Grandview-Woodland Community Plan gets competition from local group

I have waited
with a glacier's patience...
–– Neko Case

It's been a year since public outcry forced the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan back to the drawing board. What progress has been made since then?

Jak King, GW Ad-Hoc Committee

Doing it for themselves

“People aren't afraid of change. They’re afraid of loss.” So said Jak King, former President of the Grandview Woodland Area Council, over a cup of coffee on The Drive. Locals are tired of waiting, he said, and have formed the Grandview-Woodland Ad-Hoc Committee to get on with the neighbourhood planning process; or to at least tip the City's hand.

It was a rainy morning on Commercial Drive. Mom-and-pop grocery stores laid out their crates of vegetables, artfully-disheveled twenty-somethings rabbited away on Macbook Pros behind cafe windows. A homeless guy was skidding back and forth across Grant Street in worn-out trainers, like an extra from a Michael Jackson video.

Commercial Drive, Vancouver

Last year, Grandview-Woodland's residents loudly rejected the Emerging Directions document, which would plunk 35-story condo towers at Broadway and Commercial. That plan was a microcosm of everything that City Hall is accused of being: too developer-friendly, too tone-deaf to citizens' voices.

The Grandview-Woodland Community Plan was yanked back to the drawing board. City planner Andrew Pask wrote in an email that the density intensity would be revisited following a new round of public consultation. This was in July.

Since then, two other community plans –– DTESLAP and the Marpole Community Plan –– have been approved by City Council. DTESLAP was pilloried in Council Chamber for its disenfranchisement of poor residents of the affected neighbourhood, while the Marpole plan was held up by speakers as a success story of public re-engagement.

Those who drafted the Marpole plan chose their battles carefully: the most controversial aspects of Marpole’s development –– Pearson-Dogwood, the Cambie Corridor, the Community Centre –– are absent from the Marpole Community Plan.The main sticking point was the preservation of all that SR1 (single-family home) zoning. Homeowners were able to organize and push for major concessions.

The city's neighbourhoods are not interchangeable, though. King said, “What attracted me [to Vancouver] when I came here in the late Seventies was that it was a city full of diverse neighbourhoods." However, all of them are full of people, people who want to be listened to.

Keep your eye on the ball

King said that, headlines notwithstanding, it's not entirely about the condo buildings. "Last June there was a lot of hue and cry about the 35-story towers at Broadway and Commercial, and that was the focus of a lot of media attention, but most of us were looking at the much broader issue of what was wrong with the plan other than just a specific point.”

The towers “were flashpoints”, but “the big problem with last summer’s plan was that we had all these workshops for six or seven months before the plan coming out, and we talked about ‘soft issues’ like parks and public safety, and arts and heritage, ... never once, not once, did we talk about land use and zoning.”

However, when the Emerging Directions document dropped, there it was: along with the issues discussed with the Grandview-Woodland residents, “fifteen or sixteen pages of land use and zoning, which came as an absolute shock to everybody. We’ve never really had a chance to discuss any of the land use or zoning issues. The problem ever since last June has been one of process –– or lack of process.”

Jak King, GWAC President

It’s now nine months since Emerging Directions was published; and nearly eight months since General Manager of Planning and Development Services Brian Jackson's Report in City Council, which led to a 12-month extension in consultation for the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.

“We were given what was called a ‘Citizens’ Assembly’, which had no definition.” Planners were told to come back to Council with an idea of how to move forward with that Citizens’ Assembly in December, but, says King, “with the exception of a few info sessions in January, we’ve heard nothing from the City in all that time.”

He added, “When we asked for the extension, we didn’t want silence: we wanted to talk.”

King said, “I got an email from the planners last week, saying they’re still thinking about it. They’re still talking amongst themselves, really. I think, frankly, that the planners, and maybe the city, want a very small, select group of people to be the Citizens’ Assembly, and to have a very narrow scope of what the Citizen’s Assembly looks at. What they’ve heard and what we’ve told them at the info sessions in January, is that the residents want a wide-open Citizens’ Assembly... and it should be a very broad mandate, it should look at every part of the Community Plan.”

(As he spoke, a woman in tight jeans walks past the cafe window. A gent with a long white beard swivels his head to watch her pass. Like an owl.)

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