A Plan for the Future 2019.01.13

When our great grand-children’s children grow up in Vancouver will they be living in a very dense city of high-rises? Say like Manhattan or Mumbai or what? Will Vancouver have become the focus for populations escaping the scourge of climate change? Will dense high-rise communities stretch along the Broadway transit corridor to link up with the University of British Columbia high-rises? Will there be a new ocean barrier stretching between the University of British Columbia and Light House Park to hold the high tides back?

Will everybody be relatively well off so the communities will be well maintained and neighbourly or will they be unkempt and overwhelmed by social despair? Will residents continue to have influence over municipal affairs through democratic processes or will decisions about our community be overtaken by the powerful forces that come from property ownership rather than citizenship? Will there still be cars lined up for hours at every rush hour, or longer? Will the sky be filled with drones?

That is just a few of the questions we should be addressing, for we currently have no real knowledge of what Vancouver could be like in, say 40 years time. Hopefully in 2060 people will be saying

 “one of the most important things that ever happened to Vancouver was the city wide plan that they produced in 2020. That plan was able to guide change to benefit all citizens. It created policies that solved ongoing problems while being able to adjust to the vast unforeseeable changes that continued to occur throughout this twenty first century.”

What an exciting challenge for the current City Hall crew! How will our leaders, with our support and our tax dollars, achieve that?


Well, they won’t achieve it by carrying on doing what they have been doing over the last many years. I think everyone knows that our current situation is not a healthy one. None of us has any patience for the hollow promises that some of our representatives like to make about how they will solve the problems.

We want our leaders to be realistic, honest, open, thorough, creative, wise, caring, inquisitive, and determined. Of course we would like to be all those things ourselves. So if we strive to do that too, maybe between us all, working together we will be on the right path.

It is how we THINK and what we DO that will make the difference.

While that might seem obvious, I fear that much of what is happening is just continuing in the old way. We need a new approach to planning for our future that recognizes where we are, what we have become and what opportunities we have in the future. So I suggest the following

1. While City Hall should continue to address current issues as best they can, they should also assign time and resources to THINK about what we need to do to ensure the comfort and gratitude of our community in 2060.

2. Put in place, from the outset, the guiding principle that the plan making process will be TRANSPARENT and HONEST

3. Set up an interdisciplinary team to collect and share needed BASIC INFORMATION

4. Set up programs that genuinely INFORM  AND ENGAGE the community.

5. Set up an interdisciplinary team to seek, discuss and discover the pros and cons of A WIDE RANGE OF ALTERNATIVE FUTURES and propose the best ways to proceed.

6. Ensure that the policies and plans that emerge are RESILIENT and have the capacity to change and adapt as our world changes around us.

7. It is Council’s job to inspire and lead us through this process and determine the polices that need to be set and implemented to achieve that 2060 result.

Ray Spaxman
Former Director, City of Vancouver Planning Department
Principal, Spaxman Consulting Group