I commend council and staff for taking on the epic task of prioritizing a housing crisis while managing competing and coinciding projects and plans. That said, I believe we can be bolder and more innovative in our policies and approaches through 1) more thoughtful engagement, 2) rooted and robust understanding of the big picture (resources, process and outputs), and 3) strategic thinking and doing—to not only quantify our future vision but achieve our shared goals.
I have big ideas when it comes to housing, the arts and zero waste. But realizing these visions isn’t the job of one or ten…it takes many to do good work. As such, it’s the responsibility of all Vancouverites to come to the table and be heard. We need to connect and collaborate on how to make Vancouver a city that is inclusive, liveable, and thriving for us all―regardless of where we live (and with whom), what we do and how much we make.
My stance is simple: to highlight viable opportunities and concepts (that can be turned into smart goals) without over promising, and to ensure that council works towards the betterment of all Vancouverites. A tall order? Definitely. But I was reminded at a recent council meeting that we each have a story to tell. I want to hear yours, learn more about this city and the people who live here, and find ways we can all shine. Do I think we all want the same things? No. But we each have a role in changing this city for the better. I hope you’ll join me on this ride!
My values: collaborative, engaged, present and strategic.
My priorities: housing, arts and culture, and zero waste.
Note: I’ll be running a paperless and near-zero dollar independent campaign.
Overarching goal (and new piece to my campaign): As a communications strategist, I’m intrigued by how we engage others. As a councillor, I’d like to explore new ways of connecting the public around civic issues. We lead busy lives, and so we need to meet people where they’re at in their daily routines. Mid-day council meetings and online submissions often favour those with more flexible schedules and opposing voices. How can we create more robust engagement, hear those in support of change in the city, and ensure council votes with strategy and not just caution? Let’s figure this out together!
Priority 1―Housing: Diverse and affordable housing
I’m experienced with housing. It’s a big and complex issue. And like many others in and out of the field, I want to encourage multiple forms for various incomes, households and needs. That said, as a project manager I know how to see things from a higher level perspective. Here’s where I’d begin:
- Outreach with experts. Beyond advisory committees, more formal opportunities for councillors to engage with city staff to create a shared understanding of projects, priorities and viable solutions.
- Reduce waste. Limit the length of reports going to council to shortened executive summaries, with supplementary information provided in appendices. In addition to creating excess waste, long report writing reduces staff and council’s capacity and productivity.
- Improve process and prioritization. Engage with key stakeholders to develop a performance-based criteria (using a point system to meet specific outputs) to incentivize affordability, sustainability, universal design, character retention, alternative building forms/foundations and other key measures; and through this, prioritize and streamline building permitting and processes. (This will ensure that we deliver on the city’s top outputs, and that our process is measurable.)
- Take small, wide. Allow for the gentle densification of single-family neighbourhoods using diverse, ground-oriented small housing forms including low-rise apartments, laneways, rowhouses, houseplexes (up to 6) and tiny homes—across the full housing spectrum, including non-market/market rental and homeownership and different tenure models. Explore the feasibility of city-wide zoning that would help to distribute this new density across the city, close to amenities, and in turn, intensify lower density western and southern parts of Vancouver. This would give residents the opportunity for their household to live within their means and their neighbourhood of choice (or stay where they are). It would also save the city and council time and capacity over resource-heavy spot zoning. (This includes the legalization of tiny homes as a viable dwelling.)
- Bring back creativity. Engage with key stakeholders to create an innovative housing think-and-do tank (similar to the Urban Design Studio) that develops goal-oriented pilots to explore and deliver on more affordable (needs quantifying; perhaps less than $100,000-150,000 per unit?) housing. Projects would be in partnership with existing homeowners, designers, builders, developers, and financiers, and include (but not be limited to): diverse ground-oriented forms and building practices (modular, container units, tiny homes), alternative and temporary foundations, rent-to-own models, and freehold ownership. The lab isn’t meant to bog down creative thinking with more process, but serve as a tool to help develop projects, refine best practices, and launch them in Vancouver! (Could be funded through the Empty Homes Tax program and be used to mentor students, emerging talents and skilled immigrant volunteers looking for work experience.)
Priority 2―The arts: More creativity in the city
Hats off to the artists who work diligently to create a vibrant Vancouver. While initiatives like Vancouver Mural Festival are turning public space into shareable works of art, I think we can dream bigger and bolder. Here’s how:
- Engage our creators. Continue outreach through the Creative City Strategy, and take action on ways to increase support for smaller and mid-size organizations, individuals, and unincorporated groups and to increase transparency of processes, policies, functions, and outcomes. It’s too difficult and expensive to make art in Vancouver; let’s cut back on red tape and fees for site activations.
- Be Vancouver. Develop a city-wide contest to shortlist and launch a series of annual Vancouver experiences that represent the city and its diversity, rather than replicating events that are done elsewhere.
Priority 3―Zero waste: Food, reuse & single-use
While the city is taking steps towards greener initiatives, we could do more. Here are some ways:
- Not in the dumps. Roll out a ban on food waste similar to what was done in France, prohibiting supermarkets from throwing out and destroying unsold food―instead having them donate it to charities and food banks. Outline a feasible plan and timeline with staff and other key stakeholders, and launch.
- Reuse and innovate. By 2019, use approved city funds to create a centralized hub that collects, sells, reengineers, and uses reclaimed building materials acquired through the Green Demolition Bylaw and deconstruction practices. Develop and roll out an education and outreach plan targeting industry and the general public in partnership with key stakeholders. (Unlike demolishing, deconstruction takes buildings apart by hand to retain the majority of materials for reuse rather than recycling and to divert them from landfill and/or incinerator.)
- Better bins. Expand on pilot and roll out proper recycling and compost receptacles with better labeling on all city streets to avoid cross-contamination and encourage greater landfill diversion.
- Speed it up and lead. Expedite the full ban on single-use items (bags and cups) rather than using reduction plan targets as a measure to implement. Are we being overly cautious, or can this be done prior to 2021? Be a leader and connect with the provincial government, Metro Vancouver, key stakeholders and other practitioners in the field to see how we could achieve this, faster and together.