Station Area Planning – A Stealth Swath Across East Vancouver?

Joyce Collingwood Station Precinct and Westbank rezoning

The following article is reproduced with kind permission from Eye on Norquay:

A Stealth Swath Across East Vancouver?
Over the past six years, Vancouver planners have mentioned “station area planning” in various contexts. In two instances, clear and specific proposals have encountered immediate strong resistance: Broadway and Commercial (2013) and Joyce (2015). Towers of 36 and 35 storeys at either end. The City of Vancouver has shown tendencies to view this large swath as a corridor. Yet so far it only dabbles in piecemeal attempts.

The primary purpose of this review is to put five pieces together, latest first:

October 2015 — Joyce Precinct Review
October 2015 — Changes to Eight CD-1 Areas
August 2014 — Brian Jackson Glimpse of the Future
June 2013 — Grandview-Woodland Meltdown
November 2009 — Norquay Backstory

The only thing that saves East Vancouver from a Cambie Corridor type onslaught is the patchwork of actual development (Collingwood Village, Wall Centre Central Park) and recent planning (Norquay) that now stands in the way.

If Vancouver had undertaken considered development rather than impulsive this-and-that, SkyTrain today would be a subway that runs along Kingsway. That major highway cuts across the grid to follow an early route adapted to East Vancouver landforms. SkyTrain does not. The terrain between Broadway/Commercial and Joyce includes wetlands, a contaminated site, and considerable divergences in elevation. And understandably, no existing local area shopping.

In the end, Norquay planners insisted that the supposed “neighbourhood centre” could not locate anywhere off of Kingsway. The key idea was core density with a walkable radius. To now seek to locate significant new density at the periphery of that radius would dismiss that recent planning as fumble. (Avalon Mews at the south edge of Norquay has already abused the concept.) City of Vancouver abandoned the many millions of dollars and the many years invested in CityPlan. Anything can happen overnight when “planning” turns into subterfuge.

To propose a double-tracking of new development across an already dense East Vancouver further disrespects a region that has already endured more than its share of disrespect. The outstanding characteristic of Renfrew-Collingwood redevelopment over the past two decades has been grudging increase in amenity infrastructure. Increase means provision of new facilities — not refurbishment or replacement or extension of what was already there. Collingwood Neighbourhood House (1985/1995) is what planners love to point to. Twenty to thirty years old is far from new.

Panel 19 for the Joyce Station open house typifies a dismissive give-nothing-more blandishment in connection with proposing to inject thousands of new residents:

Joyce-Collingwood is generally well-served by existing and planned facilities

That statement flies in the face of the promises written into the 2004 Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision:

Each proposal for a new housing type has been made conditional not only on an increase in community facilities and programs needed to serve any population growth generated by the new housing type but also on an assurance that parking and traffic impacts would be addressed.  (p. 30)

Planning in Vancouver seems to have become a mechanistic exercise in rezoning, collecting fees, increasing property tax revenue — and giving nothing back to the affected community. Not even sidewalks and garbage cans.

October 2015 — Joyce Precinct Review

In fall 2015 the City of Vancouver Joyce-Collingwood Station Precinct Review became highly contentious. A 21 October 2015 open house unveiled sudden surprises, only in English, to an area that is about one-quarter Chinese. A massive amount of information was confusingly presented in a series of twenty panels.

Astute residents quickly recognized serious problems and formed the Joyce Area Residents Association (JARA). In late November JARA held two grassroots open houses and submitted a formal report to Mayor and Council and to planners.

The prior acceptance of a 29 July 2015 development application for a 29-storey tower at 5050-5080 Joyce Street seems extremely prejudicial to any good-faith planning for the entire area. Setting up a single blockbusting precedent just ahead of local area planning has become a particularly nasty habit of the City of Vancouver — starting with King Edward Village and 2300 Kingsway (at Nanaimo Street) in the middle of the last decade.

October 2015 — Changes to Eight CD-1 Areas

On 20 October 2015 a “parking amendments” document —

Parking Amendments to Various CD-1 By-laws for Sites Adjacent to SkyTrain

— went before City Council. The map below shows the eight areas in the vicinity of the Nanaimo and 29th Avenue SkyTrain stations where developers have avoided the difficult site conditions mentioned in the introduction. If they are allowed to avoid excavation into bogs and contaminated sites, who knows what they might be able to achieve at the expense of existing neighbours?
It seems clear that the only consultation that Vancouver city planners anticipate for residents in the areas of the Nanaimo and 29th Avenue SkyTrain stations is a single out-of-the-blue invitation to spectate a done deal at a City of Vancouver public hearing.

A favorite planner phrase is “next steps.” All that the public gets to see here is one giant step. Perhaps the best speculation: look east and west to see the proposals for 35-storey towers that have already raised a ruckus at Broadway and Commercial and at Joyce.

August 2014 — Brian Jackson Glimpse of the Future

In August 2014 Eye on Norquay provided context for the following comment that Brian Jackson made to Vancouver City Planning Commission. (At the time he was General Manager, Planning and Development Services, City of Vancouver — he suddenly announced his decision to retire on 26 June 2015.)

Our other proposal is for doing some station area planning around two of the Millennium Line stations at 29th and Nanaimo which have development opportunities. … We’ve got a lot on our plate, and it may take us a while to get to those last things, so those things are looking like they’re mid to late 2015.

June 2013 — Grandview-Woodland Meltdown

The specifics of what City of Vancouver top-down planning had in mind for the Broadway & Commercial station area became apparent in the summer of 2013. An “emerging directions” presentation, with a proposal for multiple towers, one as high as 36 storeys, set off a chain reaction. (The southern boundary of Grandview-Woodland is Broadway. Planners chose to bite off extra by reaching into already neighbourhood-centred Kensington-Cedar Cottage.)

Subarea Focus — Broadway Commercial & VCC Clark Transit Oriented Community

The ensuing heat — see Charlie Smith. City of Vancouver seeks input on densifying area around Commercial-Broadway Station. Georgia Straight (26 June 2013) and Yolande Cole. Grandview-Woodland residents rally for more time on community plan. Georgia Straight (9 July 2013) — eventually led into the forensics of an unprecedented “citizen’s assembly.” The results of that long and expensive attempt at decontamination remain unclear at the end of 2015.

In the interim, on 10 November 2014, a comment by Senior Urban Designer Scot Hein lifted the veil on the planning shenanigans that led to the debacle.

November 2009 — Norquay Backstory

One of the biggest surprises ever during the years of planning for Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre came on the evening of 2 November 2009. After more than three and a half years, Director of Planning Brent Toderian bombshelled the Norquay Working Group with the news that about one-fifth of what had been outlined as Norquay would be excluded going forward.

Four months earlier, a substantial majority of Norquay Working Group had signed a document in support of the plan that they had developed during a prolonged and intense 2009 process. (Residents in a mid-2007 formal survey strongly rejected cut-and-paste quickie “draft plan” based on the mass rezoning at Kingsway & Knight).

That 9 July 2009 meeting was the last one ever where Norquay Working Group had status as participants. The City of Vancouver went into indefinite recess, and then came back with a brand new set of planners.

What Toderian then called “station area planning” to the north would be put on indefinite hold. This out-of-the-blue severance disrespected the many Norquay residents from that area, many of whom had put in the equivalent of several working weeks of volunteer time.

Original article:

3 thoughts on “Station Area Planning – A Stealth Swath Across East Vancouver?

  1. “Planning in Vancouver seems to have become a mechanistic exercise in rezoning, collecting fees, increasing property tax revenue — …”

    Plus, a massive Community Outreach Communications Department, to spin and massage the public once all the decisions have been made. Remembering too that in the case of towers, they must first propose at lest five more storeys than intended. Then cut back the five so as to give the impression that they are listening to the protestors.

  2. Areas around transit station should have zoning for higher density, but since Vancouver does`t have an official community plan and isn`t required to have one because of the Vancouver Charter they can just make some zoning changes in a few places and do some minimal “consultation“ and say that they have followed the required process. Its also why they are allowed to spot zone and get community amenity contributions out of it. These are things no other city or municipality in B.C. can do I think it really warps the thinking on how creating density should be handled in Vancouver.

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