July 3, 2014
I was surprised but pleased to see that the Georgia Straight has today published a commentary by me about the GW Community Plan process. Regular blog readers would have read this in May, but I am certainly glad it is to reach a wider audience.
July 3, 2014
As we approach the next crisis point of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan, I thought it might be a good idea to trace the history of the project so far with links to the stories I wrote at the time.
- The Plan really began in the spring of 2012 when City Planners conducted a variety of surveys about what we liked about the neighbourhood. We were shown the results in a Grandview Park display. There was no inkling of the trouble brewing.
- Phase two kicked off with a series of Open Houses. The Planners outlined a number of current City initiatives (Greenest City, Homelessness, etc) and discussing how they must be tied in to the Grandview-specific issues that were identified in phase one. These connections — and other ideas that emerge — formed the foundational material for the issue-specific workshops that will fill up the balance of phase two.
- The idea of a high tower at Commercial & Venables was raised at the Grandview Heritage Group meeting in September 2012. I wrote at the time “I still hope that they don’t get ideas about a tall — or even medium — tower on the site. That would not be appreciated, I am sure.” (Note that the Courier had discussed a 7-8 storey building back in January 2012, and Kettle reps came to GWAC’s February meeting that year).
- The City held a number of workshops in September and October 2012. These were the workshops and Open Houses that introduced us to the City-wide plans that had to take precedence over anything we wanted, and it eas at these Open Houses that we learned to hate the yellow-sticky style of “communication”.
- In October 2012, the Vision majority on City Council pushed through the Task Force on Affordable Housing Recommendations. GWAC and the community urged Council to delay implementation. Andrew Pask told a GWAC Meeting that the recommendations would have little or no affect on GW’s Plan.
- October 2012 also saw the NSV’s “Future of Vancouver” conference. This was one of the very first gatherings to express city-wide anxiety about the City’s failing planning process. NSV’s Bette Murphy spoke eloquently about the unproven need for a development plan in Grandview.
- In November 2012, the Grandview Heritage Group submitted its concerns for heritage retention during the Plan.
- That same month I wrote a piece about the failure of the Plan’s PACE process, that failure’s links to Vision’s “faux” consultation, and the fact that local power was slipping away.
- December 2012 saw the NSV-sponsored meeting at the Hollywood where a wide variety of city regulars argued against the City’s planning policies and processes.
- January 1913 witnessed the Heritage workshop for the Plan.
- In April 1913, there was a good debate between Bette Murphy, Bob Ransford and Mike Harcourt about the possible elimination of single family housing as a way to “solve” the City’s housing crisis. SFU City Conversations also hosted a debate on “How Big Is Too Big.”
- Finally in April, we had the approval by City Council of the objectionable Regional Context Statement that has a deep effect on our Community Plan..
- The month of June saw the publication of the City Planner’s “Emerging Directions” for the GW Plan, and Open Houses to support it. This really was the beginning of the very bad times.
- That month there were discussions about the timimg of changes to come, and I had my say on the overall plan.
- The Plan and community reactions to it got a lot of press. For example there was this interview with Co-op Radio, Allan Garr’s Op-Ed in the Courier, letters to the editor, and an excellent radio documentary by Andy Longhurst for CiTR..
- By the end of the month, most of the Plans in the City were facing serious issues.
- Around that time, we also established two petitions that rained down on City Hall.
- Conor Murphy wrote a long impassioned open letter to City Council criticizing Emerging Directions and the entire process.
- In early July, the Planners recognized they had gone too far at Commercial & Broadway and so threw together a workshop on that particular area. This was the first time they publicly recognized the process had failed. Looking back, we were too confident this workshop meant something; as people who attended talked with each other, we finally realised how stacked the meeting had been with developers.
- On 8th July we had a stunning public meeting on the Plan attended by many more than 200 angry residents. Here is Garth Mullins’ review of the meeting, along with the Straight, the CBC, and Allan Garr. More articles can be accessed here and here.
- Even the Mayor said we needed more time. At the end of July, Council ordered Brian Jackson to report back in September. In the meanwhile, planning seemed to have paused.
- At the end of July there were two Open Houses to discuss the Plan.
- In August, Bob Ransford — who never met a developer he didn’t fawn over — wrote a column about how it is the activists who need to be collaborative.
- That same month GWAC held a special membership meeting to hear from our friends and colleagues and fellow activists from DTES, Marpole, Mount Pleasant and the West End. A good crowd heard some good speeches. That summer was full of street parties to attend and to talk up the Plan.
- I also wrote a new longer piece about the Boffo tower and helped form the collaborative Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods and started planning for the Rally at City Hall.
- The Rally at City Hall was a great success and received excellent press coverage.
- On September 25th, 2013, City Council received the Jackson Report on the four Community Plans. Many of us got to speak for our allotted five minutes. Grandview received a 12-month extension and something called a Citizens’ Assembly that was not defined. I gave some interviews about that.
- There was some hope, that didn’t last.
- Near the end of October, the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods announced itself with a press release about meaningful involvement. Between now and the spring of 2014, we hardly heard anything from the planners. We had to find our own things to do.
- In November, we had the Green Party Town Hall meeting with Adriane Carr. The good crowd asked questions about the failure of planning.
- The December GWAC meeting was also about the Community Plan in large part.
- In December, Garth Mullins, Jim Fraser and I met with the Planners to discuss how to get the Plan moving again.
- The year began with a very useful lecture/seminar by Australian planner Wendy Sarkissian.
- At the end of January, the Planners put on two “Information Sessions” about the Assembly. In advance of that, the Ad-Hoc Committee sent the City a detailed response to the City’s draft questions forwarded to us after the meeting in December.
- In February, I spoke on a panel at the Urban Development Group about the value of engaging the community.
- In March, we were twiddling our thumbs but then decided perhaps we had to move forward on our own. The Ad-Hoc Committee on the Citizens’ Assembly became the Our Community, Our Plan movement which issued a press release in April which was well received.
- By May, we had seen the final Terms of Reference for the Assembly; and many of us were not satisfied, and I spoke with the Vancouver Observer about what was going on.
- Having heard that the consultants would be paid $150,000 of our budget, I wrote about losing the money.
- In June, City Planners and their consultants came to the GWAC meeting. I was not impressed with what they had to say.
- Finally, last month, we received our invitation cards for the Assembly. Responses were not positive.
The Our Community, Our Plan folks met last night and I look forward to hearing what they had to say.
July 3, 2014
For the last couple of days I have been arguing with some folks on Twitter about the lack of participation in elections in Canada, and Vancouver in particular. They claim that the system is great, it is the people who are failing to show up. I have argued that the lack of engagement by voters is a clear indication that the system needs fixing.
This debate reminded me of the wonderful Dave Meslin TED Talk in which he explains with compelling simplicity how policies of “deliberate exclusion” work to create an apathetic and inactive electorate — and suggests a way to get us out of that trap.
This is what Civics lessons ought to be about.