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Vancouver City Hall autumn preview: more exciting than you think

Who says local government isn't exciting? See what's coming up in Vancouver City Council.

You want drama? You got it!

Vancouver City Council returns to chambers on September 24. While the first agendas of the season have not been finalized, we've found out what to expect, starting with the very first meeting.

Those who follow real-estate development, transit, affordable-housing, and bike-lane policy in Vancouver will not be left hanging: as with the final season of "Breaking Bad", they're getting to the good stuff right away.

Besides a bunch of hot debate topics, we are also left with an impression of how our local political parties see their relationships with each other, and with provincial government. Get ready for primetime-quality drama at Vancouver City Hall.

Grandview-Woodland and Marpole

The Grandview-Woodland community plan and the Marpole community plan will go before City Council on September 24, at least to determine whether more time is needed to flesh it out in a way that addresses the concerns of the actual Grandview-Woodland community. Neighbours were infuriated when they found out that the plan involved surrounding Commercial Drive SkyTrain station with high-rise condo buildings.

NPA councillor George Affleck told me, "The community planning process has gone off the rails lately," a sentiment echoed by Grandview Woodland Area Council President Jak King when last we spoke.

GWAC members have circled September 24 on their calendars; considering how many people will likely want to speak on the issue, they've circled September 25 as well. The hearing will focus on whether or not the Grandview-Woodland will be delayed will be discussed on the 24th. Affleck reckons the residents of the neighbourhood will want it delayed, "but whether or not Vision is listening to the neighbours is the question."

Indeed, the Emerging Directions plan was pretty much a textbook on how to make enemies out of the people who should be your friends.

Meanwhile, Vision Vancouver Councillor Andrea Reimer told me that there are nine other community plans waiting to happen, and that the city hopes to avoid a repeat of Emerging Directions by launching an online community-engagement panel and organizing a task force on civic engagement. [TalkVancouver is now live.] "Engagement will be a big focus," said Reimer. "We're looking how to improve how the city engages with residents, and how residents can engage with each other."

"How do the residents see their community evolving, keeping in mind they have this huge hub? How could more people live next to great places like the drive, and tackle the affordability issues attached to that?”

Broadway Corridor

Vision Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs told me, "TransLink issues will be front and center", particularly the push for a subway line along Broadway. A dedicated rapid-transit artery that feeds UBC, Emily Carr, and the Vancouver General Hospital complex is a no-brainer, said Meggs: "The demand is there. the argument doesn’t need to be made for the Broadway Corridor– the argument makes itself."

Andrea Reimer agrees, saying, "We’ve had this transit renaissance these past three or four years. Demand has outpaced the service level, and it has definitely outpaced the funding level."

A trigger for this was the Olympics. Fraught though the Canada Line construction process was, Vancouverites finally got rail service to the airport. While saddling the city with massive debt, at least the Olympic Games focused provincial and local political will to re-approach the transit issue: all the hand-wringing over whether Vancouver is a world-class city or not would be pointless if you still had to crawl through surface streets to get to the airport.

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