Surreality on July 28
Skip the Art Gallery and Head Straight for City Hall
[ * NOTE: “Linda Guest” is substituted throughout for a real person’s name ]
At 9:57 am on Wednesday July 27, I sent this email to the appropriate City of Vancouver clerk:
Please register Joseph Jones to present to the following item, with Linda Guest* designated as proxy to deliver the presentation. Also please indicate position on speakers list and confirm registration by return email to us both. 1 (b) Vancouver's Next Community Plans at STANDING COMMITTEE OF COUNCIL ON PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENT DATE: Thursday, July 28, 2011 TIME: 2:00 pm PLACE: Council Chamber – Third Floor, City Hall
At 10:26 am this response came back:
Good morning Mr. Jones – As requested, I have registered you to speak to Item 1 (b) – Vancouver's Next Community Plans, at the Standing Committee on Planning and Environment meeting on Thursday, July 28, 2011, at 2:00 pm, with Linda Guest to deliver your presentation by proxy. You are no. 7 on the speakers list.
Around 10:00 pm that evening I finished writing the 500 words that I thought Council should hear. With strange synchronicity, almost immediately an email arrived from Linda, who had just been watching the Shannon Mews public hearing live on video.
9:58 pm Hello there Joe, I turned on city council just now and Gregor is saying that proxy are not allowed anymore per their lawyer advice. They accept written submission by proxy only. Linda
I replied to Linda by email and then we had a telephone conversation. End result: I spent the next afternoon at Council, more than four hours, to deliver a statement designed to be spoken by Linda. (In the past I have complained to Council about the way they jerk around registered speakers. This is a signal instance.)
So the proxy words that I had written for a different voice were read by me the author. Very meta that was, a bureaucratic contortion that only Kafka could love.
On the afternoon, a speaker who preceded me took issue with what had happened the previous evening: the sudden disallowance of proxy speakers, the manipulative extension of the hearing well past 10:00 pm. The chair of the meeting repeatedly lashed that speaker with protocols of procedure, which do not permit imputation of motive. (Never mind that a councillor attributed motive to me on the evening of July 12 in an asymmetrical set-up that allowed me no rebut.) The way City Council operates, rules tend to become a matter of convenience.
I prefaced the following written remarks with a warning that Council were about to experience a narrative oddity resulting from the absence of a confirmed proxy who felt intimidated by their actions of the night before.
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Statement of Joseph Jones on Vancouver’s Next Community Plans
It is appropriate that Linda Guest is speaking to you on my behalf. I, Joseph Jones, am a resident of Norquay, an area whose planning drew to a close late last year. Norquay is the second and to all appearances the last of what planners once foresaw as “neighbourhood centres.” That adds up to two neighbourhood centres done — and 17 still not done. If planning means looking ahead, CityPlan has failed to see even 3/4 of the way ahead — and even worse, spent millions of dollars to accomplish very little. That does not inspire confidence.
My friend Linda used to be a resident of Norquay and now lives in Grandview-Woodland — the community that now stands foremost in the sights of planners, according to the ranking in today’s report. This latest planning initiative seems intent on junking the community visions and the barely started-on neighbourhood centres in favor of something new. Such as producing multiple plans simultaneously with fewer resources. In part, perhaps, this looks like nothing but a flip back to the old local area plans.
Once communities clued in to what visions meant, and people expected to have a say in their own future, planners seemed to shift to a different process.
My word to Linda, and through her to you, and to any in the audience, is this: Be very wary of anyone who wants to plan your community in such a fashion. The driving and overriding interest seems to be extremely narrow: How fast can rezonings be facilitated? And how rapidly and extensively can new building happen? Somehow the vague promises of amenities materialize with much more difficulty. Meanwhile the rezonings and the towers burgeon.
To convert as much of Vancouver as possible into a landing strip for massive airborne cargoes of investor dollars — this is the antithesis of livable and of sustainable. Or of green, either — unless you have an awful lot of paint for all that tarmac.
A simple question here. Where are the metrics? What is the unbuilt-out capacity of already existing zoning? To put the teeth into this question: What in the world has happened to the 1 February 2011 motion of Ellen Woodsworth that asked for accounting on “density in Vancouver”? That motion stated: “This work should be completed as a priority within 30 days.” Let me suggest that 6 times that 30 days onward, Council would do better to finish that homework than to race hastily and crazily forward with this proposal.
Words are running out now. But time should not run out. The far-reaching implications of “Vancouver’s Next Community Plans” deserves more than a nod and a wink as everyone looks to August vacation — except for those already gone in July.
This scheduling is appalling. At the least, table this report until the fall. I oppose approval of this pseudo-plan that I have barely had a chance to look at.
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Epilogue: By the end of the afternoon I was starting to think it might be better for Council to go ahead and haul out the rubber stamp of approval. Which they seemed destined to do in any case. Because it came out in discussion that any delay in approval could allow a rush of development applications seeking to avoid the constrictions of an upcoming period of planning. One developer representative showed up to complain about the impending planning. Raymond Louie subsequently added a confusing section to the final motion. Apparent purpose: to make developers happy. Surreal city!