Grandview Woodlands Citizens Assembly Sets a New Direction for the Community

Description

A group of 48 community members worked collaborative as a Citizens Assembly to develop recommendations for a community plan for the Grandview Woodlands neighbourhood. City Council approved the plan, with some controversial changes, on July 27, 2016.

An excerpt from the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan infographic

An excerpt from the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan infographic.

Potential Significance

For the first time in Canada, a Citizens’ Assembly put local residents at the centre of the planning process to grapple with contentious issues dividing an iconic community of the City. In an unprecedented initiative in citizen engagement, local residents led roundtable discussions, planning workshops and walking tours to come up with directions, policies and the recommendations.

Musqueam elder Shane Pint commended volunteers for taking responsibility for their community and not allowing politicians and planners to decide the direction of their community. City planners said they had to learn better ways to communicate and to listen.

Background

The Grandview Woodland Community Plan covers an area roughly from Burrard Inlet to 12th Avenue, bounded by Clark Drive and Nanaimo Street. The planning process was in response to the City’s plans to accommodate an additional 10,000 people in the community–7,000 new homes–over the next 30 years; a 30 per cent increase over the current population population.

The City in 2012 began the process of creating a new community plan for the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood. Local residents expressed strong concerns about several proposals after the City released its draft Emerging Directions report in June 2013 and requested additional consultation opportunities. Council decided to create a Citizens’ Assembly to review and propose new planning directions.

City planners had proposed four 22 high-rise towers, including a 36-storey at the Broadway-Commercial Drive SkyTrain station for the area. The Citizens Assembly recommended mostly mid and low-rise zoning, with an eight-storey building at Broadway and Commercial and 12-storey limit on the east side of the site. City Council approved a 24-storey limit on the corner.

The Grandview-Woodland Citizens’ Assembly mimicked the structure and process of the 2004 BC Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. The Citizens Assembly report includes recommendations on themes including housing, transportation, local economy, arts and culture, public realm, community well-being and health, heritage and energy and climate change. Many of the Assembly’s recommendations are adjustments and improvements to the policy directions proposed by the City in its June 2013 “Emerging Directions.” Others suggest a new direction.

The plan approved by Council provides for community amenity contribution targets of $646 per square metre ($60 per sq. ft.) in the Nanaimo shopping nodes, $215 per square metre ($20 per sq. ft.) for the mid-rise multi-family sub-areas, and $32 per square metre ($3.00 per sq. ft.) for the lower density townhouse and multi-family sub-areas.These targets apply to rezoned floor area achieved in excess of the floor area permitted in the existing zoning.

Among the goals outlined in the plan: 1,400 new secured market rental homes, 1,400 new social, supportive and co-op housing, 4,350 units of more affordable ownership and secondary rental options and preservation of the community’s existing stocks of affordable market rentals and non-market housing; adding more housing suitable for families including townhouses, duplexes, and incentives to protect heritage homes by adding new infill homes; improving nine parks and creating up to five new or improved public plazas and adding new job space.

Critics voiced concern about selection of the Citizens’ Assembly on the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan members, many of whom had not been previously involved in community issues. Others criticized the insular and incremental approach of the Citizens Assembly.

Note

The original submission of the Grandview Woodland Citizens’ Assembly final report was shortlisted as a 2015 significant event.

Sources