The Flats Arterial Community Panel, convened by the Jefferson Center, was charged with exploring trade-offs across nine proposed arterial route options and working towards identifying the option that best met the needs of the neighborhood, the city of Vancouver, and the region.
Problems and Purpose
The dynamic False Creek Flats neighborhood in Vancouver, BC, plays a vital role in the local and regional economy. Next to downtown and the Port of Vancouver, the area is home to vibrant neighbourhoods, bustling parks, community gardens, local artists, and more than 600 diverse businesses.
As part of a recent long-term visioning process for the area, the City completed the False Creek Flats Plan in consultation with residents, businesses, and key stakeholders, to ensure the region develops in a productive, sustainable, and connected way. As part of this planning process, and responding to federal rail safety regulations, the City was tasked with identifying the location to build a grade-separated arterial over or under the train tracks on the east side of the neighborhood to maintain connection between East Vancouver and downtown.
In November 2017, after exploring many alignment options for this proposed arterial, the City of Vancouver recognized the need for further stakeholder and community engagement, deciding to form a Community Panel. Panelists were charged with exploring trade-offs across the nine proposed route options and working towards identifying the option that best met the needs of the neighbourhood, city, and region as a whole.
Background History and Context
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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Jefferson Center was selected to convene the Panel, and we collaborated with Susanna Haas Lyons, Michelle Hoar, and Angela Ko, local public engagement specialists, on the project.
The City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Park Board provided funding, and their staff also attended Panel convenings and provided expertise, resources, and additional information to the Panelists.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The Community Panel was mandated to include a mix of local residents from within the False Creek Flats area, local business participants from the area, and residents from across Vancouver.
Invitations to apply to the Community Panel opened on November 7, and closed on December 10, 2018. Over 11,000 postcards were sent across Vancouver, and we also invited applicants through social media, direct stakeholder outreach, newsletters, and press releases. About 200 people volunteered to participate, and 42 Panelists were randomly selected from this pool anonymously and randomly to represent the gender, ethnicity, and age makeup of local residents (21 participants), businesses (15 participants), and residents from across Vancouver (6 participants).
Methods and Tools Used
Organized and led by the Jefferson Center, the Community Panel process was similar to a citizens' jury. Participants met for 8 full day sessions, with 7 sessions devoted to learning and deliberation and 1 session devoted to a guided tour of the neighborhood, from January – April of 2019. Over the four months, the Panel explored their shared and contrasting values, considered detailed technical information, and evaluated the concerns, goals, and needs of people affected by the proposed route alignments.
Throughout the process, Panelists worked to define the advantages and drawbacks of each proposed route, create rationales for and against each option, and finally, recommend a route to City and Parks Board staff.
The public was also invited to contribute to the Panel’s learning by attending two workshops and submitting ideas online, and these ideas were shared with the Panelists to help shape their assessments of the route options.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
On the first two days of deliberation, Panelists heard about the history of the False Creek Flats neighborhood, projections for the future, and more about the proposed route options. They also identified personal and community values they wanted to keep in mind as they worked together towards a route recommendation, and learned more about six key learning factors that were identified by project staff through interviews with community members, business representatives, City of Vancouver and Vancouver Park Board staff, and other community stakeholders prior to the beginning of the Community Panel. These six factors that guided their learning were:
- transportation performance
- cost and constructability
- community livability
- parks, recreational spaces and community gardens
- public and other community facilities
The following weekend, the Panel went on a guided tour of the study area led by City and Park Board staff, with presentations from local stakeholders, including residents, businesses, and park users.
At the next session a few weeks later, Panelists discussed the potential impacts on local businesses, the community, parks, and artists. At the 4th session, Panelists heard from City and Park Board staff, community garden leaders, and sports advocates to further understand how the proposed routes could affect the neighborhood, residents, and green spaces.
With potential impacts, public input, and expert responses to their questions in mind, Panelists started refining the advantages and disadvantages of each route at the 5th convening. The next day began with an open dialogue session to explore more personal, neighborhood, city and regional considerations. Panelists outlined who would be most impacted by each route, and prioritized the advantages and disadvantages for each. Following this, the Panel drafted case statements with clear rationale for and against each arterial route option.
At the final session on April 6th, Panelists considered public and stakeholder input from the public workshop, and reviewed and finalize their case statements. Then came the final vote on which route variation to recommend. Using ranked choice voting, Panelists chose and ranked their top five arterial route options in order (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th). The Panel’s recommendation was declared when a route received 50 percent plus one or more of the total votes cast. National Charles emerged as the variation with the most support, with 67.6% of the vote.
The Community Panel used this voting methodology because it identified an option that was preferable to most Panelists (avoiding a result strongly supported by some, but unliked by the rest) and allowed Panelists to vote for the route they truly feel is best (if their first choice finishes last, their vote is allocated to their second choice, not “wasted”).
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Vancouver City Council and the Vancouver Park Board will use the Panel’s recommendation to guide more detailed technical assessments by City and Park Board staff before making a final decision in late 2019. Vancouver City Council and Vancouver Park Board will have the final authority to accept, modify or reject specific recommendations at its discretion, or refer aspects to appropriate City and Park staff.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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