A presentation by Park Board staff on September 14, 2020, included a slide that showed a detailed view of the number of housing units in large development applications in the West End. Slide 13 depicts the housing applications approved or in progress since the West End Community Plan was adopted in 2013. This slide was part of a presentation on a consultant contract for the West End Waterfront Master Plan Project. The point being made by Park Board staff was the need to consider the increase in population vis-a-vis community demand for amenities such as parks and related facilities.
The illustration is interesting for many reasons. This kind of comprehensive information would be very useful for anyone to track the implementation and impacts of the West End Community Plan. One would expect the City of Vancouver’s planning department staff to have been tracking this data for decades, but particularly since the new community plan was adopted nearly seven years ago.
Does the Park Board track this information but not the City’s planning department? Does the planning department have similar or perhaps even more detailed data? If so, when will such information be made available publicly to the West End community? And to City Council? How about the School Board? Are City Hall, Park Board, and School Board all on the same page with population current numbers and projections? Are they sharing those numbers and staying right up to date?
Switching to the city-wide level, does the City already track such information? Do planning staff already have similar and up-to-date graphics to keep track of growth throughout the city? Why not show new developments like this on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood basis? If and when it ever becomes available under the City’s purported open data policy, will such data be available in not only map format but also in spreadsheet format, and with geospatial data tags? And availability to the public is definitely desirable, but besides that, do our city’s planners even make this available in any format to our elected officials (mayor and council) as they consider policies and individual rezonings and developments? If not, why not?
Keeping track of growth would really assist in seeing if the City is hitting the growth targets set in the ‘community plans’ and other planning documents.
Note that the map shows the number of UNITS. To get the POPULATION count, we multiply by the average number of persons per unit. The Vancouver citywide average is usually 2.2 (reference, CoV Housing Characteristics Fact Sheet, 30-Apr-2017). The map shows question marks for St Paul’s Hospital (sold to a developer for a major development on an entire block, perhaps 1,000 to 3,000 units, we guess the middle at 2,000) and a tower at 1335 Howe (we guess 100). Note that the map includes major developments east of Burrard, which is technically not within the West End Community Plan territory, but due to proximity, more population there would still increase demand on community amenities in the West End. Our basic math comes to 5,896 units approved and 3,654 in progress, totaling 9,549 units, Add 2,100 from our guesses above, and the total comes to 11,649. Times 2.2 and the additional population for projects approved and in progress is 25,627 residents. For comparison, the West End Community Plan anticipated 7,000 to 10,000 additional residents over 30 years from 2013 to 2043 (editor’s note: 23 years to go!). Note that these numbers are NEW units. Many of the new tower construction projects in the West End have also involved evictions and relocations (both voluntary and involuntary), but to our knowledge the City has made no effort to track and report those numbers. Also, the Park Board numbers do NOT include applications of 30 units or less. Therefore a calculation of the NET increase in population would require further work. Is it possible that the City of Vancouver planning folks already are tracking all this information and right up to date?
The full Park Board presentation is included in the following PDF. (Note that this Master Plan process is a joint project with the City’s engineering department, as it also involves the separation of sanitary and storm sewers):
Park Board meeting: https://parkboardmeetings.vancouver.ca/2020/20200914/index.htm
Staff presentation (around 07:05-0:7:11): https://csg001-harmony.sliq.net/00318/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20200914/-1/11293