Many North American Cities are boring to look at. Neighbourhoods are boring conglomerations of big high rises, sprawling malls, and big box stores.
When a government leader wants to be seen as doing something they often build white elephants that somehow overwhelm the spaces in which they are built e.g., sports stadiums, convention centres, museums.
A Large Land Developer is looking to build something they build High Rise Condominiums, Hotels, and Office Towers. People protesting a proposed new overwhelming buildings they are often told that they are suffering from the NIMBY syndrome (Not-In-My-Back-Yard). Or they are told that they are standing in the way of progress.
Development for the sake of Development
In the 1960’s freeways were all the rage across the world and every city needed to have a freeway into its downtown core from the suburbs. The City of Vancouver was no different it too sought to overcome the objections of its residents – to tell them that they were wrong and that progress was right. And so they proceeded with building a freeway from the City to the Suburbs…
Residential citizens of a very strong Commercial Drive Neighbourhood stopped them and said No!
Fifty years later the freeway scrap today known as the Georgia Viaduct is being considered for an aerial parkland lane way instead of the freeway to nowhere. Other Cities across North America envy the beauty of a City that is not a travesty of stacked freeways that divide neighbourhoods.
Fast Forward to 2012
Of more concern since the November 2011 municipal election is how big corporate business has taken over Vancouver’s City Council through its political funding contributions. According to www.thetyee.ca, an online news service, various city council parties received varying amounts of money. One land developer Rob MacDonald contributed $960,000 to the NPA. 22 corporations contributed $20,000 each to Vision Vancouver. COPE, a left leaning party, received $361,000 in donations from 11 unions. With no limit to contributions Vancouver City Hall Municipal politicians only loyalty is to their corporate donors.
Residents’ desires for vibrant local neighbourhoods becomes of less importance to the demands of real estate developers. In the Mount Pleasant area of Vancouver, one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods, there is a powerful push to build a 19 story glass faced high rise at the top of Mount Pleasant where it will be in a dominant position to over power a neighbourhood of 4 story apartment buildings and single family homes. The Residents Association of Mount Pleasant, www.rampvancouver.com. while not opposed to development is looking for a more sensitive development which respects the wishes of residents. Will 240 local residents who are speaking before Vancouver City Council sway a developer financed City Council?
We Need Accountability to Our Residents – Not Who Has the Biggest Wallet
What we need is to have a new City Municipal system that limits the financial interest of any municipal politician or senior bureaucrat to a very limited and visible interest to all of its citizens. What we need are new plans to renew our city in ways that are vastly different from our recent past. Since we are a city with too many cars on surface streets idling along…why not we invest a great deal more in light rail rapid transit at ground level, expand our sky train system on or near arterial roads.
What if we built more food security with the closing of every fourth street in the city with community gardens on the former road surfaces, dog walking paths, city playgrounds to encourage our kids to play outside? What if we opened up some of our underground streams creating mini wilderness areas in the City? We could increase our population density with the conversions of single family houses into 3 – 5 suite units like has already happened in Kitsilano and to a smaller degree in Mount Pleasant?
Why should residents bother to fight City Hall? Who wants to be patronized by City Hall politicians? It is hard for individuals to be heard by City Hall politicians who have already had their votes purchased by corporations and or unions. What options do residents of Vancouver have to oppose unbridled greed? We need to have our Cities answerable to the residents that live in their Cities regardless of whether they approved of them or not. What we need perhaps are local Residents Associations forwarding their representative to City Hall and have their representatives answerable to the residents of their neighbourhoods. That might be the answer to stop the major dry rot that exists in our municipal political system here in Vancouver, BC.
“People just don’t vote”, laments the media. Our voting representation is going down year by year.
Voting representation by neighbourhoods in the City of Vancouver located on the West Coast of Canada has shown that the oldest most established neighbourhoods with the least amount of new developments have the highest voter representation (37% in municipal elections). While the newest most modern high rise condominium towers e.g., Coal Harbour has 7% and Yaletown has 11% representation. It would appear that when community spirit departs a community so does engagement by the residents living in the area.