Planning Vancouver Together: March 1, 2021

Along with sixteen other neighbourhood leaders, I attended this meeting led by Susan Haid, Deputy Director, Long-Range and Strategic Planning, and Amanda Gibbs, both from the City of Vancouver.

Meeting Goals: (1) share findings from phase 1 of the Vancouver Plan which began in July 2019 (council asked for more engagement Oct 2020), is now in phase 2 with a draft expected in 2022 and implementation in 2023 (2) seek advice.

Did you know?

  • The last City Plan was 25 years ago
  • There are 150 people in the COV planning department
  • Kitsilano has had a 34% increase in population since 1986
  • One-third of the homes since 1986 has been torn down 
  • 13% of the land space is high rises; 57% is single detached homes
  • The city has lost 5% of its canopy since 1995

In Phase 1, after 9,800 surveys, 50,000 open surveys and 90+ workshops, six core challenges were identified:

  1. Rising Unaffordability
  2. Housing Insecurity
  3. Visible Public Struggle – homelessness, addiction and mental health impacts
  4. The need for Accessible and Efficient Transportation Options
  5. Widening and Deepening Inequality
  6. Eroding Trust and Confidence in Local Government

Planning Vancouver Together presented the following 10 provisional goals to council in October 2020:

  1. Advance a City of Reconciliation through Decolonization

To respectfully prepare for the future, the Vancouver Plan will need to truth-tell by confronting harmful and challenging pasts, address present inequities, and jointly map out a more harmonious path forward, together.

  1. Create an Equitable, Diverse and Inclusive City

To achieve a more fair, equitable, and vibrant future, we must transform our processes and practices to make room for marginalized people and communities to step forward to the centre.

  1. Become a Sustainable and Carbon-Neutral City

Ensuring the decisions we make today don’t undermine the generations of tomorrow means investing boldly in measures that move us towards a more sustainable future.

  1. Ensure we are a Prepared, Safe and Resilient City

As Vancouver continues to grow, we need to ensure our urban environment and services foster safety and security so that everyone can thrive, and better prepare generations to come for a geological, weather or health crisis.

  1. Develop an Affordable City with Diverse and Secure Housing for every resident that they can afford with 30% or less of their household income. (Note: In 2020 median property values in Vancouver were 13 times household income.)

We are in the midst of a housing crisis, and the cost of living here does not align with the incomes of many who call, or want to call, Vancouver home. We also want to improve affordability to a range of employment opportunities, community services and childcare.

  1. Support a Diverse and Healthy Economy

The well-being of our residents depends on a robust economy where prosperity is created and opportunities are available to everyone, shared and aligned with the values we hold as a city.

  1. Create Complete, Connected and Culturally Vibrant Neighbourhoods 

We need more walkable, accessible, and complete neighbourhoods that are connected throughout our city to ensure that every resident can meet their daily needs without relying on private transportation.

  1. Re-Establish Thriving Urban Natural Systems.

As the most populous and urbanized municipality in the region, Vancouver has lost most of its natural areas and much of their ecological functions through more than a hundred years of development.  We need to preserve our natural beauty and repair and enhance our ecological systems for future generations.

  1. Intentionally Manage our Growth and Align our Efforts Regionally 

By taking a regional approach, Vancouver supports a stronger, healthier, and more robust city region.

  1. Demonstrate Transparency in Decision-Making and Collaborate with Partners

Trust is an essential part of all relationships, including between local government and the community. The City of Vancouver is committed to building increased transparency in decision-making and consultation processes and to constantly enhance governance to effectively engage citizens and lead with a clear vision, priorities, monitor outcomes and constantly learn, adapt and improve our systems.

We were asked to select the three most important goals to us and in three words describe our community’s position: I checked 6, 7 and 10 and wrote, “we are ignored.”

Not discussed at the meeting, but the weak linkage between the six core challenges and the ten provisional goals is insightful. Goals 1 and 3 seem driven by a prevailing social agenda rather than Phase 1 feedback.

Comments from the group:

  • It’s late in the game for us to be asked what we think
  • Liveability isn’t even mentioned
  • Some of these goals aren’t even in the COV’s jurisdiction
  • These are aspirations not goals
  • The plan needs clear outcomes
  • The Vancouver Plan goals are trying to do everything
  • The COV is reinventing the wheel with the Vancouver Plan
  • Community plans are being ignored; there’s no respect for existing plans, Marpole spent three years on a plan that is empty air, rezoning continues, the COV is contradicting the neighbourhood plan it agreed to with the West End
  • How do you create a city-wide community plan in a community (like South YVR) of refugees, mixed nationalities and people who don’t speak the language and are struggling?
  • Should be neighbourhood-based planning not top down
  • Data (on housing for example) is missing (the last regional analysis was 2013)
  • Land use is the big problem
  • Spot zoning is a huge problem
  • Developers have an inordinate influence on the COV
  • Design, delight and good planning are missing
  • The COV is losing trust with citizens
  • The COV is full of silos: does engineering talk to planning? Does PB talk to the COV?
  • There’s nothing in these goals that addresses creativity and innovation

My contribution was that we have been waiting two years for the City engineers, planning, mayor and council, Park Board—anyone—to respond to our requests to discuss the severity of traffic issues and the urgent need for a traffic plan that we’ve been asking for decades, more urgent than ever now, given the major tower developments around us. I quoted Joe Berridge from his book Perfect City and the simplicity of his goals in which he says a city’s job is to create (1) the means for citizens to create and distribute wealth (2) a transportation infrastructure to move ourselves and things around (3) an environment to establish our homes and (4) a place of enduring delight.

Following this meeting, I took Susan Haid up on her offer to meet with neighbourhoods. The Planning Vancouver Together team, along with the staff person in charge of the City’s service agreement with the Senakw, have agreed to host a Zoom community meeting with Kits Point residents, likely in April.

Gloria Sully, Chair KET

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