bc-080610-ecodensity-protest

A protester holds a sign outside Vancouver city hall on Tuesday. ((CBC))

Vancouver city councillors have approved the EcoDensity charter, but many members of the public made it clear they are not yet on side.

Dozens of protesters turned up at city hall Tuesday wearing black gags, arguing their views had been ignored, as council voted to pass the new regulations.

EcoDensity is a set of principles that councillors say will allow environmentally sustainable management of inevitable population growth in the city.

But the name EcoDensity and the principle behind it have been controversial from the get-go.

Mayor Sam Sullivan stirred up controversy when he trademarked the name EcoDensity, and public hearings have drawn hundreds of speakers and protesters concerned about the long-term effect the charter will have on their neighbourhoods.

The idea behind the plan, announced in June 2006, is to spread Vancouver's rapid population growth more evenly across the whole city, rather than having it concentrated in the downtown core. A major part of the plan is to move away from single-family homes to increase density across the city.

So far there is little public consensus on the plan, with some saying it's a disguise for allowing developers to build as much as they wish, and others calling it the leading edge of an environmentally friendly vision of the future.

Activist rips lack of affordable housing

For activists like Mel Lehan of Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, a key weakness is that it doesn't do enough for affordable housing.

"There's nothing around affordability as far as actions — there's nothing around livability and, to be quite blunt, there's nothing around the environment," Lehan said.

Councillors say the city is trying to combine economics with sustainability, and the charter is still very much in development.

Under the new rules, rezoning applications must meet certain green standards, and by the end of this year, staff are expected to report back on the feasibility of ideas such as laneway housing and the creation of legal secondary suites.

This would open the door for more basement suites and additions on individual lots, said Coun. Suzanne Anton.

"We've heard from some people during this discussion saying, 'No more growth in Vancouver.' Well that's really not an option. The charter is taking the principle that yes, we will grow, [but] how will we grow?" Anton said.