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.

Comments (16) Add New Comment
Meathead
What?! The city wants to promote some denser development around Broadway/Commercial station? The second busiest station in the country. And you don't want to live in Metrotown? Oh, the horror! Then move to Mission instead you backwards-thinking, inconsolable, anti-everything nut-bars!
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Are you kiddin' me?
Using Metrotown as a comparison is moronic, and you know it. That's no way to advance an argument- makes you look like a fool that doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. They probably have more towers in in the whole metrotown area than we're talking about with the potrntial number of floors that a tower would have here.
Your rhetoric aside, with the absolute transit mess that happens every weekday morning around this corner, dumping even more people into the mix,only a clown with his head buried so far up you-know-where would even THINK about allowing this to go ahead until he can get Coast Mountain yo fix a big part of this problem. And sorry, gregor, you can talk about a skytrain extension, whether it be above or below ground, but it's not happening in anybody's near future.
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Alan Layton
The people inhabiting a neighbourhood should have a say in it's future. They may not be able to freeze it in time, but their views can help make any changes fit in to the culture of the neighbourhood, rather than creating the usual cookie cutter podium and tower concept with soulless chain stores replacing independent and unique shops that make many neighbourhoods in Vancouver special. Take a walk on Main St from 1st Ave to 33rd (and beyond) and you'll a tremendous amount of variety and mainly independent, small businesses. The reason they can survive is that the current buildings are old and the rent is relatively low. As soon as they tear those buildings down and replace them with the tower and podium, the retail space rent rises tremendously and only chains or high end shops can survive. Instead of unique coffee shop/bakeries you get another Tim Horton's (a major cause of obesity in Canada).

So let the neighbourhood groups be part of the solution. It may take longer but hopefully it will create more variety along with the inevitable densification.
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Arthur Vandelay
These citizens' engagement missions are always sham consultations. And they are that way for a very good reason. Citizens' groups always vote no against every project. Always. And its pretty consistently an 80/20 no vote. If you already live there, what's in it for you to take more density? These groups usually couch their objections by droning on about the cultural significance of coffee houses that can barely meet basic fire codes. Hence, policy makers have to make adult decisions on everyone's behalf. And this one is a no-brainer. Once the November election is over, Grandview-Woodlands should get ready for some redevelopment.
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RUK
@Arthur

Ouch.

Tough love, minus the love.

That makes some sort of sense intuitively, but what if the citizen's groups are in fact comprised of adults? What if they are willing to say yes to some things, or to leverage their knowledge of the area to come up with a useful refinement or alternative?
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don
The Safeway property was bought by Sobeys recently and they are putting profit over community. Another case of developers going for the cash grab without studying the social qualities of the neighbourhood and 'The Drive'
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times they are a changing
I as developer and I agree care should be given to the citizens who reside in these neighborhoods, after all if you can make your toughest market like your product it's a win-win on both levels.
Unfortunately when these meeting are held you typically here from the vocal minority, that (sorry to say) simply hate every idea proposed and will see it no other way. They offer no solutions.
Have often found the true majority of people are highly rational and reasonable and understand that change is inventible and often embrace it as part of a life cycle. They understand density will happen in east van, they just want it on a more human scale that suites the neighborhood.

Here a few thoughts:
build form:
NO tower and podiums……The absolute max height should be 7 story’s at only few major intersections and the majority of new buildings along the arterial roads should be 5 and 4 story’s max (much like Paris) Care should be given to street character…great design should be key …cookie cutter building should be frowned upon.
make east van the part of the city were great designers can let their ideas go as apposed the strict bylaws that basically shape the building before design process even starts.
Single family home rethink:
Would make far more sense to design two 3 bedroom homes per lot ( Matter of fact this model should be in west side as well) as opposed to the 4-5 bedroom with 1 rental suites on ground floor. The 3 bedroom home represents the smaller starter homes that were the essence of east van decades ago.
Parting thoughts:
Being from east van The character of this part of town has always been to not trust city hall (and for good reason). Honestly nothing will change that. Just wanted to say that not all developers are in line with the city and want to just ram ugly product down on neighborhoods, some of us get it and frankly don’t want to ruin a good thing. We want to give the long terms residence of this city the same if not more attention that foreign owners since they have invested more in this city and deserves better. All we ask is when ideas are proposed look at them from all points of view.

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Jay
These community groups baffle me. They complain that the city isn't engaging the community, then when the city makes a move to engage the community, the local residents association, in this case “Our Community, Our Plan!”, complains. 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. The same stalling tactics that are used over and over again.

Why would this particular community group be opposed to more community input from across a broader demographic? Because they're not really a community group, but a small scale political party that's not interested in dissenting viewpoints.

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Alan Layton
Jay: It's possible that they are stalling to see if there will be a new council and/or Mayor in office after the fall election. I think it's a good idea since they might get a better deal if a different group gets in. If a plan is pushed through now then a new council might not take full ownership, since they were not part of the original deal.
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False Creep
A fair way to pick civic decision-makers is to let everybody vet candidates and vote for the best ones. Call it an election. In my experience, public consultation is rarely representative and is fundamentally undemocratic. I prefer elected and accountable councillors to well-heeled seniors who oppose change reflexively.
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jenables
Haha.. false creep, are you actually Geoff meggs?
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Richard
@Alan

The main controversy is around Commercial and Broadway, which is less charming than Metrotown. The businesses around there are local only in the sence that they are local to this planet. Their combined revunues is probably around a trillion dollars. The include several big banks, MacDonald's, Starbucks, Shoppers, Sobeys, etc. While much of the rest of the Drive is charming, Commercial and Broadway is less charming than Metrotown is now. And Metrotown is improving with some pretty tall buildings replacing some of the horrible 2 story mall and big box buildings.

While towers would not fit with many parts of the Drive, well down towers would be a big improvement over what's at Commercial and Broadway now. Can't believe people care so much about a Safeway now Sobeys parking lot.

And, with property prices so high, going up is really the only way to get affordability. Just do the math.
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jenables
What math is that Richard? The math where we keep upzoning every piece of land, drastically increasing the value of land? The math where we build investment properties that are not automatically affordable just because they cost less than a detached house? Perhaps it's the math that makes people think a million people are coming to live here in the next decade and the math that creates pretend panic that they will have nowhere to live? Whatever math you are using, I see it all financially benefits the same people who donate to vision, so it MUST be true!
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DUnit
Building up housing around existing transit infrastructure is a terrible idea, we should go appropriate some more farmland in Delta and Ladner instead. Build out the burbs a bit more!
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lilly
even if we wait for new mayor/council (new promises, then when they get in office, nothing really is going to change).

we're too NIMBY/BANANA.
As we're dragged kicking and screaming into a denser housing, less automobile-ridden future, the growing population and resulting traffic congestion will simply take care of it for us.
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Nelson100
For those who have not had the joy of dealing with Vision up close let me explain how this will work. Let me use the example of WEMAC (the West End equivalent of the Granview Citizen’s Assembly). In the face of widespread opposition to questionable site by site rezonings all over the West End Vision created WEMAC. As is proposed for the “Citizen’s Assembly,” a call went out for participants. From this emerged WEMAC, a group of hand picked Vision supporters who were anointed to speak for the West End. Unsurprisingly they rubber stamped every development as the greenest, most socially positive, fantastic building ever conceived (even through they looked a lot like standard luxury glass condo towers ). Granville Woodlands can be 100% assured that if Vision are returned to power that condo towers will mysteriously return to their neighborhood plan, and that a hand picked Citizen’s Assembly will rubber stamp it on their behalf.
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