The Vancouver Plan "has entirely lost the plot"
These are Councillor Colleen Hardwick's concluding remarks to Vancouver City Council on the Vancouver Plan. The plan was approved by a 9-2 vote on July 22.
I have advocated for a reboot of the CityPlan process since 2005.
Regime change and senior staff retirements took the momentum out of completing the CityPlan that was led by Ann McAfee through the 1990s. Under Ann’s leadership, CityPlan had engaged with 100,000 Vancouverites - pre-internet - and focused on neighbourhood-based planning.
I campaigned on this in 2018 and it would have been my first motion after being elected (although I ended up seconding it when Adriane Carr beat me to the punch).
Make no mistake about it - Vancouver needs a city-wide plan - without a doubt. But, as I have said many times - the devil is in the details. The plan needs to leverage the exceptional work of the past into the challenges of the future.
When I promoted and supported updating the city-wide plan, I understood the objective to be continuing CityPlan's legacy of community-based planning, knitting together the tapestry of neighbourhood plans across the city, carefully developed over decades involving generations of professional city staff and thousands of volunteer hours by local residents. This process is what earned Vancouver the reputation as the poster child of the Livable City. Again, the “legacy” here is participatory community planning that fully engages citizens from all of the city’s local communities in shaping Vancouver’s future.
The Vancouver Plan takes a wrecking ball/steam roller to Vancouver’s neighbourhoods.
Council has belatedly acknowledged that Vancouverites value their neighbourhoods, but what residents were also telling Council is that the Vancouver Plan completely disregards established communities, and has disengaged neighbourhood residents in this flawed process.
Today, all this stands to be destroyed by a top-down one-size-fits-all approach to urban planning.
Instead of a plan that reflects the nuance of neighbourhoods in the way it balances adding human-scale housing solutions, addressing mobility, community amenities, economic activity, greenspace and affordability, the rebranded Vancouver Plan is deterministic, so-called "priorities" applied in an autocratic manner through building typologies applied arbitrarily citywide without local context. This approach does not reflect neighbourliness in any way. Quite the contrary. Neighbourhoods are not even mentioned. The related amendments are generally hollow since they only give empty verbiage without meaningful neighbourhood-based planning that respects, protects and builds on existing character and heritage community assets while allowing for the growth that we need. This is not the city-wide planning process I advocated for all these years.
Since 2020, with the 50 Neighbourhoods project, I have tried to draw attention to the need to focus on the nuance of neighbourhoods to provide for growth using proper transparent data in the City's approach to city-wide planning. It was clear to me that recent senior staff were taking a top-down approach, without providing the necessary data requested by me and Council at the beginning of this term, and I tried to shine a light on what the City should be doing.
Sadly, the Vancouver Plan has entirely lost the plot to the detriment of the future for our children, our children's children and for new residents.
A TEAM-led City Council would do things differently. Read the basics of TEAM's Planning and Development Policy