I've been thinking for some time about what it is that makes conversations about growth, urban planning and development proposals so hard in Vancouver. But It's not just a Vancouver problem.
Recently in Calgary, Mayor Nenshi cancelled future public meetings for a new transit project because a "community group" was spreading misinformation to residents of the community, leading to serious conflict at public open houses. Clearly, this is a case of a few bad apples spoiling the whole bunch.
As Nenshi pointed out in the Calgary Herald, We need to hear from citizens about what's important to them. But the actions of a few citizens have made it impossible to do that in a traditional face-to-face common."
For new developments being proposed in both Vancouver and Calgary, information is typically put forward by the developer and the city to communities. But now, we're seeing community groups releasing their own information to residents. The motive is to try to increase opposition to the project.
In a city struggling to keep up with its own growth and many other factors contributing to housing affordability, we need to be able to have open, factual discussions.
I believe this is a dangerous trend as people are signing petitions and providing feedback at public open houses based on inaccurate information that is not prepared by professionals, industry experts or city staff.
Below is a comparison of images -- the top one is from this project website, depicting architectural renderings of a proposal. On the bottom are three images used at various points by NIMBY residents to "illustrate" how bad the proposal would be for the neighbourhood while asking people to sign a petition against the project.
The No Towers group claims to have 3,500 signatures on their petition. I wonder how many people are aware of the details of the actual proposal?
So, what is this evil developer actually proposing?
The development, if approved, would be 12-storeys tall. It would be located across the street from an existing 13-storey apartment building. The project is a partnership between Boffo Properties and the Kettle Society, and combines non-profit space for the Kettle and 30 below-market supportive housing units with approximately 200 homes and retail space. The new development will provide a new facility for the Kettle to continue to offer housing, employment, advocacy and mental health services to those in need of help in the community.
While this is just one local example, the trend of community groups trying to hijack new developments with misinformation is a serious cause for concern. It makes community consultation much harder, creates an "us v. them" mentality and clouds the actual facts at hand.
Self-interested groups posing as community representatives are creating roadblocks while hypocritically criticizing the effectiveness and motives of the actual community consultation conducted by the city and the developer.
In a city struggling to keep up with its own growth and many other factors contributing to housing affordability, we need to be able to have open, factual discussions about new developments so that we can work together to create a truly livable city for everyone.
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