From Thin Soup to Dreamland: The Social Impact of SCARP Alumni Thomas Bevan & Bob Williams
The latest in our Passing the Torch series introduces us to Thomas Bevan, a Millennial who’s already left his mark on Vancouver.
From his youth in Kitchener, Ontario — and a “difficult relationship” with a downtown that wasn’t quite the hotspot it has since become — to his graduate studies at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning (“a dreamland…a beautiful place”) and current work with BC Housing, Bevan stepped into the world of urbanism with a naturally intuitive sense that the economics of the land, as we have historically recognized it, had to change.
More specifically, Bevan was looking for public recuperation of land value, in the form of social purpose real estate. Like 312 Main — the cornerstone of Bevan’s young career, and the focal point of his first collaboration with torch-passer Bob Williams.
How Bevan and Williams met has almost become the origin story of 312 Main itself – Bevan the ideator, Williams the mentor and connector (and Vancity Community Foundation as the project enabler and social purpose rainmaker).
Of course, with Williams, this is hardly the only story to tell. With a 54-year advantage over Bevan, the narrative weight of this podcast tilts conspicuously towards Williams, President and Chair of the Jim Green Foundation.
An east side boy, Williams is our connection to Depression-era Vancouver, and one of the city’s first housing crises, just after WWII. He represents an earlier, simpler time, when connections and character alone could earn you a place in civic bureaucracy (albeit as a draughtsman in City of Vancouver’s sewer department). He speaks to the early days and thin soup of the SCARP program.
And he presents an undeniable legacy — as two-time former MLA, among many other titles and accomplishments — in having established protections for BC’s wilderness, civil service capacity for resource management, and a doubling of the province’s park space. Oh yeah, and a little something called the Agricultural Land Reserve. (There’s so much more; you are hereby dared to review an abbreviated list of Williams’ accomplishments).
Regarding the ALR, he didn’t necessarily want to do it, and he explains why. And in talking about the stark dualism between the unlimited potential of this great province, and the need for people in power to be subject to immense constraints in the exercise of power, there’s a message for Bevan — you can be a Dave Stupich. You could even be a Glen Clark. Or maybe you can just be you.