A slowly rising tide of angst over development and density in Vancouver officially lapped at the steps of city hall this week as residents lined up at meetings and rallied outside to protest against the pace of change.
Some were angry, calling the Vision party, which rules at city hall, “corrupt” and “the party that does what developers tell them to.” Others are just disappointed.
But the several dozen who went to speak at council on Wednesday and Thursday, or the 200-odd who attended a rally on Tuesday, had one common theme.
“You people are really making a mistake,” said Commercial Drive resident Eileen Mosca, one of the early speakers on a staff report that recommended delays and amendments to four community plans that have sparked opposition from small but dedicated bands of residents.
Even though she was in favour of the new proposal, on which council will vote when the speakers finish, Ms. Mosca said the city had fumbled the process and created unnecessary problems. “I give them credit for listening to us now. But there’s a sense of betrayal about what they did earlier.”
Opposition groups blasted preliminary suggestions to put a cluster of towers around the Broadway and Commercial SkyTrain station, to allow more development in the Downtown Eastside, to rezone large parts of Marpole for duplexes and townhouses, and for a new ring of towers around the West End.
City planners, who have been working on plans for those areas for several years, in a report to council this week recommended dropping some of the more contentious elements, extending the timelines for consultation in two areas, and creating a citizens’ assembly for the Commercial Drive area – a part of the city that traditionally votes heavily for the left and Vision.
In spite of those concessions, opponents are on a roll.
“We demand a stop to all rezoning. It’s our city and it’s our plan,” Mike Burdick said at the Tuesday rally. Mr. Burdick, a Marpole resident, has been leading opposition there.
And that opposition has spread to other neighbourhoods, where people are also unhappy about past changes or worried about future ones – everything from the plans for transit along Broadway in the west to changes at Hastings Park in the east.
The opposition has also attracted the attention of all the city’s other political parties, who are hoping to capture the votes of the disgruntled.
The Non-Partisan Association, the city’s once-powerful centre-right party, sent an e-mail to all past and current members urging them to attend the Tuesday rally. New groups such as TEAM and the Cedar Party worked the crowd.
The speakers and people at the rally this week appeared to be mainly from a Marpole group that has been very active, with a half dozen or so from other neighbourhoods.
But the rally also attracted 68-year-old Pasquale Bianco, who lives at 22nd Avenue and Boundary Road on the far eastern edge of the city, and Melody Mason of Kitsilano.
Mr. Bianco and two of his friends went because they are upset at a proposal to build a five-storey apartment building in their single-family neighbourhood.
“It’s a huge monster they want to build, and where are all those people going to park?”
Ms. Mason said that she and her neighbours are worried because their area is due next for a new community plan.
“We’ve seen what happens. We know the city has plans for transit on Broadway and they want high-rises all along.”
The opposition movement is being watched carefully by Vision Vancouver too, which is going to trying to win control of city hall for a third term next November.
Vision councillor Andrea Reimer said there seems to be a high level of dissent because council has made an effort to consult a lot of people. As well, the city chose to update plans for four areas at the same time, instead of sticking to doing one at a time, as has been the practice.
“As we involve more people in planning, it becomes harder to get consensus.”
She added that, for every person worried about density, someone else is concerned about housing affordability. And her party believes that affordability is only going to get worse if no new housing gets built.
Vancouver has little new land available for the needed development.
Thousands of condos were built in Vancouver with little resident protest in the 1990s and early 2000s, but formerly industrial land was used.
“It minimized conflict, but completely wiped out huge chunks of job-producing land.”