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).
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:
Broadway Plan: https://vancouver.ca/broadwayplan
Broadway Plan on ShapeYourCity portal: https://shapeyourcity.ca/broadway-plan
Current zoning for Apartment Zones: