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No need to extend West End plan, says LGBTQ advisory committee co-chair

Vancouver city planners recommend plan proceed to hearing as scheduled

Dean Malone says there’s no need to extend the consultation period for the new West End plan. “It will be the same people, the same ideas, the same outcomes,” he says. Credit: Natasha Barsotti

Vancouver city planners are recommending extensions for the Marpole and Grandview-Woodlands community plans, but, they say, the new plans for the West End and the Downtown Eastside are ready to proceed to public hearing in November as scheduled.

The city’s general manager of planning and development services told council Sept 25 that 63 community engagement events were held in the West End over the last 18 months, with 6,500 “participant contacts” made.

While Brian Jackson acknowledged that figure includes repeat attendees, he is satisfied that planners reached out to “thousands upon thousands of people” who live in the West End to draft the area’s new community plan.

“They participated in an active way in a variety of consultation methods that we have had over the past year and half,” Jackson said.

Dean Malone, a 17-year West End resident and co-chair of the city’s LGBTQ advisory committee, told council he’d like to see the plan presented on time in November.

Malone echoed Jackson’s statement that many West Enders were involved in the planning process, through open houses, walkshops and workshops, online surveys and other forms of engagement.

“I would have hoped that more of our 45,000 residents would have become engaged, but they didn’t. Some chose not to, some didn’t have time, and for many, it’s simply not their thing,” Malone said.

“What is important is that we did hear from people who have ideas and opinions about the future of the West End,” he said. “People did participate in the planning process. I was there, I saw them, I heard them, I spoke with them.”

Malone acknowledged that some West Enders have expressed disappointment with the process and content of the plan, but he told council that others are happy to move forward.

He said the West End would not benefit from an extension to the planning process, despite some people’s demands.

“I am not convinced that we would hear anything new from anyone new,” he said. “It will be the same people, the same ideas, the same outcomes.”

The directions for the current West End plan are not perfect, he acknowledged, indicating that he’d like to see more plans for market rental housing, for updates to community amenities and schools, and better support for community businesses. But the people calling for an extension are simply dissatisfied with the direction the plan is taking, he said, adding that they still have nearly two months left to provide additional input.

“In recent months, we were able to impress upon city planners that the queer communities in the West End — and the historic value of Davie Street — needed to be protected,” Malone tells Xtra.

“From Burrard to Jervis will be protected as the queer village,” he says.

“To me, that’s hugely significant because it says, ‘We’re prepared to make a statement that you’re here,’” he says.

Finding new space for Qmunity, BC’s queer resource centre, has also been identified as a priority, Malone notes.

He says there may be some upcoming rezoning applications, with community amenity contributions earmarked for Davie Village.

He says he would also like to see more emphasis on rental housing, specifically for older LGBT people and for youth.

Engaging communities in the day-to-day workings of the city is always difficult, he notes. He says he hears a lot of opinions expressed over coffee, but getting people to take the next step of submitting those ideas is challenging.

“There’s a lot of really valuable input out there that’s not coming into these plans that could be.”

Malone was one of 76 speakers registered to address council about the community plans. Only a handful remained by 7pm, when council reconvened to hear them after previous hearings in the day lasted longer than expected.

Speakers from other community planning areas expressed disappointment with the planners’ report.

Jak King, of the Grandview-Woodlands Area Committee, said the process was “not consultation with the community” but “disrespect for the community.”

Despite all the open houses, workshops and meetings prior to the publication of the emerging directions report in June, King said, no time was devoted to the importance of land use and rezoning proposals.

He said the planners’ proposed extension specifies no end date, leaving developers and Grandview-Woodland residents “up in the air.”

“This report offers us nothing in the way of details of a better process, just vague promises of a citizens’ assembly, whatever that may be, and for the details for that we have to wait another two months.”

The chair of the Downtown Eastside planning committee complained that the planning process was being rushed and could lead to a poor end result. Ray Spaxman told council that his group received only half of the draft plan for the area and was told that the other half would be sent in the days to come, even as it was expected to submit feedback to the city in the next couple of weeks.

The hearing is scheduled to resume Sept 26 at 2pm.