Category: General

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 rob.wynen@gmail.com    604 788 2758

Brent Granby brentgranby@mac.com 604 716 2824

John Whistler jrwhistler@telus.net 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.

 

Seaside Greenway Party, Sat. July 5th, 11 am – 3 pm

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Come celebrate the completion of one of Vancouver’s best public realm treasures. The Seaside Greenway that connects downtown’s Seawall and False Creek with Jericho Beach is ready to be biked, walked, or rolled – and may the best costume or decorated bike win!

What will you find? In the parks along the route towards Jericho Beach, you can listen to live music, zip yourself into a giant petal (really!), feast from your favorite food trucks, get crafty with the kids, play all sorts of lawn games, strike a yoga pose and more. Bring your picnic lunch and find a shady spot amid the festivities and don’t forget plenty of water and sunscreen. A bike valet will be available in Hastings Mill Park sponsored by BEST.

But wait, there’s more!

Continue west down the Seaside Greenway route to check out Brock House’s Summer Fair, Jericho Sailing Centre’s 40th Anniversary Celebration (we’ve heard rumours that there’s cake!) and MEC’s Paddlefest on Jericho Beach. Also, don’t miss the volleyball tournament on Kitsilano Beach on the way down.

This celebration for everyone is supported by many, including the Vancouver Public Space Network, HUB Cycling, the UBC AMS Bike Co-op, BEST, area neighbours and others.

Downtown Bus Service Review Open House

The Downtown Vancouver Local Bus Service Review is a joint initiative of the City of Vancouver and TransLink. The objective of the review is to develop a near term (one- to five-year) vision for the bus network in the downtown core.

Attend the Downtown Local Bus Service Review open house and learn more about this project, talk with the study team and share your thoughts on how to improve bus service in downtown Vancouver.

June 22, 2013 from 1:00 – 4:00 pm at Barclay Manor (1447 Barclay St)

 

Public Walk: Comox-Helmcken Greenway June 29

The City is accepting feedback on the road construction of the long-awaited Comox-Helmcken Greenway.

WERA is hosting a public walk of the Greenway on June 29th. We’ll get started at 11:00 am from the corner of Comox & Chilco. A City Engineer will join us to answer our questions about the construction efforts. Everyone is welcome!

Greenway Walk poster

Community Plan Open Houses

Mark your calendars for the next set of open houses which will cover the refined community plan draft directions.

Wednesday, June 19, 4-7 pm at Best Western Sands Hotel (1755 Davie)

Saturday, June 22, 1-4 pm at West End Strawberry Festival (Barclay Heritage Square)

Tuesday, June 25, 4-7 pm at Blue Horizon Hotel (1225 Robson)


ABOUT THE WEST END COMMUNITY PLAN

In April 2012, the City initiated a new Community Planning process for the West End. When completed, the plan will provide long-range guidance on a variety of issues – including housing, transportation, parks and public space, social issues, arts, culture, heritage and more. The new plan will replace the older West End Commercial Policy Plan (1986) and West End Residential Areas Policy Plan (1987).

For information on our planning work to date, upcoming events and opportunities for public involvement, please stay in touch via the following means:

Web & List-serv sign-up: vancouver.ca/westendplan
Email: westendplan@vancouver.ca
Twitter: @westendplan
Telephone: 3-1-1