Thursday night was the occasion of the Heritage & Neighbourhood Character Workshop, part of the Grandview Community Plan process, at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre.
It was structured as a World Cafe style meeting which once again proved itself to be a useful mechanism for maximizing input in multiple but thematically linked group discussions. I would guess that there were about 50 people there, not counting planning staff, and the usual food and drinks were generously offered.
Under the “Heritage and Character” rubric were four subject tables: Heritage Buildings, Neighbourhood Character, Natural Heritage and Social and Cultural Heritage. Under the World Cafe design, one spends a 45 minute session at each of three tables. I did all but Natural Heritage. The conversation at each table was lively and opinionated and allowed for a great deal of community input (though see below for a few criticisms.) However, the key will be how the staff collate and analyze the points raised in discussions.
Members and associates of the Grandview Heritage Group were out in force, of course, and were actively pushing the points we had agreed at last week’s GWAC Meeting. We were keen to present the idea that the entirety of Grandview be treated as heritage rather than isolated areas, that current zoning be maintained, and that Commercial Drive have design guidelines defined. We were particularly successful with the idea that all of Grandview is heritage; and the staff planners were keen to note that Commercial Drive was at particular risk.
Most of all, we had the opportunity to make sure the specialist heritage staff at City Hall were well aware of what our ideas were and that we will be pursuing them.
I do have some criticisms of the event. Unlike the Arts and Culture Workshop last month, the facilitator at each of this event’s tables were keen to direct the conversation via a series of questions they wanted answered. I think we mainly managed to break down those barriers, but the conversations sometimes seemed a little too programmed. We also spent far too much time on introductions and their insistence on more than one occasion that we pick specific favourite places in the neighbourhood.
But all in all I enjoyed the event and I managed to get a lot of time to push the three main points, my idea for a Community Design Approval Board to be built into the planning process, and for us to regain some access to Burrard Inlet.