Panel Audience Q&A

What were the defining decisions, actions and events of 2015 in planning and development that could prove to be transformative in Vancouver’s evolution?
Edited for clarity and conciseness. For complete remarks, please refer to the video.

Stephen Quinn (moderator): We’ve set out to leave about half the time, about 45 60 50 minutes, for and exchange between audience and panellists. Please approach the mic and identify yourself.

evans-95x105Catherine Evans: Park Board Commissioner and former Dunbar resident
How do we have a conversation about letting people come here when the refrain is that Vancouver is full?

For more than ten years I’ve heard the refrain in various ways that Vancouver is full. Now we’re talking about empty houses, but before that it was ‘there’s no room’ – why are we continuing to build here? why do we let people in here? And I’m wondering how we have a conversation about city growth and responsible use of land in an urban environment when you have people who honestly feel that Vancouver is full… There is an incredible resistance to letting more people live here. Whether it’s affordable or not, more people want to live here. More people need to live in an urban environment if we’re not going to destroy all the farmland we’ve got. So how do we have that conversation about letting people live here?

Jennifer Marshall: So what’s driving that fear? I think that we have to try to understand it. I think that’s where you have to have vision. If you have someone who can come in and paint a picture for people about what community can be, what are the benefits – so that people can see the benefits and that takes away the fear. But part of it is that I don’t think we really understand exactly what’s driving the fear, the fear of change.
Frances Bula: I think you can paint that vision, but part of the problem is this meme that’s going around, that we don’t need this density because it’s not real people moving in, it’s just investors. A lot of people who are in these most entrenched neighbourhoods are not near apartment buildings that are getting built and filling up instantly. They don’t see those new residents. They have no contact with them. I know lots of people who’ve never been in a condo in Vancouver. They and all their friends live in single-family houses. So you can have all the vision you want, but there is a core group of people in the city who actually think there aren’t that many people moving here, and if they are they can be well accommodated in Coquitlam.
Bob Rennie: If the Mayor and Vision said that you could build two townhomes in every yard in Dunbar, is he electable? No. But they did it in Norquay and now families can stay. Land value will jump, but you should be able to get a lot cheaper housing with townhouses in the back, but no one wants to take the political risk.
Frances Bula: That’s what Sam Sullivan was saying the other night at the Urbanarium debate. He said, ‘I’m all for density, but I tried to go into Dunbar, and if you talk about splitting a 50 foot lot into two 25 foot lots, they act like you’ve killed their children.’
Stephen Quinn: But they will allow a 5,000 square foot house to be built on that 50-foot lot.
Noha Sedky: I love raising the example on my street. At the end of the street, a single-detached neighbourhood in the Kingsway-Knight area, there were two lots assembled at the end of my block that had two older Vancouver specials on it and now have nine beautiful townhouses. As soon as they were built, a flood of young families moved in. The scale of it totally fits with the scale of the rest of the homes on the street in the whole area, and it’s brought nine young families into our neighbourhood and works really well.
Stephen Quinn: Your school might stay open.
Bob Rennie: But the problem is that’s not being done with any scale in the city. If there was scale, it would keep prices down because there’s a constant supply.
Jennifer Marshall: And it’s being done on a spot basis as opposed to based on a realistic vision.
Noha Sedky: There’s no city-wide vision.
Frances Bula: And let’s mourn the loss of the punk band rehearsal spaces as a result. We have a townhouse development like that in our neighbourhood, and now no more heavy metal echoing out over the neighbourhood.

atkin-95x105John Atkin: Vancouver civic historian and Strathcona resident
Strathcona is the contrast to Dunbar, with density and reasonable affordability, as the result of a true local area planning process.

  • I think the contrast to Dunbar is Strathcona. Back in 1991 we sat through a local area planning process. It was actually a true local area planning process, where they came in with blank sheets of paper and said we’ve got to do something here, we think, and we kind aid, let’s get down to it. Every Wednesday for three years we met as a community.
  • The key thing is we re-wrote the RT3 zoning for density, and so Strathcona is actually on paper one of the densest neighbourhoods outside of the West End, where on a 50-foot lot you can actually have six, seven, eight plus units where you take the existing houses.
  • We have very strong heritage zoning. Until a couple of weeks ago, it was far easier to knock down a house in Shaughnessy than it was in Strathcona, which is almost impossible to do, and yet that house then generates a couple of units. Plus, you can do the infill, etcetera. You don’t have lot consolidation, so you can only do 50 feet. But you’ve got a ton of density, and reasonable affordability, although we’ve started to see the dreaded one million price in the neighbourhood which is quite a shock. 
  • There are many sites within the neighbourhood that come with density options and it’s looked at from a design point of view, but nobody’s screaming because the neighbourhood has learned to accept it.

Frances Bula: In the Downtown Eastside plan process, I heard a lot of concern in Strathcona about the height of the buildings along Hastings.

  • Yes, because they decided not to do anything further west and piled it all on that section of Hastings. The Downtown Eastside plan is a different discussion because it was so loaded against the Strathcona neighbourhood. We had only one representative allowed to sit in that planning process. The school and community centre weren’t allowed representation. It was like a job where nobody wanted to take part until late in the game when they changed things.
  • So Hastings Street will be an issue, but then we have somebody that made their money in yoga pants buying up the whole the street right now, so there’s a whole other game going on there. But within the Strathcona neighbourhood, in that RT zoning that accepts a lot of density, the neighbours like the density and it seems to be working. So it is a contrast to that sort of mythical Dunbar and ‘keep it out of my neighbourhood’ attitude.

massing-95x105Wendy Massing: Dunbar resident
The 1997  Dunbar community plan welcomes four-storey buildings along arterials for seniors, and also townhouses. Higher buildings would have shadow impacts. Planners need to be respectful of the people in their neighbourhoods.

  • We have a community plan in Dunbar, set up in 1997, that says we welcome four-storey buildings along arterials like Dunbar as long as they’re for seniors housing, and we encourage townhouses along arterials. That has never been built along Dunbar and my understanding as a citizen is that the reason is that the rezoning hasn’t happened. Now, I don’t understand if it would take a brave politician to do that. The Dunbar Vision Implementation Committee of which I am part would support that.
  • We speak to every development that comes along. We’ve had a delightful conversation with one or two developers who listened to us and who respect the plan that the neighbours have asked for. Thousands of people sat down and cared enough to write it. We’ve had problems with one or two developments when they’ve said they wanted more than four storeys.
  • I walk everywhere and from the winter solstice until the middle of January I can’t walk in my neighbourhood with one-storey buildings. The shadows are so deep on the north side it’s dangerous. I think planners have to be respectful of the people in their neighbourhoods.
  • Come to our meetings, please. We’ll have a conversation.
  • Why wouldn’t a compromise be four stories along arterials in neighbourhoods that accept them? You have to start somewhere. Kerrisdale has designed a plan that works really well for highrises. They didn’t put them on the main street. They didn’t shadow their shopping area.

Bob Rennie: Then what I’d like to say to your community group is maybe we don’t want two floors, but we’d like townhouses in all our backyards… This is brave coming here. I’m a lightning rod for this topic. I think we need solutions so I tell university students go to your meetings and offer solutions. We have to think differently. 1997 is 20 years ago… I don’t like the conversation in our city about race – 48 percent of Vancouver is of Asian origin and it’s not represented in this room. Without coming up with solutions we’re constantly going for low-hanging fruit and we need solutions. It’s toxic because I can’t get the price of single-family housing down, so we’re going to need some supply so you can age in place in your neighbourhood and your children can maybe stay in the neighbourhood.

vanduzer-95-105Leslie Van Duzer: Professor in the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
While we may have concerns with specific ‘starchitect’ projects, we should welcome out-of-town architects; I would like to see us attract corporate headquarters to Vancouver so that we can benefit from the philanthropic potential that would bring.

  • I want to talk about two things. First, I would appreciate separation of the world starchitecture, which usually refers to architects who have had some success internationally, from the other concerns related to various projects that they’re proposing. I think you’re conflating the two in a way that I find objectionable.  I’m troubled by the overuse of the term starchitecture. For me what’s behind that is, a bit of a provincial attitude about having out-of-town architects come to the city. We can have objections on specific projects, and I do certainly on some of the projects, but nobody can deny that Herzog and de Meuron are one of the best architects in the world. You may not like the art gallery proposal or have other objections to it for other reasons, but I think that we actually should welcome out-of-town architects.
  • My second point is about philanthropy in the city and I’m building on the comments that you made about the museum. I’m glad that you’ve brought up the fact that the museum is not on the list of the big milestones of last year. For me it’s a milestone if that project fails. It could fail for lots of reasons but it will. I think it probably will fail for an inability in this town to raise the money for it as you’re suggesting. I moved here from Minneapolis five years ago, which is super-philanthropic town and a big corporate headquarters town. I think that we should all be putting a lot of energy into trying to  turn this city – such a popular place to live – into a corporate headquarters town that will benefit through the philanthropy of those corporations – art projects, cultural projects, and all the other needs that we have for philanthropy.

Jennifer Marshall: My big issue with having these fabulous buildings built is to not be dazed by them and to really look at what are we making. What is the urban realm that had resulted? That’s what’s really important. The term starchitecture was used because it was a way of grouping a whole bunch of projects when they were theming things. So it’s a way of referring to those projects, and noting that good architecture isn’t necessarily a licence to incur into the public realm.
Bob Rennie: Do you know why they’re here? Because the cost of land is so unbelievably high that you have to then layer on all of that luxury to get this price. Now nothing downtown will be less than $1,200 a foot. The buildings you’re talking about are coming on at $1500, $1,600 and $1,800 a foot. That’s what starchitecture is bringing us, and you can’t get one without the other. It’s very expensive to do. On the museum side, I believe that a museum can be in a train station, it can be in the bus depot, it can be underground. It’s about the contents. Our city is our beauty. We don’t need to waste that philanthropy and taxpayers’ dollars on Herzog and de Meuron.

mccreery-95x105Bill McCreery: Council election candidate, 2011
We need to bring back neighbourhood-centred planning and go the the next stpe of citizen-centred planning.

  • I don’t see anything on the boards that has to do with process in planning. It seems to me that we have abandoned any kind of rational and cohesive planning process in the city since 2006.
  • I’ve heard people say publicly at meetings across the city that they will accept density. So the idea that the neighbourhoods won’t accept density is a myth, in my opinion. And the reason that there’s objections when densities are proposed is because the process being used is a top-down process, and to a certain extent an elitism, particularly in part on the part of planners as well as politicians that they think that they know what’s good for the people in the neighbourhood.
  • When I was involved with TEAM in the 70s, we initiated neighbourhood consultation and planning. That evolved into CityPlan over time and that was a wonderful process. It had its faults but it worked. I think we need to go to the next step which is what I call citizen-centred planning and that is to give the authority for decision-making in a neighbourhood to the people who live there and have a representative group, not just the outspoken people that you were talking about, but have the community centres, the churches, the renters on a panel about density. Why is the city imposing 15,000 to 20,000 new people in the four recent neighbourhood plans, when you need only 5,000 people per neighbourhood? There are 22 neighbourhoods in the city.
  • What you do is you have a city-wide discussion. First of all, do we want to accept whatever it is, another – what is it? 250,000 people by 2040? We have never had that discussion as a city. I you get buy-in, where are we going to put these people? It will be a little tough to get 5,000 people into Shaughnessy but maybe we could try and go through that exercise. Let people figure out what kind of neighbourhood they want based on their values and their priorities, not somebody else’s. And if they want towers or row houses or laneway houses to accommodate their 5,000 people, let them have it.

Frances Bula: If you actually look around at these boards, a lot of this has to do with process. People sued over the Brenhill decision because they didn’t like the process. The Grandview Woodland Citizens’ Assembly was created because people didn’t like the process. A number of things that were significant in 2015, like #DontHave1Million, were about the process. I know there was a CityPlan. People who lived in the neighbourhoods were allowed to have a say, but people who wanted to move into the neighbourhoods didn’t have a say. And some neighbourhoods decided they would only accept a very low amount of density in certain restricted spots, and that was a problem that even planners of the time recognized. And so, because some people don’t want shadows on their streets, other neighbourhoods have eight storeys and have shadows all the time… Intending to be provocative, I’m saying it would be good to have a discussion about process because I think your idea of process is different from what others think, and I hear a lot of people say that if you’re going to have process you need to have process that includes the people who would like to come to a neighbourhood, not just those already there who are protecting their interests.
Noha Sedky: I think it’s important that we spend more time talking about how we engage with community because a lot of the issues that we raised as panellists were the result of a reactive planning response or a planning response that had to react to a process. But as a community planner, everything that we do -every plan, every policy decision – involves some type of community engagement. And we need to get better, more creative about how we engage people so that we can reach a much more representative sample of our population, including those potentially that want to move into neighbourhoods but are unable to. And because we’re not going to people where they are, often we are relying on the traditional public hearing, town hall, open house style of public engagement that really limits who is able to attend and participate. And then that’s the reaction that we have in our communities. This is not just in Vancouver; this is often a regional issue, and we’re not getting the other municipalities in the region to step up because they’re facing that kind of challenge as well.

boname-95x105Phil Boname: Land economist and urban development consultant
The attractive city that we have today is the outcome of the great work of many people in this room. The big problems of today will have to be resolved at a different level with a regional vision and world-class regional plan.

  • My observations have to do more with a macro considerations and perhaps a more long-term perspective than is evidenced in the topics on the panels. This problem is going to get much worse before it could even conceivably get better – the overpopulated city, homelessness, unaffordable housing. The reasons are quite obvious to most everyone in this room.
  • First of all, I would be remiss to not note that we are the second least-populated country in the world, second only to Mongolia, and that we have to accommodate two billion people in the next 25 years. Those cities that enjoy wonderful lifestyles, beautiful settings – this coming year Vancouver and B.C. will have the highest growth rate in Canada – are all going to contribute to exacerbating what you’re discussing this evening. I’ll go one step further and tell you that the problem rests with the fact that half the people in this room have contributed to making Vancouver one of the best places to live in the world. Ray Spaxman, Phil Mondor, Frank Ducote, and many other people have spent their lives trying to find ways to resolve the problems that you’re discussing this evening, and while we may not like it, it’s been very effective; so effective that we’re going to continue to see many more people coming to this city.
  • My children and grandchildren live in a downtown condo. The building is full. They go to nearby schools which they enjoy. They take public transit or a bicycle to work. They are suffering from not having a single-family home, but they love where they are and they are not alone. And that again is attributed to the fine work that has been done by the planning commission, by the planning department, by the councils, by the politicians, by you the people who care about our life here in this beautiful city of Vancouver.
  • I myself commute to Vancouver by ferry. You’re going to find more people commuting by train from Squamish and from Whistler and from mountaintops as we do in Switzerland. There are solutions but we’re going to have change the governance structure and think more regionally. No, not 21 municipalities trying to plan their respective neighbourhoods. Yes, it’s great to talk about urban design at the micro level and that should continue vigorously, but the big problems you’re talking about this evening, like affordable housing, are going to have to be resolved at a different level. And we should have another discussion about the future chronology on a regional basis, and on a future basis, including some competiveness amongst world-class designers. We could have the planning commission, in concert with the urban development industry, asking the city to have some competiveness as we had in the 1930s when Harold Bartholomew was here. We need another world-class competition to identify the vision for the region and then within that context we’ll resolve some micro issues that have been discussed tonight.
  • And the other reason why we have this problem is because society here in Vancouver is one of the most tolerant societies in the world.

Frances Bula: Just in case anyone doesn’t know, there is a regional plan – now called the Regional Growth Strategy and no longer the Livable Region Strategic Plan – with population projections for every municipality. Vancouver is not alone. These are not targets, by the way. This is what they’re saying is coming to the region whether you like it or not. Some municipalities have done a very detailed job of planning where all the townhouses are going to go, down to the last block.

langolf-95x105Gudrun Langolf: Marpole resident
We need to find a better way to help people understand the decisions that are being made for them.

  • I’m a resident of Vancouver for over 50 years. It’s the only place that I know besides the one where I was born and one that I grew up in which is Europe, where in many places people don’t own their homes. They rent them. It’s a foreign concept to me here that people insist that they have to be able to own real estate.
  • I didn’t come here to talk about citizen-centred stuff but people are angry about not feeling considered in the decisions that are being made. And so often in planning for stuff we forget that saying, ‘nothing about us without us.’ And if we forget to consider the people who are directly impacted, who feel the impact of the decisions that bureaucrats or others make, they’re going to be angry.
  • I think that in many ways we’ve forgotten how to disagree with one another without being disagreeable. I think we need to have more kitchen-table kinds of events where we can talk about what’s important to us, and not what’s important on the macro level first, because it doesn’t mean anything to us. So if we start with where we live, and with what feels good and what doesn’t feel good, and then understand how it fits into the bigger picture, people will be far more amenable. Now, it takes too much time, of course… The difficulty is that you if you have discussions without people understanding, that’s a problem. You do need to have a certain amount of background or knowledge, rather just simply opinions or gut feelings that are not based on fact.
  • People all think that they know best what’s good for us. We do it as parents. We all make those mistakes. But there’s a cost to that and the political cost is that people get angry, and then it becomes a weight that says let’s throw the bums out and then you let the other bums in, right? It doesn’t work.
  • So it’s really important to get back to having people understand the decisions that are being made, even if they disagree with them. But right now there doesn’t seem to be the time. Everybody’s pressed for time. There is not enough staff. You used to go into City Hall and be able to talk to somebody. Now you have to have a magic word or a password or something.
  • With the Grandview Woodland Citizens’ Assembly, I think it’s wonderful that they tried something different, and I’m just now looking forward to seeing how well it worked.
  • Stephen put his finger right on it talking about the language. There is a foreign language being spoken in consultations, and it’s conducive to excluding people of any culture.

Jennifer Marshall: Isn’t the onus to create that kind of community dialogue on the community rather than big brother or the institution? I think that it starts the level of your neighbour, talking to your neighbours and that everyone in the city has an onus to step and speak out and have conversations and set up neighbourhood dialogue. I don’t work at the city, but I don’t think that we as a city have the capacity to administer that. I think it has to be a grassroots thing.
Noha Sedky: I do think we should be facilitating more creative engagement processes as well, and some of the onus does fall on the City.
Stephen Quinn: But aren’t people terribly cynical about that? When they walk into a room full of flip charts and magic markers and there are dutiful City people standing by saying, ‘draw me your vision.’ Does any of that ever make it to what we see on the ground? That was the Woodward’s planning process, I recall it well.
Noha Sedky: There’s an important aspect related to that. You can go through the motions of trying to connect people where they’re at and come up with a variety of different ways to engage people – through drawing, through looking at maps, asset mapping, whatever it may be, but at the end of the day you also have to communicate where the link is between what happened in those meetings and how it’s going to translate into the planning process.

barkeley2_95-105Dorothy Barkley: Chair of the Grandview Woodlans Area Council and co-chair of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods
We have concerns and questions about changes and decisions being made about our neighbourhoods; we would like to understand how our neighbourhood fits into the city as a whole.

  • Our neighbourhood likes to think that it’s very progressive. We welcome the thought of carrying out part of the responsibility for densification. It’s the form of densification. And I sat on the Citizens’ Assembly and within that process I asked our planner for the anticipated population increase on an annual basis. When I hear you say 27,000, our neighbourhood is asked to take 230 people a year. That doesn’t sound like a tower or a series of towers to me. We’ve got zoning for duplexes and laneway houses.
  • The other thing that you see in some of the old neighbourhoods is that when you get an old house with a series of apartments in it and tear that down to put in a nice little faux heritage duplex, you lose five or six affordable apartments to get $2 million duplexes. So you’ve got a population actually declining.
  • Another comment, going back to the Dunbar conversation about the renewal of the high streets with new four-storey buildings, I would argue that Dunbar, Commercial Drive and Main Street have many shabby, old one and two-storey buildings with all sorts of wonderful, unique, independent, little stores in them that would be lost if you put in new four-storey buildings – with two floors of condos with retail and commercial – and you would have a city that would become more boring and expensive.
  • On towers at Commercial Drive, when I go by at Broadway and Commercial there are so many people queued around waiting. The intersection can’t handle it now. If you were to put in towers, the people that purchase those condos might not be inclined to stand in those queues for buses. With what they’re doing at Oakridge, and talking about with Pearson Dogwood, Canada Line has been at capacity since it was created. I’d love to know how that’s supposed to be manageable.
  • On the desirability of a comprehensive city plan: In the Citizens’ Assembly, one of the things that was so difficult for us was understanding how we fit into the context of the city as a whole. We were being asked to consider our small neighbourhood as an autonomous area within a city, and we had no idea what was happening anywhere else. And so I think that that is a good reason for a city plan.

Stephen Quinn: Where I live, I see a net gain in the replacement of old houses – there are three side-by-side duplexes where two single family homes stood before. Each of them may have had a basement suite, but there’s a net gain of two of family houses, three bedrooms each.
Frances Bula: TransLink say s that all the Canada Line  stations were designed to be extended so that you can have more cars, and you can run cars more rapidly. Getting the money to extend them is the question.
Frances Bula: I think you’ve made the point about a city plan that many do. Instead of just considering one tower and how many units that will provide, a lot of neighbourhoods are saying, ‘can we look at the whole neighbourhood?’ I live in Mount Pleasant where there was a huge fight over the Rize building, which Bob then went on to market. The problem with the process was that it became about that one building instead of the community getting to say, ‘how much do we want in this whole area around Broadway and Commercial and what should the form be?’
Jennifer Marshall: Aren’t we agreeing on one thing, that there needs to be a comprehensive plan? The question is really how you get there.
Bob Rennie: It’s not just the city. Take what you’re talking about and what Phil was saying, and take it to the region, and let’s understand how we’re absorbing the 27,000 across the region.

spaxman-95x105Ray Spaxman: Past Director of Planning, City of Vancouver, 1973-7989
We need a new process that produces good information on which to base decisions, and a new regional plan that recognizes the revolutions taking place in climate, economy, globalization.

  • Of all the issues here the one that appeals to me the most is the staff change one because it signifies the change in process. Everything else is a product of the process that we’ve had in the recent few years and I think that was wrong. I think both the politicians and the staff recognize that what’s going on was inadequate.
  • We want someone for the director of planning who can bring a process which we haven’t got. For example, as I sat here listening to the various people saying what should happen, balloons went up for me and they were filled with a mix of different ideas and opinions. There’s something real about those differences. So unless we tap those different points of view, we shall be lost forever in anger and disappointment because people don’t know what’s happening.
  • We don’t need another plan. We need another process. And the process is one that produces the information that enables the people to test their particular point of view against the process, against the information… People are saying, ‘I want to hear everybody else’s point of view and I want the facts around it so that I can compare my point of view and their point of view with the facts, and actually evaluate whether it’s good or bad.’
  • Information is complicated and we need to put the resources to it. We’re always worried about the resources that go into thinking. Fortunately, we have the long census back now and that was one of the illustrations the way we’ve been going wrong. This is a year of hope both at the federal level and maybe at the local level that we will change that attitude. We must have information and not be shy about asking people where they come from if it’s important for us to know.
  • And with that information, we need to produce a regional plan because we live in a region.
  • That process doesn’t go for a year and then stop. Then we get frustrated. It goes on forever. So out of that system comes a plan here, a plan there, a regional system that gets changed, because the one thing certain about the future is we cannot forecast it more maybe a few days. We can aim for things and then we need to adjust things. But that’s a different process, and it’s a process that can involve everybody in it continuously.
  • The regional growth strategy that identified where development should go and asked every municipality to produce its own statement was not well done. It came out of lots of consultation, and somebody had to come to a conclusion. They’re now doing it again because some of the conclusions are not seen to be right and that’s my point. After five or six years they see that it’s not working. A 20-year plan is not a plan that you’ll see implemented. Even Bartholomew who has been praised here tonight – his plan couldn’t be implemented within a few years, and that was a very good plan that had more information about it than some of ours do.
  • We need a new regional strategy that includes what Phil Boname was talking about. The world is going through a number of major revolutions: climate, globalization, the economy. Political systems are changing rapidly. Our whole environment is changing so rapidly that we need to put a handle on what that means to us. How do you measure that? And when you put your balloon up, how do you measure your idea against what’s happened.
  • How do you put that together with inclusion and collaboration with communities in an effective way? You saw an embryonic way last week with Urbanarium’s exhibition at the Museum. That’s one way of looking at it that just came because citizens felt something need to happen. Now, the first elements of that aren’t the ones we’re talking about, but it’s trying to get there. If the same leadership came from government level saying what I’ve just said, and money and resources were put into it, including infrastructure costs, we would have a better handle on how to handle the urban problems that we have to face. So my balloon goes up. I just put it with the others and we can check the pros and cons against it.

martin-95x105Andrew Martin: Student at UBC School of Community and Regional Planning
How do we get everybody together on the same page and move forward with creating some kind of city-wide or region-wide comprehensive, bold, innovation-oriented plan?

  • Thank you for speaking tonight and it’s a great honour to be able to pose a question to some great minds and for us all to be having this discussion tonight.
  • I recognize that Metro Vancouver is a region in transition with a lot of changes are afoot and that gets us a little bit anxious. In my lifetime, I think we’ll become a region of five or six or seven million people. The majority of the people who will be living in the region at that time don’t have a voice at this moment, but we need to be considering their needs.
  • One of the questions posed tonight was ‘does density equal affordability?’ I know that we need to build more six-storey walk-ups so that they will become the affordable walk-ups when my kids need an affordable place.
  • All the panellists seem to be calling for a city-wide or region-wide plan with bold ideas like those Vancouver used to be know for. How as a region do we go about preparing for the future and for the many millions that will come to live in this region within my lifetime? How do we get everybody together on the same page and move forward with creating some kind of city-wide or region-wide comprehensive, bold, innovation-oriented plan? How do we do that? How do we rally support?

Jennifer Marshall: One of the people spoke about education, including the fact they didn’t understand the language of planning. I think there needs to be some kind of education about the issues, the possibilities and the choices, with resources put to that. You can’t necessarily expect people at the grassroots level educate themselves – although some communities like Strathcona and Grandview Woodland have  done the hard work and spent the time… This is a question I was asking Ray. How do you involve the grassroots and still have these big overarching plans and get it right?
Frances Bula: And also have the discussion of a regional plan where people can’t say that they don’t want people in their neighbourhoods, so that others will have to take them.
Noha Sedky: That takes legislation. There has to be a responsibility that is put on all municipalities to work together towards a joint regional plan.
Bob Rennie: It has to be a real conversation, with your voice and intellect and friends, and not sensational statements like ‘don’t have a million.’ There needs to be a politician standing up to say, ‘you cannot buy a single-family home in our city for a million dollars and I can’t produce one.’ And then we need to go for solutions. We need voices like yours, attending meetings where you’re not necessarily a stakeholder but you can help guide intellectual conversation toward solutions.
Frances Bula: There was a regional plan developed, premised on a reality that a million people are likely to arrive here in the next two decades. They’re not imaginary. They’re not just vacant condo investors. A million people are likely going to arrive here in the next two decades. The discussion happened within a restricted group and then municipal politicians were told to go out and come up with the plans, rather than generating a big conversation. Part of that is a problem with governance. Metro Vancouver is a weak form of government that doesn’t have the resources to generate a gigantic, two million person discussion.
Bob Rennie: Maybe BC Housing should take on this study of what the real housing needs are going to be.

benge-95x105Larry Benge: Co-chair of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods and Kitsilano resident
We need a meaningful conversation about all the issues that we’ve talked about tonight, because that’s the only way we’re going to solve this, and we need to work together because that’s the way the city is going to be a better place.

  • I want to reiterate what Ray Spaxman said. A lot of this is about process in some way. I think we have three groups right now that are not talking to each other – the professionals and developers, the City government, and the neighbourhoods. And I think we really need to establish a civil dialogue among those three groups and have a meaningful conversation about all the issues that we’ve talked about tonight, because that’s the only way we’re going to solve this.
  • And we need to work together because that’s the way the city is going to be a better place.

Stephen Quinn: Thank you very much. Lovely way to end. Thank you all so much for being here this evening. Thank you so much to our panellists, Noha Sedky, Jennifer Marshall, Frances Bula, Bob Rennie.

Links to more highlights from the panel event
Panel event description
Panel event videos
Panel presentations – transcript
Community perspectives
Draft list of 2015 significant events – as reviewed at panel event
Panel bios