City council began hearing from a list of more than 70 people Wednesday who had signed up to speak about four community plans underway in Vancouver.
The day following a rally attended by about 200 people on the steps of city hall, residents brought their concerns to the council chambers, with many calling for more time on the neighbourhood plans.
“We are here to tell you that we are deeply disappointed by this report,” said Jak King, the president of the Grandview-Woodland Area Council.
“Disappointed, but not surprised. Because we have become accustomed to being misheard and misunderstood throughout much of this exercise.”
King added that despite consultations held in the community, “not a single moment was given to the important discussion of land use and rezoning proposals”.
Brian Jackson, Vancouver’s general manager of planning and development, summarized the process that has taken place to date on plans for the West End, Marpole, Grandview-Woodland, and the Downtown Eastside.
He told council that thousands of people were consulted in each of the areas, with 63 events held in the West End, 148 events in the Downtown Eastside, 62 in Marpole, and 100 in Grandview-Woodland.
“I’ve been a planning professional for 34 years, and I have led between 20 and 30 area plans, sub-area plans and city-wide plans,” he said. “I have never seen the depth and breadth of community consultation that...the literally hundreds of staff who’ve worked on this with us, and the 25,000 people who participated in the four area plans, have also participated in.”
Former Vancouver planner Ray Spaxman asked council to give the local area planning committee in the Downtown Eastside more time to review the city’s plan before it goes to council.
“We concluded that you were in danger of running into a plan that doesn’t work," said Spaxman, a co-chair of the committee.
He added that the communities being studied as part of the four plans are “so vastly different”.
“These are different character areas, with very different needs, and my goodness the Downtown Eastside has very special needs—it’s a crisis area,” he said. “We need to give it the care and attention that it deserves.”
Mike Burdick of the Marpole Residents Coalition told council the city has made “the majority of residents in Marpole angry”.
“How did you think the residents would accept the rezoning of almost 60 percent of the single-family homes in Marpole, effectively raising their taxes,” he asked. “How did you think the residents would accept the densification of their community? A community of almost 22,000 people. A community where over the next two to three years we’ll have 8,000 to 10,000 more people with the buildings that are presently being built.”
He said his group is in favour of the extension to the Marpole plan being proposed by the city, but wants to see a longer delay of a year.
City staff have recommended that the West End and Downtown Eastside plans go before council as scheduled this fall, that the Marpole plan be delayed until later this year or early next year, and the Grandview-Woodland process be extended and a citizens’ assembly created.
Council is scheduled to continue hearing from speakers at 2 p.m. today (September 26).