Mario Canseco: Too many in Metro Vancouver feel developers control city hall

Quoting in part from the Vancouver Sun:

VANCOUVER— A few weeks before the municipal elections last November, 68 per cent of respondents to an Insights West poll in Metro Vancouver said that developers and lobbyists had too much influence in their municipality. That figure was 73 per cent among residents of the City of Vancouver.

It is not challenging to figure out why so many residents perceive that local governments are operating on behalf of developers. Several decisions — such as the height of the Rize development in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood — have led local residents to blame well-connected individuals for the changes in their surroundings.

We wanted to find out if these negative feelings are also present when residents assess life closer to home — that is, in their own neighbourhood. Across Metro Vancouver, more than one third of residents (37 per cent) believe that developers have more influence in the look and feel of their neighbourhood than any other entity. Significantly smaller proportions of Metro Vancouverites think the municipal government (27 per cent) or the community itself (22 per cent) are the ones shaping life in their neighbourhoods.

The perception of developers being superior to City Hall and residents increases with age: 39 per cent of respondents over the age of 35 said developers had the most influence.

This view is also more pronounced in the North Shore (45 per cent) and Vancouver and Richmond (42 per cent) than in the neighbourhoods located south of the Fraser (33 per cent) and those in Burnaby and East (32 per cent).

While these numbers means a majority of Metro Vancouverites do not say that developers are the most powerful force in their neighbourhood, the numbers still paint a disconcerting scenario. The community itself is last on the list of influencers across all demographics.

Even the biggest cynics agree that development can bring welcome changes to municipalities. Our survey shows that 40 per cent of Metro Vancouverites feel that the food options in their neighbourhood are better now than they were five years ago. One third (33 per cent) also believe there has been an improvement in retail options around their home.

Still, life is more than new restaurants and coffee shops or better grocery and clothing outlets. While residents are praising these new options, they are also expressing concerns about the current state of their communities. As expected, neighbourhood traffic is the key problem in the minds of residents, with 74 per cent saying that it has worsened in the past five years (including an extremely high 84 per cent on the North Shore).

The other issues that worry residents have to do with quality of life and esthetics. More than a quarter of Metro Vancouverites say that the sense of community (28 per cent), the look and feel of streets (28 per cent) and the overall character of their neighbourhood (26 per cent) are worse now than they were in 2010.

One of the main complaints that plagued incumbents before last year’s municipal elections was the notion of local governments doing too little and too late to get feedback from communities. In some cases, community associations and the interested public felt they were invited to discuss projects only after they had been approved.

Read more:  Mario Canseco: Too many in Metro Vancouver feel developers control city hall.



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