Saturday, 27 October 2012


There are two kinds of citizen committees that compete in Vancouver's Planning Process. The Affordability Task Force is an example of one that is being used with increasing frequency by the Mayor and Council. The government appoints people to advise it, accepts their advice, and passes a bylaw. They consider this  consultation or citizen input.

The most recent one is the Proposed Vancouver Task force to look at boosting  neighborhood community engagement.Read more:

Committees of the second kind are those neighborhood groups that have no connection at all to City Hall but wish they had. Comprised of neighborhood residents they seek to provide their take on things that affect their local area. Their problem is that they were only elected by their local association. They have been famously dismissed by the Mayor as &*%^# neighborhood hacks.

I have been involved with the Dunbar Residents Association for years. It has valiantly tried to influence the Mayor and Council by writing letters to politicians and sending speakers to City Council. 

Here are some other ideas to get citizens feeling more engaged. 

Vancouver's City Council should establish a Morlaix - France Sister City Committee.  I volunteer to be appointed to it.  Morlaix is a medieval town of about 18,000 people on the Brittany coast.

I visited Morlaix a few weeks ago. It has quite a history. In the 1400 s the English attacked the town.  The citizens formed a committee of the second kind and threw them out.  Their battle cry was, “If they bite you bite them back.”  (S'ils te mordent, mords les!"The motto is on their banners to this day. The name, Morlaix, is ancient French for "Mords les" (“bite them”)

Morlaix has some thing in common with Vancouver.  First of all, it has a viaduct which, like ours, has not yet been demolished. It also has buildings that remain in scale to their surroundings.

                                MORLAIX VIADUCT

 The demolition of the Georgia Viaduct in Vancouver, when it happens will present an opportunity to advise the town of Morlaix, Brittany on how to get rid of or, as they say in the professional jargon of planners, "repurpose" theirs.  The Sister City Committee would play a useful role.  

There is money to be made when planning is contracted out to committees of the first kind. I would hope to be the paid consultant to assist the French in the demolition of the Morlaix viaduct.


Here is another suggestion relating to zoning. France not only has some of the most beautiful buildings in the world like Notre Dame, but is home to one that has been voted the second ugliest. See    Montoparnasse tower  is in Paris. It is considered to be so out of scale that it is a tourist attraction. 

We already have laneway houses that are out of scale.

                        BACKYARD LANEWAY TOWER

What is past is prologue. Vancouver now has the opportunity of getting a seven story building on Dunbar Street when  all of the others are only four stories, that being the present limit.  While not as out of scale as Montparnasse Tower, it is a start and you can be sure that even uglier, more out of scale buildings will follow.


If I were on the Morlaix sister City Committee I would strongly urge the Mayor to set up a Committee to Recognize Ugly Out of Scale Buildings all over the world.  Then, he should  fly to France and try to get the French to recognize the Dunbar building as the third  most out of scale building. It will be a boon to tourism and, as with all things will help fund both the Mayor's Greenest City initiative  and the Affordability one not to mention the Morlaix Sister City Committee.

A standing room only meeting of several hundred people was held by a new Neighborhood Committee of the Second Kind that calls itself  Re-Vision. (The name is a play on the Dunbar Vision which was the local area plan created in the days before Vancouver contracted planning out to committees of developers.) They were responding to the proposed 7 storey building. There were people also from Community Groups from other areas. 

I got the distinct impression that  they might agree with Council that there is a need for a new form of civic engagement.  They are trying to engage the politicians by getting  a couple of thousand people from all over Vancouver to march on City Council on November 16th around noon. Maybe they will bite them.

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