The City of Vancouver’s LGBTQ advisory committee has 33 recommendations to revitalize Davie Street and make the gay village safer, more accessible and more vibrant.
A subcommittee of the advisory committee has been gathering feedback from the community since November 2012 to contribute to the West End Community Plan, which city planners are expected to present to city council late this fall.
“Our focus was to ensure that the vibrant LGBTQ presence and voice in the Village remain an integral part of any future planning,” says Barb Snelgrove, who worked with Dean Malone and Ron Stipp on the subcommittee.
“With the work we have done, we seem to be getting the attention of the West End BIA and the West End planning committee,” Malone says.
Stipp says the people he consulted all offered similar suggestions. “People wanted to make sure that Davie Street remained a queer hub but [said] that it also needed some enhancement,” he says.
“When you enhance the neighbourhood and make it more vibrant, it becomes a safer neighbourhood,” Stipp says. “And people can hold hands walking down the street because it is safer.”
The committee’s report focuses on the Davie Village’s safety, cultural and social spaces, zoning, business needs and traffic concerns.
Recommendations include eliminating rush-hour parking restrictions on Davie Street, reducing Davie to two lanes, extending its sidewalks, installing more bike stands, improving the accessibility of the community policing centre, increasing police presence on the street during events and at peak times, and improving street lighting, including in the alleys.
Malone says the recommendations dovetail with the work done to date by the city’s West End planners. “They did their work, we did ours, and not surprisingly we heard similar things.”
“We have received the report, and we’re quite pleased with it,” says city planner Kevin McNaney. “It very much aligns with what we’ve heard from the community, and it aligns with the direction we’re going with West End planning developments to build on the LGBTQ identity as the heart of the Davie Village.”
Malone says the advisory committee is also hoping to work more closely with the West End Business Improvement Association (WEBIA) so it can include input from the gay community regarding its business plans.
“[WEBIA] reached out to us, we reached out to them, and we are going to work together,” Malone says.
“It’s ideal if we’re on the same page,” WEBIA executive director Stephen Regan says.
Malone recently expressed concern that WEBIA’s retail consultant report lacked a gay perspective.
Regan now says he’s open to holding focus groups and asking the advisory committee to “point us in the direction of what is needed in the Davie Village.”
But Regan maintains that the draft of the retail consultant report currently before the city included only businesses; community and consumers were not the focus, he says. “We didn’t put any lens on it.”
“It wasn’t Davie Village-centric,” he adds. “It was about the West End commercial streets and where we see gaps.”
Malone maintains that WEBIA should include queer consumers and businesses in all its plans if it hopes to be successful.
Councillor Tim Stevenson agrees. “If we didn’t have a queer lens, we wouldn’t have the gay village,” he says.
“I’ve stressed to the BIA just how important it is to have gay businesses and to encourage gay tourism,” he says. “I think they’re making a real effort and we’ll find ways of working with them to further encourage our input and ideas.”
“Above and beyond everything else I think it's crucial that the Davie Village be maintained,” Stevenson says. “That is absolutely key.”
Stevenson praises the subcommittee and its Davie revitalization report. “They took the process seriously and did their homework.”
“The West End community owes the committee a vote of gratitude,” he says. “The West End Plan is all that much better for the input from this report.”
One of the committee’s recommendations will be put into effect immediately. The city has agreed to provide a temporary open-air celebration plaza in the heart of the gay village in time for Pride weekend.
“We heard this idea from many people,” Malone says. “In the absence of a queer community centre, that some are looking for, the Bute Street plaza can be a place where we can have a queer community presence and also a celebration place for the whole community.”
The plaza will offer people a place to socialize, eat lunch, do yoga and listen to live entertainment.
“We’ve been looking at sectioning off Bute Street near Davie, either seasonally or permanently,” McNaney says. “We want to talk to businesses and the community, but it seems like a great opportunity.”
“This idea has been in the works for a while, and I think the report just reinforced that,” Stevenson says.