Our Coalition Partner express common themes to City Council

Here is the letter to Mayor and Council from the Ray Cam Cooperative Community Association and the Inner City Safety Society.

Mayor and Council.

I am writing on behalf of the Ray-Cam Cooperative Community Association and the Inner City Safety Society to express our approval in principle for the proposed removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, with certain caveats. Both organizations are signatories to the Coalition of Communities letter, which we fully support. The letter is attached.

Our residents are excited about the proposed development of more local parkland, particularly given the long delay in actualizing the long-promised park in North False Creek. That said, we believe implementation of viaduct removal must incorporate strategies in three key areas:

1. Traffic calming on Prior/Venables

Our residents have been particularly vocal in calling for the return of Prior/Venables streets to local traffic use, with arterial traffic diverted through the eastern core. Planning for a full eastern core strategy must take place concurrently with planning for viaducts removal, with planning for the entire area coordinated and integrated prior to implementation. Too many families and seniors in our area avoid crossing Prior Street due to their fear of traffic speeding through the area — which means they are not able to use the neighbourhood’s only large park. Livability for residents should not be sacrificed on the altar of traffic convenience.

2. Amenity Funding

Any implementation of viaducts removal will clearly lead to the development of substantially more housing in our community. Recently Council has been directing virtually all amenity funding in our area to the provision of more social and affordable housing. While developing better housing options is certainly desirable, other neighbourhood amenities such as community centres and childcare services are already operating over capacity. Adding more residents to the area must include directing amenity funding to supporting all services needed by local residents. Communities are more than the houses in which we live. Housing more people in our neighbourhoods who will compete for already scare amenities will provide no benefit to local families and seniors.

3. Community Consultation

Too often community consultation has become of process of planners informing residents of what they plan to do, requesting feedback at the point where the planning process is well advanced. To say the least, many find that ‘consultation’ disingenuous and rather patronizing. Alternatively, committees are set up — such as the current DTES LAPP committee — through which city-appointed representatives select participants to provide local feedback and advice. Such committees give the appearance of community involvement, while in reality giving certain selected representatives the ability to advance their own positions with little or no actual accountability back to local residents. Having such groups set the agenda prior to any other resident involvement simply divides communities and skews planning. Planning for the viaduct removal and eastern core, as well as the development of final plans for the Downtown Eastside and Grandview Woodlands, must include full resident and business participation through the organizations such as resident associations, community centres, and business improvement associations, which are directly accountable back to their members. As noted in the attached letter, we believe these groups must be involved at all levels of the planning process and must be mandated to fully involve all parts of the community — not just those who will agree with pre-set agendas.

The proposal to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts gives the City and our communities an excellent opportunity to work together to develop and implement a responsive, respectful vision for the entire central north-east sector. We look forward to working comprehensively with Council and with Planning staff as we move forward.

Judy McGuire

Co-ordinator, Inner City Safety Society and Executive Board Member, Ray-Cam Cooperative Community Association

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