Grandview-Woodland citizens’ assembly process draws criticism
A Grandview-Woodland group is taking issue with the City of Vancouver’s process for a citizens’ assembly that will be established as part of a long-term community plan for the area.
The “Our Community, Our Plan!” residents' group has sent a letter to city council and the planning department, urging them to put the citizens’ assembly process on hold until some “basic questions” are answered.
According to the city, 48 members will be selected for the assembly via a random draw of various demographic groups from residents that sign up to participate.
The membership will be selected on August 6, and the assembly will hold 10 meetings between September 2014 and April 2015. The assembly will be “one of several tools” that will help create the community plan, according to a city press release.
Zool Suleman, a member of the “Our Community, Our Plan!” group, argued that the city is being “tone deaf”.
“I think it’s setting up a process that’s doomed for failure,” he said. “I think it’s spending way too much money for something that can be done much better and much more cheaply on a community level.”
The letter sent to city council and planners states that many residents agree that the formation of the citizens’ assembly “is not democratic”.
“The CA Terms of Reference grants the City discretionary power over which of the CA’s final recommendations (if any) will be integrated into the Grandview Woodland Community Plan,” the letter reads.
“The lack of democratic structure combined with the City’s discretionary power over the CA’s recommendations defeats the spirit of an Assembly of Citizens.”
Suleman said the residents’ group wants to see an open process for the assembly that includes any community members that want to participate.
“What we’re looking for is an inclusive process, a multilingual process, a process that includes low-income or no-wage earners, and a process that means that city council actually listened to the report,” he stated.
One of the key questions for the group, he said, is how many people the planning department estimates will move to East Vancouver over the next few decades. He added that the group is not opposed to density and people moving into the neighbourhood, but to “planning without any basis”.
“How many individuals or families do they think might be moving in the city and then might come to East Vancouver, and then how can we plan for those families in ways that don’t involve 32-storey towers?” he asked.
“What we don’t want is Metrotown at Commercial and Broadway. If we wanted Metrotown at Commercial and Broadway, we’d move to Metrotown.”
A spokesperson for the city could not be reached for comment by the Straight’s deadline.
Grandview-Woodland residents who are 16 or older can register as volunteers for the citizens’ assembly until July 31.
This is the first time a citizens’ assembly will be used at the municipal level in Vancouver.
City council voted to implement the tool last year after a draft Grandview-Woodland document proposing towers at the Commercial and Broadway intersection drew criticism from throughout the community.