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

By VPSN

June 30, 2016 at 11:00 AM

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Grandview-Woodland Community Plan – at long last!

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City of Vancouver Info Graphic - Grandview-Woodland Plan.

City of Vancouver Info Graphic - Grandview-Woodland Plan.

This past week City Council deliberated on, and ultimately approved, a brand new Community Plan for the Grandview-Woodland area. The planning work was approximately four years in the making, and had its share of planning successes, controversies, and, most recently (with sub-area workshops and the City’s first Citizens’ Assembly), innovative and in-depth engagement processes.

The VPSN has been involved since the beginning – participating in workshops, presenting to the Citizens’ Assembly, and monitoring the way in which public space issues were being handled throughout the plan. (In the interests of disclosure, we’ll note that VPSN Director Andrew Pask was also the lead City planner for this initiative, so we were fairly certain that public space issues would be on his radar!)

In advance of the Plan going to City Council, our Board of Directors met to review the draft document. We prepared a letter outlining our support of key policy initiatives around complete streets, streets as places, and the creation of new and enhanced plazas and parks. An excerpt of the letter follows.

The Vancouver Public Space Network was a contributor to the development of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan during the community plan team’s outreach on the topics of transportation and public realm. We’d like to briefly touch on parts of the plan which hold promise and which we feel will benefit current and future residents both in this area and of the city generally.Complete streets

Complete Streets

The VPSN has previously appeared before council to support Transportation 2040, the plan update to the City of Vancouver’s 1997 Transportation Plan. We are glad to see that the Grandview Woodland plan reflects Transportation 2040’s commitment to supporting active transportation through emphasizing complete streets in Grandview Woodland. The principle of complete streets ensures that the balance between different modes of travel, the varying needs of members of the community, and the role of the neighbourhood within the region can be addressed while also addressing the risks associated with using our roads.

Protected Cycling Facilitiesling Facilities

Given the important social, economic and environmental benefits of higher levels of cycling, and the significant mode share already found in Grandview Woodland, we commend the City’s continuing commitment to completing the City’s protected bike network to better connect cyclists with destinations like Commercial Drive. We urge the City to continue its work in mitigating conflicts between different road users while also building infrastructure that makes safe travel for all ages and abilities using active modes convenient, enjoyable and efficient.

Where possible, we also encourage the City to partner with local business owners and members of the community to continually gauge and quantify the impact in a holistic fashion, and to share this information as much as possible with the public and other neighbourhoods as we continue to pursue our Greenest City and Green Mobility goals.

Streets as Places

Given the important civic role they play, VPSN is heartened to see streets recognized as places.

This important type of public space has been undervalued over the past half century; major commitment will be necessary to renew it. Further, we support the development of the innovative “shared spaces” strategic streets. The fact that the plan also accounts for the potential that these spaces become car free is a resilient strategy. VPSN also finds the plan’s focus on placemaking encouraging. The gateway features are a smart way to encourage a greater sense of place, while the enhancement of streetscapes in shopping areas are likely to improve the public realm and support local merchants. We also strongly endorse the support for community initiated public spaces and look forward to the outcomes.

A commitment to increasing the number of street trees is a valuable first step; we recommend further setting a clear target in the number of trees planted to add clarity and certainty to this effort. The mention of laneways of places is also promising; similarly, we welcome a stronger assertion of the importance these spaces play in the larger overall vision of public space for Grandview Woodland, as well as the other contributions they might make to social life and local economic activity in the area.

Plaza and Park Improvements - Grandview-Woodland Plan.

Plaza and Park Improvements – Grandview-Woodland Plan.

Plazas and Parks

The emphasis on quality of plazas and other public spaces is another positive aspect of the plan. Quantity is not the only metric on which to measure the success of public space. In Grandview-Woodland, there is a need for more public space, but there is also great demand for greater quality in these spaces. Having noted this, we also find the commitment to create new plazas to be a very positive step as well. We hope that all five new plazas suggested in the plan come to fruition.

[…]

The long journey to this final draft of the Grandview Woodland plan is one more milestone in the broader unfolding story of this dynamic area. We welcome the opportunity to work with the City as it moves to put into action and bring to reality the ideas put forward in this plan.

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