Northeast False Creek Draft Plan Launched
By: Wendee Lang
After many years and many changing faces around the table, the City of Vancouver, earlier this month, finally published a draft area plan for the development of Northeast False Creek. The document, (which was open to comment until June 30) is the physical manifestation of not only this most recent phase of public consultation, but nearly three decades of consideration, beginning in 1990.
Spanning 152 pages, the document takes into consideration a variety of topics, such as public space, urban design, sustainability and climate change resilience, as well as the ideas of the 8,300 citizens who participated in the 2016/2017 consultation process. All of this was first and foremost informed by Council’s 11 Guiding Principles, approved in 2015.
Evolving out of the many public open houses, workshops, and online surveys were several core community values, which I also saw reflected in conversations initiated by the NEFC Park Design Advisory Group: creativity in design, affordability, accessibility and inclusion, vibrancy, connectivity, and honouring history.
How the City fared in representing these values is ultimately up to you, (don’t keep your opinions to yourself – weigh in), and my barometer is up and down on many of these points. In part, this is due to the interesting role NEFC has to play in continuing to shape the identity of our city. Located at the nexus of the Downtown Business District, the Downtown Eastside, Chinatown, and Hogan’s Alley, the neighbourhood has the potential to exemplify and celebrate the diversity for which Vancouver is known. However, it is also in a place of immediate tension, located between areas of extreme wealth and those of poverty, between those of immense privilege and the traditionally marginalized.
From a parks and greenspaces perspective, the plan holds up well against citizens’ aforementioned values. James Corner Field Operations, the landscape architects behind the design of the 13.75 acre waterfront park have done an excellent job of drafting an ecologically complex space that is both public and private, programmable while also remaining flexible. In conversation with residents, he noted the casual relationship that Vancouverites have with public space, and his intention of allowing us the freedom to decide how we want to use our new park is clear. Large green lawns, suitable to events of all sizes (if the City can relax its archaic permitting regulations), lay surrounded by forested alcoves, a stormwater-cleansing wetland, and covered hardscapes. The space is porous, accessible from all edges, with the intention to being open to a diversity of mobilities. In recent conversation with the Urban Aboriginal Advisory committee, productive discussions were had over how to ensure the park represents not only the reality of its placement on unceded Coast Salish Territory, but the city’s diversity of First Nation citizens.
And yet, while I am buoyed by this addition of greenspace to an area very much lacking (i.e., Chinatown and the DTES), I am disheartened by the privatization of the water in the form of absurd floating restaurants. By the incessant demand of developers for cars directly at the water’s edge. By the unwillingness of the City to make provisions to support local business or businesses that will benefit surrounding low income communities. By the fact that at their heart, areas 6b, 7a and 6c are not being designed for those who will call the affordable housing apartments their home; they are being designed for a wealthy, elite class first, and everyone else second.