Columnist Don Cayo asks, “Should the role of city planners be sharply reduced?” (Vanc. Sun, 14-Sept-2011)

[Updated] Today’s Vancouver Sun carries an interesting column by Don Cayo, titled “Should the role of city planners be sharply reduced?” (Click here for article.) In it he interviews former mayor Sam Sullivan, and refers to the St John’s Church demolition at 1401 Comox as well as West End Neighbours. Here are a few comments from our side.

  • Mr. Cayo quotes our website, referring to 1401 Comox: “This site is symbolic of many of the rezoning issues in the West End.” Then he goes on to quote his recent conversation with former mayor Sam Sullivan who appears to agree: “The West End is the product of market decisions… Now you find students who walk through the West End as if they’re in a cathedral. They look. They gasp. They can’t believe the diversity, the variety, the grittiness, the varied and interesting forms of housing you can find there. And it was all determined without any planning help at all.”
  • Actually, we’re not sure we agree with Mr. Sullivan’s statement. It is WEN’s understanding that the current character and design of the West End is the result of healthy interaction between the community and City planners back in the mid-1970s and again in the late 1980s, the latter including a comprehensive consultation process that many current residents still remember, under former city planner Ray Spaxman. Despite controls placed on development in the West End since that time, our research indicates that over 5,000 dwelling units in over 100 buildings have been built within the boundaries of the West End, largely without controversy, much within current zoning. The development guidelines implemented in the late 1980s have helped this development enhance the quality of life in the West End.
  • We believe that a good public discussion of various views and ideas, based on actual facts, is a healthy thing for Vancouver and for the West End.
  • City planners certainly have an important role to play and can sometimes produce excellent results. But the public entrusts them with great responsibility to balance many competing demands, and they need to do their work with the public interest first and foremost.
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