Grandview-Woodland residents packed a community meeting Monday evening (July 8) to voice concerns about the city's planning process for the East Vancouver area.
About 200 citizens lined up to speak about a land-use directions map drafted for the region, which proposes increased density and taller building heights for parts of the community.
“Many of us...have participated in the community planning process in good faith over the last year, and none of this type of land use, none of this type of density was discussed,” said resident Blair Redlin. “It’s a very aggressive set of proposals…and so naturally it’s generating a lot of hostility and anger. And this dynamic does not make for good planning, it does not make for good neighbourliness.”
Vancouver-Hastings MLA Shane Simpson said hundreds of constituents have contacted his office with concerns about the community planning process.
“Sometimes planning processes go sideways,” said Simpson. “With all the best intentions, they go sideways, and the plans simply are inconsistent with the desire of the community, and the people who live in that community. This is a plan that is fundamentally flawed, and maybe it’s fatally flawed.”
Draft proposals for the Grandview-Woodland area released by the city in early June include plans for mid- to high-rise towers clustered around the Commercial and Broadway transit hub.
The city has since backed off its proposal for that specific area of the plan in response to community opposition. In an update sent out to residents July 5, planning staff indicated they are starting a “renewed process” for the Commercial-Broadway sub-area.
“Because we’ve heard sort of loud and clear about the concerns about tower form, and particularly the height of the towers that we proposed for that area, we’re going to take another look at that,” assistant director of planning Matt Shillito told the Straight in a phone interview before the meeting.
The city held a workshop last Saturday (July 6) with about 100 residents to discuss alternate forms of density at the intersection. Shillito said further public events will be scheduled at the end of this month.
But according to Jak King, president of the Grandview-Woodland Area Council, the existing proposal for that area is just one aspect of the community’s concerns. Over 500 people have signed a petition calling for the process for the whole region to be extended.
“What the petition asks for is another six months added to the schedule, so that we can have workshops as we had on Saturday for each of the sub-areas,” King told attendees at the meeting. “Because perhaps unlike the city, we don’t believe that just solving Commercial and Broadway solves Grandview.”
Additional concerns voiced by residents at the meeting included proposals for height increases on East Hastings Street, and increased density along parts of Nanaimo Street.
“We have affordable, quality food shops on East Hastings Street,” said Nancy McRitchie, the executive director of Kiwassa Neighbourhood House, who noted there is a lot of poverty in the community.
“The area of concern I have is the proposed rezoning of East Hastings Street to eight storeys, where those shops are. And what I’ve been hearing is that what that actually means is that as soon as it’s rezoned, the property assessments go up, the taxes go up, and the costs go up substantially for small businesses."
Local resident Garth Mullins said he doesn’t want to see any increased density without the inclusion of social justice.
“We already have that social mix of poor and middle class and working class and everybody that the city aspires to elsewhere,” said Mullins. “We already have a sustainable community with a good balance of cultures and heritage and stuff like that. This is a model—don’t come here to fix it, export it to other places.”
A draft community plan for Grandview-Woodland is currently scheduled to be produced this fall.
Shillito told the Straight that staff will look at the timeline over the summer “and see whether that needs to be adjusted based on additional steps that we now need to take to get the plan as we’d like it”.
He acknowledged there are community concerns about other areas of the plan in addition to the scrapped Commercial and Broadway proposals.
“We’re going to look at those as well, and we will as part of our ongoing consultation be including discussions about those as well,” he said.
Green city councillor Adriane Carr, who was one of three city council members who attended the meeting, said she plans to raise the community’s proposal for a six-month extension at today’s (July 9) city council meeting.