Abandon the Citizens’ Assembly

July 25, 2014

We are now in the final week for those who want to participate in the Grandview-Woodland so-called Citizens’ Assembly to send in their ballots to be entered in the “lottery” for a seat.  We understand that very few residents have so far agreed to join in this mis-adventure which is not surprising.

Philip Hill is one of the many intelligent and articulate residents of our neighbourhood who have called consistently over the last year or more for an open and fully democratic process in our Community Plan exercise; the sort of process that the current Citizens’ Assembly denies us.  He has written to the appointed Chair of the Assembly explaining his refusal to take part and he has kindly given me permission to reprint his astute comments:

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Citizen’s Assembly.  I must decline my ballot, as I cannot forfeit ten Saturdays (80 hours) of personal time to participate in this capacity.  I expect that in addition to this formal requirement another 80 hours will be required to fulfil the obligations of a Citizen’s Assembly member with tasks such as preparation, information review, report writing, and presentation preparation.

Such a commitment would be worthwhile if the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly were binding on the decision of City Council.  However, it would appear that Council has already made their decision regarding the fate of the Grandview-Woodland Community plan.  The Director of Planning’s top priority for 2015 is to complete the Grandview-Woodland Official Community Plan in the spring.  The necessary zoning changes are to be ushered through Council within the following three months.

Developers and real estate brokers gleefully tell me of the outstanding opportunity the new community plan brings.  There are potential profits or “Developer Cream” to be had in the range of 15 to 30%.  Apparently, under the direction of Council, the Planning Director and senior planners, have met with developers at various forums such as the Vancouver Board of Trade.  The purpose of these meetings was to discover how to best incorporate Council’s aspirational goals to suit developer’s needs.  The result of this effort culminated in the Emerging Directions document that caused such outrage in our community.  I suspect that once the Citizen’s Assembly process is complete the Emerging Directions document will be adopted as the official community plan without significant change.  This was the case for both Marpole and the West End.

Therefore I conclude that the Citizen’s Assembly is nothing more than an engagement exercise designed to play out active members of the Grandview-Woodland community while providing the illusion of public consultation.

The Emerging Directions concept will do the opposite to what it purports.  It will decrease affordable rents, divide neighbourhoods, kill small businesses on Commercial Drive, increase the ratio of persons per park space, and bring bland homogeneity to our community rather than vibrant diversity we presently enjoy and share with the city and region at large.

The Citizen’s Assembly is badly flawed.  It should be abandoned for a participatory community based approach such as those proposed by grass roots groups like, Our Community Our Plan and GWAC under the former direction of Jak King.  Planning staff should then generate a proposed community plan that is reflective of the wishes of the community and endorsed by the community.  The endorsed plan should bind the decision of Council.  To do less is both reprehensible and shameful.

I urge everyone in the neighbourhood to take heed of Philip’s insightful analysis and not be drawn into this faux consultation.  I urge everyone to keep in close touch with the Our Community, Our Plan group who are actively seeking a healthier and more respectful alternative.  Finally, I urge everyone to write to Mayor and Council distancing yourself from this attempt to push the developers’ vision onto our wonderful and highly successful community.

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