After a six-month international search, the City of Vancouver chose a general manager of planning and development last week – a position that is likely to have a higher profile and demand more political skills than many of the city councillors, if the city’s past is anything to go by.
Their choice: Brian Jackson, a senior planner in Richmond. Mr. Jackson, who grew up in Vancouver and graduated with a master’s degree from the University of British Columbia planning school in 1980, has been a relative unknown in the city as he took jobs in Toronto, California and Richmond. That’s about to change.
What interested you in taking the Vancouver job?
I do really like the agenda in terms of affordable housing and transit-oriented density. It just seemed like a good fit.
I’m just really looking forward to working with community groups and non-profits, putting meat to the bones of the affordable-housing strategy.
What’s the difference between planning in Vancouver and Richmond?
There’s a stronger emphasis on urban design in Vancouver. There’s some very good urban design here.
And there’s more you can do because it doesn’t have the limitations on height because of the airport.
There has been a lot of controversy here in neighbourhoods over specific building projects. What’s your solution?
I do believe in specificity in terms of area plans. It provides developers with certainty about what they need to do and it provides the public with the certainty about what’s going to be there.
What is Vancouver’s future?
I see it building on its scenic beauty, and intensifying its land use in key areas. There will be a continued evolution of the Vancouver style of the tower and podium. We’re really picking up different forms from around the world and finding ways of building on that.
You’ve lived in Yaletown since returning to Vancouver six years ago, after a stint in Irvine, Calif. Where did you grow up?
Marpole first, then we moved to Richmond. Later on, around Fraser and 12th, the West End. At one point, I bought a house in Burnaby.
What do you do for fun?
I walk a lot with my dog. Last weekend, we walked through the Downtown Eastside. I walk around the downtown, the West End.
A Wheaten terrier, called Parker, for Parker Posey.
What are the last three city events you went to?
I went to the Art Walk on South Granville. The city event on affordable housing at the Roundhouse, which made me think, ‘Isn’t this a wonderful way to talk about a serious subject?’ Greek Days in June.
Anything else you do?
I’m a golfer.
So you won’t be advocating for housing on the golf courses?
I come from a golfing family. I think my sister would kill me. It’s a serious dilemma for me.
Are you on Twitter?
I just don’t know how people find the time. By the time I finish work and walk the dog, that’s the end of the day.
Special to The Globe and Mail