‘Misinformation’ behind growing number of Vancouver neighbourhood rebellions: city

Published in 24 Hours Vancouver | August 19, 2013 | Circulation: 251,700

Marpole residents are the latest irate neighbourhood, as outrage over four community plans boils over.  Photo by David P. Ball

Marpole residents are the latest irate neighbourhood, as outrage over four community plans boils over. Photo by David P. Ball

City Coun. Kerry Jang says “misinformation” is behind a growing number of neighbourhood rebellions across Vancouver.

With roughly 1,500 Marpole residents snapping up anti-rezoning lawn signs Sunday, the area in southwest Vancouver is just the latest part of the city where residents say they’re not being heard amidst City Hall’s push to boost density.

The Vision Vancouver councillor encouraged residents to examine plans on the city’s website – and vowed that protests such as those against “thin streets” or highrises at Commercial-Broadway were heard loud and clear before being withdrawn this year.

“There’s a lot of misinformation,” Jang told 24 Hours. “In Marpole, I heard of towers next to single-family dwellings. That’s simply not true.

“It is upsetting to see that. This is part of the problem: people don’t read the plans.”

With the deadline for 30-year community plans likely to be extended past late September following a council resolution last week, critics point out that all four current planning processes are facing growing opposition.

“Every corner of this city is feeling like they’re not being listened to by us,” said Non-Partisan Association Coun. George Affleck. “That worries me.

“It’s a sad thing to see this kind of outrage and the feeling they haven’t been consulted properly … the dogmatic approach of Vision Vancouver to push through things they believe are right for the people of this city, no matter what the people of this city say.”

For one-time mayoral candidate Randy Helten, co-ordinator of the blog CityHallWatch, more dialogue is needed on where the city is headed.

“It’s become very politically charged,” he said. “There’s a very strong bias in favour of desired conclusions – towards maximum density,” he said.

“What is needed is a change of heart right at the core of City Hall … We’re now seeing the end-run of a process that’s been building up towards developers and further away from bottom-up decision-making that respects neighbourhoods.”

Jang said the aim is to increase housing by densifying slowly, over decades, while retaining neighbourhoods’ character, and that petitions and protests have helped inform plans. But his party’s reliance on developer donations may “compromise their ability to make decisions” without bias, Coun. Adriane Carr, the lone Green Party member on council.

“Start with the people,” she said. “To lay ideas down and big-picture objectives is fine, but how you get there has to be done hand-in-hand with citizens who live in our communities and in the city as a whole. They want to mastermind the plan, that’s what citizens are reacting to.”

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