Can we get over “the rock in the road” in the City’s Local Area Planning Process?

This is an update on the city’s upcoming Local Area Planning Process (LAPP). What is a LAPP? Why do CCAP and other groups in the area care about it? And why are we talking about rocks?!?

LAPPs were started in the 1970s in Vancouver as a way for cities to get more citizen involvement in developing plans for neighbourhoods. The Downtown Eastside had a LAPP in the 70s and when Jean Swanson of CCAP was at DERA, she was on its committee. That committee was made up of an elected group of residents, workers, business operators, property owners and others. They were given a humble budget and made recommendations about how to spend that money to improve the area. We can thank this committee for the trees that line our neighbourhood’s streets.

There’s people’s lives in those planning maps.

In 2008, CCAP called on the city to start a LAPP because there is no over-arching, unifying plan for the area. CCAP also wanted the city to agree on a vision, goal and tools to stabilize and improve the lives of low-income residents and to have a committee made up of majority low-income residents. Plus we want it to slow or stop gentrification.

In January 2010, the city approved the LAPP as a token offering when condo towers and gentrification were foisted on the community through the Historic Area Height Review. It was called the “DTES Strategy.” But nothing happened for a year. So, in March 2011, the city turned this DTES Strategy into an “enhanced and accelerated” LAPP and gave the DTES Neighbourhood Council (DNC) and the Building Communities Society (BCS) co-chairs significant powers, according to the city’s motion, to influence it. Since March 2011, CCAP has worked closely with the two groups named by the city as co-chairs to develop some terms of reference or a set of agreements to build the structure, process and basic points that participants can agree to.

There have been some good things about this struggle to define a process. For the most part, BCS has come on board to support most of DNC’s goals for the LAPP. They supported us on our goal to slow market development during the process of the LAPP. As Robert said at a CCAP meeting recently, “How can we talk about LAPP and still have what’s going on at Pantages?” We hear this a lot from residents. How can we plan a neighbourhood when the cranes are up and the bulldozers are at work pushing us out? But so far, it looks like the city will not agree to slow development as a condition for the LAPP.

It’s been tough going on other fronts too. Although sometimes we may feel like throwing them, and sometimes we feel like banging our heads against them, the biggest “rock in the road” is that city staff insist the community committee is just an advisory group. We want to be partners to produce the plan. To us, “partners” means the committee and the city staff will need to agree on the plan before it goes to council. Advisory status, on the other hand, means the city is free to consult with whoever they want, including those who just want to make money off the real estate in the DTES and have no obligation to ensure the committee’s recommendations are passed on to city council for decision making. In the end, if we accept an advisory role, our hard work could be used to justify recommendations that we may not agree with.

Shanghai: Condo City. The kind of planning we want to avoid.

So, do you think the rest of the community beyond the DNC’s LAPP Committee would think this a significant issue? We’re reaching out to low-income driven groups in the DTES, right now, to find out. We’re also having a DNC General Membership meeting on Saturday, July 2nd in the Carnegie Theatre to which you are all welcome. Be in touch if you want to learn more. If you are a DTES resident, sign up as a member on Saturday, hear the story and vote on what you think we should do next.