RECAP: 2019 Year-in-Review: A Panel Discussion on the Milestones That Transformed Vancouver

By: Sinem Culhaoglu

Following the lively 2019 Year-in-Review Workshop, the Vancouver City Planning Commission (VCPC), came together on February 6th 2020, to discuss the very planning milestones that transformed Vancouver in 2019. Partnered with SFU’ Vancity Office of Community Engagement, this event once again brought together some of the city’s most passionate urbanists and advocates, to reflect on the last 12-months of Vancouver city planning. This engaging and collaborative event was designed as a public forum, to represent a dialogue about the past, present, and future of the City of Vancouver.

Workshop to Discussion: Importance of Continuity

This event is transformative, as following the previous workshop event, it ensures the continuity of the conversation. The previous milestones are once again brought to bat, with new voices, perspectives and opinions. Once solidifying their importance, the proposed milestones of 2019 will be added to the online Chronology of Planning and Development in Vancouver.

Proposed milestones included:

  1. Expropriate of Balmoral & Regent hotels
  2. 1,100 housing units supported by federal government
  3. Towers proposed on Squamish Sen̓áḵw lands by Burrard Bridge
  4. City declares Climate Emergency Response
  5. Approval of Rain City Strategy by the City
  6. False Creek Flats Arterial Study
  7. Approval of new Arts & Cultural plan
  8. Approval of VanPlay Parks Master-plan

Who’s Who & What’s What: Introducing the People and the Place

The Panel

Moderator

  • Am Johal, Director, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement

Panelists

  • Sarah Blyth, from the frontlines of the opioid overdose crisis
  • Stephanie Allen, a champion of community housing
  • Ray Spaxman, the conscience of Vancouver’s planning community
  • Chief Ian Campbell, a hereditary chief from the Squamish Nation

The set-up for the evening differed from the preceding event’s workshop-esque atmosphere, with a prominent stage for the panelists, facing a larger seated audience. Yet, although seemingly formal at first, once the guests trickled in, you could sense the same intimate and collaborative atmosphere as the workshop. Creating this sentiment is crucial, as active audience participation is an important aspect of this event. The lively question and answer portion not only allows the public to seek answers from the respected and experienced panelists, but to also maintain an open dialogue about planning in Vancouver. Without this engagement from the public, the collaborative work that the VCPC does would not be possible.

Historical Importance: Understanding Positionality

The event opened with the acknowledgment of the unceded and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, and the celebration of Black History Month. With an event centred around the conversation about territory, it is important to recognize the history of dispossession, in relation to the City of Vancouver. This was an important reoccurring theme throughout the event, as after the welcome of the panelists, Stephanie began the conversation about the importance of recognizing the history of colonization in city building. This sentiment was shared across audience members, as they celebrated the panelists efforts in creating diverse opportunities for collaborative city-planning within Vancouver.

With an event centred around the conversation about territory, it is important to recognize the history of dispossession, in relation to the City of Vancouver.

Chief Ian Campbell

Another important topic discussed at the event, was the milestone of the proposed Sen̓áḵw development by Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw  (the Squamish People) . With Squamish Hereditary Chief Ian Campbell being a panelist at the event, several audience members had questions regarding what message this sends to the city about urban planning. Many were in agreement that this was a vital step in the conversation surrounding more affordable housing in the city, and this could perhaps act as an example of how to proceed in the future. Although there still remained some questions about the feasibility of the towers, it was regarded as one of the most impactful milestones of the year.

Looking Forward: What are Urbanites Excited for?

The event concluded with highlighting the collaborative notion of chronology. Creating the chronology of the City of Vancouver is a process that requires several voices and actors, in order to create something that is reflective of the diverse population. Evident from the numerous people who showed up for the event that evening, the enthusiasm surrounding participation, creates an array of optimism for the future of city planning in Vancouver. Through collective discussion, collaboration, and participation, it will ensure that problems faced by all urbanites – no matter gender, race, or social status – will continue to be brought to the forefront.

Through collective discussion, collaboration, and participation, it will ensure that problems faced by all urbanites – no matter gender, race, or social status – will continue to be brought to the forefront

Thus, with 2019 coming to a close, some of the events that panelists are most excited for in 2020 include:


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