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Vancouver's Transportation Strategy

Transportation Plan
A Conversation with Peter Ladner
The following is a report on the information presented on July 18th, 2006 by Councillor Peter Ladner.

Walk
Walk Trips up 44%
Land-use planning has supported higher densities and neighborhoods with easy access to shopping and work.

Walk trips make up 27% of all trips to Downtown and 65% of trips within Downtown. Walking accounts for about 17% of all trips in Vancouver.

Bike
Bike Trips up 180%
The City has doubled the bike network from 80 km to 170 km.

Bike trips have tripled to over 50,000 a day. The 2700 trips into downtown in the morning are equivalent to 50 to 60 full transit busses. Bike trips are the fastest growing way to get around.

Transit
Transit Trips up 20%
Transit trips are up as a direct result of new bus service created by the Area Transit Plan.

Trips to UBC went up 62% within two years of introducing U-pass. Number of transit trips on Broadway has doubled in past five years but targets are not being met. Growth in transit ridership is outpacing all other major Canadian transit systems.

Vehicles
Vehicle Trips down 10%
The total kilometres driven by Vancouver registered vehicles is down 29%

Vehicle trips entering Vancouver are down 10%, entering Downtown are down 7%, and represent only 10% of all trips within Downtown. Except for Montreal, Vancouver has the smallest proportion of people taking cars to work.

A PowerPoint presentation of the
Transportation Plan Progress Report can be found at
http://vancouver.ca/engsvcs/transport/plan/pdf/ppt681.pdf

The full report can be found at
http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20060530/documents/rr1a.pdf



Presented by the Downtown Vancouver Association and the
University of British Columbia Downtown Campus
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Future Directions for City Hall



Suzanne Anton

Suzanne Anton
City Councillor

A Conversation with Suzanne Anton
The following is a report on the information presented on June 22nd, 2006 by Councillor Suzanne Anton and the conversation and ideas it created.

Information

Vancouver City Council is currently dealing with three significant urban design issues, - the transportation plan, the ecodensity initiative, and the proposed outdoor stadium on the waterfront.

Transportation

The City of Vancouver, Translink, and the Province each have their own transportation plans. The challenge is that they have not worked closely together, so there are differences between what each is saying. Everyone agrees the goal is to move people and goods. The emphasis is to move people not cars, and to move goods in tandem with the growth in importance of the Port of Vancouver.

The GVRD's Livable Region Strategic Plan has been aimed at trying to concentrate growth in centres and to provide good transportation between those centres.

Vancouver is already at capacity. We can not take any more private vehicle traffic and all the emphasis must be on transit, walking or bicycles. All of our major arteries are clogged during peak times and there are a number of serious bottlenecks such as the Port Mann Bridge and the Arthur Laing Bridge. The biggest challenge is the Broadway corridor. We have 100,000 boardings a day and lengthy lines at the Broadway Skytrain station. The corridor has been Vancouver's top priority for many years, but it keeps being pushed back by other initiatives. First it was the Millennium Line and then the Canada Line, and now it is the North East Sector Evergreen Line. Many of our bus routes carry more passengers every day than are planned for the Evergreen Line.

The City is currently updating the transportation plan which has been in use for the last decade. We would like participation in these discussions.

The downtown streetcar which will relieve pressure on some bus routes and also be a fabulous tourist attraction. It is costly but at the same time very exciting and necessary for downtown Vancouver.

Ecodensity

Sam Sullivan's "Initiative on Ecodensity" is very important because it is impractical and impossible to house all of our population in single family houses. The City is looking at solutions for both housing and transportation problems from an environmental perspective. Ecodensity is the most environmentally friendly way of housing the growing population in the region.

Gordon Campbell attempted to encouraging density when he was Mayor with a neighbourhood by neighbourhood planning process. This involved sitting down with people and asking them what they wanted their neighbourhood to look like, what kind of transportation and housing, and what kind of amenities such as schools and parks. The result was CityPlan, which is the foundation for Ecodensity.

High density areas are much more environmentally friendly and more cost effective to provide good public amenities and infrastructure. It is important to keep up public amenities, playing fields, cultural facilities, and good transportation systems. Another goal is to keep places affordable. This is always going to be a challenge in Vancouver because our city is such a desirable place to live.

The most environmentally friendly citizens in Vancouver live in the west end. They walk to work, live in small apartments, and don't buy a lot. Their footprint on the planet is small compared to other lifestyles. Young families are now choosing to live in downtown apartments rather than buying houses in the suburbs. People who walk to work don't increase traffic into the city core. We have the highest amount of walkers in Canada, maybe in North America, except for the Manhattan area in New York City.

The Stadium

A 15,000 seat mid-sized outdoor stadium is something we are missing in Vancouver

Greg Kerfoot was invited to build a stadium for the Whitecaps by the previous mayor. The proposed location in False Creek didn't work so the City suggested the CP Rail Yard instead and he bought the property. A new soccer stadium will be a fabulous facility for the city if it can be built without serious negative impacts on Gastown and the surrounding neighborhoods. Mr. Kerfoot's team has been working with the Port but there is community opposition and a process has not yet started to see if it is feasible and address rezoning.

Looking at it from an organic question we might ask, "What should be down there?" The City, Province, or Federal Government could invest in a park space but the prospect and likelihood of that is remote. It is a challenge to site a major sports facility when people can always think of something else they would rather use the space for. Right now there is no access to the waterfront because of the tracks, which makes the stadium attractive assuming it provides walkways or some way for the public to have access to the waterfront.

The piece of land that Mr. Kerfoot has purchased, which extends up to Crab Park, is one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the world except for the train tracks and it is the most interesting piece of property in the entire city right now. The tracks will remain in operation and will continue to be important to the Port, who are currently looking at their own plans and sparking a lot of conversation.

The Stadium as it is proposed right now takes only a portion of the 2.2 million buildable square feet so the second part of the conversation is "What do we do with the rest of the land?"

The Port of Vancouver's Waterfront Hub Study is going to be part of the decision making process. This is making the Port look at its own plans and sparking a lot of conversation. It will be interesting to see where the spark takes us.

Conversation and Ideas

The Stadium

  • “Since this is possibly one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the world it is difficult not to think about creating something really audacious and iconic that represents Vancouver as an emerging creative city in the world. There are lots of projects being considered and discussed like the Asia Pacific Centre, the National Gallery for Aboriginal Art, and the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education.”

  • “Given the emergence of the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood as a cultural precinct, the possibility of creating something like the Frank Gehry designed amphitheatre in Millennium Park in Chicago and a cultural centre for people to gather around seems worth exploring.”

  • “Having a new outdoor soccer stadium in Vancouver is a great idea. It is just a question of whether this is the best location. So far no one has come up with a plan B.”

  • “We have all been proponents of people not making U-turns at Gassy Jacks and trying to create a fully integrated experience of the area. It would also be good if the Carrall Street Greenway became the entrance to something fabulous. That is an exciting prospect.”

  • “It is interesting to think about things that would assist Gastown and the whole Downtown Eastside area in its development, including Chinatown, Oppenheimer Park and Strathcona, and think about using the eastern end of that site for the stadium and the western end for a place that captures a little more of what Vancouver is all about.”

  • “The waterfront is symbolic of Vancouver and this creates an interesting possibility, a collaboration of architects on several buildings that might create a cultural experience centre. It would be nice to be more astonished here in Vancouver with architecture. We have the setting for architects.”

  • “There are different opinions about what might be done. Inviting Greg Kerfoot to talk about the new stadium and engaging people in the conversation could create more opportunities to consider.”

     


Creating a Civil City
Addressing Street Disorder



Downtown Vancouver Association
Community Issues Breakfast

A Conversation Kim Capri
The following is a report on the information presented on June 22nd, 2006 by Councillor Kim Capri and the conversation and ideas it created.

Councillor Kim Capri has had a range of work experiences. When she graduated from university she was initially planning to become a police officer, but due to circumstances, she started working as a caseworker in a half-way house with the John Howard Society, supervising and teaching basic life skills to men on day parole who had served federal prison sentences. She also volunteered with the Vancouver Police in Car 66. Later in her career, she decided it was time to look with a different angle at the criminal justice system - the prevention side and the root causes of crime and worked with the BC Crime Prevention Association.

Kim is working with the Mayor to develop a new, coordinated and integrated approach to street disorder issues intended to address graffiti, littering, by-law infractions, aggressive panhandling and other public disorder activities. The plan is to bring recommendations to City Council this fall. Involvement from the entire community will be needed in solving this problem. These are some of Kim Capri's observations on street disorder.

Information

The conversation begins with the City's Ecodensity Initiative. Ecodensity is about creating communities where people live in closer proximity as an environmental response to the fact that human beings are taking up too much of the planet's surface area, and we need to find ways to live in denser environments.

Density and social order have a very significant relationship. If we are asking people to live together in closer proximity, then we need to be able to manage our lifestyles so we are able to get along. There are a number of issues and concerns we need to address and that we are working on.

Homelessness Action Plan

Poverty is a relation to crime. Homelessness is a contributor to crime. When people are desperate and living on the streets they become more vulnerable and drawn into crime.

Many of the root causes of homelessness are outside the domain of the City of Vancouver's mandate. Vancouver is stepping up with our Homelessness Action Plan.

1. Housing.
We have purchased land through our property endowment fund. The City of Vancouver has 19 properties that are zoned and available and ready for the province and the federal government to build housing units.

2. Financial.
We look at the welfare rates and see they have not been raised in almost 20 years.

3. Support Services.
There are a lot of people living in the streets that are not able to manage on a day to day basis, dealing with mental illness, suffering from serious addictions, in need of outreach support services to remind them to take medication and assist them with living skills.

Regional Policing

Vancouver police are not just policing Vancouver. They are providing policing services for the region. For example, the Celebration of Light is a fantastic event that hundreds of thousands of people from the region come to experience. The Vancouver police are challenged to provide the resources to police this initiative. Similarly, a lot of people from outside Vancouver come into Vancouver everyday to work. Perhaps this ebb and flow of population should be addressed by a regional policing strategy.

The Four Pillars

"I think the Four Pillars is a very solid idea. Putting the four pillars into action is something else. I argue that not all four pillars are equally strong."

There are some inconsistencies being created. It is fairly regularly stated now, that addictions are a medical problem. If that is the case, then, why is treatment not as readily available, as it is for someone suffering from diabetes or cancer and why is there such stigma and judgment attached to addiction?

Similarly, we have a supervised injection site. The drugs they have are illegal and they likely had to commit crime to acquire these drugs, but they are provided with a safe environment to use the drugs. This is ironic. The site is there for all the right arguable reasons. It prevents harm and reduces health care costs, - the business case and the humane argument - but there is a policy inconsistency I think we need to look at.

We tell our police, "Go out and do your job and arrest the bad guys." Well, people who are dealing drugs or using drugs at a low level, if they get arrested and taken to court, they are returned to the community the next day due to the justice system - another inconsistency.

Crime Prevention

"I often use crime prevention and health analogies. It's like fighting a cold. If you take care of yourself, when you get the sniffles or you start to feel a little bit achy, you are going to remain healthy."

"I argue that freedom and responsibility are joined at the hip. The more people accept personal responsibility, the less enforcement is needed, the less rules from above."

Crime prevention is starting to move in a community preventative direction. Crime prevention used to be, - "Let's call the cops". Now it is becoming a community response, an individual response. There are things each of us can do. It is not about socio-economic status, it is about regulated, troublesome, unlawful behavior.

DVBIA and the Dumpsters

The DVBIA has been doing some studies around dumpsters. They mapped where all the dumpsters are located in the downtown area and then mapped where low level disturbances occur. The two maps showed a clear correlation.

They are arguing to get rid of dumpsters. Locking them or frequent pick up of garbage are solutions. Council made a decision to move in that direction.

What Are We Doing Now? - The Survey

The mayor put a website up that asks some very simple questions about disorder. What are the things that you are concerned about? What are the areas of disorder you would like to see us address? It is a simple survey that allows people to check boxes. There is also a section for comments. We have over 2500 surveys completed at this point. People sent in essays, thoughts and ideas, expressions of frustration, anger, an overwhelming sense of the need to do something, and details of what their daily lives are like in facing disorder on our streets.

Three themes have emerged from the survey:

1. Enforcement
We need some one to actually get tough on this stuff, whether that means issuing tickets, or arrests, or patrols. We want someone to deal with it.

2. A Call for More Services
We need housing for homeless people. We don't want homeless people sleeping in our doorways, defecating in our business lanes, harassing people. So, they need to be supported through housing.

3. Personal Responsibility
We, as citizens, address our own personal behavior. What are we doing that is contributing to this problem - if we walk by without picking up garbage, then are we contributing to the garbage problem?

"Vancouverites are very engaged. They want to play a role, and they are very good at it, because they are informed about their city. Anything that the city does, if we have not invited public involvement, we sure hear about it."

What Are We Doing Now? - The Dialogues

We organized a series of roundtable dialogues. Each roundtable had about fifteen people. We wanted representation from all communities, so we invited people from the business community, from neighbourhood houses, from tourism, and from community policing. There were a number of citizens who emailed, "I want to participate" so we invited them too. The Solicitor General and the Attorney General joined the roundtable discussions, and are interested in working with us at all levels.

There are two more roundtables organized, one with the public, and one with city managers of engineering, waste management, health, policing, fire, ticketing and bylaws. All of these departments that can become part of the solution.

What Are We Doing Now - The Perpetrators

The other piece we are looking at is hearing what people who are the perpetrators of disorder have to say. What would make a difference for them? Are they aware of what their behavior is doing? What sort of things can we do to stop them? We are arranging to go out in the streets to meet with the people who are the aggressive panhandlers and people who are in custody to ask, "What could the city have done to prevent this?"

"The whole cycle of crime that we hear about became clear: The revolving door and close relationship between victim and offender. Most of the people who were serving hard time had themselves, been victims. I was working with people who had committed very serious crimes and they all had tragic stories. Why do people get involved in crime? How do we make our homes and our communities crime proof?"

What Are We Doing Now? - Crime Free Multi-Housing

We are piloting a program in Mount Pleasant called Crime Free Multi-Housing, a program to support apartment managers in creating crime free multi-units. It involves ways to deter crime through design and includes an accreditation process. New Westminster has been doing it for years and Vancouver can too, but in a bigger way.

What Are We Doing Now - Tickets

Our municipal tickets have no teeth. People get tickets and are told to pay. If someone does not want to pay, the judicial process to force somebody to pay the fines could take years. With cooperation from the Attorney General and prosecutors there is a multi-phase project to start dealing with tickets in a serious way, so that police can use them in a more effective manner.

Positive Partnerships

The West End Neighborhood Network, Ministry of Income and Employment Assistance, and the City of Vancouver have partnered with outreach workers who approach homeless people and hook them up with services. They have actually taken them by the hand, asked what they need, what is their barrier to assistance, and they have been successful in helping people getting off the street in that way. The City has also engaged a consultant to work with us to come up with some innovative strategies.

Questions and Ideas

Q: Has the city actually looked at victimization studies that give more accurate readings than crime statistics? Are they higher than the reported statistics?

A: Ottawa looks at the crime victimization surveys. What we need is for the police to agree that we do that here.

Q: What is the dollar cost of addressing homeless people in Vancouver? You are basically talking about a region and pointing the finger at other levels of government and saying they are not putting enough money in, so what is the dollar figure?

A: We don't know. We have challenged our staff to answer that question. Vic Toewes, the Federal Minister in charge of Public Safety, came to see the downtown east side and toured some of the single rooming houses. When he came back to the mayor's office he was white and said, "This is not a third world situation. This is a fourth world situation." The mayor replied that we need an amount of money to fix it and the Federal Government can help. We don't have that number. Our estimate is that on any given day in Vancouver, there are about 1000 homeless people on our streets and it would cost $40,000 to $90,000 per year to house them. It is cheaper for us to provide housing, than have the homeless people consuming various social services that they repeatedly visit, but we don't know what that figure is."

Q. I have quit calling 911 to report things that I see. If you phone they ask you, "Is this a life-threatening situation?" If not they ask you to call the non-emergency number. Many people that I know have also quit calling. Nobody is interested. What can we do to correct that situation?

A: First, I argue you need to keep calling to keep making sure this is an issue. The police argue that there is a resource shortage. They are inundated and overwhelmed. At the moment there is an independent study of the policing in Vancouver, so if that study comes back saying that the police force needs a more officers in Vancouver, then I will be advocating that we hire that number of officers. If we have a deployment issue, then we will be challenging the Vancouver Police to address it with the chief's cooperation.

Q: Regarding East Hastings, I believe in the 100 Block of East Hastings, they consume 1000 police calls, 12000 fire calls, and a couple thousand ambulance calls per year. What is the city doing to resolve that situation?

A: With the crime free multi-housing program, there are some SROs that are working very differently. Some of the incentives can be through tax reductions and there is a savings, to the city, in terms of call outs. I think the national crime prevention strategy is interested in that kind of an approach. Some of those calls are the folks with the most serious mental illnesses and the most serious addictions, - people who cannot cope. If those support services outlined in the Homeless Action Plan were in place, then the people who were suffering from serious mental illness would have the support and remember to take their medication. The Solicitor General may look at changes to the Mental Health Act so we can take those people most at risk and put them in a safe place.

Q: It is reasonable to get these people more housing, but getting them to stay there is another question. Some of them will only go there willingly for a while, but will not stay. How do we get by that?

A: Part of the challenge is with enforcement - you don't have the option. If you ask people who are living on the streets, they are a product of poverty, they are a product of mental illness, and we are criminalizing a social situation. If we actually did have housing, if healthy places were available, then choosing not to take the housing would leave homeless people with the option of going to jail. Then they will not be living on our streets.

Q: You mentioned that it is difficult to find a way to provide for smaller housing units. I think it is easy to provide for smaller housing units. Could you address this question?

A: Thank you for asking. Do we really need to maintain a 400 square foot unit per person requirement? Maybe a dorm style model could work for people who are homeless. Can we create more emergency type shelters? Is there a partnership opportunity for the private sector? Right now we have some housing policies that prevent us from doing that. They came from a good place of saying that there is a minimum living standard that should be met. But we have people living in cardboard boxes and we need to find them shelter. That might be in 200 square feet in a dorm room with a shared washroom.

The second question is where will the housing go? This council's feeling is that poor people, those suffering from addiction or mental illness, do not just come from one community, so they should not be returned to just one community, they should be a part of every community via integration and inclusiveness. I would take it one step further and argue that we should be asking the Premier to look throughout BC and asking where those units should go - that it should not just be Vancouver.

Q: What advocacy issues is the mayor leading or contemplating that we could support. What is it we could do as a community to get behind the mayor and city council?

A: If everyone wrote to your provincial MLA and said, "Please raise the welfare rates" that would make a big difference at the provincial level. At the federal level there are some big questions about drug policy that we need to be asking, but there isn't consensus.

The Mayor is interested in exploring drug maintenance programs from a public disorder perspective - heroin trials and methadone maintenance - looking at it from a health perspective. A part of the mayor's trip to Europe in the spring is going to be looking at enforcement, asking chiefs of police, "What do you know, and what has made a difference in terms of crime prevention, safety, street disorder?"

There was a study done in Toronto with their most serious, disruptive, street level alcoholics. They were maintained on alcohol and provided with housing. What they found was a significant decrease in street disorders. Vancouver police already know that a small number of people are committing a majority of the crime. If we removed those people our crime levels would be significantly reduced. We are looking at that sort of thing but those types of changes are going to take federal policy changes.

Q: Is there some study that says that we get more effective policing when our enforcement officers drive around, as opposed to walking?

The perception of safety, and safety, go hand in hand. When people feel safe, they reclaim that public space, they go out in the parks walking more. A study has found there is a greater sense of community safety when "beat cops" patrol on foot. We want to see police among us and that it translates to behavior. If we know who our police officers are, we are more likely to work with them, and they are more likely to be aware of the local background.

The police are working on allocation and deployment issues. There are a lot of specialized units and some are mandated by legislation such as a domestic violence unit within each department . Every time it was the beat cops that got poached into the special units so there were less cops on the streets.

Q: A lot of the conversation has been around government response in the areas of prevention, enforcement and amelioration. How do we get the community engaged?

A woman who provides services to drug addicted people in the Downtown Eastside observed how a self-policing community develops around the place. One person was heard to say "Hey, don't drop your rig on the floor, - put it in the sharps box." So is it possible to get the broader community involved under the idea that the streets belong to all of us and put out the notion of street respect to engage the community in creating an environment that reduces street disorder?

A: Absolutely. That is so much of what we need to do. I remember the "Don't be a Litter Bug" campaign. If you walked down the street and somebody dropped garbage, you got great joy in saying, "Hey, don't be a litter bug!" My neighbor is a smoker who leaves his cigarette butts on the street, but I am hesitant to say to him, "You are littering." We don't know our neighbors, we are not engaging with one another, and we do not have that same sense of ownership. So how do we get back to that?

How do we do things so the homeless can be part of our community and be part of the solution? The same thing for the drug addicts, - do we put the sharps boxes on the streets? We need to tell them, "Your problem behavior has got to stopů so work with us."




Presented by the Downtown Vancouver Association

Downtown Vancouver Association



     

Vancouver Community Forums Launch

A report on the Launch of Vancouver Community Forums on November 8, 2006 and the ideas it created will be available soon to begin the conversation. In the meantime, here are a few images from the event.


Who are the people that can instill change?

We need ways to connect communities.
A farmers market provides an opportunity to gather.

Women on welfare are going out to find employment yet they don't have the clothing and resources to support them. An individual finds employment; welfare ends but if they lose their job they have to go on a 3 month waiting list to receive welfare again. This leads to individuals becoming homeless.
 
 
 
Goin' Home

On the third week of October 2006, 13 people who live on the streets of Vancouver , Canada, were given cameras.

They were asked to report on what it is like to be to be homeless in Vancouver and to make suggestions on how the situation can be improved.
 
Where and how will Downtown Vancouver expand? Are Downtown land use and activities sufficiently balanced? Are all those high rises with thousands of apartments looking into each other really a good urban form? Are we becoming too complacent about downtown traffic congestion? Aren't the Lions Gate Bridge and the tie ups at Taylor Way and Denman unacceptable? Are our downtown high rises attractive. Are our streetscapes acceptable? What is our vision for False Creek.
What is our vision? What can the city do to help the adjoining municipalities? What sort of future must we be aware of for air travel, and how do we accommodate it? Is continual growth in numbers of people and in the amount of what we produce the sustainable way for the human race?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Event Hosts
Downtown Vancouver Association
Centre A
Quantumideas

Conversation Hosts
Merrick Architecture
The Vancouver Foundation
Cadillac Fairview
The Old BC Electric Building Corporation
The Kenna Group
Oh Boy Productions
Spirit of Vancouver

Reception Host
Tourism Vancouver



     


  
A Conversation with Brent Toderian

Brent Toderian

Downtown Vancouver Association
Urban Design Forum


The following is a report on the conversation between Brent Toderian and the Urban Design Forum hosted by the Downtown Vancouver Association on Tuesday, November 14, 2006.



Brent on Brent

I have spent more time in the private sector than the public sector. I tend to think more as a private sector person and I have managed groups in city halls as if they were consulting firms as opposed to running a bureaucracy. I don't like the term bureaucratic because we tend to think of bureaucrats in a negative sense. I'm quite proud to be a civil servant. To me a civil servant is a passionate person working for the public good - that's how I see myself, and how I see our team here in city hall.

The thing I find fascinating in this city is that Vancouver is very different. This city thinks in terms of generations of planning directors, and thinks of the history of this city in terms of planning. I take the responsibility of this lineage of planning directors very seriously and if I didn't think there was a good opportunity to stay a good long time I wouldn't have taken the job.

Questions and Ideas

Question
The time it takes to get things through City Hall is too long right now. I love the idea that you are going to bring some private energy, and wondering if you're going to be a little innovative in getting things done in a better way than we have right now?

Answer
I always look to make things better and I think there are lots of models to do things. We're talking right now about how we are going to process the southeast False Creek development permits in a timely way, because we've done the math and things won't get built in time if we do it the normal sort of way. So the challenge of ensuring the kind of quality review process we expect and that citizens expect in the city while bending or changing our usual way of doing things is the discussion we're having right now. I like rules, I think rules provide certainty, I think rules give stability and structure to a system. But my line is to never let a rule stand in the way of a better idea and if a rule is holding back the thing that you want to have happen, then break the rule or bend it - usually we have the opportunity to bend it.

Question
What I'm hearing is that it's not so much about protecting the rules, its about protecting the ideas about what makes a good city and what to do about creating and preserving public places and natural spaces, so can you talk a little bit about that?

Answer
Well we have disciplines, professional disciplines, - architecture, planning, urban design, engineering, law, social planning - all sorts of disciplines that have created silo thinking. We have administrative structures in city halls which frustrated me in my career as a consultant that are not necessarily set up to get people to think about what's good for the city.

There are things I'm going to want to change, and some assumptions I may want to challenge. I like doing that - it's fun! But I've met more people who see things the way I do here than I have anywhere else, and it's somewhat comforting to think I can focus on planning now instead of thinking so much about changing culture.

When I came here it was with a sense that this city is known for urban experimentation. Vancouver is known for out-of-the-box thinking. I'm finding there's an energy to maintain that spirit of experimentation and risk taking. I always used to point to Vancouver and say, 'Vancouver's doing it, I think we can too!

Question
What changes do you think you need to make to the system, and how are you going to do that?

Answer
I'm still in the listening and learning mode. I think I know what I would like to do and what will work but I would like to take a step back and absorb a little more before I come to any conclusions.

Question
There was a lot of excitement in Vancouver in building False Creek, but I've noticed in the last ten years the trend towards very public consultation, choosing of the library design for example. What is your experience with this kind of public consultation and what do you think about it?

Answer
It's interesting that you bring up the library because it's a different example of public participation - public participation around an architectural competition. Public participation is a tool. How much public input is needed for a decision to be made? The language I've heard around Vancouver since the library competition was 'never again''. It often comes down to how you manage a competition. I'm a huge fan of architectural competitions. After I spoke at the Architectural Association, somebody said Brent's going to bring back architectural competitions. That's not my call. I'm just a voice in the dialogue. I think, as a tool, competitions are a wonderful way to stimulate architecture. I find it fascinating that there is discussion about the need for quality architecture here. How much public input you have in that process is a question.

Obviously as a planner I'm a fan of public input, public engagement, and public dialogue. I think it's downright irresponsible to do processes without a fair amount of public discussion and dialogue. But I think they should have a time frame. This is the private sector person in me.

It's a balance point. We want to really listen to the concerns and opinions of the people and we need to weigh them against the voices that aren't being heard because they are a lot of people who don't come out to public hearings, including generations that will be affected by our choices. I think there's a challenge in doing that in a meaningful way that is interesting and constructive and to make sure it is a two way communication.

Eco-density is going to be a lot of that. There will need to be a lot of education of the community in that process that says we don't necessarily get to choose anything we want in terms of our options because if sustainability is our goal, if one planet living is our goal, then we need to make choices in the context of those realities. It becomes tougher. We don't necessarily get to have our cake and eat it too.

Question
As you point out, I think managing expectations around what the dialogue is about and having people understand the parameters within which they are giving advice is really important?

Answer
It comes back to our role as a planning department. My job is not to tell Council what they want to hear. It is to get Council to listen to my opinion before they make their decision, even if they don't end up agreeing with me. Often it is things they don't want to hear and sometimes I'm putting them in a tough position in making a decision. I've often said it is not my job to help Council make the easy decisions. Sometimes is my job to make it hard for them to make the easy decisions if it's the wrong decision. But there's an art to doing that.

Question
I would appreciate you elaborating a little more on your approach of how you're going to be learning about the Downtown Eastside, and I'd also like to know who your heroes are?

Answer
Well Nathan Edelson, the Downtown Eastside's long-time planner, is one of my heroes. I'll tell you how I feel about him. There is a guy who has put incredible passion in for a huge amount of his career to doing small things that aren't sexy and don't get on the front cover of the newspaper to make the Downtown Eastside better. He's one of many, many people both in and outside of City Hall that have been working hard to make that area better every day for the people there. So my heroes tend to be the people who are working really, really hard every day when you go into an area like that and you see and feel the weight of the improvements that need to be made and the work that needs to be done to make people's lives better.

It's much more difficult to go into an area like the Downtown Eastside and remind yourself that there have been successes. Sometimes the successes aren't in buildings but they are in relationships that bring people together who are now talking and working together to do something. Revitalizing areas like that is all about relationships and small scale incremental improvements. Sometimes its two steps forward, three steps back, one step forward. Community development is the hardest thing we do as a city planner and the people who have been working in that area have been my heroes so far.

Question
In the last few years we've had a pretty good success with the density bonus in those areas in the Downtown Eastside and we seem to be coming up with some sort of cultural precinct. Do you have some thoughts you can share yet about both major facilities and involvements in the arts and culture that might relate to developers?

Answer
I've had to be very sensitive on this issue of the Downtown versus the rest of the city. My focus as new director has to be city-wide, not central-city-specific. That is why ecodensity is such a focus for me. Having said that, there's obviously a lot of work still to be done here and there are a lot of interesting things going on in the peninsula and with the idea of a cultural precinct. But the cultural precinct is about larger scale opportunities, - the potential relocation of the art gallery for example, - things like that which are pretty big pieces of the puzzle. I think there's going to be a really interesting opportunity to look at the large scale facilities. I have heard that the city has a great reputation for arts and culture but it doesn't have some of the larger facilities that other cities like Toronto are getting. And then I've heard the other opinion that there's a finer grain arts and culture scene here and thank god the city is not focusing on the splashy things like they are doing in Toronto.

Question
In the last ten to twelve years the Downtown Eastside has completely deteriorated and people are trying hard to make it better. In the short time you've been here, what do you think are some of the solutions for the Downtown Eastside?

Answer
I think the area and its issues are under resourced by all three levels of government. But everything in City Hall is under resourced right now. I'm amazed at how much our planning department is doing. We had three times the planning staff in Calgary and were probably doing less.

We could have a huge staffing and retirement crisis over the next little while. I haven't figured out strategically where the resources should go or even who should coordinate them. There is an organizational challenge there and I haven't fully come to understand the nature of the three government relationship yet. The other thing I'm becoming more aware of is a problem I've never dealt with before. I spent nine years working in Downtown Revitalization of some of the worst Downtowns I thought I'd see in Canada. Some of these areas are just one step up from Downtown Detroit. I've always said that's the hardest kind of city building challenge you can have. And none of those areas had as systemic a drug problem as we have here. They just had staggering economic disinvestment.

The drug issue makes everything far more complicated, and I am far from an expert at that issue, but my learning curve on it is huge. My message in other cities has been around patience, and short term actions with long term vision, - in other words, - don't expect it to get better for ten years because it took twenty years to get this bad and it might take ten years just to stop the bleeding before we can start to turn it around so it's heading in the right direction. Some of the downtowns I worked in years ago are only now starting to turn around. Patience in this kind of context, combined with decisive short term actions, is key.

What's becoming clearer to me is that one of the big reasons why its one step forward, two steps back in this city compared to any other I've ever dealt with is the size of the drug problem. Everywhere else it is about money, about groups getting together in partnerships and activating interest in revitalization and getting something kick started. Drugs are there but not as big a barrier. But even if we get that going in the Downtown Eastside we are constantly going to be weighed down by the most prolific addiction problem I've ever seen. It makes it a lot harder. So it's not just about money. In this city we can clearly get developers to invest in area but that's not going to be enough if the addiction challenges are not addressed as part of the solution.

Question
That is just not true. There's been so much money spent in the Downtown Eastside that if you add it up you'd be staggered, shocked, and amazed. Money hasn't been the problem. I think you'll find that if you look at the statistics in Downtown Eastside.

Answer
I would love to see them. What I see is that there is no other city that has taken the approach of locking up land for social housing. That was an incredibly bold move this city made. This city did it. I've heard many theories of who showed the bravery, who was the one who did it, but all of that is potential for social housing. It still needs housing investment in building and that may have something to do with the level of commitment of the other levels of government.

Maybe it's still not enough but I see a huge amount of unbuilt potential for social housing. There is not a city in Canada that has the ability to build social housing. You may agree or disagree with me but municipalities are the weakest form of government for generating funds. If you want to do anything more than a four percent property tax increase, the citizens rebel.

Question
But where are you going to put all that social housing?

Answer
Well that's the beauty of this city's perspective. I have looked at where we've established the capacity for social housing and it's sitting there waiting for us. It is now waiting for an influx of money. We all know the actual building of units is key, - the question is how to pay for it.

Question
Where is it? Is it going to be in Downtown Eastside? Are we just creating more ghettos?

Answer
We could have a discussion about whether more social housing should be in the Downtown Eastside. I've got some opinions on that. But we are saying social housing should be more widespread. The leveraging tool has been twenty percent within the major projects, and those have tended to be downtown. It's actually not in the Downtown Eastside because there haven't been that many major projects in the Downtown Eastside. It is integrated into False Creek, Coal Harbour, places like that. In the Downtown Eastside the model has been one-to-one replacement, not expansion.

Question
What the Downtown Eastside needs in my opinion is more market housing. Social housing is great, - it's going to help people, but we need more market housing down there so people there will do all the things that market housing people do and to create jobs for the people who live there now.

Answer
One of the things I have said is really necessary is market housing. I think the term revitalization without displacement is a great term. I presume it doesn't apply to drug dealers, but it certainly does for the other low income folks that are already living there. It does not mean we need to grow that population within the area. I think it's already out of balance and needs to be balanced with other housing, including market housing. The harder part is going to be that social housing should go elsewhere in the city and other communities have to expect and get ready to do their part in accommodating the housing for people in need. But it shouldn't all be going in the Downtown Eastside, and in fact it isn't.

I perceived Woodward's as the key catalytic project but I think there are smaller projects that have been occurring for the last little while that are creating a kind of critical mass necessary to really start taking off. I am amazed that the market housing is coming into this area because I've seen the market shy away from less scary areas. It says something about Vancouver. I'm not talking about the fear of having a homeless person next to you. I'm talking about fear in terms of drug dealers and what comes along with the drug trade. It is remarkable market bravery, and whatever's driving it is wonderful, and doing it in a way that doesn't displace the folks that are living there now but displaces some of the bad things is the trick.

I think there needs to be a lot of development before we get to that point. I give the people who are coming in early huge credit. I'd like to live down there.

Question
Do you have a sort of top ten list of hot button issues?

Answer
The four biggest hot button issues are would be: 1. Affordability - from a broad mid market, to modest market affordability, to low cost. The international market is the only market that can afford some of the units that are being put up for sale now for example.

2. The social issues throughout the city, - the Downtown Eastside is just a hot button area for a growing city challenge.

3. Jobs within the Downtown area is huge, - particularly within the peninsula. We just gave council a briefing on the results of phases two and three of the metro core jobs economy study on Friday. Protecting the capacity of job growth within the city is part of being a balanced city and this is a big issue.

4. Eco-density, - not just as a buzz term but as a driving agenda for the city, - promoting additional densification of the rest of the city now that the Downtown is becoming built out from a major project perspective.

I think these are the four biggest issues. That is enough to keep us busy for quite a while, on top of a lot of smaller hot button issues that I see great passion for in the faces of people who come up and talk to me, - view cones and heights being one of those, - and Granville Street, - and lots of other issues like that as many of you know.

Question
I moved to Gastown from Calgary six years ago and nothing has changed in Gastown since I moved there. We pay tens of thousands of dollars for security, and we know there are good intentions, but nothing is getting done there in terms of the security in the area and in terms of helping those people still sleeping in doorways. There is as much open drug exchanging and use as there ever was, and I think we need more market housing in that area. To put all the social housing and all the social services in one area is perpetuating the situation and we are making it worse and nothing is happening to make it better.

Answer
To me it would be disrespectful of the people who are working incredibly hard to say nothing is getting done. A lot is getting done and I have been watching since I have been coming to SFU for programs in years past. I have watched Gastown change, and as an outsider maybe I can see it better, or differently.

To say nothing is getting done is not true. Things are getting done. But this is what I mean by one step forward, two steps back. This is the nature of the problem we have right now. It doesn't help to say nothing's happening and nothing's getting done. I believe we have to celebrate the successes or we just get depressed. So we have to point to the things that are happening and I consider that part of my job. I am sure Nathan Edelson sees that and he keeps himself going everyday by seeing the things where there has been success.

Physical improvements have been occurring. The heritage incentive program has been a huge success, with significant reinvestment in heritage buildings full of viable uses. Market housing is on the way. But some of the social problems may continue for some time. People have been saying market housing has been necessary for a long time. Creating the conditions for market housing to occur is really hard and takes time. But I do agree that more social housing than one-to-one replacement is not going to help the situation.

Question
I live in a tower Downtown and as I walk around the city enjoying the experience of the quality of the built environment in our city, my sense is that every parking space available is being filled in. I question whether the quality of planning I enjoy every day is happening at every level and in some areas, like this, things may be going downhill.

Answer
If you look at False Creek on the north side, or many of the other major projects areas, and with infill projects, my perception is, things are not going down hill. If things go down hill on my watch then I would take the blame for that. In terms of architectural review and negotiations on the quality of the development it has been made clear to me that this city wants continuity, we want to still emphasize excellence. But there is certainly pressure in play here. There is a huge amount of development pressure, there is pressure for higher densities, there is pressure for building more on each site because of market issues, there is pressure because of the affordability issue, there is pressure around how much contribution should be made to the quality of public realm, and there is pressure for amenities which tends to raise prices because the better it is, the more people are willing to pay for it. These are some of the pressures we are experiencing as we work to ensure the quality of planning we have enjoyed will continue into the future.

Transcribed and Edited by Shaheeda Shariff
Presented and paid for by the Downtown Vancouver Association


Downtown Vancouver Association



     

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