Community watchdog asks if City Hall withheld computer renderings to stifle debate on the West End
A community advocate has suggested that the City of Vancouver withheld 3-D models depicting a possible future for the West End in order to minimize public discussion.
“You would think that if the city was doing this consultation in good faith, you would have ample opportunity for people to go and work with this 3-D model and see what your street corner looks like and the view from your place,” said Randy Helten. “I think they just really wanted as little debate and awareness as possible. They didn’t want people to really see what is being proposed.”
Helten, who contributes to a number of websites including West End Neighbours and City Hall Watch, obtained the 3-D rendering through a freedom of information request and published snapshots online on January 23, 2013.
The computer model depicts how the West End might look in 30 years.
According to Nancy Eng, a communications coordinator with the City of Vancouver, it was drafted to help inform a public consultation process held last summer and fall.
“The 3D renderings were prepared by City staff to depict the general scale and location of new growth as part of the West End Community Plan,” she wrote in an email to the Straight. “The model was used to create images that were shared at our public events in June 2013 on display boards and in an information booklet and are online.”
In reponse to a request for an interview, Eng said that a spokesperson was not available to answer further questions.
Vancouver city council voted to approve the community plan in question in November 2013. It provides for an increase in population in the West End by 7,000 to 10,000 people over the next 30 years.
Helten said he still has a number of questions about the renderings.
He asked why such a dynamic model wasn’t shared with the public during the plan’s consultation phase, and who might have gotten a peek if not the general community.
“I wonder if special interests and specific parties like developers had a chance to go through this and visualize things and even negotiate with somebody,” he said.
Helten noted that there are other community plans concerning Grandview-Woodland, Marpole, and the Downtown Eastside that are currently up for debate. “Do 3-D models exist for them?” he asked.