Michelle Fortin felt frustrated when the city installed fixed structures for a “temporary” bike lane on Hornby Street without consulting area businesses.
So when she saw the mayor wanted residents of the West End to join a volunteer advisory committee, she applied and was appointed.
Now Fortin is spokesperson for the West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee, which recently presented an interim report on residents’ priorities for the West End to Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Roberston.
Rental stock, affordability and preventing “renovictions” were top priorities identified by 994 respondents to the committee’s survey. Renters comprise 81 per cent of residents in the West End and 65.4 per cent of survey respondents self-identified as renters. More than 44,500 people populated the West End according to the 2006 Census.
The committee recommended the city work to at least maintain the present mix of renters and owners in the West End so people can afford to live near service jobs downtown.
The interim report calls for a rental protection advocate to serve residents citywide, particularly those who face eviction notices from landlords who want to make cosmetic improvements to suites and then raise rates for new tenants.
The committee believes the city’s Urban Design Panel of architects that reviews development designs should include a voting member of the community where a development is slated.
Based on the survey results, the committee is developing a scorecard for developments. Residents want a transportation task force that could map ways to improve access to transit, safety and concerns of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. They also want a better sense of the little parks and public spaces in the West End, so these valued spots could be built upon, perhaps with greened lanes. Items that weren’t identified as priorities surprised Fortin, who has lived in Vancouver for 22 years and in the West End for two.
Residents could have pinpointed issues for youth, the gay community or even needed nightlife improvements, but that didn’t happen. “View corridors and shadowing, which were two of the big things the planners look at, rated nine and 10 [low] on the list,” Fortin added. “…That was really interesting that people seemed to take a look at what was needed as opposed to what was wanted.”
The mayor will ask council in September to direct staff to review the report and return with implementation options.