As a planner who "retired" from the City of Vancouver several years ago, I would like to thank the Georgia Straight for Daniel Wood's recent article on the pushback against the proposed tower at 555 West Cordova. It is unfortunate that the need to raise funds for important public infrastructure may override the important urban design considerations that were approved through careful analysis and a significant public planning process.
I still work as a community planner on a number of issues in Vancouver and other cities. I have a great deal of respect for the skill and commitment of many current staff and have had what I found to be several positive interactions with the recent director of planning.
Daniel’s article reflects an important legacy from Ray Spaxman through Ron Youngberg, Larry Beasley, Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, Anne McAfee, Rick Scobie, Brent Toderian, and hopefully beyond: highly livable and sustainable neighbourhoods within in the context of our amazing natural environment.
These former city planners were at times criticized because their standard for success was not the egos of star architects, nor the bank accounts of developers nor the nominal dollar value in the city's property endowment.
They taught us that success should be measured in diverse and livable neighbourhoods and in the pride of people who live, work, and visit those areas. Residents and staff alike should have confidence that the planning department and council are listening to local concerns (even if residents and staff don't agree on every issue). Community plans can be developed and implemented through a variety of public processes, but they should be based on integrity and targeted to meet local needs in the context of a growing region.
Here is a case in point: False Creek South was the first community planned under Ray Spaxman's leadership in partnership with a highly engaged city council. Developed in the 1970s on former industrial land between the Cambie and Burrard bridges as an innovative mixed-income community, this neighbourhood is unquestionably a success story. Loved by local residents, enjoyed by its thousands of visitors, False Creek South is admired by planning professionals throughout the world.
I currently work with the False Creek South Neighbourhood Association’s RePlan Committee involved in building upon that legacy through residential lease renewal on city land, a sustainable community plan, and considerably more affordable housing—without fundamentally changing the area's successful design. I am confident that I could sell tickets to professional planners and students interested in seeing a truly engaged community at work. The experience and expertise of residents can be invaluable in helping staff identify local needs and also achieve important city goals.
Hopefullym a renewed city administration will act in a way worthy of the legacy it has inherited from visionary elected officials and staff, past and present, who understand and share the community’s aspirations for itself and for the city as a whole.
42nd Street Consulting / Vancouver