Dozens of residents from across the city gathered on the steps of Vancouver City Hall Tuesday (July 26) to demonstrate against what they say is a "broken" planning and rezoning process.
People carrying signs of community groups from Shaughnessy to the West End to Mount Pleasant stood at the City Hall entrance at 6 p.m., just before a public hearing on the proposed Shannon Mews rezoning began.
Randy Helten, the organizer of the demonstration and creator of the City Hall Watch website, summarized some of the shared concerns of the demonstrators before representatives from various neighbourhoods stood to speak.
“The city hall planning and rezoning system is broken, and let’s start fixing it,” Helten told the crowd.
“What we find is that we repeatedly in the last few years have been going through council meetings of people have brought in thousands of signatures of petitions, and in the end often, they are ignored.”
Helten argued that information provided to communities is often “either incorrect, inaccurate, misleading, and the timing’s often against the interest of better understanding”.
“In a lot of cases it seems like the planning department is an advocate for the developers, rather than for the public interest,” Helten said to loud applause.
Elizabeth Murphy of Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver argued that the city's rezonings are not necessary.
“The existing zone capacity of the city is enormous, and there’s no real rush to go out and rezone the entire city in order to accommodate growth,” she said. “We have enough for the next few decades, we have time to do this right, and we need to spend the time to do it right, not just dump it on everyone’s neighbourhood in a willy-nilly way.”
Fraser Stuart, a board member of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council, spoke of social housing concerns in the community.
“I do want to thank city council for one thing—they have united us,” he said to applause from the crowd.
“They’ve united the Downtown Eastside with the people from Shaughnessy...the whole city is pissed off, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Sandeep Johal of the Residents Association Mount Pleasant spoke to concerns about developments in that neighbourhood, including a tower proposed at Kingsway and Broadway and “significant alterations” to the S.E. False Creek development plan. A proposed tower at the corner of Columbia and 2nd Avenue also also went to public hearing Tuesday evening.
“After an extensive, multi-year community plan consultation, we’re now besieged by developments that relate in no way to our clearly-stated neighbourhood needs and principles, undermine affordability...and vastly increases our carbon footprint,” she said.
“We want our community and development plans to be respected, and the affordability and diversity of the neighbourhoods preserved.”
Tom Durrie told the crowd that “I feel like we’re kind of crushed down at the bottom.”
“We are the people who put these people in here where they are—they’re there to do what we want them to do,” he said, gesturing towards city hall. “Let’s insist on that. If not today and Thursday, then in November.”