Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) came together during the debate over EcoDensity policy that began in 2007. Across Vancouver, neighbourhoods recognized serious negative implications and felt a need to communicate with each other and to issue joint position statements. Like a previous coalition called Neighbour 2 Neighbour, NSV brought together diverse neighbourhoods that span the political spectrum.
The name “Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver” emerged from a desire to be FOR rather than AGAINST. The identified goal was a livable, affordable and environmentally “sustainable city.” Meanwhile, EcoDensity has promoted a cynical “greenwash” agenda that favors speculators and developers over existing residents and local businesses.
The first NSV public representative and media contact was Mel Lehan from West Kitsilano. Since the fall of 2008, Ned Jacobs of Riley Park / South Cambie has assumed that role.
NSV coordinated input from the large network of neighbourhoods that produced common position letters to Council, with some of the early letters having up to 39 versions before finalizing based on consensus. There was a final NSV letter sent to Council before EcoDensity was passed and an NSV group summary explained the positions of NSV.
Furor over EcoDensity contributed to the political demise of NPA Mayor Sam Sullivan and his party.
The November 2008 Vancouver civic election saw the defeat of the NPA Council. NSV created a candidate survey that lead to member endorsement of the Vision / COPE slate. Although elected on a promise to reconsider EcoDensity, the new Vision Vancouver council has steadily continued to implement the NPA policies. Vision Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan includes many EcoDensity proposed initial actions.
For example, a 2007 city staff report identified Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre planning as embodying EcoDensity far ahead of any formal program approval. In November 2010 the Vision Vancouver Council approved in principle the mass rezoning of 1900 single-family properties in Norquay – in the face of ongoing and widespread neighbourhood opposition and despite the fact that major elements of the plan approved by council were not disclosed at open houses for public consideration and input.
NSV has raised concerns about the consultation process and access to information from the city. For example, Short Term Incentives for Rentals (STIR), which subsidizes market rentals, makes indiscriminate use of density bonusing, discards local area design guidelines and overrides neighbourhood-based planning processes, was approved without public involvement. NSV sent a letter and spoke to Council on STIR.
The effects of developer contributions to election funding continue to be a concern.
NSV continues to support and inform a network of neighbourhoods. The network helps to allow the public to make informed decisions. NSV’s goal is to move the City of Vancouver toward more democratic and genuinely sustainable planning for neighbourhoods and communities. NSV ran five candidates in the 2011 civic election and also endorsed six candidates from various parties to complete a slate for Mayor and Council.
YouTube video below: Just after being elected for his first term, in December 2008 Mayor Gregor Robertson, flanked by others newly elected with him, spoke to Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver at a full house in the Heritage Hall. He acknowledged that EcoDensity was a problem and showed appreciation for NSV support in getting elected. After that, everything changed — for the worse. Read transcript of his speech here.