Building on the Foundation, Looking to the Future
The City of Vancouver has a demonstrated record of progressive city-building and an enviable reputation as one of the most livable cities in the world. As the City looks to the future, this can be seen as both a blessing and a curse. The high quality of life offered by Vancouver has resulted in high levels of growth and demand as more and more people choose to call Vancouver home. This, in turn, has contributed to some of the typical pressures arising from growth including higher housing prices, more traffic on City streets and more pressures to find the right balance of density and social/economic mix in our neighbourhoods.
The City-wide plan process provides an exciting opportunity to look at Vancouver with new energy and to think about the types of policies and actions needed to build on the City’s many successes. It also has the potential to enable Vancouver to respond in new ways to the challenges that always come with growth and change. To do this well requires careful consideration of the accomplishments to date and to understand the different aspects of city life that are important to those who live here and who have chosen to call Vancouver home. At the same time, it is necessary to look more closely at those areas where the full promise or potential has not yet been realized.
The focus on establishing a comprehensive vision and planning framework for the City is important. It is something that should be pursued with an intensity of purpose and with leadership at the individual, community and political level. The scope of work set out in the background reports to City Council and the focus on understanding more fully and completely how the different dimensions of City life work together and intersect from a land use and urban design perspective to a policy and planning perspective is essential in helping to lay a foundation for meaningful policy choices and decisions.
How we look toward the future and the types of decisions that we make today will help to determine the type of City that Vancouver will become. As the City moves through the process and begins to look at ways to adapt and respond to the pressures of growth and change, it is important to recognize and build on the many accomplishments and features of the City that have resulted in a high quality of life that is enjoyed by many. At the same time, to create a truly livable and great City, it is necessary to have policies and strategies that offer promise and hope to individuals and households of different economic and social circumstances and lifecycle stages.
In reflecting on the task at hand, it is necessary to remember that not only do we live together but we also want to move forward together and to prosper together. This means looking at day-to-day activities that are part of life in Vancouver and ensuring that we recognize the human aspects that are part of a vibrant, welcoming and inclusive city. For Vancouver to be truly great, we know that there is the need to find ways to maintain and add to the rich social and cultural diversity that is so much a part of the City. This includes understanding the different communities and neighbourhoods that are part of the City and the role and contribution that they play in all aspects of city life.
One of the major challenges to be addressed through this process is the need to ensure that there is the necessary physical and social infrastructure in place to support vibrant city life. We also know that, to some extent, the types of policy choices and decisions being made will be about economic and social inclusion. This includes important choices around safe and affordable housing, socially diverse and mixed income communities, housing diversity as well as accessible neighbourhoods and transportation.
Vancouver should aspire to be a City where people of all ages and all economic backgrounds can not only enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings but can also feel a deep sense of connection to the City and the opportunities that it offers. The commitment from City staff to work to provide greater clarity and focus within the overall policy context along with a commitment to meaningful community input and public engagement recognizes the importance of the decisions that are being made.
The commitment to working to create a vision and plan that operates on multiple levels with a view to understanding the different points of intersection between land use, urban design, housing, transportation, and other elements of City life is also important as it provides an exciting opportunity to really begin to look at how the physical dimensions and human and social dimensions of city life in Vancouver fit together into a bigger picture. In making this type of commitment to the citizens of Vancouver and in looking toward the future with this type of vision can only help Vancouver as a City go from good to great. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this initiative!
Lorraine Copas brings her extensive knowledge and experience working in the areas of research, social policy, and affordable housing, as well as the non-profit and government sectors, to her work as Executive Director of the BC Social Planning and Research Council (SPARC).
Her experience also includes community-based research on a broad range of topics including housing stability, family well-being, and income and social mix. Lorraine came to SPARC BC from Metro Vancouver where she served as the Senior Regional Planner and was instrumental in leading their Regional Affordable Housing Strategy.