A Sustainable City of Sustainable Neighbourhoods (2009-2011)


In 2009, the Vancouver City Planning Commission set out to begin a dialogue about how Vancouver can evolve into a sustainable city of sustainable neighbourhoods.

The driving idea for the project was a question:

How can Vancouver evolve into a sustainable city of sustainable neighbourhoods in ways that meet neighbourhood needs while advancing city-wide goals?

With predominantly single-family neighbourhoods accounting for almost half of Vancouver’s land mass, figuring out how to realize sustainability at a neighbourhood level is critical to the sustainability of the city as a whole. The Commission believed that examining tensions that arise between neighbourhoods and the City on sustainability-related issues to understand their basis is vital to finding a way forward on the sustainability track.

Chart of primary linkages between sustainability issues and city development and management
City of Vancouver 2002 chart of primary linkages between sustainability issues and city development and management issues.

The idea for the project emerged through discussions with a variety of groups and through research into existing City sustainability-related policies and plans. The main themes that shaped the context included:

  • Widespread commitment to sustainable development as the framework for city building;
  • Strong support for the City’s sustainability initiatives of the past two decades;
  • Support for a city vision that articulates and embraces sustainability goals in an integrated framework of sustainability policies. The framework should co-ordinates existing initiatives and provides an  integrated sustainability plan for the city;
  • Some frustration that sustainability policies and programs are not being implemented quickly and effectively enough to meet urgent challenges;
  • Some concerns that economic and social sustainability pillars are not sufficiently prominent;
  • Neighbourhoods are at the heart of the CityPlan vision;
  • The implications of recent sustainability initiatives for existing neighbourhood visions and plans have not been explored at the grassroots level.

The idea that the citizens can be powerful catalysts and key partners in accelerating and implementing the needed changes if they are included in imagining their communities as sustainable neighbourhoods in a sustainable city was a core idea at the heart of the project.

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