On Brian Jackson’s decision to retire

GWAC recognizes the importance of community activism throughout the city that is building community engagement and moderating the growth in large scale residential developments. We also acknowledge the important contribution to this development from former planners who love the city, have made a defining impact on it. They are now sought after to shape cities around the world yet continue to care enormously about Vancouver and work to ensure its future. We consider them essential allies in our effort to maintain Vancouver as one of the world’s most liveable cities.

We see Brian Jackson’s decision to retire after three difficult years as head of city planning as a natural transition, and hope that it will lead to improvement on City Council’s stated goals of community engagement and consultation in planning. We are convinced that the members of the city Planning Department are skilled, thoughtful and committed to these same goals, and we look forward to positive and constructive collaboration with both city planners and councillors going forward.

Changes to the web site

New web site address: You can now find us at www.gwac.ca, which should be easier to remember than the old web address.

New email addresses: For general enquiries, please email us at info@gwac.ca. If you’re a member of the media, you can also reach us at media@gwac.ca.

We’ve also updated the look of the news page to make it easier for you to read and for us to maintain. Note that as I moved the information over, I didn’t have the exact date for each news item, so some of the dates below are approximate.

Press release: Unneeded Density Can Kill Affordability

Grandview-Woodland Area Council Responds to Citizens Assembly Recommendations

Two years ago, the community angrily rejected City plans for towers in Grandview Woodland – up to 36 storeys at Broadway and Commercial. In response, the City struck a Citizens’ Assembly (CA) that recently released its Final Report. It recommended much of that original density.

The Grandview-Woodland Area Council (GWAC) is not convinced that the area needs any more density. Recently rapid densification has made other parts of the city more expensive to live in. Larry Beasley, Vancouver’s former Co-Director of Planning suggests in his new book that 40 housing units per hectare makes for a livable, sustainable community. Grandview-Woodland is at or around that threshold now.

“The CA recommends up-zoning for towers in some parts of the neighbourhood,” said GWAC board member Jim Fraser, “but the City’s own report shows that Vancouver already has enough room within existing zoning for 20 years of growth. Yet the report was not made available to the CA.”

Some CA recommendations will lead to the demolition of affordable, three-story walk-up apartment buildings that are common throughout Grandview-Woodland. GWAC would like to see them kept standing, except where occupants’ health and safety are imperiled.

“This neighbourhood was created by and for lower income people,” said Garth Mullins,  GWAC board member. “That’s part of what makes it so great. And we like it that way.”

GWAC president Dorothy Barkley added that “some infill, lock off suites and laneway housing could create affordable options. But expensive towers won’t.”

Before the City permits more development, over-stressed infrastructure must catch up with the existing demand. Grandview-Woodland is underserved in parks, daycare, transportation and other amenities.     

GWAC calls on all levels of government to fully fund social goods. But the City is getting big developers to pay for everything from parks to social housing through Community Amenity Contributions (CACs). That’s one reason why the CA recommends more development. Under the CAC system, a developer negotiates a payment to the city for funding public amenities. In exchange, zoned height and density can be changed – behind closed doors. If the price is right, any community plan can be circumvented, even the CA’s Final Report.

“CACs undermine planning, create uncertainty and empower developers at the expense of communities,” said Mullins. “They open the door for corruption.”

GWAC calls for a return to public funding. But if CACs are to remain an important revenue source for a cash-strapped city, the community must be part of negotiating them. GWAC board member Eileen Mosca said “GWAC and other community groups must be part of the City’s negotiation of CACs in their communities.”

The CA has made many positive recommendations which GWAC supports. However, GWAC wants to be a part of any next steps and the implementation of the CA’s report. The City must consult the community on the Report.

Finally, GWAC would like to recognize the 48 members of the Citizens’ Assembly for the time and passion they put into the project. We may not all agree all the time, but we respect the commitment and contributions all CA members have made to our community.

The Grandview-Woodland Area Council (GWAC.ca) strives to represent the interests of Grandview-Woodland, to inform and activate its residents and to advocate for the protection and enrichment of our community

Contact: Garth Mullins
T: @garthmullins   

Contact: Jim Fraser

July Community Forum: Larry Beasley

Larry Beasley led a very instructive and inspiring conversation about neighbourhoods and the planning process in Vancouver and elsewhere.  He has co-authored a book which is available from Island Press.  Barnett and Beasley show how ecodesign helps adapt the design of our built environment to both a changing climate and a rapidly growing world, creating more desirable places in the process. In six comprehensively illustrated chapters, the authors explain ways to:
·         Preserve and restore natural systems while also adapting to climate change;
·         Minimize congestion on highways and at airports by balancing the transportation system with transit, particularly BRT and improved passenger rail, by making it easier and safer to walk and cycle, and by making places more compact;
·         Craft and manage regulations to create more desirable places and full-fill consumer preferences, while meeting economic constraints and creating development incentives;
·         Make an inviting and environmentally responsible public realm from parks to streets to forgotten spaces; and – most importantly –
·         The authors then explain, in their final chapter, how to implement these concepts.

 Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs
By Jonathan Barnett and Larry Beasley
Paperback and E-book
304 pages | Price: $45.00
ISBN: 9781610913423
Publication Date: June 23, 2015
www.islandpress.org/ecodesign-for-cities-and-suburbs
Feel free to include the discount code, 4ECOD.

We hope to hold several meetings in July/August to clarify issues and deepen our understanding of  the affordability crisis & housing, CACs & pro forma development and building massing & density.  Stay tuned for details!   Look for a review of Citizens’ Assembly recommendations for our September meeting and a federal election forum in early October.