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.

Computer renderings made public by Randy Helten on January 23, 2013, consist of before and after shots depicting what Vancouver’s West End might look like facing east up Davie Street in 30 years.
City of Vancouver

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.

An artist's rendering that was circulated during a public consultation process regarding Vancouver's West held through the summer of 2013.
City of Vancouver
Comments (9) Add New Comment
brent granby
I was at a community engagement meeting that was hosted by the West End Planning team and digital modeling was presented by staff to residents. Mr. Helten was at the meeting as well. Its hard to understand what he is talking about.
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Rating: -4
Victor
Wonder which rezoned property will be the first to apply for this huge new density?

More importantly which developer will get there first?.

We should watch for the date to see if the development communiy was shown a "model" hidden from residents!
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Rating: +22
Westender
The new images released by the community group are exactly the types of graphics that residents requested the City provide to help people understand the implications of various land use choices. The City Planning Dept. assured the community that "innovative engagement techniques" would be used in the planning process.
The implications for Lower Davie become clear in the images - a clarity lacking in the fuzzy "birds-eye" view that was used by the City Planning Dept.
That the City created these images and then withheld them is very disappointing and calls into question the transparency of the planning process.
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Rating: +23
Clarity Please
The City of Vancouver needs to be very careful how they reference the release of this information. The model may have been used to "create images" but these images were NOT shared with the public. The only image shared with residents was the "artist's rendering" at the bottom of the page. When residents asked for a higher resolution image of the rendering, or one that didn't include the City's coloured overlays of various planning districts, the City's response was that this "took too much computing power."
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Clarity Please
Mr. Granby, are you saying that residents had a chance to see the images shown at the top of this article? The ones that show clearly the impacts of the development being proposed? Those images were not shown at the community meeting I attended - only one bird's eye view was shown.
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Concerned west ended
Really Randy you are thinking they are rigging computers? How about learning how to use a computer and create slides in Adobe Acrobat so you do not have technical issues. Stop blaming others where you should blame yourself. Further to the comment above the slides were presented just smoothly.
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G
There are likely computer renderings already extant for each neighbourhood both commissioned by the city and by developers. Most are presented as "studies," even those that are under planning before the public is notified, but rarely do they look much like the end result. The problem is that Vision have the cosiest relationship with developers since the era of Tom Campbell. Since the current Mayor took office zoning changes, community charges plus heritage and other "bonuses" have tended to favour those who donated to the party or individual candidates.

The different outcomes for The Waldorf and The Pantages show the pattern of Vision decisions: donors get a profitable heritage bonus whilst others either tear down the building or sell it to a Vision donor. The fate of the Hollywood on Broadway has more to do with which company owns the property than any other single factor. If a Vision donor comes in and buys the property they will already have a deal in place for a density bonus, likely close by. The proposed zoning for "local shopping areas" like around the Hollywood will allow 6 storeys by default, and that area extends at least 300 metres from the area. Imagine the bonus for saving the Hollywood: a 10 storey tower in the future at Broadway & McDonald for a lucky developer and Vision basking in the glory just in time for the election.

Developers are already eyeing the Cambie corridor south of 49th, especially the western half of Langara Golf Course. The proposed redevelopment of the Pearson land includes a Canada Line stop at 57th avenue. The general rezoning will allow buildings of 3.5 storeys along Cambie but given the towers under construction at Marine Drive and the proposed Oakridge redevelopment we know Vision will allow over 20 storeys near a station. Langara Golf Course is already under threat of closure to be turned into a park, a proposal that has support of the left support that Vision gleaned from COPE. Announcing the closure before the civic election won't cost Vision many votes but any proposed development of part of the land would kill them at the polls.

Vision has delayed various neighbourhood plans until after the next election because they know how unpopular the plans will be. If they win in the fall consultation will be meaningless: the plans will pass & developers will be eternally grateful.
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Just a Voter
Once the draft West End plan was released, the City's fully-subscribed "learning sessions" accommodated 25 people each. There were 5 of them total. So the City's outreach efforts on the draft plan accommodated 125 people. Out of a population of 46,000 people. So 0.27% of the West End got a chance to see the images that Brent Granby refers to. Perhaps the opinions of that 0.27% of the community are the only ones that matter to Vision Vancouver?
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linda J
I was recently informed that our Moon Beam learned everything he knows from Gordon Campbell he was groomed by him. Developers and construction workers will vote for any party who supports more construction, this next election will have to be supported by a very different demographic. When is it time to slow development down the dark shadows and the cold concrete that dominates most cities created the same darkness within the minds and moods of the people We need more color and light everywhere The biggest myth is this density will create lower rents. Higher crime is usually a result of high poverty rates. Does anyone get this>? someone must be able to shed some light on this or has it got to dark in Vancouver. Lets save the west end from this Crime that is imposed on us by the bullies in city hall
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