Posted by: VPSN | January 29, 2012

This week at Council and Park Board – January 30, 2012

There’s lots on the agenda at this week’s Park Board and Council meetings. We pulled together the following summary to help public space aficionados keep track of it all. Let us know what you think of the format.

On deck for discussion are:

  • Jericho Wharf Concept Plan
  • Rezonings in Mt. Pleasant and South Cambie
  • Vancouver Economic Development Strategy
  • Three motions in support of citizen engagement
  • Dogs, leashes and the Animal Control Bylaw
  • Booze. Movies. The Rio Theatre

All the exciting details and more… below the fold.

Jericho Wharf Concept Plan

The Park Board will be receiving a staff report that outlines the final proposed concept plan for the Jericho Wharf site.

The Wharf, off of Point Grey Road, was the source of some debate over the last couple of years. Structural issues were at the heart of it, and there was disagreement about whether the Wharf should be rehabilitated, or whether the beach area should be naturalized. The new concept plan advances the restoration approach. In so doing, it proposes to create an environment “where wildlife can access the waters edge through a diverse range of habitat types including dune grass, upland shrub thickets and maturing forest.”

Public Realm Considerations – Rezoning Applications

Three rezoning applications being considered this week are of interest. The first two are for the co-joined Beth Israel / Talmud Torah School at Oak and 26th – where improved landscaping and pedestrian connections are part of the design, and a “publicly oriented plaza” is being proposed along 28th Avenue.

The third, more controversial rezoning application, is for the Rize site at Kingsway and Broadway.  Here, a new podium and tower are being proposed and there is has been an animated conversation taking place over how the development proposal ‘fits’ with the objectives of the recently completed Mt. Pleasant Community Plan. Among the public realm aspects being considered are wider sidewalks and the creation of a stronger pedestrian ‘heart’ for the Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood.

Economic Development Strategy: chicken and egg dilemmas?

Council will also be receiving a report on the new Vancouver Economic Development Strategy. This document looks at ways to support three key goals:

  1. Creating a Healthy Climate for Growth and Prosperity;
  2. Supporting Local Business, New Investment and Global Trade;
  3. Focusing on Talent: Retaining and Attracting Human Capital.

The report references the need to consider questions of affordability and liveability as part of a discussion of growth. The City’s commitment to these items is noted in a number of places – but the overall incorporation of these ideas into the strategy ultimately feels a bit thin. And this is curious because of how fundamental these considerations are to any discussion of local economy.

Our take: Want to attract and retain talent, visitors and dollars? Then a focus on providing spaces for people to live affordably (meaning homes, childcare, basic needs) needs to be a key component of any plan – and not just via references to other strategies or initiatives (like the recently completed Housing and Homelessness document).   Without a solid program in these areas, the talent (and we’ve got lots here already), visitors and dollars won’t be sticking around all that long.  There will be attraction without any retention.

The liveability question may seem a little less obvious, but we think there’s also a need to give this some more profile.  A key way to energize and support an economy is to make sure that the various ‘spaces between’ home and work (a substantial amount of which is part of the public realm) are well-designed, inclusive and accessible – because they are as much an ‘incubator’ (to borrow a term) of local economic vitality as high-tech office infrastructure.  People want to stay in cities that feel good.  A big part of that good feeling comes with a vibrant public life and all the various things – parks, plazas, street life – that support it.

Don’t get us wrong, we like the idea of an economic development strategy. However, the present report could use a wee tune up.  With aspirations to ” [expand] the City’s global brand on liveability, by strengthening and promoting a prosperous business climate” (p.8) the Strategy’s emphasis here, and elsewhere,  seems to suggest that the cart will lead the horse.

Citizen Engagement

Three separate motions look at aspects of citizen engagement. The first sees newbie Councillor George Affleck seeking support to “direct staff to report back regarding the current process by which Council members are appointed to committees, boards and other bodies, as well as a listing of these specific appointments, and the duration of these appointments.”

It will be interesting to see what comes of this discussion. It has been our understanding that the Mayor and his caucus get to make that call – one of the perks of winning the election (and an inevitable invitation for the minority parties, whomever they happen to be at the time, to cry foul).

The second motion, also by Affleck, seeks to allow citizens better access to the decision theatre at Metro Vancouver by allowing Board and committee meetings to be “broadcast, either by internet or other means, to allow residents to view the proceedings of these meetings.”

The third motion on notice, being proposed by Andrea Reimer, seeks (in part) to reopen a discussion that occupied elected officials during the last session of Council. The two-part motion would have City Council write to the Province and “reiterate the request to have the ability under the Vancouver Charter for Council to make campaign finance rules and consider alternate voting systems” as well as “make a new request for the ability to release raw vote data.”

The motion then makes a further request for “recommendations from the 2011 Chief Elections Officer for measures to increase voter turnout, citizen involvement and fairness for all candidates in the 2014 civic election.”

Dogs, Leashes, Laws

Public space is governed by a number of regulations whose ‘teeth’ appear inconsistently, and usually only when there are complaints. For example, tire swings on street trees, garage sale notices on neighbourhood utility poles, and sidewalk chalk on the road are all examples of things that, despite their innocuousness, contravene city bylaws.

Another newbie Councillor, Adriane Carr, is going after a regulation that may – depending on your perspective – fall into this nebulous category. In this case it’s Animal Control Bylaw, which states that anyone who keeps a dog must not allow on “a street or other public place” unless the dog is under their “immediate charge.” Carr is concerned that this unnecessarily penalizes the owners of well-behaved dogs who are tethered to posts, etc. while their owner does errands in stores, cafés or other buildings.

Carr’s motion requests that staff “report back on options for changing the Animal Control Bylaw so as to allow people to safely tie up and leave temporarily unattended” their well-behaved canine.

Booze. Movies.

This one is a little less of a public space issue, though its a matter we know that many of our members have been following.

One of the staples of the East Van cultural scene is the Rio Theatre – which showcases movies, variety shows, live performances and events of all sorts. You may have heard that they’ve run into a bit of roadblock in trying to get a regular (that is, non-special event) liquor permit. It seems our rather Byzantine liquor legislation, (in particular, the Liquor Control & Licensing Act & Regulations), disallows live performance venues from serving alcohol if they also show movie screenings at other operating times.

It’s weird enough that people aren’t allowed to drink a beer and watch a film (which is pretty common in many other cities). However, thanks to our current laws, it also means that the Rio, if they want to have live performances (and serve alcohol), are effectively being disallowed from showing movies at all! (Even if they don’t serve alcohol at screenings).

Heather Deal’s motion seeks to remedy at least part of this by having Council seek “a condition on the Rio Theatre’s existing liquor license [to allow] them to show movie screenings without alcohol service when no live events are scheduled.”

There’s also an on-line petition that has been circulating on-line which you can sign.

Have your say!

Got thoughts on any of these issues? Jot an email to the motion’s proponent by using firstname.lastname [at] vancouver.ca. Copy the others at mayorandcouncil [at] vancouver.ca.

You can also request to speak to Council, mail in your thoughts, or get in touch with your elected officials through other means. Click here for the details.

 

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