On Friday, September 9th Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue released its District of North Vancouver Commissioned report on consultations on future use of the Delbrook Recreation Centre site.
This has not been a process with which the Delbrook Community Association has been particularly comfortable. The Community Association was specifically cut out of the “big ideas” session in January. Support for “market housing” was nearly non-existent in the January results but, sure enough, it got prominent placement in the second consultation session in June.
In an unprecedented move the June consultation was set up to ensure people wo live in the Delbrook area of the District of North Vancouver would be a minority. Just prior to the consultation the District aggressively promoted a survey to support “affordable housing”.
The consultation document ignored key arguments for protecting public land such as those put forward by housing analyst Elizabeth Murphy that building housing on public lands is adding many more people with fewer amenities. “The school and park systems need to be protected, funded and expanded, not used for yet more housing,” she said.
Finally, as the people being consulted were on the way out the door from the June meeting they were presented with a survey that seemed tailor made to get a result demanding some form of housing on the Delbrook site lands.
All told, the Community Association felt there was little room for optimism about this report.
That being said, the report is better than we expected. Despite problems with the process participants across the District largely supported the positions taken by the Delbrook Community Association. This may disappoint some members of DNV council who have made it clear they wanted to sell all or part of the site to help pay for the new William Griifin Recreation Centre site. One of the original proposals for the Delbrook site was a 12 story apartment building that would have brought in millions of dollars.
The Delbrook Community Association in discussions over the last few years came to agreement on a number of principles regarding future use of the Delbrook site. These were:
- No sale of public assembly lands: these should be kept for the future use of community.
- A major portion of the site should be used for need park space in the community.
- The child care centre should remain on the site.
- The site should not be used for housing as it will be needed in future to provide amenities for what is likely to be a community with more density than present.
- There should be some sort of multi-use facility on the site to serve the community. This last point was not unanimously held.
How do the consultation report’s findings measure up against these principles?
No sale of public assembly land
On this, there was overwhelming agreement. Participants opposed selling the land for any of the reasons offered despite the fact that the survey offered seven different possible uses for the money if the land was sold.
Using the property for park space
People were even more strongly supportive of new park space than they were opposed to selling the land. More than 80 per cent of local residents supported neighbourhood parkland. Even more than 60 per cent of non-residents supported the idea.
Child Care on the site
Nearly 90 per cent of participants were reported to have been in support of additional child care or adult day care spaces on the site.
Using the site for future amenities – not housing
Participants in the process were strongly against the idea of using for market house. Nearly two thirds were strongly against the idea.
Non-market housing received greater support. Among district wide participants 70 per cent were in favour or strongly in favour of non-market housing. Among people in the community non-market housing squeezed out a bare majority of support of 51 per cent. However, support for non-market came with the caveat that it not be paid for by the District.
When asked for ideas for the site in the post event survey, non-market housing came fifth (21 mentions) following green space (46 mentions), additional child and adult day care (27 mentions), flexible/multi use indoor community space (26 mentions) and retain public ownership (23 mentions). If Council chooses to go in this direction it will require a great deal more consultation.
Perhaps most important, there was no discussion of, or agreement on, just exactly what was meant by non-market housing.
Interestingly, this idea wasn’t even on the table in the post event survey. Despite this it was one of the top three ideas listed when people were asked for ideas in the survey. Three of the 12 tables recommended the idea.
So what did people think about the process? The Centre for Dialogue reports satisfaction with the process went up by eight per cent between a survey before the day and a survey afterwards. However, this enthusiasm was not complete. Expressions of dissatisfaction also went up. Only eight percent of participants from outside of the Delbrook Community said they were unhappy with the consultation process. However, among community residents who were more intensely involved in the process over the long term, nearly 20% said they were not satisfied. While 80% of people from outside the community said they were happy with the process only 65% of Delbrook community residents said they were satisfied. The Centre for Dialogue should be very disappointed with that 65% figure.
What will the outcome be? That will be up to Council and they have made clear they do not feel compelled to take any advice provided by this consultation.
Some things are clear. Council did not get a mandate to sell the property. They heard clearly that more park space is wanted along with better child and adult day care. People opposed market housing and only supported non-market housing if it is not paid for by the District. Support for this housing option came in the context that the Dialogue Document failed to present the arguments for keeping the land for future amenities.
The Centre for Dialogue report goes to DNV Council on Monday, September 19th although no decisions will be made at that time.
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