More than 200 people crammed into a sweltering second floor room at Eastside Family Place off Grandview Park on Tuesday night to express anger over the citys plans for dramatic changes to the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood.
Most expressed frustration at the perceived lack of community consultation that went into drafting the so-called Emerging Directions land use rezoning proposals released in June, which could lead to highrise buildings added to the Commercial Drive area as well mid-rise densification along Nanaimo Street, East First Avenue and East Hastings Street.
Many residents accused the city planning department of ignoring community recommendations made over the past year at several workshops and open house sessions.
"Hundreds of us have participated in the community planning process in good faith over the past year and none of this type of density was discussed," said resident Blair Redlin, a researcher at Canadian Union of Public Employees. "To call the report Emerging Directions is kind of dishonest because it is only emerging from the planning department. It is a very aggressive set of proposals that you've put out, so naturally it is generating a lot of hostility and anger and this dynamic does not make for good planning."
City of Vancouver planner Andrew Pask countered that the plan is still very much in the early stages and pointed out that one of the more contentious proposals, a 36-storey tower at the corner of Commercial Drive and Broadway, has already been taken off the table.
"We've had the first kick at the can this past weekend on the Broadway and Commercial options and we'll be looking at different options than what we proposed," said Pask. "We heard loud and clear that we made a mistake regarding this and we want to go back to the drawing board to work on this. By no means is this a finished process."
The tower was just one of many of the plans that rankled residents, whose complaints ran the gamut from lost views, heritage buildings and parking spaces to increased traffic, higher property taxes and low-income residents being pushed out of the neighbourhood.
Eric Fergie, who co-owns Fets Whisky Kitchen, said that while increased densification would probably improve his Commercial Drive business bottom line, it wasn't worth losing views of the North Shore Mountains.
"As a business owner, more density is good because more people means more business", said Fergie, "but it is called Grandview for a reason."
The deadline for the public to give feedback on the plan has been extended by an extra month to Aug. 2, and city planning staff will give their report to council in
More than 500 people have signed a petition at change.org calling on the city to delay the report and prolong the consultation period by six months.
Green Party Coun. Adrienne Carr, who attended the meeting, said she would raise the issue of giving more time for public feedback at the July 9 city council meeting.
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