If you don’t know about two massive city-changing
plans that will transform the look, feel and texture of Vancouver over the next
30 years, you’re not alone.
Mention the Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan to most
people on the street, and you’re likely to hear, “I didn’t know about
The plans, both expected to be approved by City
Council in the next two months, will densify the city significantly by 2050,
allowing high-rises in many new areas and more intensive building everywhere.
The Broadway Plan, which covers 500 blocks from Vine
to Clark Drive, from 1st to 16th, will allow as many as
three towers per block, some as high as 40 storeys. The overall Vancouver Plan replaces
traditional neighbourhoods with a patchwork of generic neighbourhood types
based on the kinds of buildings each allows. All include more density; some
allow high-rises where none have been permitted before.
Why don’t you know about this? Probably because you
don’t belong to the “stakeholder” groups targeted by the City in the years it’s
been developing the plans. Certain groups, including the building industry,
were heavily consulted, but curiously, neighbourhood groups and associations
were scarcely notified, if at all.
Another reason is the process – top-down, with staff drawing
up the plans, then inviting feedback through online surveys and Zoom workshops.
For non-stakeholders who don’t follow City issues closely, especially during
COVID, it was easy to miss.
Vancouverites are accustomed to a different kind of
planning process; traditionally they’ve been deeply involved in creating plans
for their neighbourhoods. A prime example was the Dunbar Community Vision,
approved by City Council in 1998 after Dunbar residents spent nearly two years figuring
out how their neighbourhood should evolve.
Dunbar has already been affected by the early approval
of one aspect of the Vancouver Plan. The “Streamlining Rental” initiative passed
last December allows six-storey rental buildings on Dunbar and four-
to-five-storey apartment buildings on adjacent blocks.
As for further impacts, a muddy Vancouver Plan map shows
Dunbar divided into at least three neighbourhood “types” – “Rapid Transit”
along 41st (meaning towers); “Neighbourhood Centre” along Dunbar (meaning
an emphasis on shops and mid-rise construction); and “Multiplex Area” for the
rest (purpose-built rental housing and “missing middle” ownership.)
While the City calls the Vancouver Plan an essential long-term strategy to support future growth, local architect and planning critic Brian Palmquist isn’t impressed. He says it will mean a continuation of the “years-long practice of spot rezoning a pox of development across our city, so that no resident of any neighbourhood will know how long their neighbourhood, their street, their view, their green space, their access to light will be preserved, or even respected.”
Facing the potential
closure of their small early French immersion school, parents at Queen
Elizabeth Annex are warning of the impact of the closure on their own kids, and
on the neighbourhood if a much larger school is built in its place.
QEA District Parent Advisory Council
co-representative Nadine Ho, who is helping organize the campaign against the
closure, says the timing of the plan is terrible, as it adds to the instability
and daily stress that students are already experiencing during the pandemic.
And she’s concerned about the short- and long-term impacts on the neighbourhood
if a 435-student school for out-of- catchment students is built to replace the
There would first be a lengthy
construction period, then the noise and traffic of hundreds of additional
students coming and going from the now-quiet school site at 4275 Crown, she
The potential for a 435-student school at
the site is discussed in a 2018 Ministry of Education document assessing
options for the location of a new elementary school on the west side of
Vancouver for the Conseil Scolaire Francophone (CSF), the francophone board
that serves students whose first language is French. (By contrast, French
immersion students are served by the Vancouver School Board.)
There’s been pressure to find a new school
site for the francophone students ever since a 2016 court ruling that
facilities for them are inadequate on the west side of Vancouver. QEA has been
looked at before; in 2019, Vancouver School Board trustees rejected a similar
proposal to dispose of it to the francophone board.
Before that, QEA was also threatened with
closure in 2016 and in 2008.
This time around, parents don’t have long
to fight for their school. They were told about the proposal on Jan. 14. On
Jan. 17, seven of nine trustees voted at a special meeting to move the
closure recommendation to the VSB facilities planning committee meeting on
Wednesday, Jan. 19. If trustees agree to proceed at each stage, delegations
will be heard Jan. 24, and there will be another meeting on Jan. 31, leading to
a final decision on May 30 of this year. If the plan is approved, the school would
close on June 30, 2023.
Regarding the francophone board’s need for
a school site, Ho said the VSB is being pushed to solve a Ministry of Education
problem on the backs of Vancouver students. Disposing of QEA has also been
regarded as a way of raising money. In 2019, then-education minister Rob
Fleming said the closure of QEA would allow him to build a long-awaited school
in Olympic Village.
The current staff report recommending
consideration of closure says disposal of the annex to the CSF “could realize
substantial capital revenue” that the board could use for seismic upgrades or
school expansions. It notes the government expects districts will contribute up
to 50 percent of the cost of new schools.
Ho says the pandemic raises many issues
about the planned closure, especially for a school that has had zero COVID
cases to date. Transmission risks are lower at smaller community schools like
QEA compared to bigger ones like Queen Elizabeth Elementary and Ecole Jules
Quesnel, the proposed alternatives for QEA students. This pandemic is not over, she notes. Vaccinations are still being
distributed for children under 12, and children’s activities are still being
cancelled or restructured.
Ho says the closure proposal also raises questions about the kind of longer-term planning the VSB is doing if it gives up a school site that may well be needed in the future. She notes that many major developments are planned for the west side of the city, with the Jericho lands development alone more than doubling the population of West Point Grey.
District Parent Advisory Council co-chair Vik Khanna says the QEA move is being driven by the need for a new school at the Olympic Village. Originally it was supposed to be fully funded by pandemic recovery funds, he says, but that appears to have changed, and the school board now must come up with 50 percent of the cost. “Pressure is being applied by the Ministry to dispose of QEA.”
Khanna echoes Ho’s concerns about the
timing of the closure proposal, saying a pandemic is not the time to be pushing
it through. “Our trustees should be ensuring public trust in our public
education system and this is super rushed and erodes trust.”
The Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council has previously taken a position against school closures until proper planning is done. At a DPAC general meeting on Oct. 28, 2021, more than 33 Vancouver PACs voted 94 percent in favour of a motion that the VSB should hold off on irreversible facilities decisions until December 2023 or until policies and plans can be based on the latest population data and take into account the many new developments planned for the city.
By Neil Piller, Director of Operations, St. George’s School
After approximately 10 years of planning, consultation and awaiting city approval, the building permit for two new senior school academic buildings and dining/gathering hall at St. George’s School was finally issued by the City of Vancouver in mid-June.
Work is well underway, with two shiny white tower cranes now overlooking the corner of West 29th Avenue and Camosun Street. Most of the bulk excavation work for the underground parking is complete, and shoring and final detailed excavation is expected to be completed by the end of September.
Over the next six months, the concrete structure of the academic buildings will begin to appear, and work on the mass-timber dining room is planned to begin next year. We expect the academic buildings and dining/gathering hall to be complete during the 2023/2024 school year.
These new buildings will surround a large, landscaped quadrangle, which will be the new heart of the Senior School. Future building plans include new athletics and performing arts buildings, as well as student boarding facilities and staff housing. Once those phases of the project are complete, the existing school will be removed, though this will likely be completed in 10-20 years.
There are two truck entrances to the construction site, both off Camosun Street between West 28th and West 29th Avenues. The main route for hauling materials in and out of the site is along Camosun Street to Marine Drive. The City of Vancouver has posted “no stopping” signs along the narrow portions of this street to ensure the safe passage of trucks and other traffic. We appreciate your support and understanding about the added impact of this traffic.