Why I Oppose Sullivanism

The Georgia Straight recently published a cover story titled “Sullivanism versus Jane Jacobs”, detailing former NPA Mayor Sam Sullivan’s continuing efforts to push high-rise densification onto the city. In the article, Sullivan praises former Mayor Tom “Terrific” Campbell’s reign of free market ideology.

The issues are clear. Do we let capitalism run roughshod over democratic processes and the sovereignty of neighborhoods, or will citizens determine their own destiny? Will corporate forces continue to undo the careful central planning and human-focused building which has been a priority of COPE elected officials since the party was established in 1968, or will grassroots forces take power back from the corporate firms? Will more neighborhoods become resorts for the rich, or will we protect and promote affordable housing across the city?

Sam Sullivan wants to dump neighbourhood plans that have taken more than a decade to develop. He wants to allow spot zoning that will force neighborhoods to fight constant battles. He wants to allow developers to keep windfall profits from upzonings. He wants to rush through development proposals without looking at community impacts. He has been bringing apologists for global capitalism from Manhattan and Harvard to support him. He somehow believes that concrete manufacturing, which is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases in the region, is good for the environment.

Sullivan wants to overturn the “livable city” that we have created and is respected around the world. He wants to mow-over single-family homes and affordable rental to fill Vancouver with capitalism’s favorite building — the privatized high-end condo tower. He claims that new luxury towers will help us achieve affordability! Has he checked out the prices of these new buildings? He looks at 1965 as the Golden Age of Vancouver because it undemocratically demolished communities in the West End.

Let’s be clear, not even real estate developers believe in Sullivanism. At the recent Vancouver Urban Forum, which Sullivan organized, only a half a dozen of the 300 people who attended came from the development industry. Developers are clearly embarrassed by Sullivan’s ideas and showed what they think of him by staying away in droves.

I oppose Sullivanism and the NPA worship of capitalism. But the important question now is: what does Vision Vancouver believe? Do they support Sullivanism? If they don’t, they should prove it by starting to respect democratic processes, maintain the human scale of Vancouver neighborhoods, and turn down proposals for high-end condo towers, especially in affordable neighbourhoods. Against Sullivanism, I believe that grassroots democracy, environmentalism, and affordability have to come together, hand-in-hand.

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