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

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October 20, 2016 at 1:13 PM

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Northeast False Creek – Park Design Advisory Group – Update

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The VPSN is proud to be a part of the new Park Design Advisory Group that has been set up to guide open space planning in the Northeast False Creek neighbourhood. We’ve been involved with the broader planning process in this area for a number of years, and our involvement in this group will give us an opportunity to continue advocating for high quality park and plaza space in this neighbourhood. The VPSN’s Open Spaces Coordinator, Wendee Lang, provides this overview of the first two meetings. 

After a lengthy application and recruitment process, two new City advisory groups – the Northeast False Creek Stewardship Group, and the Park Design Advisory Group – sat down for their first meeting in late August. Appointed by the City, these two groups marks a new phase in a consultation process that began many years prior, and which seeks to guide the redevelopment of lands adjacent to Science World, Andy Livingstone Park, Creekside Park, and Rogers Arena.

In total there are 28 members (16 in the Stewardship Group and 12 on the Park Design Advisory Group, or PDAG), representing a range of community interests from mobility and access for those differently abled, to public art, to skateboarding, to Chinese seniors, False Creek residents and more. I represent the Vancouver Public Space Network, and serve as a member of the PDAG. Our task is to provide advice on the design of more than 12 acres of parkland for the neighbourhood (see the Terms of Reference for the Group’s full mandate).

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In addition requesting a substantial expression of interest and intent, the application process was designed to bring together a diverse group, with attention to a balancing gender and ethnocultural composition. Diversity is important to note when discussing an area situated in close proximity to Chinatown, the Downtown East Side and the downtown core. As these neighbourhoods continue to rapidly develop, the robustness of this consultation process has the potential to set a precedent for further consultations in the area.

The work of the two groups will carry on until September 2017 (for the Parks Group) and November 2018 (for the Stewardship Group). This timeline is designed to ensure input is developed into the City’s final report and area plan, (intended to be complete next December). During this time, concurrent consultations will occur with various other stakeholder groups and the general public, the results of which will be reported back at our meetings. This engagement process has only just started – with a well-publicized and popular “Planning Party” kick-off event taking place in mid-September. It was great to see all the enthusiasm for this process, and my fellow advisory group members and I are eager to build upon the thoughts of the broader community.

As of yet, our groups have only met twice. The first meeting was an orientation consisting of an overview of area planning history and context (see the City’s backgrounder for more details), as well as a site visit, and interactive mapping. Our second session focused on examining the city’s engagement plan. Our third meeting is set to take place later this week, on October 22.

At our last session, we discussed the factors that will contribute to the new area plan’s success. Some of the ideas focused on process. Many in my group talked about the importance of reaching out to groups traditionally marginalized from engagement processes, ensuring consultation facilitators are well versed in the community’s background and values, and utilizing multi-lingual communication materials. Another key point raised, was ensuring that a variety of voices are heard – and the issue of loud versus quiet voices. We discussed the importance of ensuring balanced input so that groups who are used to having their opinions heard, do not dominate all airtime.

Other ideas zeroed in on content – and various ideas for the vision for Northeast False Creek were identified, including access to nature, programming, social interaction, aesthetics and safety (see the guiding principles here). Alongside concepts of flexible programming, rainproofing, the prioritization of biodiversity and wild landscapes, there were conversations about how the space would be experienced by different groups of users, young, old, differently abled. What would the area smell like? How would it sound? How would it feel?

At our next meeting, we will delve deeper into these issues after hearing presentations from landowners and partaking in a City-led design exercise. Given that the focus of the Park Group is on the creation of important public space, my VPSN colleagues and I are interested to know your priorities for the area. What should we be taking forward to the Park Group? What are the values you would like to see reflected in this redesigned space? What are your favourite places in the surrounding neighbourhoods? How would you like to see the principles there, reflected in Northeast False Creek? Feel free to share your thoughts by email. You can reach me at wendee [at] vancouverpublicspace [dot] ca.

For further information of the process to date, please see the October 5 update to City Council.

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