by Carol Volkart, DRA Newsletter Editor
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 that!”
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.”
For more information: Vancouver Plan at https://vancouverplan.ca/, Broadway Plan at https://shapeyourcity.ca/broadway-plan
For analysis of what it all means, see Brian Palmquist’s City Conversations Substack at https://bit.ly/cityconv For Broadway Plan, see https://bit.ly/cityconv57 For Vancouver Plan, https://bit.ly/cityconv42
CityHallWatch https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/ puts out a constant flow of information about city issues.