British Columbia

Vancouver city planner Brian Jackson fires back at critics

Outgoing City of Vancouver planning director Brian Jackson defends comments he made in a strongly worded speech that took his critics to task.

Director of planning says criticism of work not constructive, discourages experts from working here

City of Vancouver director of planning Brian Jackson says the tone of critics is "so disrespectful" yet city planners elsewhere have a positive view of Vancouver. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

Outgoing City of Vancouver planning director Brian Jackson is defending a fiery speech he delivered at the Urban Development Institute, during which he called out his critics in the media, in residents' associations and in the planning community.

Speaking to On The Coast host Stephen Quinn, Jackson said he was motivated to deliver the speech because criticism of the city's planning work bleeds into the personal and is not constructive.

"There's a quote I live by. It's by Eleanor Roosevelt: 'Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people,'" he said.

"When people start to personalize things … that's when I have a problem."

Quinn asked Jackson why he said he could write a book entitled Don't Be So F***ing Hypocritical during his speech.

Jackson said that title was aimed at "some of the former planners that are out in the media." Jackson, without naming names, says some are criticizing his department for approving buildings they feel are too big, and who also happen to represent private sector clients with projects near those buildings who want larger buildings for themselves.

On Grandview-Woodlands, viaducts

In the interview, Jackson also defended his handling of community associations who have opposed city plans — including the Grandview-Woodlands Community Association and the No Tower campaign in that neighbourhood.

Jackson said that while he gets that many people don't like seeing their neighbourhoods change, for the city to provide affordable housing at a time when federal money for that is heavily cut back, densifying and involving private sector partners is the only viable option.

Quinn asked Jackson about the process of replacing the viaducts, and the notion that council wanted staff to engineer a justification for removing them, without listening to contrary evidence.

Jackson dismissed that "conspiracy," as he called it, and said the planning department was free to come to any conclusions their research led them to.

'The tone is so disrespectful'

Jackson said all this criticism flies in the face of Vancouver's "incredible" reputation in the eyes of city planners around the world. However, he says the unwarranted criticism is discouraging some experts from working here.

"When they read these blogs about the attacks on the planning department and individuals, they don't understand it," he said. "The tone is so disrespectful and really does not acknowledge the very hard task at hand both for the planner and Council trying to address some very tough issues."

Jackson is expected to step down at the end of this year.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Vancouver planner responds to critics


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