I attended the monthly GWAC meeting last night, along with about 60 others. Councillor Colleen Hardwick gave an excellent presentation that took us through the history of urban planning in Vancouver, and then focused on some areas where she is determined to improve the consultation process.
In her historical review, Colleen moved forward from the Bartholomew Plan of 1927-1930, noting that the sale and subsequent development of the “Expo lands” was the tipping point for the commodification of land in our city. She noted that throughout the 1980s and 1990s, numerous local community plans and vision statements (City Plan) were developed. However, this historical knowledge was essentially lost with the wholesale replacement of senior City staff when Vision Vancouver took over Council and hired Penny Ballem as City Manager. City departments that had developed a deep understanding of the neighbourhoods of Vancouver were shuffled around, broken apart or lumped together, and fresh managers out in place.
Since then, we have had a build for growth strategy rather than a build for need plan, and Colleen demonstrated quite forcefully that we have been — and continue — building more housing units that the anticipated population increase would suggest are required.
There were quite a few questions from the floor, the majority of which wondered what the point of the efforts put into the Grandview Woodland Community Plan was if Council continues to change the Plan on a spot rezoning basis without neighbourhood-wide consultation. There was also some renewed interest in wards (rather than at-large elections), though Colleen expressed herself as not convinced of their efficacy.
Colleen as a sitting Councillor is constrained by the City’s Code of Conduct in what she can say about current senior staff; therefore, I will step into the breach. She made the point, quite correctly, that experience and historical knowledge were shown the door when Vision came to power and replaced the staff. I would argue that the current staff are continuing to execute Vision’s development template — regardless of the political changes that saw Vision eliminated from Council in 2018 — and it is about time Councillors took control of the agenda from the staff, replacing all those that remain recalcitrant.
It was a good meeting, I thought, and saw some interesting back-and-forth between speaker and audience.
It should be noted that this was NOT one of Colleen’s planned 50 Neighbourhood Talks. The official Grandview Talk will be on February 20th, details tba.