More from Guy Heywood’s blog: “Thoughts of a ‘retiring’ Councillor”:
Residents of the City of North Vancouver should read the City’s draft OCP. You can learn a lot about what is happening in the 12 square kilometres that is the jurisdiction of the City of North Vancouver by reading the document. In addition to reading the document, one should think about the appropriateness of the conceptual framework and the assumptions about context. The document has three parts: Part I is “Foundations” which talks about vision, principles and context. Part II is the meat of the plan, “Community Directions” and has ten chapters that start with one on land use and then goes on to discuss transportation, parks, culture, heritage, economy and municipal infrastructure. Part III is a shorter section on implementation and measuring progress.
I will make some comments on those chapters in later blogs. In this one I am going to focus on Part I and the conceptual framework that it sets out for the rest of the plan.
It begins with a “Community Vision” that talks about being a vibrant, diverse, and highly livable community that is resilient to climate change etc.. “. In other words nothing different than what we would expect from any local government in our society. The Guiding Principles are ten statements of positive intent that represent what are likely pretty generally acceptable motherhood statements of good intentions that would be reasonable to hold a local government to account for.
The discussion of context talks about the North Shore as a home to First Nations and subsequent European settlement and the saw milling industry in the late 1800s. The short form history then jumps to a short description of the “Ambitious City” and its development after incorporation in 1907 without any explanation as to why the Corporation of the City was formed with its peculiar and awkward boundary (for that story see my blog below “Ambitious City or Selfish City”).
I would argue that an appreciation of the specific reasons that the City was founded is important to understand the original purposes and the likely institutional inertia that informs the current directions and priorities of the organization. The City of North Vancouver was created for the convenience of the property developers of the day and not to be aligned with the community growing around it.
As an organization, however, the Corporation of the City of North Vancouver has developed its own interests and purposes. This purpose is not a profit motive, but it is certainly a self preservation motive that is most acutely felt and acted upon by the interests that are most served by its continued existence and independence and who rely on its decisions on a day to day basis. In the case of a local government, its day to day decisions are the most important to the developers of property in its jurisdiction, to the unions of the employees of the organization. It is also important to those senior management who have obtained positions in the organization who then see their role to defend the organization even they appear unreasonable doing so.
The City government-centric bias of the document is also apparent in the in what is introduced as the “Sustainable City Framework”, graphically illustrated on page 12 of the draft plan:
The graphic might say more about the real motivations of ‘City Shaping’ than the authors intended. If you substitute the word “Framework” with “Corporation” the graphic takes on a somewhat different, and perhaps more clear, meaning.
In this perspective it looks as though nature, society and economy are expected to orbit around the “The Sustainable City” and “City Shaping” is the process of bending all of these other elements to better align with the interests of the Corporation of the City of North Vancouver. To the extent that those interests are not the same as the interests of the people who live in the community of North Vancouver, there is going to be inefficiency. That, in a nutshell is one of my concerns about the government-centric nature of the OCP process. While it is full of great and laudable aspirations, there is a bias in the conceptual framework that demands to take as given, in its current shape and form, a local government organization that is working hard to avoid scrutiny of its own context, purposes and the opportunity cost to the community if it is not in alignment with the community that it is supposed to serve.