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Vancouver council approves ‘game-changer’ plan for Broadway corridor

Plan aims to add 30,000 new homes over next 30 years, with two-thirds rental
Vancouver council approved Wednesday the Broadway Plan, which was drafted to complement growth and subway under construction along the corridor.

Vancouver council approved the Broadway Plan Wednesday after several lengthy public meetings over the past two months that ended with the mayor and councillors adding 27 amendments to a 493-page document that sets out a 30-year vision for the corridor.

The complex plan allows for towers of 30 to 40 storeys to be built around subway stations, with six storey and 12 to 18 storeys in other areas of the corridor, all the while protecting heritage buildings and creating more green space and public plazas.

Two-thirds of the plan calls for rental housing.

In his closing remarks, Mayor Kennedy Stewart said the plan complements the investment by the provincial and federal governments to build the Broadway subway, which is currently under construction and scheduled to open by 2025.

“This is an amazing plan, as it stands,” said Stewart, emphasizing the increase in density in the plan area will be of a mixed type with some of the best protections for renters in the country.

“So not luxury condos all the way along the line, but really building complete communities that people really want to live in and can live in.”

30,000 new homes

The plan aims to add 30,000 new homes over the next 30 years and prioritize market and below-market rental housing and social housing near transit hubs and corridors. The goal is to improve access to jobs, school and community amenities for renters earning low and moderate incomes.

Some of the amendments to the plan include:

• Adding a protected bike lane along Broadway.

• Allowing more towers on a block than originally designated in the plan.

• Consider using timber and building to passive house standards in new construction.

• Consult with Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations and incorporate values, history and art in public realm.

• Work with the school board and the provincial government to prioritize new schools and expansion of schools in anticipation of increased population in the corridor.

• Conduct an operational review of Vancouver Fire Rescue Services to understand staff required and new firehalls built to accommodate population growth.

Council approved the plan despite a push from Coun. Colleen Hardwick — supported by councillors Melissa De Genova and Michael Wiebe — to refer it back to staff and have an updated version go before the council that is elected after the Oct. 15 election.

Hardwick, who is Team for a Livable Vancouver’s mayoral candidate, quoted late civic guru Jane Jacobs from her epic 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in her closing remarks.

Hardwick said Jacobs wrote that cities had the capability of providing something for everybody only because and only when they are created by everybody — to which Hardwick argued was not what happened with the Broadway Plan process.

“To conclude, the Broadway Plan would see thousands of renters in affordable rent-controlled housing ‘demovicted,’ would dramatically increase both rents and housing prices, would be a huge gift to land speculators, would badly hurt Vancouver's livability and cherished neighbourhoods and would violate greenest city principles,” she said.

Coun. Jean Swanson said she couldn’t support the plan because it didn’t incorporate the city’s most vulnerable, or people on low incomes. Swanson said she was also worried small businesses would be lost to gentrification.

“My ‘no’ vote can be taken as a plea for all governments to get their acts together and make housing affordability a real priority, including the city with zoning, the province with money and vacancy control, and increases to SAFER [grants] and social assistance — and the feds with massively more money for housing,” she said.

'Big game-changer'

Coun. Pete Fry described the plan as “a big game-changer for our city,” saying voting against it was not an option, echoing the mayor’s point about it being tied to a subway already under construction.

“So we need to anticipate what kind of impacts it's going to have on the existing community, and what kind of impacts it's going to have on the existing renters in the corridor,” Fry said.

“What we've landed at with all the amendments is pretty strong regulation to protect renters, introducing a whole new level of rent stabilization and opportunities for tenant relocation and stuff that hasn't been seen before.”

Some of the renter protections include tenants displaced from a home being able to return to a new rental unit at a 20 per cent discount to citywide average market rents or at the tenant’s current rent, whichever is less.

'Ripe for renewal'

Coun. Rebecca Bligh said the Broadway corridor has been “ripe for renewal” for a long time.

“Being able to have a plan that has two-thirds rental housing, with some strata condos in order to pay for growth in terms of public amenities and parks, I think we have struck the right balance with this plan,” said Bligh, noting it was a 30-year plan and that not every element will be implemented overnight.

“I will be 74 by the time this plan is realized, just for perspective.”

Council’s decision came after 156 citizens spoke to council over several days, with a variety of views expressed that ranged from support — particularly from renters — to concerns about an increase in highrises, loss of older rental housing and possible evictions.

The mayor and council also received dozens of emails from residents about the plan, which covers an area of about 500 blocks from Clark Drive in the east to Vine Street in the west.

As the mayor alluded to in his remarks, the primary impetus for the Broadway Plan is the fact a subway is being built from Clark Drive to Arbutus, with the aim from Stewart and others to expand it to the University of B.C.

Neighbourhoods primarily affected by the plan are Kitsilano, Fairview, Mount Pleasant and the southern section of False Creek Flats, where an estimated 78,000 people lived when the 2016 census was released.

'Highly livable cities'

Jade Buchanan, a father of a toddler in Kits point, told council he supported the plan because of its goal to create more homes for families and renters, as well as provide more childcare spaces.

Dense cities, Buchanan said, are highly livable cities.

“They facilitate transit and active transportation,” he said. “Active transportation and transit are kid friendly, they're safer for our children and they're good for our health. And cities are also important sources of innovation.”

Amanda Collinge, a Fairview Slopes resident, said she opposed the plan because of potential changes that could come to her neighbourhood that would obstruct views.

“Our net worth is tied up in our home, and having these views taken away will effectively reduce our net worth,” she said.

“Not only will it destroy everything in our views and in our neighbours’ views, but we'll live in perpetual shadows. Being in a heritage home and a five-unit strata, we aren't able to add any windows because of the heritage aspect. So we will live in darkness, if towers are built around us.”

The plan comes into effect Sept. 1, at which time city staff is expected to have a finalized document posted to the city's website for the public to view.

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