Gordon Price: This is a great segue to go to the audience after I explain what has become before this event.
This is one of three events that have been the result of a collaboration between the SFU City program, the Vancouver City Planning Commission, the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning and SFU City Conversations. This process – the 60 people from many backgrounds and experiences with the city who came together two weeks ago, the SFU City Conversation that brought Marguerite Ford and Peter Ladner to talk on this – is going to continue. Tonight, we want to engage you.
You’ve heard from the past planners. Now is the opportunity for you to ask your questions and make your comments. I’d like to ask Penny Gurstein of the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning to lead us off.
Audience Discussion Index:
|Penny Gurstein||Neal LaMontagne||Richard Stewart|
|David Grigg||Michael Alexander I||Audience I|
|Gord Price||Micheal Alexander II||Audience II|
|James Bligh||Mitchell Reardon|
Penny Gurstein: To segue from what Gord was talking about, I want to refer to the first event he mentioned. On October 13th we brought together a group of people, many whom are in the room today, to a think tank on the planning principles and values that are guiding us. We came up with a number of them which are going to be on the Vancouver City Planning Commission and SCARP websites.
A lot of people in the room were telling us stories of the planning processes that developed those principles, and what really came from that discussion was a sense that there are these strong things that really guide us.
If you were given the opportunity to provide guidance to whoever is selected for the position, what would you tell them about the values that have really guided Vancouver in terms of your perspective and how that would affect them in their new role?
Price (to panellists): So, what would be the first piece of advice with respect to what Penny has asked that you would give to the mayor?
Beasley: I wouldn’t answer the question because I think that’s the point. I would ask the citizens of Vancouver the question. We haven’t really asked the citizens of Vancouver in living memory the question. We’ve sort of assumed things.
People in this town want to talk about this town.
We had an extraordinary process in CItyPlan which you cannot forget. It involved tens of thousands of people and asked all kinds of questions. It was very clear, not confusing, and it went to people who have never been involved in planning before. But it was 20 years ago. And look at all the people in this room coming to see a bunch of has-beens. Why? Because people in this town want to talk about this town. They want to talk about their values. And I would say the first thing we have to do to tell that planner is to go out and meet the Vancouverites and ask them what are those values?
McAfee: Two words: listen and learn. And then lead.
Toderian: I would say not only to the has-beens up here but the has-beens in the audience: we have to crush this narrative that has been started recently that ex-planners should shut up. Some smart, young, passionate planners from my former staff have told me that the phrase in this narrative is, “we eat our young in Vancouver.” In other words, past planners are critical of some things the new planners are doing, and our current chief planner has said this is a real problem.
I had a challenge when I was at City Hall. I used to joke that I couldn’t swing a stick without hitting a former director of planning who had a strong opinion on everything I was doing. But I started with the perspective of tremendous respect for the work that the people before me had done, and I had the benefit of some planners like Ronda Howard, Trish French and Rob Jenkins who were part of passing that forward to me. I appreciate that past generations still cared so much about this city that they were still highly engaged and sometimes got upset about things that moved too far away from principles.
So I would say to the mayor, to the chief planner, you might not always agree. I’ve disagreed with the people on this panel at times, but I always started with strongly appreciating them still being actively engaged, with knowing that I could learn from them. It was a tremendous benefit to me. So keep eating your young.
McAfee: Since leaving the city, I’ve worked in a lot of other cities. I realized how lucky we are to work in a city with a charter, which means that the council can actually enact change. In Toronto, decisions can be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. In Auckland, council can’t make the final decision; it goes to Wellington, the capital. Just fancy sending all our council plans to Ottawa or Victoria for approval.
So what I would say to the director of planning is that you have the ability to do in Vancouver things that other cities can’t do, because it is in the control of the city in conjunction with the region. It’s a great opportunity which doesn’t occur in many parts of the world.
Price: My recommendation to the mayor would be to put as much pressure as you can as a leader of the community to get more coverage in the media, particularly those that reach the most people, in order to have a conversation that is possible because people have a common understanding of the issues.
I raise that because I neglected to note that Francis Bula was part of the SFU City Conversation with Marguerite Ford and Peter Ladner. Karenn Krangle is here. Anybody else? I can be pretty confident that they aren’t here. They can’t afford to be, or they no longer have an interest in covering this.
In the time I’ve lived in this city, I’ve noticed that the possibility of having a conversation because people have somewhere to go for a common read or a common understanding of the facts has evaporated. It is very difficult when social media in particular drive the agenda in the way that they do. We can’t have that conversation if people don’t have at least a common set of understandings.
We can’t have that conversation if people don’t have at least a common set of understandings.
So we have a great conversation. We walk away from here with no outcome that is transmitted to council. I suggest, with your advice and comment, and perhaps the audience, that we come up with some kind of statement or message for city council.
I’d like to make a suggestion that perhaps we could talk about the public interest. Planners speak of it with relish but it hasn’t been mentioned once. What about the public interest, and how is it protected? How do we retain the autonomy of the director of planning? What is the message for city hall? Why are we talking about a manager who is to implement as opposed to a director who is to give direction and vision?
Maybe there is something here that we could send as a strong message as an outcome for this meeting, that we would like to see autonomy for the director of planning who reports directly to the mayor of council. Could you comment?
Beasley: I always felt it was better when the director of planning had at least the right to speak directly to council, even if the city manager didn’t like it. I know that in Ray’s day, you had that right. It was a very important right because it meant that you could give your best advice, and if they didn’t like it, they didn’t like it. You could articulate something that other people could cluster around. You could work with a lot of people and bring a collective message forward. I think that was a good thing.
I don’t know if we’re all ready to write some sort of manifesto to send to the city council about the chief planner. But I do believe that the ability of the planner to be able to speak her or his mind honestly and directly is important, out in the community as well as at council.
Price: The Vancouver City Planning Commission will be making a report for Council based on what they have heard as part of their mandate.
Toderian: All of us have used the word ‘culture,’ or similar words. I have never got that fussed about the title for the position. I like the term chief planner. Jennifer Keesmaat in Toronto is called the general manager, too, but her main title is chief planner. What’s important is the culture of how planning is positioned within city hall.
What’s important is the culture of how planning is positioned within city hall.
Gord Price: On the point that Ray raised, does the city really matter as much as it did? I think the answer to that is self-evident when you look at the region, but can the city be the leader of the region in a way that it assumed it is and did lead in the past?
Spaxman: Any municipality can provide the leadership. This city is the core of the region and therefore symbolically the centre. It should be showing the best leadership, and used to do. In the old days, there was a sense that the city was more than the regions, and that has to change. We’ve got to support the region.
Beasley: I believe that for the next generation, the young planners that in this room, the focus won’t be on the city of Vancouver as much as in the past. Our generation fought the battle of the dying core city, and we won the battle in a way. But now, 60 percent of Canadians live out in the suburbs, and the great invention to transform the city to be sustainable and liveable is going to happen out there.
So what I’m hoping is that you will see is spontaneous fires of creativity out in the suburban setting, to challenge the way those suburbs have been put together. I would like to see them have the kind of charter that we enjoy because Ann is right. Our charter allowed us to do many things in Vancouver that you couldn’t do anywhere else, and that kind of motivated us.
But even in the absence of that, there is nothing better than a good idea and a strong constituency around it. I think we are going to see that with the new generation because their dedication to the green city is important, but also because most of them really are suburbanites. And they’ve got to take the green agenda to the suburbs and transform those suburbs. Frankly, if they don’t do that, we are all in trouble. We are just polishing the diamond here, as it were.
We are just polishing the diamond here, as it were.
McAfee: There is another real problem that I’m seeing. I’ve been doing some work in smaller communities in BC. I’ve been shocked to hear comments by their staff that we can’t legally talk to council if there are more than two or three councillors in the room, because it is then deemed a council meeting.
While we were directors, I must’ve sat down with council every couple of weeks talking about whatever major project was underway. We were sharing, growing, learning together, and I see a real problem coming up for planning if indeed all discussion has to take place just in the council chamber, where there can’t be that growing and sharing. I don’t see any federal or provincial government who don’t talk to their staff, they do it all in private.
Price: I absolutely share that with you. If the American Sunshine Law is assumed to be relevant or required, I can’t think of a better recipe for very quick dysfunction.
Toderian: I played a role in the new regional plan. I would say that the chief planner or mayor of Vancouver can play a leadership role, but it has to be done in a very careful and respectful way.
James Bligh: I’ve heard it said that cities in Canada can’t make the changes they need to make because they don’t get the percentage of the tax dollar that they should get. This makes me think about what happens in Vancouver such as having to leverage various developments for amenities because of not having other methods.
So, is it more important than getting the right person as director of planning, or at least as important, to perhaps look at the latest federal election and opportunities with working differently with the federal government to make changes in cities the way that we want?
McAfee: I would definitely agree with that. Some of the most successful work that I did in the early years with council was when CMHC, the national government, was providing funds for co-ops and non-profit housing. In this country, we have never addressed the issue of the balance between responsibility and resources.
In this country, we have never addressed the issue of the balance between responsibility and resources.
More and more responsibilities get picked up by cities and the resources aren’t being redirected. I’m not sure I see an opportunity but I certainly think the new director needs to understand urban economics and finance, and what it might take to get a better balance between responsibility and resources.
Beasley: Your idea that one is more important than the other is where I have a difficulty. I agree with everything that Anna said. In America, cities get eight times what Canadian cities get out of the federal government, and they waste it because they don’t have leadership. They are spending it on more freeways and junk, they give 10 or 12 million to every new building that comes up to motivate them to build the buildings. There is a lot of wastage.
It’s not just about more money. It’s about spending it on the right things and doing the right things. And I think that’s where your chief planner becomes an agent for a community to determine what’s right. I think it’s equally important. The best thing is when you have a great chief planner, a great planning organization, a wonderful community and a lot of dough. That’s a good thing.
McAfee: But don’t hold your breath.
Toderian: I’m excited about the federal government change, but the provincial government is still a challenge. You needn’t look past the example on the day after council made an incredibly bold decision on the viaducts. Minister Todd Stone calls a press conference and says that it’s not a done deal. The dysfunction of that relationship staggers me, so work needs to be done.
Price: I can’t help but note for the young ones; prepare yourselves for freeway fight 2.0. The province doesn’t spend billions of dollars in every direction to build massive roads and bridges up to the border of Vancouver and then think that they’ll stop there.
I was very fortunate as part of the Vancouver City Planning Commission to be part of the conversation two weeks ago that Penny Gurstein spoke of. What struck me was how quickly folks from all sorts of background coalesced on what they’ve identified as values and principles. The words resonated, they were so easy — collaboration, respect for place, respect for environment, respect for economy, inclusiveness… All of these values are such a part of our city.
But with the challenges that you’ve faced and I’m sure the next folks will too, how do you balance between a deep respect for those principles, the culture of this place, and the need to move the dial further to bring in new ideas, new innovation and challenge our communities and our city?
Beasley: I’d like to say, don’t take 60 or 100 or 200 or 5,000 or 10,000 people as enough, because those are all self-selected people. They are junkies. You are all junkies about planning. We have to reach out to the people who never thought about planning. They have their own ideas and we have to find techniques that work with those people. In Dallas with the Hispanic community where English was a difficulty, we held design charrettes where we never talked; we just drew stuff and made images and we talked through our images.
Having said that, I’m finding examples all over the world of amazing things that made it through horrible processes and became exemplars. We also have to tap into those, bring the ideas back and transform them to work here. I’ve described these in a new book. My experience is that most of the people within our culture know a lot of the answers for the future city.
Spaxman: One of the ideas in this community for a long time has been the Urbanarium. If you think of what urbanarium is supposed to do and hasn’t done, it’s because city hall hasn’t done it and doesn’t do it. It is a place where you can go and get information in a form that is easy to understand, that tells you about what the city is doing, why it’s doing it and how it’s doing it.
It also assesses what’s happening all the time. It’s not one plan or process; it’s there all the time. And it grows respect because it tries to tell you the truth as far as reasonable people can put it together, including the alternatives that are available. The thing that’s wrong with a plan when it becomes a plan is that it becomes rigid, but it has to be flexible from the day it is built.
We need a system of being able to find out what is happening in the city without talking to people who are promoting their own single idea, but bringing out issues, bringing out what other people think out, and informing you about what the community thinks. We haven’t got that.
What Gord is doing here is very significant, but there isn’t enough of it. He keeps building on it and other people build on it too, and that’s more important, in fact, than any of the other techniques we’ve been talking about – that those things start and ferment.
Michael Alexander: First of all I want to thank all of you for what I think is the most frank public conversation that I have heard in my eight years here. I think it validated the idea of having the politicians at City Conversations two weeks ago, and former planning directors tonight. It really opened up the conversation and thank you for your frankness.
I think that Gord was right that when the four of you were working, you were essentially working on the easy parts of the city. There were a few brownfields and greenfields left, the viaducts, the Jericho Lands, maybe Little Mountain. But you could go and talk with every one of the 650,000 people in Vancouver and have them tell you what they think and want. And you would be still missing a lot of people. And those are the people who want to be here, are coming here eventually, but have no voice here. Who speaks for them?
Spaxman: I think we have to think about the people who aren’t here, who aren’t born. We are concentrating on immediate issues all the times. We have to expand that discussion, so we all sense the responsibility for what happens in what we do or do not to, in order to create the future.
Toderian: When we were trying to have the conversation about change in the rest of the city, the non-easy parts, a lot of the narrative was about future generations and people who couldn’t come. We were talking about a population that didn’t exist yet and we got criticized for that.
I have always believed that when you are planning for the future, about climate change, you are talking about future generations. When you are talking about growth, you are talking about future residents. The job of the planner is to look all of those, and I’ve realized it’s a tough conversation to have. If you don’t do it artfully and sensitively, you can make a lot of people mad and think that local residents are somehow not being respected. There absolutely is a way to do it, and it’s critically important.
Beasley: First, your idea of what’s easy and my idea of what’s easy are very different, because the work we did was pretty hard, but we did it. Secondly, we should acknowledge your leadership this week, along with many other people, in doing something very extraordinary and getting rid of those viaducts.
In any engagement process, you are always going to have the people of the future that you have to find a way to get into the conversation. And we’ll always have outsiders you have to find a way to get into the conversation. There are many kinds of techniques to use. There is planning going on in Amsterdam where they are reaching out to literally the entire world through social media, to begin to bring the vision of people who would like to come to Amsterdam in the future, of young people.
Unfortunately, most of our techniques don’t even try that. Most of our techniques are very 19th-century or very 1950s, actually. And most of our techniques get a few people in a room like this and say, they all agree with us or they don’t agree with us, and that’s the end of the story. We have fabulous techniques that we can use now.
McAfee: I’ll give you an example of how we brought people of the future into discussions in communities in Vancouver. Everybody almost now has a cell phone. Everybody has a picture of relatives, children, or a new baby. In discussions, people pass those around, and that brings everybody in the room to thinking about the future. That works very well in the room, but as Larry says, the question is how to engage a much wider group.
Auckland conducted almost all of their new plan communication using the web. That was great because everybody had equal access to information on the draft plan. It had a downside. When we looked at who it actually engaged, as I recall about 60 percent of the comments were from 11 people who kept writing in. You have to watch that your social media conversation is indeed reaching a broad group.
The challenge is to make sure that people are listening to other people and sharing those different directions
How connected we electronically are Is a great opportunity for planners. I worry if the connections aren’t at some point face-to-face. We noticed in Auckland that people tended to follow blogs of people they agreed with. The challenge is to make sure that people are listening to other people and sharing those different directions, and debating and arguing about the choices that face the city. I still haven’t found an alternative to face-to-face as an adequate way for people address choices and change their minds.
Michael Alexander: A a corollary, when you are planning a neighbourhood, the people who feel the most invested in the neighbourhood come. But how do the needs of the city get balanced by what they perceive as the needs of the neighbourhood when the neighbourhood people stop thinking about being citizens of the city?
McAfee: Let me tell you how CityPlan did that. CityPlan gave some broad directions for the city, then the neighbourhood made a plan. But we had a group called the City Hats, or City Perspectives Panel. They were people from other neighbourhoods who participated in your neighbourhood planning and were in a position to say to you, “if you don’t take your share, it falls on our neighbourhood and that’s not fair.” So there are ways to engage a broader city perspective in a local discussion.
The part that many planners aren’t as good at is explaining.
Toderian: Also, I believe that’s the planner’s role. The planner listens to thousands of voices every day and balances. The part that many planners aren’t as good at is explaining. We’ll invite people, you tell us what you think, and then we may make a decision. And we aren’t good at explaining to the group how the decision was made in order to balance the voices in this room with all the other voices and perspectives.
We don’t show our work like my fourth grade math teacher used to say. We just give the answer. That’s pretty bad communication and it leads to people saying that you didn’t listen, which is often code for, “you didn’t do what we told you to do.”
Mitchell Reardon: At some point you’ve all touched on public engagement as well as on the influence or pressure from council. So what qualities do you think a chief planner and the planning leadership should have in negotiating that tension in the context of significant growth in Vancouver? And on the engagement side, I’d like to note that I’m the fourth person to ask a question, and I’m the fourth white man to ask a question.
Beasley: Most programs with any credibility will be done in multiple languages that reflect the profile of the community. Secondly, I’ve never seen a public engagement program that wasn’t layered with many different techniques, and the truth tends to pop out from all of those techniques. Unfortunately a lot of planners have taken public engagement down to the point of being very rote repetitions.
Thirdly, we don’t really design public engagement for the people who are engaging; we design it for our convenience. So we do it at the wrong time, we do it with the wrong arrangements and in the wrong setting. We offer no support. The best thing we do is offer a cup of coffee when maybe what we need to offer is child care. In some work we did in a very modest income neighbourhood in Washington DC, we actually paid everyone to come. Everyone that came got paid, just like we got paid, because their time was very valuable when they made $6 an hour.
We went through a period when public engagement was very creative. And then we went through a period where I find public engagement got very uncreative. In some cities, the public engagement methods are now institutionalized in laws and you can’t do anything else.
But the beauty of your generation is that you have a way around that. You can do what they did in Egypt, what they’ve done elsewhere. You can get on social media and you can talk to people regardless of what authorities are saying. And you can find ways to reach people who haven’t been reached before. I think that’s magical and has great potential.
Richard Stewart: I really appreciate Mr. Spaxman’s acknowledgement that people in public life are people too. We know what happens when the planners are perceived to be wrong; council votes them down. What happens when the politicians are wrong because that happens, too?
But also, what do we do with the region, with acknowledgement that the rest of the region is where a lot of this change is going to take place? Coquitlam and Surrey are burgeoning, the centre of gravity for development is moving eastward, and how does Vancouver’s choice of a planner matter?
Spaxman: What the planner has to do is recognize the importance of the region and bring that forward. At the same time, I think everybody is beginning to recognize more what’s happening in the region. I’ve met with the regional planners and they are very interested in beginning to lead at the regional level, as well.
These questions come up for them and they ask, “is our responsibility as planners more to the council that runs the region, or is it to the people of the region?” It’s an interesting dilemma, but they are considering also what we do about globalization as it affects this region, and how you allocate density to different parts of this region.
And how do you bring forward the debate at the regional level about the impact of putting population in the wrong place? Or not knowing what impact the density that you propose will have on built form? So what we are getting into is the complexity there is for a planner to be able to see the detail, to see the generality, to see the problem socially and politically, and behave as adroitly as they possibly can with the council they are dealing with.
It’s not a process that you solve overnight but what you do is you hang onto the shifts occurring. I think there are shifts occurring in this community at the regional level and particularly at the local level which, if expressed as well people can, will affect and change the way government operates.
Beasley: I also think a strong, articulate planner anywhere, if they are providing leadership, should be talking about the implications at all levels: the neighbourhood level, their city level, the regional level, the level of other cities.
You may not be able to take a recommendation to another council but you can speak in public about it. You can inspire other people to think about it, worry about it. You can form informal liaisons and combinations of people to attack certain kinds of issues. And through that you can start to make some progress. You can find allies that feel the same way.
I feel that’s one of the big things we need to do for affordable housing right now. There has been an inclination historically to say that affordable housing has to be handled by the core city because that’s where the poor people tend to be. But that’s changing and we need collaborative answers. I think every planner can talk about the various levels and then they’ll act where they have the authority to act. And otherwise, it’s the authority of influence.
McAfee: I would say that I was already seeing a lot more leadership from other communities when the last iteration of the regional growth strategy happened. It was your municipality, Coquitlam, which actually stood up and said that some of the ways this is going to be managed don’t work. You challenged the region to have that very fruitful discussion which improved everybody’s understanding of how the new regional plan would work.
At present, with Greg Moore chairing the region, I see a lot more happening in the suburban areas, and I think that Vancouver has stepped back a bit, maybe other than the transit referendum. So I think a lot is happening in the region, and once you have the Evergreen line, everybody else will be able to go and see.
Toderian: I think who the chief planner of Vancouver is matters less than it used to, but it still matters. From my perspective, as Larry said, I always embrace the power of inspiration and help. When we did something in the centre city, whether secondary suites or laneway housing, or just density around transit, I felt that in some way it was making it an easier task for the suburbs to take it on if they wanted to, as they urbanize.
On the power of inspiration or paving the way, we always tried to document our approaches so that if a mayor of another municipality called us up to say they are thinking about something — which they often did — we would send all of our information and try to be helpful. I’d also say that, more and more, the opposite potential is there.
I was the consultant for New Westminster on the housing policy for families. The new policy is 20% two bedroom and 10% three bedroom, or 25% and 10%, so 35% together; which is more ambitious than Vancouver. And very quickly, the mayor here announced that he wanted to raise the percentage in Vancouver. So, in New Westminster we talked about being an inspiration to not only the other regional municipalities but the city centre as well, on who could have the most progressive policy on housing for families. So I think that inspiration can go in every direction.
Toderian: I have always felt that there was always a very strong urban design ethic, and you didn’t need a division called urban design which they now have. What mattered was that there was a culture that planning and urban design were one thing.
Many exercises that we do, whether community amenity contributions or anything else, always started with a ‘design first’ approach. Folks like Scott Hein, formally the urban designer, have been quite candid that some of that has been lost. I know that it hasn’t been lost on the part of staff. The staff of the planning department and other departments that planning works with still strongly believe that urban design is a bedrock of successful city making.
I think some of that has been lost in the disconnect with what the city management office has valued or sometimes the politicians. But I think our new chief planner has to have an urban design ethic, an urban design perspective, the ability to know good urban design when they see it.
Spaxman: Urban design is essential to any urban development at all. A knowledge of urban design is not just insisting that it happens but forming it up in such a way that people actually understand why it happens. The old mantra of commodity, firmness and delight which I bore people with all the time, says: It has to work. It has to be affordable. It has to be comfortable. And it has to be beautiful. The city has a role not to design everything but to make sure that anybody that brings anything to bear on the city is neighbourly.
Neighbourliness is all the things we’ve been talking about – about process, about how you design a building.
You’ve heard me talk about neighbourliness before. Without neighbourliness, any city cannot work. Neighbourliness is all the things we’ve been talking about – about process, about how you design a building. I’ve been affronted recently by the number of people who come into city hall with a highrise and put up not a thin one, but the thickest one, right in front of somebody who a few years ago thought they had a view. There is an absence of the idea of neighbourliness in the city now, and urban design is the root of good neighbourliness.
Beasley: I was very naive on this topic because I thought all cities had an urban design ethic, as you call it, until I went to some other cities and realized they have no urban design ethic at all. I believe that planning is inherently about three dimensionality; it’s not just about land use and transportation. It is about urban design.
I discovered the way that you can make planning work for people, given that we in our private lives are consumers and we want good products, and urban design brings that, is to raise the bar of it all the time. Then when I went to other cities and found it wasn’t going on and no one seemed to care about it and the results, it was pretty frightening.
Even though we’ve had some dramas recently and Scot is one of the people I admire the most, we still have a very high urban design culture here as compared to other cities. What we have to do is take care of it. We have to honour it. We have to support it. And you as citizens have to demand it.
Price: Let me add a conundrum to this. I heard this in Dallas at the Revolution Conference and you hear it more and more here: the fear of the better. The fear of good urban design, improvements, amenities. If you provide that better transit service, that bike share, that park, you make my neighbourhood better and you gentrify it. You attract those who will drive up the rents. The new development on the edge will make my existing accommodation more affordable, stay away.
Beasley: I’ve always taken the view that the terrible is still worse than the good, even though the good might have the tendency to rule some people out. In fact, what you have to do if you are aspiring to the good, is have a much more strategic program to lure those people back in. That’s what we’ve forgotten. It’s not that it’s good urban design that has killed our social diversity. It’s that a lot more people want to come here and we have no programs to help to accommodate all kinds of people.
It’s not that it’s good urban design that has killed our social diversity. It’s that a lot more people want to come here and we have no programs to help to accommodate all kinds of people.
We do almost nothing to accommodate and support middle-income people. We barely support low-income people. And all around the world people are doing a lot more than us on this. So you don’t have to say either ‘good and expensive’ or ‘terrible and cheap.’ I’d rather have terrible cheap? Do you want to live in a slum? The people who are living in those slums don’t want to live in those slums.
Toderian: I think that for everyone on this panel, the design principles that lead to successful urban design do not have to be nor should be more expensive. Those are classic false choices that come up in these debates about better city making. Good design should almost be less expensive by definition if it’s good design. It’s usually about how relationships happen, certainly not less than about the cost of materials and things like that.
McAfee: If there are any younger people here who are just starting their career and you don’t have a good urban design sense in your head, don’t totally give up hope. You either partner with somebody who has it or you make sure, knowing that that’s not your strength, that you have a deputy whose strength it is. Larry tried so hard to never be on holidays when the urban design panel met and I would sit in his seat.
Audience: Thank you so much for bringing this together. I really hope this does get exposure. I have a public announcement is about Urbanarium; it will have a re-launch soon. And a comment relating to my experience working for the City: that the mood at City Hall seems to have changed, which may explain the reduced media interest.
My question is about the new director of planning: After listening and learning, what do you think the new director’s first big move should be?
Price: That sounds like a good question to end with. We’ll ask the panellists to answer that and to add any final comments.
Beasley: I think the new planner, working with the whole planning department team — who, by the way, are some of the smartest people on the planet as planners — has to take forward to Council a very progressive, proactive agenda of planning. Right now I don’t think most citizens know what the planning department is doing or care. We used to do an evaluation every year and tell them what we are going to do the next year. And everyone would get excited and they’d all argue about it and we’d agree and we’d go do it.
I think the new planner has to say, with his or her team, here is what we’d like to do for planning in Vancouver over the next year or five years. We want to get political endorsement of that, and we’ll figure out the money and detail. But let’s start with a strong sense that we’ve got to fix the planning malaise that is underway right now. And that will come from the new planner putting that strong program forward.
The new planner has to go and talk to Vancouver.
And secondly, as I’ve said before and will say again, the new planner has to go and talk to Vancouver.
Spaxman: I agree with Larry.
McAfee: I agree with Larry.
Toderian: I agree with Larry
NEXT: Concluding Remarks
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