By Bruce A. Gilmour, DRA President
As 2022 began, I reflected on the DRA’s 2021 accomplishments and the path forward. Much of last year’s focus will continue to influence our agenda this year. That includes an increased emphasis on collaboration with the Dunbar Village Business Association and with Dunbar residents through the newsletter, list serv, and home page. As 2022 is a municipal election year, we must ensure candidates understand that protecting liveability and maintaining stability are priorities for our neighbourhood.
One of the DRA’s major and increasing concerns is what is happening to our once-vibrant retail district. You only have to stroll between West 16th and West 41st Avenues to see the difference between what Dunbar was just a few years ago and what it is now. While some new stores are opening and new apartment buildings are going up, many stores are closing or at risk, and there are far too many vacant blocks and storefronts along our main street.
We must lobby and petition city council to help us protect and attract retail diversity on Dunbar. It makes no sense to be densifying our area while our retail district disappears and transit is cut. While residents succeeded in convincing TransLink not to go ahead with plans to cut 40 percent of the bus stops between 16th and 41st in January, we still lost five on Dunbar, and many on West King Edward and Macdonald that once served Dunbar residents.
Another concern is how little attention the city pays to the voices of communities like ours. Councillors are elected to represent the residents, the neighbourhoods called Vancouver. But as we saw with the Streamlining Rental plan, which allows four- to five-storey apartment buildings in residential blocks adjacent to arterials, the concerns of many of our residents who opposed this were ignored. We know when it comes to development issues, the deck is often stacked by developers who recruit speakers and generate multiple emails to support their case. Residents are considered obstacles to development.
Which brings me to the Vancouver Plan, where once again the DRA has not been consulted, let alone notified. The Vancouver Plan is described as a single, city-wide plan to guide future growth. Council initiated the plan in 2019, and is scheduled to make a final decision on it this summer.
According to the city website, the plan will “guide future growth in line with the key priorities the community has identified including: housing, climate action and sustainability, employment and economy, environment, transportation, social well-being, arts and culture and infrastructure.”
I have had no details or timelines about the planning process touching down in neighbourhoods such as Dunbar. The DRA did not know! How many Dunbar residents were involved, or even knew this plan was happening?
We have been upgrading our communication tools such as the DRA newsletter, the list serv, our website, and we have started a Facebook page to increase awareness and feedback on issues like this, but it’s a work in progress. Meanwhile, the mayor, council and city staff must be clearer about the process if any neighbourhood is to add value to initiatives such as the Vancouver Plan!