Vancouver Mourns Loss of Former Top City Planner Nathan Edelson

Vancouver’s former top city planner for the Downtown Eastside, Nathan Edelson, passed away at the age of 76 after a short illness. Edelson, who worked as a city planner for 25 years, was known for his contributions to inclusive city-building. He was the founding director of the community organization Little Mountain Neighbourhood House and advocated for co-operative housing, Downtown Eastside residents, and heritage protection for Vancouver’s historic Chinatown.

B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman, a close friend of Edelson, remembered him as someone with a great sense of humor, gentleness, and vision. Heyman highlighted Edelson’s approach to planning, which focused on not only addressing immediate needs but also carefully planning for the future to create better neighborhoods.

Larry Beasley, Vancouver’s former chief city planner and a close friend of Edelson since the late 1970s, praised Edelson’s work as an urban planner and community activist. Beasley highlighted Edelson’s leadership in the Downtown Eastside, as well as his contributions to the legalization of secondary suites and other important efforts. Edelson’s planning approach for the Downtown Eastside was rooted in respect for its residents, understanding the importance of community spaces and the experiences of the people who lived there.

Raised in New York City, Edelson came to Canada in the early 1970s after studying geography and regional science. He believed that ending homelessness should be a top priority for every city, followed by providing affordable and accessible housing. He emphasized the importance of neighborhood centers in creating successful communities and called for diversity in incomes and needs to be reflected in community development planning.

Edelson’s compassion and dedication extended beyond his professional life. He cared for his wife, Norma-Jean McLaren, who had dementia, for seven years before her passing. He approached his role as a caregiver with the same tenacity and dedication that he showed in his professional endeavors.

Edelson will be remembered as a true community leader who worked tirelessly to make life better for everyone. His inclusive and progressive approach to city planning left a lasting impact on Vancouver and its communities.