At some point next week, city council will decide whether the controversial Broadway Plan will get the green light, get rejected outright or get sent back to staff for another look.
Council is scheduled to meet on the afternoon of June 9 to make a final decision.
But with several amendments expected to be introduced and debated, and the current council notorious for long meetings, a decision on the plan could be postponed to another day this month.
Whatever happens, the interest level from residents will be high, as was evident by the number of citizens who either showed up to city hall or called in to voice their support or opposition to the plan.
According to the city’s communications department, 156 of 202 registered speakers spoke to council. That, of course, doesn’t include the pile of emails Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the 10 councillors received from citizens.
To get a sense of how some people feel about the plan, Vancouver Is Awesome randomly picked six residents who shared their views with council over the past month.
Below is a summary of their main points.
'Shout the loudest'
• Jade Buchanan, a father of a toddler in Kits point, said he supports 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.”
He urged council not to seek more consultation on the plan, as many residents have requested. The plan is not perfect, he added, noting amendments are needed, including targeting low density areas for more development and adding a bike lane on Broadway.
“I'm really asking that council not send this back to staff for minor issues and don't do more studies or consultations,” Buchanan said. “Frankly, I feel like the city puts citizens in a consultation endurance test where the ones who shout the loudest for the longest get their way.”
That’s why, he said, he registered to speak to council.
“I'm here because I'm afraid council is going to listen to the same small group of people who show up to council opposing every project, who hold their well-organized but sparsely attended rallies, who form residents’ associations and advocacy groups and who pay political consultants to get their message in the media to make it seem like their voices bigger than it is,” Buchanan said.
“And they never seem to be satisfied with enough studies, or consultations or data or awareness campaigns.”
'Relocate or close'
• Chan Hon Goh didn’t specifically say whether she supports the overall plan, but said it falls short in areas that concern the family’s Goh Ballet Academy located in a heritage building at Main Street and Eighth Avenue.
The family wants to restore the building as part of a bigger project that would include housing for students of the academy.
But Goh said the Broadway Plan doesn’t allow for an increase to floor-space ratio or a taller building on the site, which is needed to make the project viable.
Goh urged council to increase the maximum floor-space ratio of 3.0 to 12 and allow a 14-storey tower instead of one that is eight or nine storeys tall; floor-space ratio is the relationship between a building's total usable floor area and the total area of the lot on which the building stands.
“Given the site’s constraints, nine storeys would be insufficient to create any economies of scale for a 100 per cent rental project with a very expensive heritage restoration requirement,” Goh said.
“We need your understanding and your support to ensure that our cultural institutions like ours will not be forced to relocate or to close. Supporting heritage preservation and arts and culture in Vancouver can only benefit our city and the communities within it.”
'Frenzy of real estate speculation'
• Thomas Kroeker, a 16-year-old University of B.C. student, opposes the plan because he said it is designed for developers and the real estate industry, not residents.
“It will trigger mass displacement along the corridor and will cause a frenzy of real estate speculation and rent hikes in the area,” he said, suggesting the plan threatens his friends and family who live in the Broadway corridor with “demoviction.”
He called the plan’s provisions for renter protections “ineffective.”
“They do not specify where tenants will live after ‘demoviction,’ nor does it guarantee tenants can return to their home at the same rent,” said Kroeker, before commenting on homes that could be available at 20 per cent below market rents.
“Twenty per cent below market doesn't mean much until we recognize it’s the developers that make the market in the first place.”
Added Kroeker: “Furthermore, this does not account for unit size and rent per square foot, which will certainly rise even more as developers continue to shrink the sizes of units to increase their profit margin.”
• Gregory Henriquez of Henriquez Partners Architects has been before council numerous times over the years to discuss projects related to his firm’s work.
This time, he said, he was speaking as a private citizen.
“I just want to begin by saying I have complete faith in [city] staff and this council to do the right thing and pass this Broadway Plan,” Henriquez said. “I think it's a piece of visionary planning. When I first opened it up, I was blown away by the courageous nature of the plan for how it attempted to take on so much.”
Like others, Henriquez said the plan isn’t perfect but that should not stop council from approving it and making adjustments along the way.
It’s a living document, he said, that will continue to change as the city evolves.
“As I followed it over the last few years in terms of development, I've seen it change and adapt with real rigour and a real sense of care for all the issues that face Vancouverites,” he said, referring to the need for more affordable housing, accommodating growth and measures to fight climate change.
Added Henriquez: “There's a whole bunch of separate examinations of each of the different zonings in each of the different areas and sub areas of the Broadway Plan that will have to be looked at. So there's nothing that's perfect. But the big moves are all right. That's the big message here today is that the big moves are all right, and this is something that we can work with.”
• Bryce Margetts, a 47-year resident of Vancouver, said he supports the plan but it needs some more thought, particularly around allowing more towers on a block.
Margetts is the senior vice president of investment and development of Canderel’s western Canada division.
The plan, he said, may not be perfect, but city staff and consultants have done “an excellent job and we've been working closely with them for years trying to bring this plan to fruition.”
He said the company has “active projects” in the Broadway corridor, including a project it wants to complete with La Maison de la Francophonie de Vancouver.
“We've been working with them for six years trying to kick off this project, and we've been caught up for several years in the Broadway Plan process trying to deliver this new home with cultural amenities, including a brand new 160-person performance theatre,” he said.
“The project’s viability relies on moving forward now. We cannot wait and delay further and we cannot be the only project in this position.”
Margetts criticized the plan for not allowing more towers.
“In the Fairview, Kits and Mount Pleasant zones, the final draft [of the plan] — in my opinion —was changed last-minute from allowing two towers per block to allowing two towers per block street to street, including the lane,” he said.
“For those of us following the plan, this essentially cut the supply in half from what we expected. This may be an unpopular comment, but I think it's ridiculous. We're only densifying 300 of 1,000 feet on each block street to street, including the lane — and not taking advantage of such a massive opportunity for a $3 billion investment in a transit line.”
• Amanda Collinge, a Fairview Slopes resident, said she opposes the plan because of potential changes that could come to her neighbourhood that would obstruct views.
Collinge and her partner moved into an Arthur Erickson-designed heritage building in the area one year ago.
“We are both hardworking individuals,” she said. “He's an immigrant, I come from a middle-class family. We worked multiple jobs to be able to afford to live in Fairview with the beautiful views. It is one of the neighbourhoods where you can still see a view. We always talk about how we’re so lucky to see the beautiful views.”
It’s those views Collinge believes will be lost once the Broadway Plan is fully built out.
“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.”
Collinge said her neighbours are people from various backgrounds and income levels, and she is worried development in the area will push people out.
“You will have people that are in co-ops and on low incomes being pushed out,” she said, noting such development could also lead to homeowners like her being bought out. “To me that's not right. Everyone in the neighbourhood would effectively be displaced, and I don't think that is what Vancouver is about.”
You can read a summary of the plan here.