Friday, June 27, 2014

Vancouver's Department of 'What if?': a License to Disrupt

Credit: Brandon Yan
A remarkable thing happened this past week. On Wednesday, June 25th, over 30 past Vancouver City Planning Commissioners sat in room at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue to talk about Vancouver's Planning legacy and future (Although, it turned out be more about the Commission's). With experiences dating back to the 80s, it was a room replete with knowledge.

While I have struggled to find a purpose for myself at the VCPC meetings, this unique event has energized my spirits towards this potentially important citizen advisory body. I can't attach names to any of the comments that were made as per Chatham House rules but some persistent themes came up.

The VCPC's Purpose
I'm a little relieved to hear that past commissioners also struggled to figure out what exactly a powerless planning commission is supposed to do and how it's supposed to do it. In fact, it was repeatedly suggested that the VCPC should be Vancouver's 'Department of What if?' By that, they meant it should not be afraid to take risks, be creative, and most of all, be disruptive. One past commissioner said that the VCPC's absolute lack of power is actually its greatest asset - it has nothing to lose.

Disturbing Trends
Further, it was also clear that those that spoke up at this round-table were concerned about equity and justice in Vancouver's future. To paraphrase a past commissioner:
"No one has acknowledged that no one cares about being the Greenest City. We are now concerned about the growing inequality, instead."
In a city that is seemingly dualistic by nature, one that consists of people with a lot and people with very little, how do we ensure Vancouver is planned for everyone?

I'll leave you with this video of Meg Holden's (SFU Urban Studies professor/my MA supervisor) SCARP Symposium presentation. If you don't have time, tune into the 11 minute mark when she asks a great and relevant question:

All this being said, the VCPC is a citizen body. I'm more than happy to chat with you via email/twitter. Let's be disruptive together. 

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