Tribute to Marpole
This posting probably is the furthest Eye on Norquay has ever strayed from its focus on Norquay and East Vancouver. Tribute is due to the amazing grassroots organizing now occurring in Marpole. That organizing brings back memories of Norquay’s chaotic open houses in June 2007, of the local residents’ strong rejection of City of Vancouver Norquay planning shown by their own June 2007 survey, of the lively demonstration in front of City Hall in September 2007, of the fractious public meeting held at Collingwood Neighbourhood House in October 2007, of the unwanted resident-generated Norquay plan produced by Norquay Working Group in August 2009, of the sudden City of Vancouver exclusion of about 500 northern-area properties from Norquay planning in November 2009, of the sudden shut-down of Norquay Working Group in February 2011. May Marpole learn from these and other twists and turns and thus stand even stronger in resistance to the bulldozer of City of Vancouver “planning”!
Marpole is organized. That was by far the most important message delivered to Vancouver City Council on 25 September 2013.
Here are the quantitatives. Speakers claim to have reached about 80% of all residents. Weekly meetings have attendance of 80-100. Some summer 2013 City of Vancouver survey is said to have met with 69% disapproval of the planning.
Marpole at 24 September 2013 City Hall Rally
After multiple delays, from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm, Council finally began to deal with a regular agenda item that had attracted over seventy sign-ups to speak: Community Plans: Next Steps. By the 6:00 pm recess for supper, Council had heard from three speakers. Between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm, the list progressed through speaker number 32. And progressed that far only thanks to at least eight no-shows!
Yours truly, Joseph Jones of Eye on Norquay, number 33, was the first no-show when the agenda item recommenced at 2 pm on 26 September 2013. Told less than 24 hours in advance to start at 1:30 pm on September 25th, waiting for eight and a half hours at City Hall, seeing a Council eager to shut down and go home rather than hear from still-gathered speakers — I got fed up with being jerked around. The disrespect overwhelms.
A standard City Hall tactic to deal with a long list of unwanted speakers is to shift agenda, and shift it multiple times, with little or no notice to the persons signed up to speak. Jobs, other commitments, lack of physical endurance — all these factors, aggravated by an indefinite inability to schedule anything else, guarantee that a significant number of speakers will never be heard. This is exactly what the disengaged City wants to achieve.
My opportunity to witness Marpole’s evening of singular pushback more than made up for never having the opportunity to make my own main point in that forum: Community plans need to be monitored and evaluated. As the City of Vancouver pushes ahead to finish off four plans so it can race off to execute yet more new plans, it fails to glance backward and assess the recent plans adopted for Kingsway and Knight, Norquay, and Mount Pleasant. Those plans amount to little more than wreckage left behind by a naked grab for raw height and raw FSR. Delivery of amenities is demonstrably of no concern. Those areas have already been packaged up for the developers, and that is all that matters. Beyond the lack of plan evaluation lies true horror: fake planning. The ugliest example is the failure to complete the shopping area planning for Kingsway and Knight (a done-in community which is no longer even considered an active planning process).
What Marpole Is Communicating
Marpole’s surmounting of the barriers erected against speakers served as a prime element to put apparent fear into the hearts of the Vision Council.
One after another, like clockwork, Marpole speakers did show up. They delivered a consistent message: support for nothing but extending the process, preferably on the same terms already offered to Grandview-Woodland. Coupled with that primary message was a strong refusal by all to see one area lopped off to remain (for how long?) in single-family zoning.
Eye on Norquay rejoiced in the obvious breadth represented by speakers: occupation, education, ethnicity, age. Add to that the clear existence of a multiplicity of strong and effective leadership.
These folk recognize a hasty divide-and-conquer tactic, and think beyond their own personal doorsteps. (This may relate to the “clustering” that City of Vancouver said was observed in the geographic distribution of some previous response from Marpole.)
During the evening, the power and extent of their grassroots community organizing emerged. Perhaps most effective were stories of persistent and repeated door to door canvassing, with no door crossed off the list because no one answered a knock the first time. Speakers themselves showed evident connection with local ethnic constituencies, notably the Chinese. More than one speaker gave clear indication of strong youth involvement in the organizing.
One 80-year-old woman forcefully raised the property tax issue. A distraught young father showed understanding of the class bias in the selection of the Marpole area for mass rezoning. A realtor, a mother of university students, exposed the connection between increasing supply of land for developer profits and impairment of the value of properties owned by existing residents.
At the end of the evening, Councillor Andrea Reimer was pressing this eloquent and savvy realtor to say whether Marpole would let up if Council were to cede a second area back to single-family zoning.
At several points Councillor Heather Deal trotted out the old silent majority ploy — made infamous by Richard Nixon, that sorry impeached president, remember him? — that was so often directed at Norquay: How do you propose to represent Marpole? What about the people you haven’t contacted? [Real meaning: The other voices we wish we were hearing from alongside of yours.] Instead, the question that Deal and her Vision Vancouver bloc need to answer themselves is this one: How does Vision Vancouver “represent” anything but brute force, after having found support among less than half of the 35% Vancouver voter turnout in 2011?
About all I know is what I observed at City Council on the evening of September 25th. All of today was consumed by a different interest. Internet sleuthing indicates that some of the speakers between #33 and #61 were heard between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm on September 26th, and that the agenda item seems set to resume at 2:00 pm on September 27th. I wish I had been able to post this report and comment in a more timely fashion.
A supplement to the foregoing can be found at https://twitter.com/jonesj (live tweetstream of 25 September 2013), much of it hashtagged #ourvancouver.
P.S. If any councillor cares what I think, let them seek out this posting. Feel free to call it to their attention yourself. For now I’ve had it with spitting into an ill wind that blows from all directions, a wind that does almost nothing but propel the sails of developers.
Marpole at 24 September 2013 City Hall Rally