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Vancouver City Planning Commission 2007-2008

A City Built for Change Vancouver City Planning Commission 2007 - 2008

DEDICATION To Peter Oberlander. A former VCPC Chair and true son of Vancouver.

The Vancouver Planning Commission 2007-2008 The VCPC has a long and at times, illustrious history. The 2007-2008 term was one of transition. The current Commission is almost entirely comprised of new members. In addition the Commission manager position was renewed. The result was a long search for a meaningful mandate. Ultimately the Commission evolved various trains of thought into a coherent thesis: “A City Built for Change”. A variety of events, documents and Commission work flowed from this central idea, culminating in a ‘Change Charter’ for the City. The Commission’s work on rental housing and the neighbourhood mapping project, are important legacies and specific products of the term. Both undertakings illustrate the core thinking around ‘building for change’ and how to undertake the necessary initial analysis to which the built form must respond. Two important issues emerged from the Commission’s work: Firstly, that in the pursuit of a resilient, livable and ultimately sustainable City, a longer term view of adaptability and reasoned a response to change needs to be embedded in the City’s design; and secondly that the VCPC needs to have a more engaged and defined role within the City process in order to more appropriately fulfill its mandate. If the City of Vancouver is to continue to thrive it needs to address its future in a more conscientious and direct manner. The VCPC should play an ongoing role in this and moreover should assist Council in the long-term oversight of City issues as the Commission was originally designed.



The Vancouver City Planning Commission is made from the stuff of our city. We are professionals, politicians, community people, planners and others who make up a lay body driven by a passion for Vancouver. The pages that follow represent countless hours of dedicated work by this group of volunteers over a span of 2 years.

The Politics of Change. * A lecture by Metro Portland Councilor Robert Liberty.

We hope the ideas and initiatives that follow will measure up to the legacy of this important body. We also desire that our work serves to spark important and meaningful change within the VCPC, the work of City staff, and the urban fabric of Vancouver itself.

The Summit on Change. Building for Change. * Professor Robert Kronenburg on adaptable built form * Urban Adaptability Youth Challenge * Urban Adaptability Workshop YouMap Vancouver. * Innovating neighbourhood engagement. Research Projects. * Adaptable Public Realm * Adaptable Built Form Market Rental Policy Proposal for Vancouver. Innovating with Social Media. The Change Charter.

Cover photo: "Vancouver" by Stephen Lowe, 2007 City Mural Contest Winner Imagery: Elizabeth Ballantyne, Frank Ducote, Michael Klassen, Mark Shieh Book design: Michael Klassen Charter design: Noreen Taylor

Future of the VCPC. Speakers List. The Commissioners. Thank Yous. Event Participants Lists.

The Politics of Change – November 27, 2007 A lecture by Metro Portland Councilor Robert Liberty In his endearing introduction to a lecture about the best practices of smarter growth and the experience of his native Metro Portland, Councilor Robert Liberty described the similarities Vancouver shares with their Cascadian cousins to the south. Our port cities built their economies as hewers of wood and drawers of water. His gift of smoked salmon to his Vancouver hosts even symbolized what brings us together. Liberty's presentation began our A City Built for Change program. It drew upon his experiences with growth and density controversies in Portland and he provided lessons for future debates on the topics. The talk detailed important challenges that Portland faced and these same ones may soon be faced by Vancouver as the City charts its future growth. He urged well-planned communities, open dialogue that welcomes respectful disagreements as well as controversy. When there is controversy, Liberty noted, you know the people are paying attention, which is all our civic leadership can ask for. After the dust settles from a controversy, significant social capital is created to accomplish positive and productive change. Liberty says it is critical to help citizens understand the issues, and involve them in the solutions. He says neighbourhoods must be comfortable with rate of change. And increased density and better transit will help solve out-of-control sprawl and consumption patterns. Speaking to our topic, Liberty responded that adaptable buildings may offer an attractive, alternative housing type. He also argued that a “green building on the edge has less value than a remodel without any green features in the centre.� He sees green buildings and adaptable buildings as parts of a sustainable future.

Summit on Change – March 20, 2008 The Vancouver City Planning Commission 2008 Summit on Change sought to put smart people in a room and get them talking about the forces that change Vancouver. More than four dozen professionals, students, a City Councillor, businesspeople, retired persons, architects and artists spent an afternoon in conversation and emerged with a comprehensive set of Vancouver’s strengths and weaknesses, untapped opportunities and immediate threats. The summit was facilitated by Brian Scott of global design and planning firm EDAW. Two learned speakers, Michael Geller of the Simon Fraser University Centre for Sustainable Community Development and Stephen Sheppard of University of British Columbia Forest Resources Management/Landscape Architecture, sparked the summit attendees’ imaginations and asked tough questions to be pondered during the workshop portion of the event. Each table had a deliberate mixture of professions and expertise represented and a VCPC Commissioner to act as facilitator and recording secretary. Common themes emerged for what the city’s drivers of change are, such as the incalculable advantage the beauty of our natural environment affords, the sense of inclusiveness and possibility fostered by our multiculturalism, the encouragement and support for healthy active lifestyles, and the immense potential of Vancouver as a gateway to Asia, a crossroads for cultures, and an economic engine for the province and country. While the city’s tendency to dwell on its accolades, overindulge in recreation and leisure, and generally underestimate the need to change were oft-repeated constructive criticisms. The VCPC gratefully thanks the participants of the Summit on Change and deeply incorporated the output of the event into the process of developing a Change Charter. A video archive of the summit can be found at

Building for Change – September 18-19, 2008 Lecture by Professor Robert Kronenburg On September 18, 2008 the VCPC hosted a public lecture by Robert Kronenburg, Chair of Architecture at the University of Liverpool and author of Flexible: Architecture That Responds to Change. In his lecture titled: “Flexible Architecture: Building for Adaptability and Response to Change,” he highlighted the characteristics of successful adaptable buildings. Flexible architecture consists of buildings that are designed to respond easily to change throughout their lifetime. Flexible buildings are designed to adapt, transform, move and interact with their users. Urban Adaptability Youth Challenge On September 19, 2008, three teams of Vancouver high-school students competed in in the Urban Adaptability Youth Challenge. Each team was asked to focus on a driver of change and create a vision for an adaptable Vancouver community fifty years in the future. Building on discussions with mentors, the energetic students created bold physical models of their ideal neighborhoods built for change. It is hoped that the VCPC Youth Challenge becomes a new tradition that future commissions will carry on. Urban Adaptability Workshop As the finale of the Adaptability Forum, a multi-disciplinary group of design professionals, activists, civil servants and community leaders participated in the Adaptability Workshop. The group challenged existing obstacles and explored new solutions for adaptability practices into each of these three urban typology: 1) single family residential area, 2) neighbourhood centres and high density residential areas, and 3) gathering places.

“Human beings are flexible creatures – we adapt & adopt space”

Robert Kronenburg

Urban Adaptability Youth Challenge – September 19, 2008

Urban Adaptability Workshop – September 19, 2008

The YouMap Vancouver project was based on the idea that many of the community amenities that make Vancouver a great city are intangible, develop both organically through grassroots and private sector initiatives, and also through careful and thoughtful community-led and city-implemented planning. While ‘hard’ amenities such as community centres and playgrounds are easy to quantify, ‘soft’ amenities such as neighbourhood-oriented shops and invisible social fabrics are much more difficult to identify for outsiders and for policy makers. Through a combination of traditional public engagement methods such as neighbourhood asset mapping with new internet-based mapping technologies within the venue of a neighbourhood ‘Festival,’ YouMap Vancouver invited residents of the two case study neighbourhoods into a proactive dialogue about managing short- and long-range change. The neighbourhoods of Grandview Woodlands and Douglas Park were selected on the basis of their broad socio-economic characteristics to represent the diversity in the City. The engagement process was intended to develop capacity among citizens around managing change – through a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses, assets and needs of their neighbourhoods and interconnections between these factors. The YouMap Vancouver pilot project was a partnership between the VCPC and Smart Growth BC, through its Smart Growth Advisory Services, and funded by the City of Vancouver.

Research Projects During our term we commissioned reports from two VCPC interns, Keltie Craig and R.J. McCulloch. The Commission is indebted to their efforts, which have definitely inspired our outcomes. Keltie Craig, a student at UBC's School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP), looked at urban spaces that are rebelling against North American monoculture. The idea of “local identity” is, she argues, in danger of being lost. Cities in motion can combat this monotony, creating new experiences that catch the viewer unaware and wake us to our surroundings. Her paper begins to take a look at what the drivers of change are in the built environment and society—both physical and social factors. In addition, case studies of projects that reflect an ability to adapt or be flexible to change are presented. R.J. McCulloch, also of SCARP, presented on the opportunities of adaptable built form. He argues that an important change in our mindset must occur. Today’s challenge is not simply saving old buildings from demolition, says R.J., but understanding what characteristics of these old structures have made them adaptable to change and then incorporating these features into contemporary design techniques. McCulloch's research explores the barriers to creating a more adaptable city, then goes on to cite several practical examples from the UK, USA and Europe of how adaptable buildings succeed. Both Craig and McCulloch exceeded the expectations of the Commission, providing powerful examples of urban adaptability that helped to validate the work of the VCPC. Both of their presentations are posted at

VCPC interns explored in-depth how & why our urban fabric can (and must) adapt to multiple uses over time.

Innovating with Social Media An overarching goal of the VCPC's work during this term was to engage the citizens of Vancouver in generating ideas on how to make the city resilient to change, and on what makes our neighbourhoods great. We wanted our work and ideas to be noticed. We accomplished this through several avenues, including media relations, a new website, as well as using innovative tools such as YouTube videos, a Facebook page, Google videos, and slideshows. Our media relations generated coverage in media outlets such as the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Courier, CBC Radio One and Global TV. Our YouMap events also applied guerilla marketing tactics such as postering to attract local participation, as well as a unique website at The legacy of work, our reports and proposals, online videos and media clippings are archived at our website,

Market Rental Housing Proposal Urgency of Vancouver's declining rental supply problem explored in innovative plan

The Vancouver City Planning Commission brought their Market Rental Housing Report forward to the public in our role as City Council's citizen advisory group on planning issues, in order to prompt an informed community dialogue about how to respond to the need in the city for new market rental housing. We directed the report to the City Manager in September, who recommended that it not be brought to Council before a staff study on rental housing is completed. The Commission felt, however, that this topic has urgency and merited the public's attention immediately. Our report, posted at, it is hoped will foster a thoughtful public debate on the value of rental housing, and will invite innovative solutions for creating additional supply. Our Market Rental committee gave considerable thought to this matter and explored various approaches in arriving at its recommendations. We believe that a productive dialogue on how to increase market rental housing needs to get underway without delay.

The Vancouver Change Charter The Vancouver Change Charter represents the culmination of 2 years of work for the 2007-2009 VCPC. Throughout our Commission's term the one constant element that entered into every discussion was change. Whether on a neighbourhood scale, a political scale, or an international scale, there appeared to be no status quo; culminating near the end of the term in the new political mantra “Change has come to America”. From a planning perspective this meant that the City was forced into new policy directions such as the creation of ‘EcoDensity’, and the mandate to create new social housing. The Commission participated in these worthwhile efforts, but also saw that in the longer term many policies and indeed the built environment itself, could benefit from a rethink of the traditional methods of delivery. Vancouver’s built environment was seen as not being adaptive to change. Many worldwide cities have learned how to make public spaces into 24 hour venues. They have built structures that can change uses hourly, daily and over hundreds of years. Perhaps because of Vancouver’s young age, these ideas have not formed part of an otherwise very progressive planning and architecture culture. Thus it was that the Commission sought to fully analyze ‘A City Built for Change’. The Vancouver Change Charter is derived from this work, and intended to be a baseline from which deliberate and reasoned strategies around adaptability can be developed and applied to the City fabric. Ultimately Vancouver’s ability to adapt to change through time will be the decisive factor in the City’s continued success as one of the most livable places on earth.

Future of the VCPC "Everyone seems to agree: Something must be done to make the Vancouver City Planning Commission more relevant to the overall planning process." Harald Weinreich, architect, June 10, 1973 The basic question we seek to answer is, “Would Council see fit to create a Vancouver City Planning Commission if none existed?” The answer to us is very far from clear. Here are some options to consider for the future of the VCPC. 1. Status quo – As an arm’s-length and somewhat independent advisory body but one that is marginalized from Council decision-making. 2. Part of the review/approvals process – As a demand-responsive role. A forum for discussion of ideas originating with City departments or private developers; or, possibly a quasi-approval body. 3. A think tank, ahead of the curve (25-50 years plus) – forward-thinking yet connected; promoters of change based on its own research efforts, in partnership with others. 4. Similar to the Community Arts Council, who were instrumental in the creation of Vancouver Playhouse. 5. A booster organization. Promoters of the “idea” of Vancouver as a diverse, inclusive, beautiful, innovative, egalitarian, cosmopolitan place. 6. A sounding board that provides access “inside the walls” for neighbourhood groups and individuals. 7. A mix of all of the above. A majority of the current VCPC membership considers a blend of Options 1 & 2 to be most useful to Council, staff and the City of Vancouver as a whole, without requiring substantial funding or structural changes. More details at

Rethinking the VCPC. How it works today, left, and a new model, right.

Speakers List Past Commission Chairs Marta Farevaag, Lance Berelowitz, and Harry Hawthorn

Peter Burch, Planner, City of Vancouver, CityPlans for Mount Pleasant

Tom Timm, General Manager Engineering Services, & Jerry Dobrovolny, Head of Transportation Division

Kevin McNaney, Planning, Metro Core Jobs & Economy Land Use Plan

Thor Kuhlmann, EcoDensity Initiative

Richard Johnson, Planning, Granville Loops Plan

Mary Clare Zak, Director of Social Planning

Jacqueline Gijssen, Senior Cultural Planner

Kevin McNaney, Planning Department, Metro Core Jobs & Economy Land Use Plan

Richard Penneway and Mike Carr, Venables Greenway

Keltie Craig, intern, an overview of drivers for change.

Ronda Howard, Assistant Director of Planning, on Laneway Housing

Brent Toderian, Director of Planning, assisted by Joyce Uyesugi, Planner, on the EcoDensity initiative

Janice MacKenzie, Director Public Access and Council Services

Adam Vasilevich and Andrew Pask, Vancouver Public Space Network

Dr. Peter Newton, Research Professor; Cities, Housing & Environment Program; Swinburne U of Technology, Australia

Jill Davidson, Housing Centre

Michael Gordon, Planning Department, BC Place Stadium Development

RJ McCulloch, research intern, “City Built for Change: How Does Vancouver Adapt?” Trish French, Assistant Director of Planning and Karis Hiebert, Senior Planner, False Creek Flats

Tony Astles, Executive Vice-President, Real Estate Services, Bentall, Perspectives on Downtown Zoning and Office Space Kathleen Kern, Planning Department, Neighbourhood Centre Planning Program & Norquay Village

Z Smith, Vancouver architect, “Neighbourhood Amenity & Energy Centres for EcoDensity”

Michael Klassen, VCPC, on Country Lanes

Vickie Morris & Christine Tapp, Social Planners and Mary Clare Zak, on the Social Facilities Scoping Project.

Samara Brock, Social Planning Chair with Mark Bomford from UBC Farm, Food policy planning

The Commission Alan Boniface, Chair Frank Ducote Jillian Glover David Godin Neil Griggs (Commission Appointment) Michael Klassen, Vice-Chair Ray LeBlond Jennifer Parsons Dr. Setty Pendakur Robert Ransford Mark Shieh Andrew Shui-Him Yan (Commission Appointment) Sharleen Suszezwiez Councillor Kim Capri Councillor George Chow Commissioner Korina Houghton (Park Board Appointee) VCPC Manager Elizabeth Ballantyne THANKS Richard Balfour Pam Cooley Anne Kjerulf Stephen Regan The Commission gratefully acknowledges the participation of School Board Trustee Don Lee (1935-2008).

from left: Neil Griggs, Elizabeth Ballantyne (VCPC Manager), Alan Boniface (Chair), Frank Ducote, Setty Pendakur, Sharleen Suszezwiez, Clr. George Chow (Council Rep), David Godin, Jillian Glover, Jenn Parsons, Ray LeBlond, Michael Klassen (Vice-Chair), Mark Shieh

Thank you. Councillor Suzanne Anton Jeannie Bates Patricia Boomhower Shala Bozorgzadeh Keltie Craig Councillor Heather Deal Jerry Dobrovolny Marta Farevaag Cheeying Ho Rhonda Howard Councillor Peter Ladner Tom Lancaster Councillor B.C. Lee Councilor Robert Liberty Nicole Ludwig Professor Robert Kronenburg Brent MacGregor R.J. McCulloch Janice MacKenzie Gord Price Denise Salmon Mayor Sam Sullivan Noreen Taylor Tom Timm Brent Toderian Erin Welk

Summit on Change Michael Geller Steven Sheppard Brian Scott Paul Eden Valerie Arntzen Catherine Berris Trevor Boddy Shala Bozorgzadeh Jim Cox Elvy Del Blanco Allen Domass Aldyen Donnelly Richard Evans Mark Gifford Luke Harrison Linda Holmes Lorna Howes Howard Jang David Jordan Sharman King Councillor Peter Ladner Martha Lewis Jeremy Long

George Laverock Tara McDonald Martin Nelson Judy Oberlander Tanya Paz Stephen Pearce Victor Porter Gord Price Tim Pringle Stephen Regan John Robinson Vanessa Richards Ray Spaxman Amy Spencer Gord Stewart Heather Tremain John Tylee Jessica Vanditmars Margaret Watts Chuck We Tarrnie Williams Robert Wilmot Shane Woodford

Urban Adaptability Youth Challenge

Urban Adaptability Workshop

Blake Allen Sydney Beatty-Mills Mary Cameron Jennifer Cutbill Jaizim Ismail Leon Kinloch Jacky Leung Sawngjai Dear Manityakul Andrew Merrill Emily Raab Dejla Sabanac Elizabeth Samuels Ron Scott Jenny Tan Emily Ware Sabrina Webb

Daisy Chin Gregory Henriquez Chris Evans Richard Evans Marta Farevaag Sue Griffin Dolly Hopkins Paul Fast Dori Luthy-Harrison Robert Kronenburg Micole Aaron Rosensweet Jeffrey Skinner Z Smith Tom Stulberg Adam Vasilevich

Scot Hein Z Smith Patricia St. Michel Nic Sully Thanks Sawnghai & Andrew Merrill (SCARP)

Vancouver City Planning Commission 2007-2008

A City Built for Change Vancouver City Planning Commission 2007 - 2008

A City Built for Change: VCPC 2007-2008  

The Vancouver City Planning Commission term-end report advocating for more adaptable cities.

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