The City of Vancouver will launch the first step in developing a city-wide plan this fall — the "listening" phase — after council approved on July 16 the budget and process for the multi-year project.
Its development is expected to cost almost $18 million for the years 2019 to 2022 and involve a staff team of 30 to 35. It will be the first time the city has created a city-wide plan since the 1920s.
Goals of the new plan include addressing a wide range of issues, including reconciliation, housing, affordability, the economy, climate change and public amenities. Existing rezoning policies will remain in effect during the process unless council opts to update or change them based on new directions that evolve.
While describing the process as "an unknown journey," Mayor Kennedy Stewart also said, "It's really exciting" and Vancouver is ready for it.
NPA Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung called it a "huge opportunity tp bring people together," while acknowledging there is a lot of uncertainty and divisions in the city.
"A lot of that comes down to when people are dealing with really core issues that affect them fundamentally, like affordability or things that are happening in their neighrbourhood and there is a pace of change, that creates discomfort for people," she said.
"I know people want to get to a place where there is more understanding and certainty in what will be happening in their neighbourhoods. I really, truely hope and believe this is the vehicle to get there."
Green Party Coun. Pete Fry was equally optimistic.
"This is just the beginning of this plan and we are actually embarking on a great journey," he said.
Other councillors, including OneCity's Christine Boyle, said they hope the city-wide plan will help council rebuild trust with residents.
"I'm particularly really excited about the depth of Reconciliation that is embedded in how how we're going about this report, as well as the committment to engaging folks who we know face a lot of sytemic barriers to participation," Boyle added.
But cracks in support for the city-wide plan have already appeared. To launch it, councillors voted on several clauses, one by one, that made up the overall motion. COPE Coun. Jean Swanson voted against several, while NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick voted against all of them.
Swanson said she was "torn" about the city-wide plan. While her party supports it, and she sees value in creating a plan that deals with housing affordability, homelessness, how to get affordable transit, and climate change, she questioned whether a city-wide plan will "get us there." She also questioned the cost.
"What really disturbs me is this plan so far ignores the last part of the council motion to report back on how to prevent renoviction, demoviction and gentrification," she added.
Swanson said she doesn't know what the plan will achieve other than it's "$20 million for this big mystery everyone is so hopeful about."
"I've been burnt by a couple of plans so I'm skeptical about it," she said.
Hardwick, whose election campaign endorsed a city-wide plan, is unhappy about the way it's coming together.
She tried to introduce an amendment, which included points such as:
- ensuring traditional neighbourhood boundaries are used,
- putting planning programs like the Broadway Plan on hold and integrating them into the larger city-wide planning process,
- putting the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program and the Rental 100 program on hold, and
- specifically including neighbourhood residents association as stakeholders.
There was no seconder, so the amendment failed. Hardwick characterized her reaction was one of "deep disappointment."
"I've been pushing and ran on a city-wide plan. It's been a passion of mine for years and I am deeply afraid that it's headed in the wrong direction and that's a hard thing for me to say having worked as long as have, and as hard as I have, for this," she said before the vote.
"I wish it were otherwise and hope springs eternal. But I think that we have to really be listening to the people and not come in with a prescriptive framework and then shoe-horn people's opinions into it, which is kind of what I've been seeing."