Newsletter no. 4 (June 19, 2008)

Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Program


A Preliminary Response


This early response to Newsletter no. 4, recently distributed to the Norquay area by Vancouver city planners, centers on issues of scope, method, context, process, timing, and transparency. Details of actual city planning in Norquay require far more extended consideration.

The heading for Newsletter no. 4 says “We’ve been listening … Here’s what we’ve heard” and continues: “The summary of feedback presented here will help guide future planning.” The summary consists of seven brief paragraphs whose guiding rhetoric is “some say this and some say that.“

The most extensive, formal, and consistent feedback that city planners have received thus far from the Norquay community is through the questionnaire appended to the June 2007 Draft Plan for Future Housing in Norquay Village Neighbourhood Center. That survey produced results other than what planners wanted to hear. The City then engaged an “independent advisor … to analyze and interpret the results.” The consultant concluded that the results – a substantial negative reaction to City proposals – should be discarded. That significant quantitative factor has wrongly disappeared in the City’s new “summary of feedback.”

What city planners proposed in the Draft Plan appeared to impose on Norquay a template developed for the different neighborhood of Kensington-Cedar Cottage (except that the area was greatly expanded and the housing far denser). If each neighborhood has its own character, and that character is respected, then differences will be genuine. On the first night of EcoDensity special meetings (Feb. 26, 2008), Director of Planning Brent Toderian responded to the issue of eastside versus westside density by saying that the east side has been more accepting of density (perhaps because a more immigrant working-class population traditionally has offered less response to city initiatives?). Toderian clearly recognized density as a difference that presently distinguishes neighborhoods. The data that city planners have already obtained through survey from Norquay suggests that this particular East Vancouver neighborhood values its present spacious and open character. Note also that Renfrew-Collingwood has already taken massive, dense development, particularly in Collingwood village. (Analysis by Erick Villagomez establishes that the east side of Vancouver has already done far more than its share in accommodating Vancouver’s density.) Having the first four neighborhood center implementations fall on the east side strongly suggests a city planning bias.

Perhaps the single most contentious issue is passed over with this sentence: “Some people commented that courtyard rowhouses were not supported in the Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision and should not be considered in Norquay.” The fact is that city planners violated recent stated City of Vancouver policy in even proposing the housing type for Norquay Village. During EcoDensity discussions Director of Planning Brent Toderian has repeatedly affirmed that community visions will be respected. The newsletter’s apparent continued interest in promoting the courtyard rowhouse housing form shows disrespect for the foundations laid by existing community process, casts doubt on Toderian’s public statements, and gives neighborhood groups across Vancouver continuing reason for deep concern about the City of Vancouver’s commitment to honest process.

Like the Draft Plan of June 2007, Newsletter no. 4 has come suddenly to an unprepared community. A natural forum for prepublication discussion would have been the Renfrew-Collingwood CityPlan Committee, which has met regularly through the spring of 2008. Instead, planners prepared this approach to the community with no open consultation. Newsletter no. 4 presumes to restart a vague planning process without having introduced any transparency whatsoever. (It can also be noted here that the open community meeting promised to Norquay by Director of Planning Brent Toderian at the June 23, 2007 EcoDensity forum has never taken place.)

As with the Draft Plan of June 2007, the timing of Newsletter no. 4 seems designed to minimize community response. Mailed out toward the end of June, the Newsletter has targeted a July-August season dominated by vacations, summer activities, and less than optimal staffing. No serious effort at seeking genuine input would ever look to July-August or December. City planners have had a full calendar year to consider the continuation of planning for Norquay. The citizens of Norquay should have something other than two summer months in which to address this new initiative from Neighbourhood Centres Community Planning.

The research (as described in the cover letter accompanying the Newsletter) to be undertaken by city planners in July-August will surely be hampered by the impacts of the summer season. The situation in Norquay needs measured consideration and appropriate effort. If the proposed research includes tabulation of open-ended and little-defined input from the community, the community deserves a more suitable season to consider and prepare its responses.

The intent of Newsletter no. 4 seems apparent from the close: “Let us know what you think! … Please help us to make an accurate list of comments, so that we can work to address all of the concerns raised.“ All responses to Newletter no. 4 should be made public through the City of Vancouver web site on a timely and ongoing basis. There should be no near-term cut-off for input. Recent experience with the solicitation and presentation of comment on EcoDensity raises strong concern about how city planners take in comment and repackage it to have citizens saying what city planners wish they thought.

Finally, a vague “tell us what you think” essay-question approach poses a serious challenge even for well-educated, literate, long-term residents. The barriers presented by this culturally inappropriate methodology will be insurmountable for many of our busy immigrant neighbors, unless they receive more assistance in understanding the issues. Without such assistance, response will be largely limited to a small group that recognizes the issues and has well-formed opinions (particularly the planners, architects, developers, and builders who have background, interest, and certain natural biases). City planners should consider engaging a neutral consultant with developed skills in cross-cultural community consultation and hiring more multicultural staff.


Addendum: The June 26, 2008 announcement regarding 2300 Kingsway (at Nanaimo Street) / Development Application Number DE412217   in seven separate pdf files under the heading “2300 Kingsway – DE412217”) calls into question the relevance of the entire community process leading to a Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre. A proposal for a significant portion of such a “center” is proceeding concurrently with no connection whatsoever to the Neighbourhood Centre Program and with little genuine community input.


Prepared by Joseph Jones, with consultations            



Draft Plan for Future Housing in Norquay Village Neighbourhood Center (Newsletter no. 3)

Newsletter no. 4 (June 19, 2008)   –   May become available at

Norquay Survey Results: History and Context

Villagomez, Erick. “Who’s been densified, who hasn’t (Feb. 18, 2008)   Tyee Online


June 30, 2008

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