April 26, 2019

The House that TEAM Built: Reflections from Living Legend V. Setty Pendakur

Legendary is not a term to be taken lightly, but neither are the accomplishments of TEAM (The Electors’ Action Movement), the municipal political party formed in 1968 in Vancouver by Art Phillips. TEAM steamrolled into City Hall with an 8-seat majority in 1972, and is credited with steering the city into a direction which is often recognized as upholding a world-class standard for quality of life.

Similarly, living legends are rare. But, in the case of V. Setty Pendakur — as with Vancouver council in the TEAM era — the ‘legend’ label just isn’t up for debate.

Transportation engineer, professor at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning, self-described agitator, family man, and the city’s first (and still only) member of council of South Asian descent, Pendakur is one of the central figures from that TEAM blowout. His opposition to the city’s long-planned downtown freeway brought him into the political fold, and the ’72 election result dealt with that issue decisively.

And that was just the start.

In just a single term of elected office — which, at the time, was just two years — Pendakur either directly led or influenced some of the most important changes this city has ever experienced, feats of urban planning and engineering whose reverberations are still felt today. The Stanley Park Seawall (and its curious connection to housing development); the waterfront plan, which led to the connected public paths from False Creek to the west side beaches; the Development Permit Board; the Property Endowment Fund; the social planning department; CD1 zoning; and the institutionalization of community consultation.

Pendakur dishes on these backstories, plus his impression of public life as a member of a visible minority over a generation ago. He speaks to what it means to be Canadian today. And he tells us which category of civil servant he considers to be most like a buffalo.

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