Residents set to rally at Vancouver City Hall over community plans
Neighbourhood groups calling for changes to the city’s planning process are set to protest at Vancouver City Hall on Tuesday (September 24).
Jak King, the president of the Grandview-Woodland Area Council (GWAC), said residents will march from Broadway and Cambie streets and demonstrate on the city hall steps at 5:45 p.m.
“Basically, it’s a rally to show support for a major change in the process that we’re undergoing right now,” King told the Georgia Straight by phone. “It’s to remind everyone at city hall that we’re very unhappy with the current situation and that it really does need to be changed.”
Residents from more than a dozen neighbourhood groups across the city are expected to take part in the event, he noted.
Area plans have been under development for the West End, Marpole, Grandview-Woodland, and the Downtown Eastside.
A staff report posted on the City of Vancouver’s website on September 16 calls for an extended schedule for the Grandview-Woodland plan in order to establish a “citizens’ assembly” to weigh in on the process. A brief extension is also being proposed for the Marpole community plan to gather public input on proposed changes to the document. Plans for the West End and the Downtown Eastside are expected to be considered by council as scheduled in November.
“It’s a fairly typical Vision [Vancouver] divide-and-conquer type of strategy between the neighbourhoods, and I think we’ll protest about that strongly on the 24th, and I think the speakers list on the 25th [the date of the city committee meeting to consider the staff report] will just get bigger,” King said.
Proposals outlined in the city’s “emerging directions” document sparked public backlash in Grandview-Woodland this summer, including a plan to allow mid- and high-rise towers around the Commercial and Broadway transit hub. The city has since backed off that proposal.
“Several components of the draft Emerging Directions published in June clearly caused significant concern, partly due to the scale of change in an area that has seen very little development and a decline in population over recent decades, so there is a need to re-set the process, take the time to consider different approaches and rebuild trust with the community,” the recent website staff report reads.
If city council approves the report’s recommendations, staff will report back in December on details of the proposed citizens’ assembly.
King said the key question will be what powers the assembly will hold. GWAC has called for a series of changes to the planning process for the East Vancouver neighbourhood.
In a recent letter to top city planner Brian Jackson, the area council issued recommendations for the process, including establishing a “joint management group” consisting of both community members and city planners, and setting up working groups on issues including community amenities and low-income housing. The group is also recommending a 12-month extension to the process.
King noted that a change in the way the plan is completed is critical to the group.
“What we want to do is make sure that the process becomes much more community-led, that the community gets embedded within the process,” he explained. “The same process plus extra time equals just a waste of energy…We need an extension, because it’ll take some time, but we need the process changed—that’s the important part.”
According to city staff, the citizen assembly’s work would include exploring land-use options in particular areas—such as Commercial and Venables and along Hastings Street—and discussing issues affecting various residents in the community, including youth, seniors, and renters.
Jackson told the Straight that more details will follow on the public-consultation process in the community.
“They brought up some good ideas that we’ve already been thinking of,” he said of GWAC’s proposals. “But there are things that we can do and other things that we can’t.”
Council will consider the staff recommendations at its city-finance-and-services-committee meeting on September 25 at 9:30 a.m.