How Eco-Density Ruined Planning In Vancouver


In January 2014, I quoted Planner Wendy Sarkissian on the history of Eco-Density, the Sam Sullivan/Brent Toderian planning paradigm that Vision Vancouver vigorously opposed to win their first electoral success in 2008 but which, upon taking office, they vigorously adopted and expanded giving us the unaffordable and almost unlivable city we have today.  As I see a new group of community activists beginning to take arms against the determinism of CoV Planning and their developer cronies, I thought it would be worthwhile to reprint that article as a reminder that we have been fighting this fight for a very long time.

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One of Australia’s leading urban planning theorists, Wendy Sarkissian, has been looking at Vancouver’s planning system, and she has little good to say about it, especially Eco-Density:

It is now widely accepted that the [Eco-Density] Charter misrepresented community views and did not adequately address issues raised in the public process. There were strong community complaints of misrepresentation by Council officers (and senior planners) of the contents of community submissions; there were serious weaknesses in the analysis of submissions about the draft Charter. In meetings to work out the Charter, it was observed that the moderator skewed public comments.
In the community’s view, the 2008 EcoDensity Charter represented a “battering ram” approach to densification. Considerable discretionary power was eventually granted to Council by the Charter, thus undermining well-established policies of community engagement and implementation. Despite the extensive publicity campaign, the community hated and distrusted the policy. It sank Sam Sullivan politically. Shortly after he announced it, his popularity went into steep decline and, despite thirteen years as a City Councillor, he lost candidature after only one term as Mayor …
Research reveals that even the City of Vancouver planners were not convinced that the policy would work. Brent Toderian was quoted in 2007 as saying: “EcoDensity won’t provide housing that meets average incomes. I don’t think we would affect housing supply to the point that prices would go down.”
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Groups such as AHV would have us keep on that Vision pathway of build for the sake of building and for the sake of corporate profit. If only they would understand the recent history — say the 30 years from 1990 to today — they might understand that their path leads to an even more ruinous future than the one already bequeathed us.

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