The City of Vancouver is moving toward establishing a citizens’ assembly as part of the Grandview-Woodland planning process.
Although it’s still unclear exactly what it will look like, assistant director of planning Matt Shillito told the Straight that input collected at two workshops will help shape the terms of reference for the new tactic.
“This is a new tool in the city’s public-engagement toolbox, and we’re taking the time to make sure that we understand it, that we get it right, and that we make sure that it’s appropriately tailored to the particular task at hand here, which is the Grandview-Woodland community plan,” Shillito said in a phone interview.
He noted that though similar initiatives have been used elsewhere, such as the B.C. citizens’ assembly on electoral reform, staff haven’t found any examples of the model being used as part of a community-planning process.
Council voted in September 2013 to establish the citizens’ assembly and extend the planning process for Grandview-Woodland by at least 12 months.
“The idea is that it would come up with recommendations and that they would be fed into the planning process, and to have an opportunity to influence the final plan that’s brought forward to council, so that’s a really important principle in any outcome of this, that it’s taken seriously and fed into the planning process as the final draft is prepared,” Shillito explained.
Jak King, the president of the Grandview-Woodland Area Council and a member of an ad hoc committee formed in the community to discuss the citizens’ assembly, said he was encouraged by the turnout of about 70 people at the first city workshop held on the issue on January 25. But he’s concerned that staff will recommend a smaller-scale assembly than residents are advocating for.
“I’m feeling not optimistic because of the way it was clearly being steered,” he told the Straight by phone. “I suspect that they’ll come out with some small number and a less broad scope than people will want.”
King said that among the participants at the workshop he attended, there seemed to be no dispute that the assembly should be “very broad-scale” in its mandate.
“Not just look at the broad sweep of neighbourhood issues but really get down into the nitty-gritty of how the rest of the process works,” he stated.
The neighbourhood plan for Grandview-Woodland is expected to be completed in 2015.