Panel on 2018 Milestones Looks to the Future

Visions of what Vancouver could be overshadowed the significant moments of 2018 in planning and development at TransFORMation 2018Vancouver City Planning Commission‘s (VCPC) 4th annual year-in-review dialogue held on February 4, 2019 in downtown Vancouver.

Measures to make housing more affordable, which dominated headlines for months, were hardly mentioned. Slowing development in Chinatown, a new accessibility strategy, the opening of child-care centers and a new tax to curb land speculation – all proposed as milestones of 2018 – were ignored.

Panelists recognized a few milestones: groundbreaking indigenous reconciliation measures and development of Northeast False Creek. But in a robust discussion on how Vancouver is evolving, panelists talked mostly about how planning is done and innovative models for engagement in the planning process.

The Year-In-Review is held annually to consider significant city decisions, policies and events of the previous 12 months that could be added to the online chronology of planning and development in Vancouver. Panelists are also asked to step back and consider the direction the city has taken as a result of these changes.

“It’s really important to look back, reflect and evaluate what we’ve done well, how we got there and why we did it. We want to build on that foundation …

Charles Gauthier

Panelists for the evening were former Vancouver City Council and 
Member of Parliament for Vancouver East, Libby Davies; former City of Vancouver Indigenous relations manager Ginger Gosnell-Myers; Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) CEO Charles Gauthier; and Kira Gerwing, Manager, Community Investment at Vancity Credit Union and a former urban planner with the City of Vancouver. The discussion was moderated by Am Johal, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement Director of Community Engagement.

TransFORMation 2018 panelists (L to R): Charles Gauthier, Ginger Gosnell Myers, Kira Gerwing, Libby Davies, and Am Johal.

City councilor Pete Fry brought greetings from Vancouver City Council.

The panelists pinpointed some gaps in the curated list of potential 2018 milestones. Ms. Davies questioned where were the milestones of what Vancouver failed to do, such as protection of mountain views.  She suggested that Council’s approval of a opioid response plan in December 2018 be added to the list.

Interior of a temporary modular home. Source: City of Vancouver.

Mr. Gauthier urged the inclusion of construction of temporary modular homes (a 2017 milestone), noting that by the end of 2018 500 units had been built and occupied. Ms. Gerwing spoke about the hunger for honest debate in an increasingly polarized society and for the emergence of leaders, both in the community as well as on City Council, who can bring people together.

Ms Gosnell-Myers asked what Vancouver aspires to be. Advocating the incorporation of indigenous values into planning, she challenged the city to do something that has not been done before.

“City planning isn’t just brick and mortar, it is ensuring our aspirations are embedded in our plans.”

Ginger Gosnell-Myers

Asked what milestones she would like to see in 2025, Ms. Gosnell-Myers said she hoped the Musqueam-Squamish Tsleil-Wauth backed MST Development Corporation would become the largest landowner in Vancouver and Indigenous people become billionaires.

In response to a question about the citywide planning process, Ms. Gerwing raised a concern about the process retrenching power back to the powerful. She commented that the city should use the process of development of a citywide planning to redistribute power.”

“City planners should give planning away. The city should use the process of development of a citywide planning to redistribute power.”

Kira Gerwing

On engagement, Ms. Davies urged the city to go where the people are, rather than requiring them to come to open houses. Mr. Gauthier drawing on the DVBIAs successful Re-Imagine Downtown Vancouver engagement process, suggested enrolling the support of employers to carve out a few hours in the workday for engagement in city planning.

“We all know what we want for our city.  The question is: How do we do it? How do we interact? How do we engage our adversaries in a respective way?”

Libby Davies

The Year-In Review event, held in partnership with 
SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement , was at the SFU Djavad Mowafaghian World Arts Centre. About 100 people attended.

The VCPC Chronology Committee will review the discussion and report on the message of the evening to City Council. We will also update the list of emerging milestones of 2018 on the website.  The emerging milestones are to be reviewed in five years to see if they stand the test of time and were truly a turning point in the growth of Vancouver.

— This article was written by 
Commissioner Robert Matas, chair of the VCPC Chronology Program, 
and edited by 
Yuri Artibise, VCPC’s Executive Director

Key Panel Observations

“It’s really important to look back, reflect and evaluate what we’ve done well, how we got there and why we did it. We want to build on that foundation … We are renown around the world for urban design and urban planning. I would argue, to some extent, we’ve lost our edge, and I think we need to pick it up again.”

  • Charles Gauthier

“Planning process has become more formalized so as to seem more inclusive. It has become more structured and more controlled. It feels, to me anyways, like the planning process has become more of a communications and branding exercise than it really has becoming a community building process…

How do you address that? [The citywide planning process] might be an opportunity to give the planning away from the city. Let the municipality create the room for planning to happen, but step away from actual planning work itself.  That’s easy to say tonight but very hard to do, because what it means is you have to cede power. It will get messy. There will be fights. There will be debates. It’s scary.”

  • Kira Gerwing

“At the end of the day, this is community building … we have to remember that [a citywide plan] is not just a matter of bricks and mortar. It is ensuring that we are reflected, both our identities and our values, and things we care about and things we want to preserve. No matter how you spell it out, at the end of the day, it will still need to be embedded into the citywide plan…

“In the future, we will see a city that reflects more what we could have been, had colonialism not been so successful.”

  • Ginger Gosnell-Myers

“The struggle has always been between our yearning for community, to feel like a community, that we belong to a community, and the executive city … It’s that ongoing struggle between what we yearn for and what we want, and what seems to happen …

I’ve always been someone who believes in the philosophy of Think Big, Act Small. …[The citywide plan] has to articulate really big values and big stuff we want all want but then we have to immediately break it down closer to home, take your own ownership of it. Otherwise it will become a monster that just keeps growing.”

  • Libby Davies

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