A week ago, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced that he would not be seeking re-election this fall. So now is the time to reflect on what his 10 years in office have meant.
I’ll tell you up front that I do not look back with any degree of fondness at Gregor Robertson’s time as mayor of Vancouver. Here are a few examples that explain why.
When a developer wishes to apply to city council to rezone a piece of property, a public hearing is convened, giving members of the public, both supporters and opponents of the project, the opportunity to speak to council about the application. Prior to Gregor Robertson being elected mayor, city councillors could only vote yea or nay on a developer’s rezoning application if they had been present at the public hearing. This made sense as delegations from the public assumed their comments would be taken into consideration.
But Mayor Gregor Robertson changed all this. Partway through his tenure on council, he changed the public hearing bylaw to make it no longer a requirement for city councillors to be present throughout the public hearing if they wished to vote on the developer’s application.
It’s now quite common to witness members of Mayor Robertson’s party, Vision Vancouver, absent themselves from large portions of public hearings, and yet still vote on these developers’ applications. I should also note that rarely, if ever, does the mayor or his party vote against developers seeking to rezone their properties at public hearings.
Another example: Prior to Gregor Robertson being elected mayor, it was not uncommon for city council of the day to reduce or eliminate development cost levies if a developer agreed to provide a certain amount of social housing within the proposed project. This “carrot on a stick” approach resulted in much-needed social housing at no cost to taxpayers.
But Mayor Robertson changed the definition of social housing to include rental housing at market rates. It’s now quite common for a developer to avoid paying development cost levies simply by including rental housing at market rates, which does nothing to provide much-needed affordable housing.
In addition, I’d like to point out that Vision Vancouver’s campaigns under Mayor Gregor Robertson were bankrolled by developers every election throughout the past 10 years.
To underscore all of this, we have more homeless people on our streets today than when he first ran for mayor in 2008 on a platform that promised to bring homelessness to an end.
We have a perfect example of his failure in this regard from this week’s public hearing regarding a 2016 rezoning proposal at 58 W. Hastings. Activists brought to the public hearing a written promise actually signed by the mayor that 100 percent of the project would be “welfare/pension-rate community-controlled housing”, also known as shelter rate housing. The reality today is that only one-third of the project is at shelter rates. Another broken promise.
With the exception of a few positive environmental initiatives — such as all the improvements for cycling in the city — Mayor Gregor Robertson has implemented an agenda very similar to that of the Non-Partisan Association, which has always supported businesses and developers at the expense of neighbourhoods and the average citizen. Ergo my well-known expression: Vision Vancouver is the NPA, only with bike lanes.
With the mayor’s departure coupled with those of Vision councillors Geoff Meggs, Andrea Reimer and Tim Stevenson, one could say that Vision Vancouver’s days are numbered — and that we’re about to witness a sea change at 12th and Cambie in this fall’s municipal election.
I, for one, am keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll see a Green/COPE majority and finally enjoy a positive change that puts neighbourhood needs ahead of the wishes of big developers.