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Vision Vancouver holds West End forum


Vision Vancouver holds West End forum

'I'd like to believe we're not being massaged,' West End resident Aerlyn Weissman says of the town hall hosted by Vision Vancouver members (above). IMAGE 1 OF 1
Participants want real say in community planning
West End residents packed St Paul’s Anglican Church to air their concerns about housing, transportation, neighbourhood development and other issues at a Vision Vancouver town hall Nov 7.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Councillor Tim Stevenson, school board trustee Cherie Payne and park board commissioners Aaron Jasper and Trevor Loke fielded questions and comments from the predominantly friendly audience and provided updates on city initiatives.

Robertson says affordable housing has been the council’s top priority because the market is not keeping up with need.

“The city owns tons of land and buildings; we need to use those assets a lot better and leverage more affordable housing on those sites,” he says.

Robertson says the city will be entertaining 20 proposals for development of buildings up to six storeys along such critical arteries as Main Street to achieve more density. “It has to be affordable; 20 percent below market [value] if it’s for sale or it has to be rental housing.”

Robertson says the city wants to create an affordable housing authority to ensure that type of housing is built.

But not everyone who showed up at the forum was convinced that city council’s plans are in residents’ best interests.

Prior to the start of the meeting, almost a dozen people representing neighbourhood associations across the city gathered outside bearing placards that read "Stop Vision."

Spokesperson Rand Chatterjee believes the majority of council is “out to bulldoze” Vancouver neighbourhoods to benefit private developers.

“We’re very upset in particular with the bulldozing of low-income housing and the restriction on low-income housing in the city, from Little Mountain to Heather Place and countless seniors housing and older buildings that had been in public hands, had been affordable rental, are being sold off, privatized, and we’re sick of it.”

Chatterjee is skeptical of the new community plans that are being developed. “They’re a sham; there’s no conservation whatsoever. The entire intent is to manufacture consent for redevelopment.”

He’d like to see a replication of the “open door” West End planning process of the late 1970s-'80s. “It was done with the planning staff working with the community, in the community.” 

West End resident Aerlyn Weissman, who has been involved with the area’s planning from the beginning, also remembers when the process was more community-focused. She says the 1987 plan included more participation and real decision making by the community. “This time around, we’re advisory,” she says.

“I’d like to believe we’re not being massaged,” she says of the town hall.

“The city has made a big issue about community engagement,” she explains, but she too is skeptical about who’s making the decisions and whose interests will be prioritized.

She says that by the time the community is consulted, it has very little opportunity or influence to make changes. “You’re always chasing a process you’re not fundamentally a part of.”

Echoing Chatterjee, Weissman says she’s waiting to see if events like the town hall are an exercise in “manufacturing consent” — or a place where the social capital of the citizens who inhabit and built the community is acknowledged and harnessed.

City planners recently completed a cultural assets mapping process that recognized the West End as the gay hub.

Vancouver school board trustee Cherie Payne, who recently returned to the West End after a 13-year absence, says one of the main reasons she is now a resident and owner in the area is to be close to a very large queer community.

“I think that people who have grown up in or come of age as members of a cultural minority see the world a little bit differently, mainly because we’re treated a little bit differently,” she says. “It’s important for me to be near a queer community so that I could hear people who had that kind of shared perspective and that shared experience.”

Weissman says that unless housing issues are addressed so queer people can afford to live here, the West End will become “a façade of something that used to be a heart of the queer community.”

Dean Malone, co-chair of the city’s LGBTQ advisory committee, says a subcommittee has been struck to liaise with the city’s planning department and West End planning.

“We’re going to be working directly now with the planning process to make sure Davie Village continues to have queer significance,” Malone says.

The LGBTQ advisory committee has also struck a housing subcommittee, he notes. The challenge is to identify the areas earmarked for redevelopment where below-market rentals and condos can be accommodated.

Malone, who is a West End resident, says there are not a lot of places where the queer community can get together on Davie Street outside of the pubs. Bringing Davie businesses onto the street is key, as well as allowing some of the vacant space to become more arts and culture focused, he suggests.

Malone is also still optimistic that space can be found to house a queer community centre if the community feels that’s important. “We still have an empty lot on Davie and Burrard, and there are spaces on Davie Street that will be redeveloped over the next 10 years.”

None of these ideas is new, he acknowledges, but when the opportunities arise the community needs to be ready to have dialogue with the city and developers so “we’re not an afterthought,” he says.

The community has spread out, Loke says. “If we’re going to pull people back in, we need methods to do that. We need the services to be here, we need the entertainment to reflect the diversity, we need the businesses on the street to be more reflective of the diversity of the community.”
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Response to Taylor
Taylor as the Vision mouthpiece on this blog can you help me understand why Vision are allowing conversion of West End rentals to luxury condos? (ie 1265 Barclay) I'd love to hear the spin on that one.
Good for Vision
Good for Vision. Have the NPA's 2 City Councillors ever even set foot in the West End? And when did the NPA ever consult with West Enders? Never. They're too busy with their Shaughnessy friends.
@ PeterW
You might want to get out of your apartment and take a walk around the West End ! I've lived in the W.E. for several decades now and I've NEVER seen so many vacancies. Buildings that seldom ever had a rental sign out front, on their lawns in the 1990's, now have vacancies every month. Buildings have been forced to renovate and keep their rent increases to a minimum thanks to Yaletown & Coal Harbour being developed adding hundreds of rentals on the rental market. The argument that hi-rise buildings shouldn't be built because that increases rents, is absolutely insane. If you think rents are high now, just watch them sky-rocket if and when development slows or stops outright. Much like technology, a city that doesn't advance, grow, and expand, is doomed to die. Many cities in the Eastern US and even in Canada, are busy putting into place much the same type of development ideas and plans as Vancouver has. They've come to realize that a city must grow and offer both commerce and expanded housing opportunities or their downtowns will become empty, lifeless shells. Google Detroit (what it was like in the '70's, 80's, & 90's) and see what it was once like back then and what it is becoming now because of Vancouver like development over the last 10 years or so. As for Davie Village; this is a old, outdated concept that basically died beginning around 2000. Line-ups for gay restaurants, bars and clubs is over my friend. The gay ghetto(s) of the 70's, 80's & early 90's are disappearing in many North American cities. Life, technology, and even cities change my friend. It's time you changed with them !
Destruction of Davie Village
The issue here is simple. Vision Vancouver and their developer pals want to turn the West End into Yaletown. They want to replace every low rise in the West End with a massive, sterile Yaletown highrise. Make no mistake, this will destroy Davie village and displace the queer community. This is not about providing rentals, Coal Harbour only made rents higher. This is about greed, and a civil party that claims to be progressive, while their actions point to something different all together.
Appalling hypocrites
The link below tells you everything you need to know about Vision Vancouver. They are encouraging developers to bulldoze every inch of Vancouver, pointing to the need to increase the number of rentals. But did you know that Vision at the same time is allowing developers to convert major West End rental buildings into condos? Have a look at the link below. This is an advertisement for condos produced through the conversion of a major West End rental tower into condos. Wall Corporation’s (a major Vision campaign contributor) low profile webpage for this development (www.1265barclay.com) was immediately shut down the day the project sold out. The fact that units have now immediately reappeared on the market suggests that these condos were block sold to investors who are now flipping them. Just in case you get to wondering why Vision’s development spree hasn’t brought your rent down one cent in two terms.
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