Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Getting back to the Big Picture / Why the Big Bench Sessions - Fall 2011

The comments below were penned by a Lower Capilano resident, following the March 30 OCP meeting held at the Grouse Inn.  Through the writer's compassionate awareness for managing a changing world, we find the same recognized need to embrace the greater public good that will inform and drive the CGA's "Big Bench Sessions" planned for this fall. 

More information on this series of public meetings will be circulated in the area over the coming month.  Stay tuned and consider the following thoughts of a neighbour.

After leaving last night's meeting I decided to put in writing some of my thoughts and perhaps offer some advice based on an historical perspective that may help direct future development in our area.  I am afraid that a  community spirit we all would like to believe in is really just a myth. A community spirit exists when all are pulling in the same direction and unite around common interests, benefits and even sacrifices.  Unfortunately, the history of the Lower Capilano neighbourhoods proved once again last night that the communities are still fractured, terribly entrenched in Not-in-My-Back-Yard approach to life and have limited vision as to how we are all impacted by global politics and economical affairs. Not even one word was uttered that perhaps we may all need to use public transportation anyway since fuel charges may be too expensive or even not available given the Middle East situation. Of course there is plenty of other energy resources in North America, but those need to be developed yet. OK, here we go:

1.       The most vulnerable residents are those living on the boundaries next to the suggested changes. History of the community shows that the more the resident is removed geographically from the affected areas, he or she will less likely to resist, assist or show compassion to the affected residents. Not only that, neighbours and whole streets within the same community will fight each other to maintain their way of life and habits. You may find a person here and there ready to protect a vulnerable resident but that is rare. As a planner, you must protect those vulnerable residents since they are in minority.  In the name of democracy, the majority of the community is ready to sacrifice a street or two in order to protect themselves from the inevitable changes.

2.       The big picture is lost. We heard one person mentioning the younger population and another person mentioning the aging population. The fact is that the North Shore attracts older residents for various reasons and yet there is a resistance to accommodate their needs. I still remember the fights we had when the development for seniors’ housing in Norgate community was initiated. Talking about mean spirited attitudes and lack of compassion.

3.       I like very much the idea of a Village Centre. Our area needs it desperately. Maybe if we had those social gathering places people would feel more connected and a true community spirit would be then reborn. Again, those living next to the suggested centres will need extra special attention as to meaningfully and truly create a strong link between the adjacent residents and the centre.  If the rest of the community wants vehicle access to the village centre, let them drive around to get there. The idea is to let the community have a safe pedestrian access to the Village Centre. I guess it is hard to kill old habits.  There are many successful examples of town centres around the world that limit vehicle access. It may be limited during the day while allowing supply vehicles during the night or with special permits. Yet, neighbouring streets and adjacent communities demand vehicle access to every inch of the land, as if it was a God’s given right. We should ask ourselves: What would make this place a desired place to live in, raise children and grow older? We already have beautiful scenery (mountains, river, beaches), proximity to downtown Vancouver, flat geography and improving pedestrian access to shopping malls. What do we need to make it work better is to protect residential streets facing the village centres and provide safe pedestrian access to the centres.

4.       Larco site.  What a waste of potential land. It is sitting empty for so many years while it could answer many needs I raised above.  The site  sits undeveloped because of deep disagreements between the various communities over its future,  add to it a greedy developer who is being dragged by his ears to be more socially responsible,  not to forget a reluctant District management to invest financially even when they could afford it.  I just feel so sorry for people living around that area. I think the old guards need to disappear and perhaps a new generation would be more visionary. I was really hoping I would still be able to enjoy a community centre there, a library, a pool, a child care facility a place to drink coffee with friends. Now, my children are grown and moved away, and I am considering selling my house [in Lower Capilano] since none of the potential great ideas would benefit me while I am here.

5.       Because of the divided communities, streets and neighbours, I suggest strongly to solicit each household and get an objective feel for what people really want. History proved that the community associations not always represent the full spectrum of ideas, some are self appointed, some shun away opposition.  By knowing what each household wants, the District can then stay away from local politics that may shut down great ideas for developments.       

 I wish you all the best. May the forces be with you.

All the best

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