CityHallWatch has just issued a call for underreported Vancouver stories for 2011. The Norquay story dragged on for yet one more interminable year, scarcely noticed outside the blogosphere.
News by definition is new. Longer-term stories become ever more untouchable as they cease to be new. Fragmentation of narrative into decontextualized bits is a mainstream media strategy to prevent the subjugated from seeing connections. Many of the mass media audience will never find the time or energy to engage with more than diversions (television, spectator sports, etc.) — when they are not otherwise occupied with tasks like income production.
The origins of the Norquay story seem destined to remain obscure. A July 2011 freedom of information (FOI) request sought to find out how and why City of Vancouver planners scheduled four East Vancouver communities (out of a total of 19) to bear the brunt of initial “neighbourhood centres” planning. That FOI request immediately slammed into the standard City of Vancouver brick wall — an estimate only that payment of $540.00 would be required to pursue the information. Even more money was asked to provide Norquay residents a window into the recent amenities planning in which Norquay residents have been denied any participation whatsoever. Bottom line, City of Vancouver to Norquay:
We’ll do as we like, and you’ll find out only as much as we decide to tell you, whenever we feel like
telling you — usually on a short time horizon after we have cooked up a one-off deal with a developer.
The Norquay timeline outlines in sequence the major events of 2011. Here are the top four events and non-events:
• Unilateral termination of Norquay Working Group by City of Vancouver planners
• Lack of structured planning for Norquay benefits and amenities as announced by the Norquay Plan
• Amelioration of planning for 2699 Kingsway development only after strenuous response from residents
• Virtual riot conditions at an open house for 2298 Galt Street planning
Norquay is a part of a huge and scandalous story. The City of Vancouver spent many millions of dollars 1997-2010 producing community visions for nine of Vancouver’s residential neighbourhoods. Then planners simultaneously found themselves struggling to complete the final vision in West Point Grey and to implement the second (last?) neighborhood centre in Norquay. Distrustful Vancouver residents were becoming too aware that the planning was a sham. For that reason, both planning programs meandered along for four long years.
The foundation for Norquay “planning” has been cynical disrespect for the Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision — completed only two years ahead of the start of planning. The Norquay community and its vision never looked toward
• The mass rezoning of 1900 single family dwellings occupying hundreds of acres
• The imposition of a bisecting corridor wall along the entire span of truck-route Kingsway
• The adoption of a non-human scale that only destroys purported walkability and livability
As a lead Norquay planner famously declared to Norquay Working Group in the summer of 2009: “We’re making this up as we go along.” Thus does planning become diktat.