Town Hall Turnout
A “town hall meeting” on Friday May 13 brought out 150-200 people from across Vancouver. The Unitarian Church sanctuary at 49th and Oak had well filled pews. Shannon Mews Neighbours Association (SMNA) sponsored a forum titled The Impact of Civic Planning Policy on the Future of the City’s Communities.
Up at the front, a panel consisted of three city councillors (Ellen Woodsworth – COPE, George Chow – Vision, Suzanne Anton – NPA) together with announced NPA candidate Bill McCreery. Each of the four made statements on assigned topics, followed by four rounds of in-turn comment on those topics. Woodsworth led off on spot rezoning, followed by Chow on planning for the future, McCreery on healthy neighborhoods, and Anton on EcoDensity™.
Most of the applause went to comments made by McCreery and Woodsworth. The explanations and defenses offered up by Chow (representing Vision) met with almost universal silence. Anton fared better than Chow, but not nearly as well as the other two panelists.
Chow demonstrated incomprehension of even the fundamentals of recent Vancouver planning history. According to Chow, CityPlan (binder held up for all to see) came forward in the early 1990s, and then there was a “switch” to the visioning process. Perhaps current Vision councillors have grown so accustomed to switching that nothing at all has — or should expect to have — continuity. The truth is that community visions were supposed to be the implementation of CityPlan.
The plight of Norquay received good exposure. Candidate McCreery recounted his own perturbation at witnessing city planning staff solicit support for their plan within the council chamber on 4 November 2010. [ Even after that inappropriate planner activity, the minutes (p. 2) record 15 of 23 speakers opposed. ]
The Norquay circumstances contrast starkly with the recent Cambie corridor outcome — mentioned in the town hall meeting — where a majority of speakers supported the recommendations [ the minutes confusingly record “105 speakers, 64 in support of and 43 opposed” (p. 3) and then follow with a record of yet more speakers! ]. For anyone to make much of that majority support among Cambie corridor speakers seems strange, since an even stronger majority opposed seems not to have mattered at all for Norquay.
Perhaps the most poignant comment came from a woman accompanied by her young daughter. A resident of the area near Cambie and King Edward, she detailed severe difficulties (daycare, school enrollment even within catchment, community centre activities) that force her to compete for places through lottery and vigilant online registration. She questioned how city officials could contemplate further intensification in the Cambie corridor when residents already have to live under such inadequate conditions.
Throughout the evening, the strongest applause tended to follow remarks about the dysfunction of current city planning in Vancouver, and the shortcomings of both city planning staff and of the councillors who should be giving them proper direction.
Background note. As the event approached, panel representation for Vision Vancouver underwent this series of changes: First, Geoff Meggs was announced as participant; second, Meggs had bowed out and no one from Vision would be coming; third, George Chow stepped up to the plate.
Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight has reported on the event at length.