by Carol Volkart, DRA Newsletter Editor
When you cast your vote for the next City Council on Saturday, October 15, 2022 you won’t just be choosing people or parties – you’ll be voting for how Dunbar and the entire city will develop over the next 30 years.
That’s because this election will also determine whether the Vancouver and Broadway Plans, which set the stage for massive densification throughout the city by 2050, will go ahead as planned, be altered dramatically, or withdrawn altogether.
For Dunbar, that means you’ll be deciding whether you agree to the prospect of 12-to-25-plus-storey towers in some areas of the neighbourhood, plus much denser development throughout.
The controversial plans were approved by City Council in June and July after heated public hearings, heavy correspondence to council, and many amendments. However, they will not be implemented until the next council takes office, so their future depends on the people we elect this fall.
The Vancouver Plan is mostly a “framework” setting out directions for future growth, with many specifics still lacking. The much-further-advanced Broadway Plan, which will be incorporated into the Vancouver Plan, gives a clearer idea of what we can expect citywide if the overall plan proceeds.
And that is density – lots of it. The Broadway Plan allows 20- to-40-storey towers, as many as three per block, in a 500-block area along the Broadway Corridor, from 1st to 16th, from Vine to Clark Drive.
The Vancouver Plan is less specific, but a map shows only a small proportion of the city reserved for relatively low-density housing of up to six units per lot. Everywhere else is denser, with apartment buildings and towers of various heights allowed.
A key element of both plans is the disappearance of Vancouver’s 23 traditional neighbourhoods, including Dunbar. Long considered the basic building blocks of the city, they are to be replaced by a handful of generic “neighbourhood types” scattered all over the city.
The two plans also dramatically change the treatment of neighbourhood voices. Contrary to past practice, the city did not engage neighbourhood residents or their representatives in planning the future of their areas. Instead, it worked with selected “stakeholder” groups to create the plans, then released them to the general public for input.
Previous neighbourhood plans created by residents, such as the Dunbar Community Vision approved by city council in 1998 after two years of work by community members, will be repealed, as has already happened in Broadway neighbourhoods. Chief City Planner Theresa O’Donnell has said the old plans are outdated and incapable of dealing with the city’s current challenges.
What can Dunbar residents expect if the Vancouver Plan proceeds?
- Our neighbourhood will look very different. Many more and bigger buildings will fill once-single-family lots where trees and gardens flourished. Apartment buildings and some retail will move off Dunbar Street and into what have traditionally been single-family areas. There will be towers.
- The area we’ve known as Dunbar will become three different “neighbourhood types” – a multiplex area, a neighbourhood centre, and a rapid transit area. The Vancouver Plan map is fuzzy about boundaries, but the two latter categories appear to take up most of Dunbar.
- The relatively small multiplex area could allow up to six units per residential lot, at heights of up to three storeys. However, six storeys would be allowed for rental apartment buildings or social housingin these areas.
- Dunbar Street and a vaguely defined area around it will be called a neighbourhood centre. What will happen here is a bit confusing. In late 2021, council got a jump on the Vancouver Plan by approving six-storey rentals on arterials like Dunbar, and four-to-five-storey rental apartments on adjacent blocks.
However, the newly approved plan appears to allow much higher buildings around the main shopping street. It says buildings of up to 12 storeys will be allowed, with the latter “within a block or two of the local shopping street.” For Dunbar, this would mean west to Highbury and Wallace, east to Collingwood and Blenheim.
- Forty-first Avenue and an area that appears to run from 33rd to 49th will be a rapid transit area, described as “generally within a 10-minute walk of existing or future rapid transit stations.” For these areas, the plan allows up to 12-18 storeys, with “25-plus in strategic locations.”
- As a low-density, high-amenity area, Dunbar is a high priority in the Vancouver Plan. Along with most of the city’s west side, it is categorized as an “opportunity area” that can be used to improve equity citywide, one of three main goals of the Vancouver Plan (along with reconciliation and resilience.)
CityHallWatch, a website that keeps a close eye on civic issues, notes the only party with a stated policy on the Broadway and Vancouver Plans is TEAM for a Livable Vancouver, which says it will withdraw them if it wins a majority. All the other parties have indicated support for the plans through press releases or other methods.
CityHallWatch’s summary of the plans are at: https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2022/08/14/2022-election-crucial-on-broadway-plan-vancouver-plan-future