The Sam Sullivan years are but a strange and distant memory for most Vancouver voters. The former mayor, who was hastily dumped by his own party last year, never got a chance to make his case for a second term.
During his time in office, Citizen Sam was dogged by a handful of critics who were hell-bent on trashing him at every turn — from his handling of the municipal strike, to various misfires on the issues of crime, homelessness and the Downtown Eastside.
Let’s be honest, some of the criticism was well-deserved.
And yet, one of his most controversial pet projects — EcoDensity — continues to loom large over civic life in the Metro region.
EcoDensity was Sullivan’s take on urban planning for a green future. The thinking went that by putting population growth in compact areas well-served by transit, shopping and other amenities, the region could reduce its environmental footprint while improving the quality of life for residents.
He is right, of course.
And that’s why today — with the EcoDensity charter adopted by the city — there is no shortage of plans to densify urban neighbourhoods. Community gardens are springing up next to SkyTrain stations that are set next to apartment complexes.
And, as Metro’s Jeff Hodson reported last week, we are seeing the advent of secondary suites within highrise condos. These so-called “mortgage helpers in the sky” would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
Region-wide, civic leaders are also looking to increase density — from New Westminster to Richmond’s No. 3 Road to Coquitlam Town Centre.
In a recent interview, City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto told me he would like to see property tax rates eventually be based on neighbourhood density. The higher the density, the less you would pay in taxes — and vice versa.
Those are brave words for a politician to utter in the North Shore. But it shows you how attitudes have changed.
None of this will cheer up the ex-mayor from across Burrard Inlet, mind you.
By promoting EcoDensity, Sullivan managed to antagonize defenders of the status quo, as well as single-family homeowners consumed with fear and self-interest. For this, and other alleged failings, his career in municipal politics imploded.
As for his vision for a denser, greener West Coast metropolis? It lives.