The format was set up with a 4 hour window of opportunity. The session was opened with the requisite speech from the AVP Planning, Micheal White and mc'd by coordinating planner Neal LaMontagne. Following which three themed presentations were given (1) how we live (2) how we move (3) how we care. The three presentations were set up to provide guidance for the table discussions that were to follow. Over all it was a nicely organized event which allowed for some engaged discussion giving a feeling of inclusion for those in attendance.
Feeling warm and fuzzy about a process, though, doesn't mean much in the long run. Yes, it's great to have the design experts invite folks to come in to talk about planning issues. For one thing it helps to dissipate potential opposition in the long run by including potential critics in the ongoing design. Second it creates the potential for planers to forge personal links with potential influence shapers in the various communities. This doesn't close off opposition, but it does mitigate potential glitches in planning down the road. It also allows the planners to be able to show how they have engaged various publics which has the advantage (for power elites) to diminish opposition that might arise latter by pointing to these engaging and inclusive feeling events.
Then there is the way that these processes are already delimited by a series of terms of reference that keep the focus on warm and fuzzy sounding goals (while excluding any discussion of fundamental issues). Planners can rightly say that the decisions about whether or not to build in this area is not up to them - that's already been decided outside this process. They can say discussion of how the revenue might be used that is raised is outside this process. They can also say that discussion of questions like density are outside this process. The end result becomes limited to simply how do 'we' build the nicest hyper-urban space we can in the Stadium Neighbourhood.
Note that even in the area's geographical placeholder -Stadium Neighbourhood- is an embedded and unquestionable fact: this is about a stadium and how to fund it's reconstruction. The underlying and motivating program of UBC Athletics "Game Plan" is not up for discussion - it is both discursively and procedurally embedded outside of the possibility of fundamental debate, revision, or redesign. The stadium is a given and all else clicks into place behind it.
The result will, I am sure, meet planing goals: public input will have been solicited, various participants will have felt included, profit margins will continue to be maximized, a massive hyper-urban space will be created, and at the center of it will be a big sports facility. All this will be accompanied by exciting artistic renderings with a host of superlative adjectives that will define the development as an exciting, engaging, livable, world class, festival of opportunity bringing together a diversity of ages, peoples, uses, and practices with an exciting plaza filled with sustainable opportunities in the heart of UBC's exciting new community.
My tweets from workshop (in reverse chronological order).