Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver

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While I am scanning documents I thought I should also pass along those from the community groups opposing EcoDensity, since that is a subject which has generated discussion here recently

February 24, 2008

Mayor Sullivan and City Councillors City of Vancouver
453 West 12 Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4

Dear Mayor and Councillors:

Re: Draft EcoDensity Charter and Initial Actions – Report to Council dated Nov. 20. 2007

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver is a citywide ad hoc organization of 30 groups that includes residents associations, CityPlan committees, ratepayers associations, civic groups and coalitions. Please accept for your information and consideration, the attached group summary statement dated February 19, 2008 and the detailed letter dated December 19, 2007 (with updated list of groups represented).

We understand that the proposed recommendation to Council from staff is for “…Council (to) instruct the Director of Planning to report back with revisions to the draft Charter and draft Initial Actions, in response to public input received.” Concerns remain that the revised documents will not reflect the fundamental changes required.

In order for staff to do their job, they must be also directed by Council to change it from a density charter where density is the number one tool, to one based on a holistic approach to sustainability where density is one of many means but not the goal. Density must not take priority over affordability and livability. We request that Council do the following:
1. withdraw the charter and initial actions;
2. engage communities in an open, democratic, and extended process to devise effective strategies for managing growth;
3. create a comprehensive and balanced plan for Vancouver founded on a holistic approach to environmental, economic, social, and cultural sustainability, where density does not take priority over affordability or livability.

Regards,

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver
(See page 2 for a list of the supporting groups.)

Cc: Brent Toderian, Director of Planning
Ronda Howard, Assistant Director of Planning – City-Wide and Regional Planning
Kent Munro, Assistant Director of Planning – Community Planning Division
Rob Jenkins, Assistant Director, Current Planning Initiatives Branch
Thor Kuhlmann, Planner, City-Wide Regional Planning

Page 2

Group contact email: agroupofvancouverneighbourhoods(at)hotmail.com
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver
Supporting Group names:
• Arbutus Ridge Concerned Citizens Association
• Arbutus Ridge/Kerrisdale/Shaughnessy CityPlan Vision Implementation Committee
• Britannia Neighbours in Action
• Building Better Neighbourhoods
• Burrardview Community Association
• Citywide Housing Coalition
• Douglas Park Residents Association
• Dunbar CityPlanVision Implementation Committee
• Dunbar Residents’ Association
• East Fraser Lands Committee – Sharon Saunders **
• Friends of Southlands Society
• Grandview Woodlands Area Council
• Hastings Sunrise CityPlan Vision Implementation Committee *
• Kensington Cedar Cottage CityPlan Vision Implementation Committee
• Kitsilano Arbutus Residents’ Association
• Kitsilano Point Residents’ Association
• Marpole Oakridge Area Council Society
• Norquay Neighbours – Joe Jones **
• North West Point Grey Home Owners’ Association
• Reinstate Third Party Appeals
• Riley Park / South Cambie CityPlan Vision Implementation Committee
• Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association
• South Hill Initiative for Neighbourhood Engagement (SHINE)
• Southwest Marine Drive Ratepayers’ Association
• Upper Kitsilano Residents Association
• Victoria Fraserview Killarney CityPlan Committee – Andrea Rolls **
• Victoria Park Group – Gail Mountain **
• West End Residents Association (WERA)
• West Kitsilano Residents Association
• West Point Grey CityPlan Vision Community Liaison Group *
* Members of the group indicate support for the letter, but have not voted on it yet due to
timelines.
** Signed as an individual member

Flyer

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver is a city wide ad hoc organization of 30 neighbourhood groups that includes residents associations, CityPlan Vision implementation committees, ratepayers associations and community groups. This is the first time in the city’s history that such a diverse, broad representation of neighbourhood groups from across the city have come together to carefully consider and address a City initiative. We oppose the Draft EcoDensity Charter and Initial Actions. The summary of our recommendations are outlined below:


Sustainability – We support the concept ofcreating a truly sustainable future for Vancouver based on a holistic balanced approach that accommodates the full definition of environmental, economic, social,
and cultural sustainability. EcoDensity as currently proposed does not accomplish this.


Process
– To date, the community consultation process leading up to a public hearing on February 26,
2008 has been inadequate and imposes an impossible timeline. At this point many still feel that the
meetings and workshops staged by the City are more about selling the EcoDensity initiative than
engaging the public in a dialogue to bring genuine community input into creating the Charter and
Actions. Although staff has indicated they will be recommending substantive changes in a third draft of
the Charter and Actions, any revised proposal should be released for additional community dialogue
and feedback prior to consideration by Council. We need a new process that is democratic,
transparent, and community-based. The process must be extended over a reasonable timeline, not
just rushed through. Many feel that the City should put the Draft EcoDensity Charter and Initial Actions
to referendum as part of the November 2008 civic election.

The Charter – The question of whether or not the city needs an EcoDensity Charter has never been
debated publicly. There are many who feel that it is not required at all and object to the use of the
word ‘charter’. Its role in this context and what its powers are in relation to other city policies has never
been clearly defined. If we do proceed with one, we need it to use a balanced sustainability approach,
not making density the main priority and tool. This must NOT be a direction-to-policy document that
may be used to change inconvenient policy or to circumvent due process. Even if it would not
immediately change existing policy, Council could at any time approve ‘Actions’ under the Charter to
selectively alter existing policies, such as Initial Action 2 that would override existing Community
Visions. This erodes confidence in the public process and discourages public participation. The draft is
an overly prescriptive document that mostly lists actions or opinions, and fails to establish a higher
level statement of principle for sustainability. The only section in the entire proposed draft Charter that
we support keeping is the “ECO-CITY” section as follows:

“AN ECO-CITY
• Champion new, holistic ways to align density, design, and land use with other tools for
environmental, economic, social, and cultural sustainability, to achieve mutual benefits – including strategies for transportation and parking, green building strategies, heritage conservation, affordable housing strategies, urban agriculture and food policy, recycling, new energy systems, social development planning, and the many other related City initiatives.”

We recommend adding the following text:

“Density is one of many tools for sustainability, but density must not take priority over other City objectives, including affordability and liveability. Conserving embodied energy through the retention of existing buildings is an important element for achieving sustainability, with particular emphasis on retention of character and heritage buildings.”

And, finally, there must be adequate accountability, conflict resolution and public appeal provisions,
including restoration of the longstanding right of third-party appeals to the Board of Variance.

Draft Initial Actions – There are so many initial actions proposed that it is impossible for the public to
properly understand and consider the actions with all their complex implications. It is therefore,
premature to be proposing their adoption or implementation. The City should first be engaging in a
comprehensive planning process for both the short term and long term, including improved community
consultation that is democratic, transparent, and community-based. The community must be part of
creating the concept with their opinions incorporated. The initial actions should be limited to a very
small number for further consideration only, with much more time for consultation. A summary of a few
of our recommendations regarding the initial actions include the following:
• Sufficient and sustainable public transit must be in place prior to increasing densification.
• Green buildings should be required, not bonused.
• LEED is not an adequate rating system for sustainability. It does not give enough weight to the conservation of the embodied energy of retaining existing buildings, with character and heritage buildings of most concern.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 8, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Posted in land use, Urban Planning

Tagged with ,

4 Responses

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  1. As a homeowner in Kitsilano for four years, I am kind of surprised that there are four different residents associations for the area. I have never heard a single peep from any of these groups, and had no idea of their existence. So their ability to speak on my behalf is somewhat questionable…

    Mark Allerton

    March 8, 2008 at 2:24 pm

  2. […] down people’s throats”. Ecodensity has got nothing to do with the environment. There is now a coalition of 30 neighborhoods opposed to the EcoDensity Charter. But he emphasised that “we want to work with the process” to allow growth but build in […]

  3. […] a number of NGO’s: Vancouver Peak Oil, Village Vancouver, NowBC, Farm Folk/City Folk, BCSEA, Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, and so on – we’d get as many as possible to join in on the realization of it with […]

  4. I was impressed at the performance of Elizabeth Murphey last night at Connecting People and Places: Civic Election Candidates Discuss our Transportation Future @ SFU Vancouver. She challenged the zoning/development/transportation triangulation effectively. Other candidates, and many attending the event, supported the status quo, and were unwilling to be critical of corrupt planning process. As a resident of Dunbar, I look forward to participating in many ‘quality conversations’ to understand the inherent conflicts between development, transportation, and community interests, and prerequisites for a real City.

    limner

    November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm


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