Vancouver’s Plans Make the Future of the City an Election Issue

The 2022 election will determine if Vancouver’s future is a city of towers under the Broadway and Vancouver Plans or a city of livable affordable sustainable neighbourhoods.

By Elizabeth Murphy

The controversial Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan were rushed through in June and July, after multiple days of hearings, in the last of the City Council’s meetings before the October 15, 2022 election. The next Council will decide if these plans are implemented or withdrawn for a new neighbourhood-based plan. This election determines Vancouver’s future.

The huge Broadway Plan area is First Avenue to 16th Avenue, Vine Street to Clark Drive. It covers the neighbourhoods of Fairview, South Granville, Cambie/City Hall, Mount Pleasant and parts of Kitsilano. The existing community plans, including Kitsilano’s plan that extends to Alma Street, have been repealed upon Broadway Plan approval.

Broadway Plan rendering looking east from Vine Street based on a careful review of the Plan’s text, but subsequent Council amendments accommodates even more towers than depicted. By Stephen Bohus, BLA

This area has a lot of affordable existing rentals and ownership, mainly as low-rise apartments and character house multifamily conversions. The new building typologies are applied randomly across the corridor regardless of neighbourhood, and puts all of the existing stock at increased threat of demolition for expensive new concrete and glass towers of a downtown scale. This plan displaces most of the area’s current population.

Public opposition to this approach includes former directors of planning Ray Spaxman and Larry Beasley, as well as many former senior city planners such as Ralph Segal, Christina DeMarco, Cameron Grey, Scot Hein, Trish French and Ronda Howard. Also senior UBC academics such as Patrick Condon, David Ley and Penny Gurstein.

New building typologies allow towers of up to: 40 storeys at station areas; 30 storeys at shoulder areas; 6 storeys at villages; 20 storeys in apartment zones (currently 3-4 storeys); and 18 storeys in RT character house zones (currently 3 storeys for multiple-suites and infill). Rezoning speculation is inflating land values and rents. Towers are the least affordable and sustainable form of development so building scale should be limited to local context.

Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung (ABC) moved a motion (that was approved) to reduce minimum tower lot size from 150 foot frontage to 99 feet, therefore making it easier to replace existing low-rise rental buildings with towers. Councillor Melissa De Genova (NPA) moved (but not approved) to eliminate all tower maximums per block and to extend the plan area to include the Safeway site at 4th Avenue and Vine Street.

The same building typologies are being extended to the Commercial Drive station area to the east. If the subway is extended to UBC, similar typologies will apply to all of Kitsilano and West Point Grey, such as the proposed 40 storeys at the Jericho Lands.

The Vancouver Plan is similar with new typologies arbitrarily applied citywide without neighbourhood-based planning. Most of the new typologies are apartments of up to 12 to 20 storeys off-arterials in areas currently mostly two to four storeys, with taller near stations. This plan also overrides community plans, some like Grandview are only from 2016.

The public is told that there is a lack of supply, but the 2021 census confirms otherwise. The City of Vancouver continues population growth of 1% per year, as it has for the last forty years. Downtown Vancouver is now the most densely populated in Canada. Housing completions have exceeded population growth by 20%. There are 23,000 empty dwellings unoccupied by usual residents.

Plus there is the development under construction or in the approval pipeline, that would more than cover projected needs for growth over decades. Yet in spite of the excess of supply, prices escalated over the last decade. Recent price moderation is related to demand issues due to interest rate increases.

The Vancouver Plan (including the Broadway Plan) is intended to become the City’s Official Community Plan (OCP). The province wants any rezoning that aligns with an OCP to not have a public hearing. So the results of the upcoming civic election will be critical to the future of the city.

A July Forum Research poll shows that 83% of voters are concerned about the amount of influence major corporate developers have in City Hall decisions. Citywide, 56% oppose the Broadway Plan.

Of all the parties running in the election, only TEAM for a Livable Vancouver has a policy to withdraw the Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan. Instead under TEAM, a new neighbourhood-based plan would be created using accurate data for needed growth within the contextual scale of every neighbourhood. Only Councillor Colleen Hardwick (TEAM’s mayoralty candidate) voted at City Council strongly against both plans. The other parties represented on City Council have been voting with Mayor Kennedy Stewart (Forward Vancouver) to approve these excessively large tower-focused plans.

Choose wisely on October 15 since the new Council will decide the future of Vancouver.

To make change at the City of Vancouver, TEAM needs a majority on each of Council, Park Board and School Board. Please vote the whole slate and no other party that would split the vote.

The TEAM for a Livable Vancouver slate is here:

For Mayor Colleen Hardwick;

For Council – Cleta Brown, Sean Nardi, Param Nijjar, Grace Quan, Stephen Roberts, Bill Tieleman;

For Park Board – Kathleen Larsen, Michelle Mollineaux, James Buckshon, Patrick Audley, Tricia Barker, Kumi Kimura;

For School Board – Dr. Matiul Alam.

Elizabeth Murphy is a private sector project manager and was formerly a Property Development Officer for the City of Vancouver’s Housing & Properties Department and for BC Housing.

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