Another Slap In The Face For Grandview

Since it began in 2012, the Grandview Woodland Community Plan has been been one community engagement disaster after another. And now we have yet another one.

As part of the training/indoctrination of the appoointed members of the Citizens’ Assembly, they are being offered heritage walking tours of each of the neighbourhood’s seven sub-areas. That is a great idea; Grandview is famous for its fine heritage architecture and for still being, as Bruce Macdonald has coined it, an Edwardian village.

Moreover, Grandview has the only long-established and extremely active Heritage Group in the entire City. It is an organization that was recognized by the City last year and won Vancouver’s Heritage Advocacy Award just last year. The commendation for the award noted that GHG has “a successful community-based education and awareness program.” 

The GHG has, as active members, three of the City’s finest and most recognized heritage tour guides — Michael Kluckner, Bruce Macdonald, and Maurice Guibord — who between them have conducted scores, perhaps hundreds, of popular educational tours; and all of them live in Grandview-Woodland. But did the Citizens’ Assembly staff choose any of these expert and appropriate local resources?  No they did’nt.  They went outside the neighbourhood to source these tours.

They completely ignored the Grandview Heritage Group (no contact or discussion was ever offered to them) and they completely ignored the local heritage tour experts.   They hired another expert to handle the tours; an expert that we all recognize as one of the City’s finest historians and tour guide. The skills of John Aitken are not in question in any way.  What is in question is the deliberate choice to ignore local resources and expertise.

After all the community engagement problems that have plagued the GW Plan, and just after the Assembly held a thoroughly unrepresentative housing forum followed by a less than adequate speed-dating event with local organizations, and as Assembly members begin to leave the troubled process, it would have been simple common sense for the City and its consultants to avoid yet another PR problem.  Especially as the Chair, Rachel Magnusson, wrote to me that “drawing on local talent and knowledge is certainly a good thing.”  Fine words not backed up by action.

I have been in correspondence with Ms. Magnusson in an attempt to change her mind on this particular issue, but she has refused, suggesting only that GHG could put on a superfluous eighth tour.  Do we really want to put the already-stretched Assembly members to what could only be a repeat of material already covered.

The company being paid $150,000 of our tax dollars to manage the Citizens’ Assembly was hired for their “expertise” in community engagement.  Frankly, if their expertise was that good they would have recognized the value (both political and educational) of using GHG/local resources to handle these tours.  They didn’t, and we can only assume this was a deliberate slap in the face to Grandview.

Society Act of BC: Protest Proposed Changes

OCOP, through its membership in the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods, has joined its voice with a multitude of other organizations to protest proposed changes to the Society Act of BC.

The BC Society Act is the governing legislation for many of the non-profit and community organizations that do so much to maintain civility and honesty and transparency to our lives.  Under the proposed changes, corporations (developers, say, or pipelines or mining companies) would be given the right to sue such organizations in court, claiming they were not acting “in the public interest” (this latter term to be defined by the judge at trial).  The organizations, generally volunteers with little or no resources like OCOP, would be forced to expend all their time and energies on legal defence against these SLAPP suits.

The Coalition’s letter can be found here.

News & Backgrounders: October 12

These are a few of the articles that piqued our interest over the last few days.  Note that these are updated to the Resources Page.

Community Plan:

Vancouver Planning:

Lessons From:

Tools:

Voter Suppression In East Vancouver?

OCOP has been actively involved in the exposure of what Garth Mullins has called the creation of a “democracy desert” in East Vancouver.

The issue is the siting of the advance polling stations for the municipal election in November.  There are no polling stations in the Downtown Eastside, Strathcona, Grandview, Hastings Sunrise, and most of Mount Pleasant creating the desert.

Voting
Map from CityHallWatch

In larger terms, there are five polling stations west of Main Street, two to the east, and one, on Main Street, on the border between east and west. Moreover, the 4km radius circles around both of the stations east of Main include wide swathes of Burnaby.

More intimately, the map requires the least able in our city — the low-and-no-income folks, the mentally challenged, the seniors — get to be the ones who have to travel by bus or walk long distances to exercise their constitutional rights.  This is just a mess.

DTES Votes, an organization working to register voters in the DTES, held a press conference on Thursday morning.  Garth spoke for OCOP.  The meeting got good coverage in the Straight and the Courier.  Further coverage here. 

By the end of the week, most political leaders had written to the Electoral Officer suggesting more polls.  Hopefully she will come back to work on Tuesday and get on with closing these gaping democracy gaps,

OCOP’s 12 Point Program

As part of our attendance at the Citizens’ Assembly, we handed out written material.  The summary document is shown below, with links to other parts of the material.

———————

The Our Community, Our Plan (OCOP) group of Grandview-Woodland residents was formed last year in response to the disastrous first attempt at a Community Plan contained in the document known as “Emerging Directions”.

Many of the members of OCOP have been closely involved with the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan process since it began in 2012, and have been involved in prolonged discussions with the City and its planning department. OCOP is a member of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods formed by twenty-four community associations from across the City, created specifically to improve the planning and development process.

OCOP believes that the entire GW Plan process has been faulty since its inception and that the Community Assembly portion of this process is equally flawed. Our belief is that GW has become a wonderfully diverse and popular neighbourhood under the existing Community Plan, and the neighbourhood should be allowed to continue evolving at its own pace and as desired by residents.

That being said, here we are, and we hope to persuade you that there IS a better way.

This package includes:

  • The Twelve Points that represent important views expressed during OCOP’s deliberations (2 pages);
  • One-pager lead in to …
  • Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods Principles & Goals for a more respectful relationship between the City and the neighbourhoods (5 pages)
  • Flyer for Development debate on 15th October

We suggest that the All-Party debate on development and community engagement on 15th October will be a useful learning exercise for all CA members.

We urge you to stay in touch with OCOP through its website and please feel free to join us at our Tuesday evening meetings at Britannia.

The Citizens’ Assembly Starts Work

On Saturday 4th October, the Citizens’ Assembly portion of the Grandview Community Plan held the first of what might be just a few public sessions — a Panel on Housing Perspectives.  That same afternoon, in a closed session, a dozen groups were allowed to make 12-minute presentations (including Q&A) to a small number of Citizen Assembly members. OCOP was one of the groups.  Jak King reported on these meetings:

It was an interesting day, and further evidence, if more were needed, that this is someone’s experiment , we are the guinea pigs (with no safety net other than the election this November), and that its results could cost GW its future as an effective and livable community.

About 25-30 non-CA types attended the meeting, including mayoral candidate Bob Kasting. After being instructed by the CA Chair that we were not allowed to take photographs or video, the day began with the first public session: a 90-minute panel on Housing Perspectives.

I had written earlier about the skewed nature of the panel’s industry-based perspectives.  Apparently, after some similar complaints, the CA management at the last minute added panelists who could talk about co-op housing and low-income options.  However, the panel still had no-one who was a renter, an owner-occupier, or co-op member who was not attached to the housing industry.  Thus, the persepctives given were all from the housing industry view.

Speakers were: Abi Bond, director of housing for City of Vancouver; James Roy, senior policy analyst at BC Non-Profit Housing Association; James Evans, a local developer; Thom Armstrong, ED of the Co-op Housing Federation of BC; and Nick Sully, a principal with Shape Architecture.

Did we learn anything that was genuinely relevant to the GW Community Plan?  Perhaps, but most of the talks concerned much broader issues, including many that are outside municipal government.

  • Abi Bond talked in general terms about City policies toward “affordable” housing. She said — against all other evidence — that City policy considers 30% of income as the upper limit on “affordable” (Rental100 rents, far above this level, are the reality). She also said the City had $125 million set aside in 2015-2020 for “affordable” housing, though it was not clear whether this was for the City to actually build at that level.
  • Thom Armstrong and James Roy spoike in more generral terms about the difficulties being experienced in raising finance for low income housing of all kinds. Of particular concern is the Federal withdrawl from all housing programs, including those for co-ops.
  • Nick Sully gave a short illustrated talk on the housing pods hios company has created in Strathcona and elsewhere. This was to illustrate the alternative types of development that we might use here.
  • James Evans, developer of the Jeffs Resident development in GW, examined the difficulties under the current system of dealing with major renovation and retention of the heritage buildings that are such a feature of GW.

Because of timing problems, very few questions were asked of the panel, and all but one of those were limited to CA members.

When the session was over, I was able to speak with many in the audience, both CA members and others.  There seemed to be a sense of disappointment in the presentations, some even talking of a condescending tone.  It was also clear that the CA members were already swamped with the information streams coming at them.  It was about to get worse.

After a very decent lunch (unfortunately organized and pushing us even later than we were before) we moved on to the one and only time a number of local groups would have to present to the CA.  I had earlier described this process as speed-dating but in fact this was speed-dating, with multiple partners at the same time, in what might as well have been a tin shack in the middle of a rainstorm — the ambient noise level was high enough to make it very difficult to hear and talk.

The set-up had a dozen local associations, including GWAC and OCOP, on groups of chairs around the hall.  Every twelve minutes, a group of CA members, three to five at a time, arrived at the OCOP station, and one had a few minutes only to shout out, as quickly as possible, the points one wanted to get across.  That usually left about five minutes for questions and dialogue and, just as one got into a good rapport with a group, the Chair loudspeakered that the CA members had to move onto the next group. This happened four times. It was exhausting for us, and I have little idea how valuable it could have been for the CA members.

It was, I agree, a good opportunity to tell how much we disliked the process and what we might do to improve it; but even then we only got to talk with sixteen CA members.  For the rest, we have to hope they will actually read the materials that were emailed to each member.  And that leads me to some hope.

First, I have to say that I was astinished at how few of the CA members had any idea about the process that went on from the fall of 2012 and ended in September 2013.  They had interest, but no background in the struggle. That being said, I was glad to hear so many of them tell me they knew they were being fed a line from the City and they were determined to make up their own minds.  Hopefully, then, the OCOP materials will help them see through more of the charade, and to show that a more efficient process is available.

Another sign of hope is that 48 CA members, 25-30 other residents, and a dozen or more City folks were willing to give up a very pleasant fall Saturday to do their civic duty by participating in a process, flawed though it may be, that is vital to the future of the neighbourhood we all love and cherish.

The next meeting of the Assembly (members only) is not until the end of November.  The next public meeting?  Not sure.

OCOP Continues To Gather Support

As we come near the end of the Summer, OCOP is ramping up its activities with plans for Town Hall Meetings in September (Urban Planning Panel, September 10) and October (HYPER Gentrification Panel).

OCOP has also been meeting with people in the community to determine what they want to see in the community plan.

An Editorial Cartoon Courier August 8th 2014

The Editorial Cartoon above notes how the public sentiment is developing on the issue of land use plans that really listen to what the local community wants.

A recent email debate in the Tyee highlights the issue of spot zoning and what havoc it can play with community land use plans. Which can be found here (Note: Patrick Condon is a confirmed speaker at OCOP’s first Town Hall meeting on September 10, 2014, more details to follow):

 

Is Spot Zoning the Problem or the Solution?

[Editor’s note: On July 14, The Tyee published an opinion piece by University of British Columbia urban design professor Patrick Condon proposing that Vancouver’s way of “spot zoning” for new projects was playing havoc with the character of neighbourhoods and principles of democracy and transparency. Condon argued that Vancouver would do better to include citizens in a process leading to a one-time zoning of the entire city. His critique, which branded city hall’s project-by-project approval process a path to “soft corruption,” produced buzz for and against.

Many experienced voices argued that Vancouver’s approach — trading permission to build for public amenities and other city input — was key to the city’s success at evolving to accommodate changing pressures and needs. One of the most knowledgeable and experienced of those defenders of the current approach is former Vancouver NPA city councillor Gordon Price, now Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University.

We arranged an email exchange on the topic between Price and Condon and asked if we could look in. Here’s the result.]

GORDON PRICE:

Patrick,

So, I’m supposed to defend spot zoning, am I? Maybe I should start out with something more sympathetic, like duckling abuse.

Seriously, you’re asking me to defend ‘soft corruption,’ on the assumption that the motivation for rezoning, whether soft or hard, is to tap the millions in Community Amenity Charges, resulting in ever-bigger, and hence inappropriately scaled, development.

Stop me before I rezone again!

But let me suggest that there’s a need for spot rezonings and regulatory changes in a world where we won’t or can’t anticipate the future. Let me use an example that occurred when I was a council member in the 1980s.

There is at the southeast corner of Davie and Howe Street a rather bland residential high-rise, just under 20 stories.

It’s not distinguishable now, dwarfed by the high-rises on all the other corners — but it sure was back when it was built in 1988, approved as, yes, a reinterpretation of the zoning bylaw. The planner at the time, Ray Spaxman, wasn’t about to approve anything other than what had come before: office and commercial with a few floors of residential.

But Andrew Grant, president of the PCI Group, was convinced there was a market for rental accommodation in this unlikely neighbourhood of parking lots and auto-body shops: “Downtown at your doorstep for $395.” He spent a lot of time trying to convince staff and eventually council to let him take the risk.

Council in response changed the rules at a single meeting — as much to see if Andrew was right. Which he most certainly was. That building was the beginning of what we now know as Downtown South: the thousands of units, condos and rentals that successfully accommodated so much of the growth in the core in the 1990s — and took development pressure off the West End.

It is also, as you note, where we began to employ Development Cost Charges — another innovation that came with Downtown South once the blocks between Homer and Burrard were massively upzoned to accommodate residential high-rises, along with design guidelines and public-realm improvements. That avoided the need to negotiate separate amenity requirements with each developer.

But note the words “massively upzoned” — something that was only possible on low-density industrial land like Arbutus, Concord, Coal Harbour, Collingwood Village and all the other megaprojects where we accommodated growth without intruding into residential neighbourhoods.

Your call for a city-wide plan to avoid the need for spot rezonings, I can bet, will not result in those kinds of ‘massive upzonings.’ Like CityPlan, it will most likely result in a reiteration of the status quo, with some token recognition of change, but mainly a call for further amenities and more affordable housing, without any practical way of achieving of it — certainly not by changing the character of the community with new forms of development.

That’s fine for those of us who already have a piece of this precious place. But if in the future, we believe there’s a need to try out new forms of development, then it will likely be done initially through spot changes — just as we did with Andrew Grant.

And that’s a good reason to keep it in the tool kit.

PATRICK CONDON:

Hey Gordon,

I am not asking you to defend soft corruption my friend! When you were on council we were in a different world and Vancouver was a different city. It took some bold moves in the 1980s to make Vancouver what it is! But that was then and this is now. What worked for downtown is not working for the rest of the city. You seem to say that council has to step in because city staff and citizens cannot be trusted to do the right thing. But I respectfully disagree. Every other city in the region seems to be able to involve citizens when they create or update their Official Community Plan. Why can’t Vancouver? Sure they occasionally allow variances from their OCP. But at least they have a plan! Surrey has a plan that anticipates very large increases in population. Why can’t we?

GORDON PRICE:

Why can’t Vancouver do what other cities in the region do?

Land, Patrick, land.

Vancouver doesn’t have any large greenfield sites. It’s relatively easy to allocate growth in places like Langley’s Willoughby or Brookswood, Coquitlam’s Heritage Mountain, or South Surrey and South Clayton. But Vancouver City doesn’t even have the brownfield sites of the recent past that we used for megaprojects in the 1980s and ’90s.

Our Official Development Plan is the Zoning and Development Bylaw, accompanied by the local plans and policies that set direction. But regardless of the legal framework, woe to the council that proposes ‘bold moves’ in existing neighbourhoods. (Hello, Grandview.) Even a single development proposal can create a crisis. (Hello, Mt. Pleasant.)

So you’re right: what worked for the downtown core in the past won’t work for the rest of the city. It won’t even work for downtown.

That’s why small interventions, like spot zoning, is the default mechanism of change.

PATRICK CONDON:

Ah Gordon. Your examples are cherry picked. The City of North Vancouver, New Westminster, and Burnaby are similarly “built out” yet they have Official Community Plans. They even mostly follow them! The new 60 storey (yikes!) towers at Metrotown replaced low rise rental units, all in conformance with their OCP and area plan. No spot zone required. We can’t do that?

And I am surprised that you use our most notorious public process train wrecks to make your case: the Rize project and the Grandview Woodlands plan. The “bold” move at Grandview Woodlands came after a long deliberated low/mid-rise plan was trashed. Not bold enough it seems. Not enough high rises! Add ten! Table that plan tomorrow! Plenty bold. Some would say arrogant and counterproductive, especially since the changes did not add density, only height. This is planning mayhem, not courage.

GORDON PRICE:

I’ve never believed there’s any substantive difference between a ZDB* and an OCP** once the latter is translated into something as useful as the former. They are both expressions of what a city expects for the future based on the permissions of the past.

I suppose we could get into the weeds on the Grandview process (no argument, the city screwed it up). But the point is this: You will not get boldness, regardless of the process, if communities will only accept the most modest changes that, as a beginning assumption, will not change their character. If neighbourhoods have priority over city and region-wide plans, and can effectively veto their broad-based, long-term visions once implementation is required, why bother pursuing them in the first place?

* Zoning and Development Bylaw
** Official Community Plan

PATRICK CONDON:

Yes this might get into the weeds, and that’s unfortunate; because this issue fuels the anger now rampant in our city. I happen to think that the Official Community Plan process used elsewhere is forward looking, while our Vancouver Zoning Bylaw and map only looks back. If it were forward looking we would not be changing the damned thing for every project that comes down the pike.

Gordon, with deep respect, you say we will never “get boldness, regardless of the process, if communities will only accept the most modest changes”. But our City of North Vancouver neighbours are advancing a draft OCP that anticipates projected 50 per cent increase in population in only 25 years! And it maps locations for all these new homes to boot.

Now that’s bold! That’s forward looking! That’s what city councils should do! Not spot zone.

GORDON PRICE:

I can understand your desire, Patrick, for an Official Community Plan for Vancouver, so long as it sincerely involves the people of Vancouver in a determination of their future and provides everyone, neighbourhoods and developers alike, with some certainty about what’s allowed.

I’d still maintain that it will not eliminate the need for spot rezonings. No plan can predict with sufficient certainty the forces that will shape our built environment, and there may well be times when changing circumstances or innovation justify an unanticipated intervention. All would agree, however, that spot rezonings should not be the customary mechanism of change.

But to avoid that, and still provide the latitude to accommodate the growth we can reasonably expect based on past experience, means planning for a scale of change that might well be a shock to those who rather like things as they are, or to those who acknowledge the need for change but not if it means change in the character of their community. Yet an Official Community Plan should, if it is a serious document, recognize that the city will be, in some profound ways, a different place as it accommodates those not yet here, and whose voices cannot yet be heard. It is a rare document that does so after emerging from a process of current stakeholders, and is sustained over time when the growth acceptable in theory becomes a white sign on a lot that threatens someone’s self-interest.

It is for that purpose — to accommodate forms of change not yet evident, to deal with growth not yet imaginable, to hear voices not yet present — that spot rezonings will and should remain an option.

PATRICK CONDON:

Gordon, I know that you have stood up for the things you believe in many times, often withstanding harsh personal and political consequences. You well express how hard it is to plan a city for those who are not yet here, against the innate conservatism of those who are. You may think me naive; but based on my own experience I think you too readily assume folks won’t do the right thing when they get the chance. When you opened this debate you dismissed the CityPlan effort of the ’90s. This surprised me. When given the choice between no-growth, growth only downtown, unplanned growth everywhere, or growth in numerous neighbourhood village nodes, over 63 per cent of the 10,000 people involved opted for the later. I believe this spirit of inclusion still lives, if we could only find the right process to unleash it.

I, like you, am motivated by a love for this city and a fear for its future. I strongly believe that what worked within the small area of the downtown won’t work in the vastly larger city beyond. If we accommodate all our new growth through large spot-zoned projects we may get the housing numbers we want, but it will be in two cities. The one city will be formed of widely separated high-rise complexes, attached to the Skytrain, but cut off from everything else; an interior world of shopping centers capped with glass towers. In between these shopping centres will be another city, the leftover city of the streetcar era. An unaffordable and car dependent city — static and depopulated — with emptying schools, struggling shops and underused transit.

There are different paths. For example, the Kitsilano district has added very substantial density in a way that works with, not against, its innate structure. There are scores of neighbourhoods like it. We could easily double our population and find that our neighbourhoods looked better, worked better, and were more equitable as a result.

But it takes an effort to understand what this city should look like. That’s why I think our acceptance of spot zoning, and the CAC money it produces, is so indicative of our current affliction. Absent a coherent vision of the future, the more we depend on CAC taxes the further we drift from the city that is — the further we drift from the future city that could be. [Tyee]

Problems with the Citizens Assembly

Problems with the Citizens Assembly

 

To myself and others the Citizens Assembly seems to be a tactic by the city to put off the messy business of dealing with strong opposition to the city’s plans for the Grandview-Woodland area until after the civic election.

 

Selecting 48 locals to represent citizen input appears to be a way to eliminate local activists from the equation. It seems likely the new group of 48 will be subjected to an educational process designed by the city to achieve its original goals. The outcome, namely the non-binding recommendations that the Citizens’ Assembly makes, will carry no more weight than what the city determines they will in the end. This process seems to resemble a commission of inquiry or a royal commission, and like them, it may generate a lot of positive media attention and in the end the new ideas generated could just get ignored.

 

The people involved in My Community My Plan have lots to contribute to the educational process for the Citizens Assembly.

 

Jak King recently suggested this list of speakers:

 

Patrick Condon – A UBC professor, with over 25 years’ experience in sustainable urban design as a professional city planner and as a teacher and researcher

 

Richard Wozny – As a development consultant for Site Economics, he has worked on over 1,000 major real estate developments and argues against high-rise residential towers

 

Louis Villegaz – An urban design expert and a director of the Residents’ Association of Mount Pleasant

 

Wendy Sarkissian, PhD  – A planner, consultant, educator, author, and facilitator with 40 years experience in planning, design and environmental studies

 

Elizabeth Murphy – Worked in the City of Vancouver Housing and Properties Department, for BC Housing as a Senior Projects Development Officer and as a consultant to the Ministry of Transportation and to the BC Buildings Corporation.

 

Jak King has also suggested “the retail area of Commercial Drive be expanded into the lanes on either side of the main street. This would increase the business area thus making available a broader selection of shops and services, it would allow owners of many businesses on the Drive to increase the density of their properties without altering the current Commercial Drive streetscape, and would bring even more diversity and interest to the Drive… this might provide a creative solution to densification desired by the BIA without damage to an important heritage street.”

 

I will add that encouraging business owners to develop the sides of the buildings that face on to the side streets that join Commercial Drive to the lanes behind can also contribute to the same idea. Many restaurants facing Commercial Drive have done this, such as Marcello and Belgian Fries, but until recently the Little Nest Restaurant successfully did it on the corner of the back lane and the side street. Everyone loved it.

 

Another suggestion that might serve to keep commercial rents a bit lower is to encourage the retention of older buildings. New buildings are expensive and demand high rents, while older buildings often have landlords who have paid off their mortgages and are sometimes less demanding. One way to preserve the older buildings on Commercial Drive is to celebrate them as heritage buildings. Commercial Drive has the best collection of Edwardian Commercial buildings surrounded by wonderful Edwardian houses in the whole city.

 

This makes Commercial Drive Vancouver’s best Edwardian village, and the city should provide incentives and support for this designation and the retention and restoration of its commercial heritage buildings.

 

Bruce Macdonald

City of Vancouver Planning “Non” response to OCOP

When is an answer not an answer? Perhaps when it does not answer the very question posed.

OCOP wrote to the City of Vancouver, Planning department with four key questions:

1.0 How does the proposed recruitment process (for the Citizens Assembly) ensure a democratic participation?

2.0 What is necessary to ensure the CA’s final recommendations are incorporated, in their entirety, into the final Grandview-Woodland Neighbourhood Plan?

3.0 What population growth targets were used to determine the density?

4.0 What planning principles determined the location and form of development?

The answer OCOP received is attached. You decide. Were the questions answered?

Response Letter – Grandview Woodland Community Plan – 15-07-2014

“Yes” to People, “No” to Metrotown in East Van!

On July 3, 2014, the Georgia Straight newspaper published a short story about OCOP in it’s Straight Talk section. For those who have not read it yet, the link is here:

http://www.straight.com/news/676076/grandview-woodland-citizens-assembly-process-draws-criticism

 

The full article is below:

A GRANDVIEW-WOODLAND GROUP is taking issue with the City of Vancouver’s process for a citizens’ assembly that will be established as part of a long-term community plan for the area.

According to the city, 48 members will be selected for the assembly via a random draw of various demographic groups from residents that sign up to participate.

The membership will be selected on August 6, and the assembly will hold 10 meetings between September 2014 and April 2015. The assembly will be “one of several tools” that will help create the community plan, according to a city press release.

Zool Suleman, a member of the “Our Community, Our Plan!” group, argued that the city is being “tone deaf”.

“I think it’s setting up a process that’s doomed for failure,” he said. “I think it’s spending way too much money for something that can be done much better and much more cheaply on a community level.”

The letter sent to city council and planners states that many residents agree that the formation of the citizens’ assembly “is not democratic”.

“The CA Terms of Reference grants the City discretionary power over which of the CA’s final recommendations (if any) will be integrated into the Grandview Woodland Community Plan,” the letter reads.

“The lack of democratic structure combined with the City’s discretionary power over the CA’s recommendations defeats the spirit of an Assembly of Citizens.”

Suleman said the residents’ group wants to see an open process for the assembly that includes any community members that want to participate.

“What we’re looking for is an inclusive process, a multilingual process, a process that includes low-income or no-wage earners, and a process that means that city council actually listened to the report,” he stated.

One of the key questions for the group, he said, is how many people the planning department estimates will move to East Vancouver over the next few decades. He added that the group is not opposed to density and people moving into the neighbourhood, but to “planning without any basis”.

“How many individuals or families do they think might be moving in the city and then might come to East Vancouver, and then how can we plan for those families in ways that don’t involve 32-storey towers?” he asked.

“What we don’t want is Metrotown at Commercial and Broadway. If we wanted Metrotown at Commercial and Broadway, we’d move to Metrotown.”

A spokesperson for the city could not be reached for comment by the Straight’s deadline.

Grandview-Woodland residents who are 16 or older can register as volunteers for the citizens’ assembly until July 31.

This is the first time a citizens’ assembly will be used at the municipal level in Vancouver.

City council voted to implement the tool last year after a draft Grandview-Woodland document proposing towers at the Commercial and Broadway intersection drew criticism from throughout the community.

 

City of Vancouver Planners, answers please!

OCOP has sent a letter to the City of Vancouver Planning department and to City Council asking that the Citizens Assembly process be put on hold until some basic questions regarding representation on the Citizens Assembly and land use/density questions can be answered. OCOP is seeking a meeting with  the City’s planning staff to make sense of a process that once again looks like it it will result in misunderstanding and confusion.  The full letter is below.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

June 29, 2014

TO:  Mayor Robertson, Council Members, Planning Department Staff, Grandview Woodland Residents

Re:  Grandview Woodland Community Plan (GWCP)

Members of the planning department representing the Grandview Woodlands Community Planning process and representatives of the Citizen’s Assembly consultant team met with residents on June 9, 2014 at Britannia Centre to discuss next steps in the planning process including the Citizen’s Assembly (CA) Terms of Reference document.

Questions and answers focused two issues:

  1. The composition of the CA and
  2. The need for the neighbourhood to understand the Emerging Land Use Directions (ELUD) presented to the neighbourhood at an open house on June 2013.

Residents met to discuss the outcome of this session.  It was agreed that before continuing the planning process and the formation of the CA, an open and complete discussion of the ELUD with the planning department is required.

The community planning process ground to a halt last year when the ELUD was released.  There were no substantial discussions of density and land use during the community planning process and therefore, the release of the ELUD was understood by the majority of the neighbourhood as a betrayal:  why would the community not be consulted on this fundamental aspect of the plan?   Without any clear communication from the City, the community assumed the ELUD reflected either a gross lack of judgement or a will within the planning department to deliberately change the form and character of Grandview Woodlands.  The public outcry resulted in the request for an extension of the community planning process, many assuming to develop a Land Use plan that reflected the community’s values and vision for the future and that the recommendation by Council to form a Citizen’s Assembly to be the best method to achieve this.

Many residents agree that the formation of the CA is not democratic.  The CA Terms of Reference grants the City discretionary power over which of the CA’s final recommendations (if any) will be integrated into the Grandview Woodland Community Plan.  The lack of democratic structure combined with the City’s discretionary power over the CA’s recommendations defeats the spirit of an Assembly of Citizens.

We request that planning staff, including the Director of Planning, Brian Jackson, meet with the residents to review the following issues regarding the CA:

1. How does the proposed recruitment process ensure a democratic representation?

2. What is necessary to ensure the CA’s final recommendations are incorporated, in their entirety, into the final Grandview –Woodland Neighbourhood Plan?

 

We also request that planning staff, including the Director of Planning, Brian Jackson, meet with the residents to review the following issues regarding the ELUD:

1. What population growth targets were used to determine the density?

2. What planning principles determined the location and form of development?

These issues are fundamental to the community, considering a revised ELUD is the primary goal of the process using a democratic Citizen’s Assembly as the tool.  At the June 9, 2014 meeting, planning staff suggested that the planning principles and density/growth targets would be part of the “curriculum” for the CA.  Vancouverites believe that this fundamental criteria for determining the future of our communities should be general knowledge, shared in the most open and democratic methods possible  and is the reason for our request to meet with the Director of Planning and key planning staff.

As a show of good faith, we request the Planning Department suggest a date to meet before proceeding with any further work of the CA. We request a written response to the Contacts listed below by Tuesday July 15, 2014.