I spent a very pleasant time this morning with a good friend discussing city politics and planning. She is an articulate, intelligent, and involved activist with definite ideas and we have worked together well for some years. However, she and I disagree about the need for, and the design of, a citywide plan. I was having a little trouble articulating my ideas this morning and so I’ll make an attempt at a start here and perhaps expand these thoughts in future posts.
As anyone who has read my planning posts over the last few years will know, I am a firm believer in bottom-up planning as opposed to the top-down directed approach adopted by Sam Sullivan and the NPA a decade and more ago; an approach which was gleefully taken up and vastly expanded by Vision Vancouver throughout their period of civic control, to the delight of their crony developer buddies, and which has led us to the sorry state of housing unaffordability that sits as a curse on Vancouver today. This makes me extremely wary of any attempt by the city to impose a city-wide plan on the neighbourhoods.
I recognise that the City needs to be in control of important aspects of planning, most especially regarding infrastructure — water, utilities, transportation, fire services etc. There are also reasonable arguments to be made for central responsibility regarding building codes, licensing, parks (to a certain extent) and probably recreational and cultural facilities. The City should also collect and disseminate the data regarding potential demographic growth, and should also determine the overall amount of spending on social housing. Beyond that, I believe that all planning should be substantively in the control of the neighbourhoods, and any city plan should be formed from a mosaic of local plans.
Each local zoning plan — directed by democratically elected neighbourhood committees operating with the technical assistance of professional planning staff and offering open consultation to neighbourhood residents — would take into account:
- the City’s infrastructure requirements;
- an amount of anticipated demographic growth equal to all other neighbourhoods;
- an amount of social housing funding (and thus new supply) equal to all other neighbourhoods.
The local plan would be approved (or rejected) by a full neighbourhood household survey.
These are just early thoughts and I suspect there are holes in the plan wide enough to be called chasms. I welcome comments and ideas to improve this quick draft.