This afternoon I biked down to Riley Park to check out the Eco-Density Forum. I was expecting a gym full of fancy poster boards with fancy plans and statistic, and city planners on hand to answer questions. They had that, but when I got there it was deserted and everyone was in the auditorium where a town hall-style meeting was going on. Too bad I showed up late and missed the official presentation, but I did get to hear most of the comments from the audience.
It was interesting to hear what people thoughts and ideas. Most people were excited about the initiative (not surprising since they made the effort to attend) but were sceptical about the results considering the initiative was only in the City of Vancouver (and most of the sprawl is outside of that) and the city has almost no power concerning public transit (the biggest factor in density).
There were also a few NIMBY’s in the crowd, including one lady from Dunbar who told a story about how she lives in the same house she grew up in. 20 years ago she could sit in her backyard and read and listen to the birds. Now, because of the influx in population, she can’t sit outside because of the noise generated from kids playing in the park. Yes, that’s what she said. Noise from kids playing (devilish children who insist on having fun) disturbed her reading. And carriage houses next door would be horrible because people would have bbq’s in their backyard and disturb her privacy. I couldn’t believe what she was saying. She argued that since our population would be stagnant (if not for immigration) we should just shut down the city to new people.
Other than the crazy NIMBY, the surprising part was hearing the politicians talk in the end. During the whole town hall, they just sat in front, listened, and took notes. At the end, they presented their opinions and promised to listen to people’s concerns during the process. I was really impressed with their conviction to add density and make Vancouver more environmentally friendly. It really says something about Vancouver where 3 city councillors and the mayor can talk about increasing density, requiring green buildings, and fundamental changes about how we live. And the mayor and 2 of the councillors come from the so called “right wing” party on Council. Now, talk is cheap. And I’ll be watching closely to see if their plan actually has any teeth when it is implemented. This is the same city council that killed bike lanes on the Burrard Bridge after they were elected, so I’m optimistic but sceptical.