Time to act in online forum

Re: “Let’s talk the 2041 Community Plan” online forum.

When the City of Richmond announced its online forum on July 8, it didn’t stir much interest. One reaction has even been annoyance because it is obviously flawed as an opinion-gathering method. Another has been suspicion, since some past surveys have been shown to be more opinion-molders than opinion gatherers. Despite the concerns and partly because of them, I’ve lately seen the need to participate, at least minimally, in the forum. As I go through the topics, I click “Agree” to increase the count for the green thumbs-up symbol—to show support for comments worth supporting.

Why? Because, tucked in corners of the forum, there are crucial comments that deserve support. In some cases, they make insightful corrections. For example, there’s one in “What is a park? What is a green space?” That discussion topic won’t set many hearts racing, but I ventured in and happily read what the citizens had to say on the Official Community Plan survey question about “my top three exciting changes I would like to see in Richmond.” The No. 1 answer was “increase the number of parks” and “more green spaces.”

Excellent! The citizens had been clear that they wanted more parks and other green spaces. But the forum question writers asked a follow-up question (in “What is a park? What is a green space?”) that began to confuse things. Whoever wrote it asked what the citizens meant by “green space.” Surely the respondents meant parkland/open space—and not space covered with blacktop or concrete.

To make matters worse, anyone who kept reading the lengthy intro to that discussion topic encountered a false definition of open space. That’s significant.

Fortunately a comment has corrected the error by citing the City of Richmond’s actual standard use of the term open space. I would intuitively regard open space as pretty much any publicly owned green space or parkland, and the correct City of Richmond definition is consistent with that.

It happens that I already knew the City’s established use of its open space term, and I already knew about the standards (number of acres of open space per thousand people). However, it’s only because of citizens’ comments on the forum topic that  less-informed visitors can learn that kind of key information.

The open-space matter is important for the City Centre area and the Garden City Lands. Fudging the City’s open space term could be a step toward fudging the City’s commitments under existing policy to specific amounts of open space per thousand residents. It is a livability standard, and we don’t want Richmond’s livability to be lost.

Either the City will set aside sufficient open space for its projected future population or it will sacrifice future livability by not having enough open space available. The more that Richmond gets built up, the harder it is to purchase new open space, so the idea of maintaining livability by somehow turning built-up areas into a lot of open space later on is not realistic.

As mentioned, the false definition of open space has been corrected by a comment. With so few people visiting the discussion, it will help if comments like that receive thumbs-up support.

Importantly, the matter of City standards for parkland/open spaces is relevant to the Garden City Lands. Right now, the Garden City Lands is 136 acres of ALR space that is owned by the City, which means that the lands are greenspace that already fits the correct City definition of open space. As long as it is kept green and used fittingly, it will help offset the current shortchanging of the City Centre, which would otherwise have less open space (per thousand residents) than other parts of the City. And the City Centre would soon be much further behind because of the rapidly escalating population.

Since I’ve got carried away with the example, let’s get back to the initial point. I believe it is worthwhile to participate in the “2041 Community Plan” online forum. Besides going back to it myself, I encourage you to register, visit, and take action. Since there’s been such apathy about the forum, there won’t be a rush of people registering and participating now, but each person who does will help.

Adding comments is good, but please at least consider clicking on the green “agree” button for comments you agree with. So far I’ve done that to express support of comments by “Olga,” “Yew,” “Wolfe,” and others to give a thumbs-up — adding extra weight to comments that deserve it.

The initial trial period for the forum will end soon (early September?), so now is the time to act.


1 Comment »

  1. 1
    Fireweed Says:

    It’s worth mentioning that the proposed high-density development of the Garden City Lands that the Richmond community strongly opposed would have provided the City with far too little parkland to meet the parkland/open-space standard for even the extra population that would have been crammed on the lands. (The Garden City Lands development was not needed for meeting the planned 120,000 City Centre population, so it would have been extra population.) To keep to the City’s standard, with 7.66 acres of open space/parkland per additional thousand people, the City would have had to purchase at least $100 million worth of open land, according to Coun. Harold Steves’ low estimate. I’ve read that it would likely have cost much more if the land could be found, but realistically it would have been impossible to find sufficient land or sufficient money to solve the problem. So the cost would actually have been paid in lost livability for “our children and our children’s children”.

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