Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces

By yaron_stern

July 6, 2015 at 8:00 AM

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Beyond Grandview-Woodland: The City As a Living Thing

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by YarOn Stern

Considering the expression ‘a city is a living thing’, the life of a city is a story of change within the familiar. What happens in one neighborhood might have already happened in another or is about to. Each community can learn from its neighbor for the benefit of its own “metabolism”. The intangible balance between construction and maintenance is what we all hope supports life.

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The Grandview Woodland Citizens’ Assembly have concluded their work. Their recommendations document aims to inform the neighbourhood’s anticipated community plan. My fascination with urban development is that of an observer and a designer. In the consultation process I was intrigued to interact with both determined voices and those who’d rather see things stay as they are. I am curious to see what urban change looks like when things actually start “moving”. The change that people object to is not always a visible one.

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No change is guaranteed to be easy or pleasant, let alone beneficial. The process itself is not framed by exact dates: not all property owners act in sync with the community plan that governs their assets. Still, it is a process that feels to me like a natural element of life. In November 2010 the Norquay Village community plan was approved. It is an area within the Renfrew-Collingwood neighborhood.

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Norquay Park is currently the most prominent community gathering spot of this sub-area. I live a few blocks away from it. For a while only the larger developments were the noticeable results of the change in zoning that the plan had introduced. In the last year or two the smaller scale, side streets’ landscape became pretty active. Moreso than in previous years, the amount of lots waiting to be redeveloped is noticeable within the blocks close to Kingsway.

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‘For Sale’ signs typically show up one in a block per year. Nowadays they sprout in clusters. SOLD stickers are attached to them almost as soon as their poles are hammered into the ground.

Usually construction sites are fenced off. I’ve seen people digging out plants from an unfenced vacant lot. This seemed pretty reasonable considering the typical loss of plant material you notice as soon as excavators start working. However, property owners – previous or new – could benefit from investing in salvaging valuable landscape material.

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Bylaws are there thanks to and because of life experiences and people’s involvement in the community. We live in the city for many reasons. They fall into two primary drives: need and desire. We need each other to survive; we fulfil our desires through our connections to one another. Considering again the expression ‘a city is a living thing’, the built environment is an extension of our own lives.

Impact

My participation in urban life can have an impact on my city’s livability. As the scope of transition in the neighborhood grows, my impact on the process decreases. However, I’m curious how the connections I have and keep making inform my ability to benefit from it. The wellbeing of my family and me supports my aim of promoting a strong community.

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From walking, bird watching. to reporting issues through 311, enjoyment of the city range from tranquil to functional. The biggest reward comes through the occasional chat with people.

It could be a person I will see only once or the start of a long term connection. A strong sense of life is always there. The life of a city is a story of change just as it is a story of people. Our work together takes time to evolve. That too, is A Living Thing.

It’s been an eventful year for me with attending meetings in Vancouver communities. My exposure to thoughts and ideas from a variety of perspectives was inspiring as much as it kept raising questions.

  • Where do you interact with fellow residents of your city?
  • What activities do you find the most compelling to participate in?
  • What is the change that will be good for the city as well as its residents?

Sometimes it’s the questions we ask that help us move ahead.

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