains suspicious that the City is just looking for a new way to get buy-in to their old condo tower Land Use Plan. Local resident, Zool Suleman said, “I’m suspicious about the City of Vancouver spending $275,000 to educate us about our issues”. At a recent meeting, Zool said to City planners, “We are the citizens, we are assembled, and with all due respect, all you need to do is listen”.
OCOP! applauds the City for seeing that deeper consultation was necessary in the form of the Citizens’ Assembly but this plan comes up short. The Assembly should be:
1. Open: According to the City, membership in the Citizens’ Assembly will be limited to 48 and drawn by lottery. Yet, over the past year, many residents have been meeting, researching, participating in City workshops and speaking at City council meetings. A
lottery system will exclude all this effort, and leave out many passionate voices.
2. Diverse: The Citizens’ Assembly must also reflect the neighborhood, in all its diversity, paying special attention to traditionally marginalized peoples. This requires an open door policy, along with active recruitment of folks who are often underrepresented on such bodies.
3. Accessible: This is a low income community that speaks many languages. To enable those not as comfortable in English, the Citizens’ Assembly should have interpretation and translation services. Also, a small honorarium should be made available to enable participation from low-income residents. People with disabilities also need representation.
4. Transparency: In 2013, after a year of consultation with residents, the City suddenly proposed dozens of condo-towers across Grandview-Woodland (see Backgrounder).
Some were up to 36 stories tall. OCOP! says, “No more surprises.” The members of the
Citizens’ Assembly should write the Report, not an appointee of the City. Council should
deliberate upon it, in an open session, without interference from staff. Residents want
real influence in planning the future of this neighbourhood.
5. Accountable: OCOP! says, “open the books”. The City plans to spend $275,000 on the
Citizens’ Assembly, the majority of which, will be spent on expensive consultants. Every
penny of tax dollars spent on engagement with Grandview-Woodland should be made public.