Rental apartment zone changes being proposed under the Broadway Plan: Our initial analysis of what’s in there

Above: The Broadway Plan developed by City of Vancouver planning staff proposes changes to Existing Apartment Areas (RM and FM zones). Above are materials from CoV panels being used in current consultations. Click to enlarge

The City of Vancouver recently kicked off Phase 3 of the Broadway Plan process. In this post we’ll take look at the proposed changes to the Apartment Zones. There are 104 panels in the City’s materials that can be reviewed online or in person (at 511 West Broadway, Nov 20th 10am-2pm). Here we look at some aspects, and we plan to examine some of the other proposed changes in future posts. The City has a survey that can be filled out for comments. The Phase 3 of the Broadway Plan is prior to the planned release of a draft plan early next year.

For a ‘Phase 3’ consultation step, the materials presented by the City are quite sparse. What’s missing? There is no information about target FSR (building density), dimensional heights, setbacks, building separation and the number of tall buildings proposed per block, nor is there any whiff of building shadow mitigation measures. Staff purportedly seek the “careful renewal of the aging rental stock” in the apartment zones (RM and FM) between 1st and 16th Avenue and Vine Street and Clark Drive. This is perhaps another way of saying that the City is looking to enable the replacement of affordable rental stock with expensive new rentals. Current renters in those areas should sit up, take notice, and get involved in the consultations.

According to information on the presentation panels, City staff are considering allowing sites with rental buildings to be replaced with towers of 20 to 25 storeys in height (either via a MIRHPP-like lucrative developer subsidy policy with 20% of area secured for below-market rents, for co-op, or for “social housing” which by the City’s definition which can mean 70% market rental). For sites that don’t currently have rental housing, staff are proposing towers of 15 to 18 storeys as strata-owned units provided that 20% of the area falls into the City’s non-profit social housing category. Planning staff are referring to “storeys” as the measure for building heights without providing a dimensional height, which as we have covered in previous posts, can be rather fluid and deceiving when it comes to people trying to gauge how tall the buildings will be. Is each storey 9 feet (2.75 m), or something else? Is there any information on floorplate sizes and density?

There’s only a single option that is being presented at this stage for what’s billed as a 30-year plan. Staff are not presenting multiple options to ask the public what they prefer. They should. The public has a right to know what the City deems to be the population targets in a neighbourhood, and to be able to comment on that, plus the various scenarios to achieve targets. Staff have not compared their recommendations to housing forms in recent plans, such as the Mount Pleasant Community Plan that finished the implementation stage in October of 2013 (another plan that was sold as a 30-year plan to residents).

What kind of buildings are planning staff considering? Here are the precedents cited on the City’s panels:

Staff are showing 1401 Comox (the Lauren, a tower in the West End, currently addressed as 1051/1061 Broughton) as the first tower on the left. This could be a good opportunity for the public and policy makers to focus on that development. Has this developer-incentivized rental building created affordable rental units in the West End? What was the land lift on the property as a result of its rezoning? This spot zoning has a FSR of 7.19 and a height of 61 m (200.1 ft).

The second and third precedent towers are actually of the same building at 1171-1177 Jervis at Davie Street (again, in the West End), so it would appear that staff like this building a lot. Readers may recall that this is the tower that gained notoriety for the inclusion of ‘Poor Doors‘ (segregated entrances) for market-rate and below-market residents. More details can be found in the article by the CBC: Social housing to have separate entrance to Vancouver high-rise (May 5, 2015). The design in its original form even had segregated play areas for the market and non-market residents. That idea was reversed, but the ‘Poor Doors’ remained in the final building. Why would staff present this building twice as a precedent? Are they looking at enabling ‘Poor Doors’ as a policy?

Both the tower precedents shown are from the West End. (We note that the staff has still failed to report to City Council on the implementation of the West End Community Plan, which was adopted in 2013. West End Neighbours called for a five-year review in 2019, and still no report has been issued.) An open question is whether the staff proposal is a meaningful response to gentle densification while preserving affordable rental units? Or is it putting the West End Plan on steroids and applying it the Broadway Plan area? Here are the areas affected the proposed staff changes (in light purple):

The illustration that planning staff provided to explain their proposal for the apartment zones in the Broadway Plan area is shown below:

Planning staff currently claim they have no specifics about FSR, heights and setbacks. That’s all supposed to be coming when the draft Broadway Plan is released. However, based on public experience with other area plans in Vancouver, people are well-justified in fearing that it will be just too late for anyone to make substantive revisions at that stage. As witnessed in ‘Community Planning’ processes in the last decade or so, staff may just double down on their draft plan and work to push their draft document through without further changes.

A plan can be good plan for all parties, a demoviction plan, or a plan for a resort town. Will this plan end up targeting a good chunk of existing affordable rental housing units for redevelopment, causing disruption and displacement for thousands of current residents?

The City’s panels can be found in this PDF:

Click to access redefined-directions-complete-boards.pdf

Precedent shown on Broadway Plan Panel (1401 Comox)


Broadway Plan:

Broadway Plan on ShapeYourCity portal:

Mount Pleasant Community Plan Implementation plan – in Council Oct 23 – “A Sham” – Serious problems of process and content

Current zoning for Apartment Zones:

Zoning for precedents:  (1401 Comox)

Here’s an illustration from the City’s materials. Note that the vantage point is not taken from ground level but rather floating from a second floor level:

3 thoughts on “Rental apartment zone changes being proposed under the Broadway Plan: Our initial analysis of what’s in there

  1. > Current renters in those areas should sit up, take notice, and get involved in the consultations.

    From Broadway plan:
    » Right for tenants impacted by redevelopment to return to new building at rates comparable or lower than their previous rent, with additional supports for low-income tenants

    » Temporary rent top-up for tenants impacted by redevelopment during the period when they are in an alternate accommodation while the new building is constructed to bridge the gap between their existing rent and any rent increases

    This is all in addition to current protections under the city’s tenant relocation and protection policy. Really strong stuff! Looks like it is sort of based on Burnaby’s policy.

    • I don’t believe a word of it. People just end up getting screwed to make way for towers. Burnaby? When did Burnaby become a poster child for Canadian urbanism? Have you seen a single neighborhood there that works? That you would like to live in? I haven’t, and I went to school there for a total of 7 years.

  2. 1st and 16th Avenue and Vine Street and Clark Drive

    What we have to come to grips with is the total abdication of ‘neighborhood design’ by today’s planning professionals. They are not trained in it. Most can’t hold a pencil and make a drawing.

    A fact that shows again and again over each and every one of the 104 boards that look, and read, like a dysfunctional planning report.

    When in fact it should be a compendium of 5 or 6 neighborhood plans. Let’s take out that pencil…

    • Vine to Broadway = 5,800 meters or 3.6 miles
    • 1st to 16th = 1,500 m or 1 mile

    So the swath of city that is being ‘planned’ equals:

    • 3.6 square miles or 2,304 acres;
    • 19 ‘pedestrian sheds’ or ‘quartiers’.
    • With between 1 and 7 quartiers equal a neighborhood,
    • 4 or 5 neighborhoods represented. And
    • Perhaps the opportunity to create more.

    But the Corridor Plan is not interested in any of that. People’s sense of place, and identity with a neighborhood footprint? Forget about it, the plan is ONLY looking at Corridors.

    The views were put in cones back in the planning days of Ray Spaxman. Now neighborhoods are being put in Corridors.

    So if the planners are not thinking about ‘place’ and about ‘people’, then who are they thinking about?

    Developers and generating development revenue at City Hall.

    Whether it is Texas of Metrotown is just doesn’t really matter. Vancouver’s neighborhoods are being commodified in the global economy to churn profits for investors.

    Everybody else need not apply. Residents will be screwed.

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