Category: WERA in the News

News items about WERA or WERA people

Goodbye to WERA – thanks for all the great positive advocacy!

After 20 years, the West End Residents Association (WERA) has decided to wind down. WERA, an all-volunteer group, advocating in the West End on issues of sustainability, affordability and livability, has been a solid fixture of the civic life in Vancouver during this time.

The group was initially formed as an association to be recognized by the City of Vancouver as a community stake holder in discussions surrounding the 1996 Downtown Transportation Plan. There was concern the plan would treat the West End as the arterials and parking lot for downtown car commuters. WERA’s founders wanted to ensure the pedestrian realm was championed and to hold the City to its transportation priorities that first favoured pedestrians, then cyclists and public transit over cars.

When WERA was formed, there were no active organizations that were championing West End livability issues. This was a gap that had existed since the early 1980s When an earlier incarnation of WERA was instrumental in getting the miniparks, diverters and resident parking program implemented that still has a positive impact on the West End’s livability.

In monthly meeting held in various directors’ living rooms, the agenda of the association grew to incorporate many issues and projects over the years.

A positive voice for advocating for progressive change in Vancouver

There are many different approaches and purposes for residents associations. WERA, from the beginning, differentiated itself as a group by proactively advocating for issues and projects to be implemented in Vancouver. Unlike some residents organizations that form to oppose some particular action in the city, WERA from the beginning advocated an active agenda of change. WERA’s  involvement in the Downtown Transportation Plan was an attempt to change the infrastructure of the city to develop safer and better conditions  for active transportation. WERA, along with other groups, was a relentless advocate for separated bike lanes on the Burrard St. Bridge and can count the construction of the lanes on the Bridge as one of the organization’s great successes.

WERA attracted a variety of directors and volunteers over the years. Many had specific passions which sometimes steered the priorities of the organization. Many brought extraordinary skills and talents which were instrumental for the success of the projects. Some lasted for a short time and others lasted for many years – John Whistler was a director from the beginning to the end. A few directors subsequently were elected to public office (Aaron Jasper on Park Board and WERA founder Rob Wynen on School Board) and many more were active in various other political campaigns.

Methods and tools

WERA intentionally set to gathering a small group of like minded people who  were able to function together as a cohesive group, based loosely on a model developed by Charles Dobson in his A Citizen’s Handbook. WERA attempted to effect change by participating in ongoing city planning process, but also attempted to influence the political discourse and agenda of the city. Directors and members of the group tracked agendas at city hall, studied staff reports, signed up to speak at city council and followed local papers to keep informed on issues. Early on the writing of letters to Mayor and Council and to editors of papers were tactics for influencing public discourse on issues. Many conversations with decision makers both at staff and political level gave WERA some access to suggest  ideas and policies.

WERA was an early adopter of web-based technologies such as email, a website and social media which proved to be an effective way to communicate ideas and to influence community discussion on issues. While the website is no longer actively maintained, in earlier years the website hosted numerous links on a variety of West End issues and was an active go-to source of information and allowed for lively discussion and debate.

The website was an important enabler of media outreach. In addition to being a content source for other media it facilitated numerous media interviews. WERA was frequently asked to comment on West End and broader issues that impacted Vancouver.

List of projects and accomplishments

Over the years, WERA participated in a number of issues and projects, often in partnership with other organizations. In addition to providing comments on ongoing civic public processes and redevelopment proposals, particular accomplishments include:

  • Co-developed the Mole Hill Community Gardens with The Mole Hill Living Housing Society.
  • Co-developed the  Stanley Park flower garden with the Stanley Park Ecological Society, at the foot of Robson Street at Chilco
  • Participated in the Intercultural Community Garden on the roof of St. Paul’s Hospital with the YMCA
  • Bikes and Community with King George Secondary School and the YMCA
  • Mole Hill lane lamp community art project with artist Nicole May and the City of Vancouver
  • Participated in community engagement  process with the redevelopment of Nelson Park with the Vancouver Park Board. Was relentless in advocating for a washroom in the park (an automated washroom was finally installed a couple of years ago).
  • Participated in a community engagement process with development of the English Bay Bistro with Vancouver Park Board
  • Participated in the West End Integrated Neighbourhood Network
  •  Citywide Housing Coalition
  • Impacts on the Communities Coalitions
  • Co-Founder of the Save St. Paul’s Coalition
  • Participated in the Renters at Risk group and campaign
  • Participated in Mayor’s West End Advisory Committee
  • Participated in the West End Planning Process
  • Worked with city to build 16 pedestrian bulges along Thurlow
  • Worked with city to redesign sidewalk alley standards to give priority to pedestrians (new design was first implemented in West End)
  • Sponsored all-candidates debates for provincial, federal and municipal elections
  • Developed an innovative online tool to match issues, parties and voters during the 2011 civic election

WERA was a small group of advocates and activists that attempted to effect change. While WERA advocated from a particular point of view, it also attempted to develop general awareness of and participation in civic issues that affected residents. WERA  facilitated responsible public discussion about issues of environment sustainability, affordability and liveability in the conviction that it would make the West End and Vancouver a better city.

WERA’s Legacy

WERA divided its remaining funds of $3,000 between:

  • Gordon Neighbourhood House has been a West End place-based community organization since 1942
  • Streets for Everyone is a volunteer-driven community organization based in East Vancouver dedicated to vibrant streets that are designed for all people.

(Check out and support these worthy organizations.)

Thanks for your interest in WERA. We are hopeful that other organizations will form and advocate for West End livability issues and we look forward to their accomplishments.

For more information please feel free to contact:

Rob Wynen    604 788 2758

Brent Granby 604 716 2824

John Whistler 604 691 5632

This website will remain active until early 2015 when it will be taken down. Thanks to Terry Lavender for developing it and maintaining it over the years. And thanks to everyone who has been involved in whatever way with WERA.


WERA in the News: XtraWest

WERA President, Christine Ackermann, is quoted in this March 4th XtraWest story about the West End Community Plan process:

“I think it’s important to get involved and engaged with city planning for the West End,” says West End Residents Association (WERA) president Christine Ackermann, who attended the session. “Housing, in particular, is such an important issue. It’s good to have diversity at the table.”

But Ackermann says she is aware of community concerns regarding the planning process.

“I have heard [from the community] that the process is very rushed,” she says. “That doesn’t mean that they’re not doing a good job. It’s just difficult with the timeline. Less time for a community means less outreach to the community.”

Read the article by Shauna Lewis.

Beach Towers Rezoning Public Hearing – Feb.5

The rezoning application for 1600 Beach Avenue will go to a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 5th at City Hall.

Sign up to speak and read the details of the application here.

WERA President, Christine Ackermann, is quoted in this Jan.30th Georgia Straight article about the rezoning of Beach Towers:

Christine Ackermann doesn’t agree with the way city staff has addressed the affordability aspect of the Beach Towers project. The president of the West End Residents Association considers as a “misnomer” the comparison made by staff between the anticipated monthly rents to the costs of home ownership for average properties in the West End.

“We should be talking about affordability in terms of the percentage of your income, and not a renter’s income compared to an owner’s income,” Ackermann told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

WERA in the News: St. Paul’s renewal backed by residents association

WERA director  Sukhi Kambo was interviewed on CBC news today talking about the Save St. Paul’s Coalition’s survey regarding the renewal of St. Paul’s Hospital.

In the interview, Kambo stresses the need for renewal of the aging hospital, and discusses the WERA campaign to raise awareness of the problem.

“The wait for the elevators is horrendous and it’s a little unfair for people who aren’t able-bodied when the only other option is to take the stairs,” she told the CBC.

Link to CBC News story: St. Paul’s renewal backed by residents association

Link to Save St. Paul’s survey:

WERA in the News: Nelson Park waits for washroom

WERA’s petition and portapotty campaign to raise awareness about the need for a public washroom in Nelson Park was featured in the Georgia Straight, online and in print, on August 23.

“People want it [a washroom],” WERA president Christine Ackermann told the Straight, noting that more than 500 people have signed the petition (which is available online here).

Link to the Georgia Straight article:

Ping Pong is the world’s most popular game

WERA president, Christine Ackermann, is quoted in this Province article by Ian Austin:

The West End Residents Association turned down its trademark rhetoric, instead bringing along a table and two paddles for “Ping-Pong With A Politician.”

“It’s the world’s most popular game — anybody can play,” said WERA president Christine Ackermann, welcoming all ages and skill levels. “We thought instead of talking about politics, let’s take back the streets and play — and it’s proving to be very popular.”

NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert and would-be MLA Constance Barnes were among those exhibiting less-than-world-class technique, bringing a little street-level populist politics to the masses.

If you missed the feature match between Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA and Commissioner Constance Barnes, you can watch video highlights on YouTube:

Also, check out our Car Free photos on flickr.


WERA in the news: John Whistler calls for lower speed limits

WERA director and long-time active transportation advocate John Whistler believes motor vehicle speeds in Vancouver should be lowered.

Whistler made the suggestion in an interview with the Vancouver Observer:

“There is a direct relation to vehicle speed and pedestrian injuries and fatalities,” Whistler says. “Crashes less than 30 km/hr rarely kill pedestrians and there are less serious injuries. Crashes greater than 60 km/hr almost always either kill or seriously injure the pedestrian. The report reports that pedestrians have the right of way in greater than 80 per cent of crashes. There is a compelling safety benefit to reduce vehicle speeds on most City streets.”

WERA in the News: Courier updates on the Cactus Club story

WERA president Christine Ackerman was quoted in the Courier newspaper discussing the Cactus Club exit/bike lane issue (see WERA story here).

An excerpt:

From opening day on March 2, black vinyl ropes were often set up outside the restaurant directing patrons departing on foot straight into a busy two-way bike lane. But as of the past weekend, the ropes were relocated to contain customers to the pavement immediately in front of the restaurant and along the sidewalk parallel to the route used by cyclists. “We’re really happy to hear that. It looks like our letter has had some positive impact,” said Christine Ackermann with the West End Residents Association.

WERA in the news: News 1130 reports on the Cactus Club story

WERA president Christine Ackerman was quoted on News 1130 radio discussing the Cactus Club exit/bike lane issue (see WERA story here).

According to News 1130, “As the weather heats up, things could get ugly, according to Christine Ackerman with the West End Residents Association. She thinks Cactus Club patrons spilling out in front is dangerous to cyclists and rollerbladers.”.

Cycling 101

The Vancouver Courier cover story this week is about a project that WERA has been supporting.

Cover story, Vancouver Courier, April 27, 2012

A second-hand partially disassembled mountain bike hangs off a blue stand at the front of a workshop in King George secondary, a small West End high school.

Pedals, a reflector, a headset, cranks with three chain rings, and a few other parts lay scattered in a cardboard box beneath it. The bike and its parts belong to Grade 10 student Jelena Lazic.

Despite its state of disrepair, the garage sale find has served the Serbian-born teenager well-initially as transportation for her family, which doesn’t have a car, and now as a learning tool in a technical studies 10 course that includes sections on robotics and bicycle mechanics. Lazic, 15, is repairing the bike as a class project with 14-year-old classmate Maha Al-Fahim, who’s of Iranian origin.

“I took off the pedals because the bearings are rusted and I might have to replace them. I think I’m missing a couple. And I had to take off the brakes-it has a really old brake system,” says Lazic, whose ease with “bike talk” is partly due to King George teacher Jay Lo.

Lo developed and introduced the bike portion of the tech studies class she’s enrolled in-soon to be a stand-alone course called Human Power 1 next school year-to complement an extracurricular program known as Bikes.Community. Run by Robert Lee YMCA, Bikes.Community launched at King George in late September. It uses bikes as a vehicle to promote healthy lifestyles, to build students’ leadership skills, to strengthen ties with their community and to celebrate participants’ cultural diversity.

Lazic and Al-Fahim are involved in both cycling-focused initiatives, which capitalize on and actively promote Vancouver’s rapidly growing obsession with cycling.

For Lazic, the club and the class have proved invaluable-she’s picked up technical know-how, met new friends and even found a common interest with her father. “It feels amazing. I can show off at home and help out my dad [with bike repairs],” she says. “In Serbia, my uncle ran a bike shop. He and my dad would do all this work and I would always feel left out. I wanted to help out, but I didn’t know how to use any of the tools. I didn’t even know how to fix a flat tire. And now I have a kit for that.”

Traffic-heavy Denman Street borders King George secondary at 1755 Barclay St., a school which is otherwise surrounded by densely populated residential streets. Its location in a neighbourhood dominated by apartment buildings, with a significant car-free population, and its proximity to bike paths around English Bay and Stanley Park makes it an ideal site for pushing environmentally friendly cycling programs.

Nudging might be a better word in King George’s case. Like many Vancouver schools, it embraces “green” projects. Last year, stu-dents built planter boxes for a rooftop garden at St. Paul’s Hospital for a YMCA-run initiative, funded through a WelcomeBC grant that’s geared towards proposals involving newcomers to the city.

When the garden was completed, the Y, in conjunction with King George staff, dreamed up Bikes.Community as a second so-called demonstration project that qualified for WelcomeBC’s one-time $150,000 grant. The project’s partners include Gordon Neighbourhood House, the West End Residents Association and PEDAL-Pedal Energy Development Alternatives.

The overall idea was to gift participating students with donated second-hand bikes in need of repair and have them refurbish them, while they also met up for regular group activities. Twenty-seven students from 12 countries of origin were accepted into Bikes. Community-the majority of whom are King George high school students, although five attend its feeder elementary schools, Elsie Roy and Lord Roberts.

Read the rest of the story on the Courier website.