Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Importance of the OCP

The last time the City of Victoria came out with an Official Community Plan (OCP) was in 1995 and it was designed to look out to 2020.  Much has changed in the city in that time, some of it the direction of the plan, some of it not.   More importantly is that 15 years is a long time in the life of most of us.

When the last plan was being worked on I was not yet a parent.   By the time the next plan is developed in our around 2030 I will be 65.   The timing of the plans is such that people are at very different stages in their lives when each plan is developed.    Who I was, what I knew and what I thought when I was in my late 20s is very different than where I am now in my mid 40s.

The danger in many communities is that a very limited number of people take part in the process and the plan is not complete reflection of the will of the public.   From 1992-95 the City of Vancouver went through their OCP process, which they called CityPlan.   I not only took part, I had a chance to see how the planning process was run up close and personal, my uncle Lorenz von Fersen was seconded to work on it.  He was a cultural and social planner for the city.   Vancouver managed to use some very interesting and innovative ways to engage the public.

Victoria is doing a reasonable job of trying to reach out to the public, but it is not doing anything dramatic to reach out to the public and engage a much larger cross section of people.    The City could be working with youth in High Schools, imagine if all three High Schools that have City of Victoria residents each developed their own ideas for a plan.   There are departments and UVic that could be engaged.   There is a small but very active discussion group talking about these sort of issues at Vibrant Victoria.    What I am saying is that the City is not thinking outside of the box.   More people involved at any point in the process means more ownership of the process and eventual plan by the public.

There are some major issues that the City needs to consider within the OCP that simply are not yet on the radar and will cause public concern when the issues arise.   As an example, many of the apartment buildings in Victoria were built in the 1960s.   They are coming up on 50 years old and this means there will be owners looking to redevelop them over the next 20 years.

The OCP will set the parameters under which the city will move forward for the next 20 years, if we do not take part, we could very well end up with a plan and future we do not want.   Taking even a few minutes to express what your values are and what you like and do not like about the city is important and useful to the process.   There are numerous ways to get your opinion in to the city.
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