Today was the first of the latest Grandview Community Plan Open Houses, this one at the Cultch. The purpose of these particular events is to (a) link regional and municpal plans to the local community plan and (b) to elicit comments on the various areas where these plans intersect.
The over-arching policies include the Greenest City Action Plan (2011), the Housing and Homelessness Strategy (2011), the Vancouver Economic Action Strategy (2012), the Regional Growth Strategy (2011), the Culture Plan (2008), the EcoDensity Statement (2007), the Longoing Transportation 2040 Initiative, and older policies such as the City Plan of 1995 and the Industrial Lands Policy, also of 1995.
As with other Open Houses, the Planning folks put up display boards that serve as informational displays and access points for public comments. I thought the boards this time did not really show how the various policies and principles will specifically affect decisions in Grandview and I really wonder at the true value of comments scrawled on post-it notes. I guess they can get a “feel” for issues, but there is no room to discuss or debate detailed plans and ideas.
When I was at the Cultch today there were very few residents taking the opportunity to visit; and those that were there — like me — had also been at the previous open houses and discussions. I hope that the genuine public engagement is broader than it seems. I am a member of the Community Plan’s Public Access and Community Engagement Committee (PACE) which is designed to ensure that the process is widely known. However, these Open Houses were planned and scheduled before PACE even met, which doesn’t help the process any.
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On a broader topic, I want to bitch about the fact that the Community Plan has to be subject to the top-down hierarchy of Provincial Policy, Regional Policy and City-wide policy. Democracy should surely work in the opposite direction, with the lowest level — the level closest to the people — being the most dominant. City-wide policies should be developed to meet the aggregation of local requirements, regional policies should represent the individual policies of the cities making up the region, and so on. Anything else is just a cosmetically-pleasing form of totalitarianism.