Broadway Plan: The proposed ‘Shoulder Areas’ look like the downtown core. Heads up: In-person Open House Nov 20th (10-2 on Sat, 4 hours only)


Planning staff are proposing the establishment of ‘Shoulder Areas’ in the Broadway Plan that would include towers that could be significantly higher than currently permitted. This ‘shoulder area’ designation would apply to parts of Kitsilano, Fairview and Mount Pleasant (highlighted in the included maps). The City’s materials state: ‘Building heights will generally be 20 to 30 storeys‘ and also mention that they are considering some commercial uses at grade for housing and/or office space. It’s worth noting that offices generally have higher floor heights than residential. Thus a 30-storey office building can be over 122 metres or 400 feet in height (assuming 4m floor height and a higher first floor) and could be the height of a 44-storey residential tower. A ’30-storey’ residential tower might have a floor height of 2.75m (9 ft.) and could be over 85m (278 ft.) in height (9ft floor to floor with a taller 1st storey).

Consultation on this third phase of the Broadway Plan is ongoing until November 30th. There’s an in-person Open House scheduled for Saturday, November 20th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 511 West Broadway (ground floor, corner at Cambie). Registration is not required. However, the website does have a link to a registration page on EventBrite.

There are 104 panels in the City’s materials that can be reviewed online. 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 in 2022.” We urge anyone interested to attend this in-person open house as a precious and rare opportunity to actually meet the human beings involved in this major planning process. Some people have found the city’s online workshops to be unsatisfactory as participants remain muted for nearly the entire meeting.

Everyone who is interested in the future of Vancouver should really be paying attention now. Simultaneously with the Broadway Plan, the City is nearing the end of consultation on the Vancouver Plan. As with the Broadway Plan, it is purportedly a 30-year plan. But of course it will determine the shape  and character of Vancouver for many decades beyond that. Now at Phase 3 (Options and Trade-Offs, ending this month of November), planning staff under the new chief planner Theresa O’Donnell are getting very close to what they are intending to bring to Council in Phase 4 (Revising and Final Plan, December 2021 – June 2022), after which they hope the proposal will go straight to a Public Hearing and be adopted as the City’s Official Development Plan prior to the October 2022 election. This could create the opportunity for Vancouver voters to make this whole thing an election issue. The next step appears to be that Vancouver would likely try to have the Vancouver Charter modified to match currently proposed BC legislative changes to eliminate the need for Public Hearings at the municipal level. So unless something changes in the process, the final opportunity for residents and communities to provide input and have any hope of influencing the outcome is approaching very quickly.

Many details are missing from what planning staff are calling this ‘Phase 3’ of consultation on the Broadway Plan. There’s no mention of the proposed density, setbacks, tower separation or podium size. Just for example, the City has apparently done absolutely no study of impact on shadows or the cumulative impacts of many tall buildings on solar access. All that’s provided is what City staff call ‘3D’ (actually, it is not 3D; what they are presenting is a single, dimensionless drawing for ‘illustrative purposes,’ reproduced further below). The details on the panels are vague and nebulous. The ‘shoulder area’ is large. We’ve re-coloured the map to show the areas in orange for clarity, and here below is a comparison with the City’s original map:

CAPTION: Compare our re-coloured map (top) with the City’s map (bottom). Does the colour scheme used by the City help you really grasp what they are proposing? Do the colours blend closely with colours used on False Creek? Do the proposed areas even look like what you would expect to be ‘shoulder areas’?

As to how staff came up with this proposal, there is nothing explanatory in their info panels but the headline ‘what we heard‘ (this is typical of similar planning processes by the City over the past decade). Did staff really hear a powerful message from residents that they want the City to make large swaths of the plan area resemble the downtown core? Or is this what they heard from their superiors?

The precedents that staff are showing in the photos of “What New Buildings Could Look Like” are both from the West End, at 1215 Bidwell and 745 Thurlow. The one at 745 Thurlow Street has a Floor Space Ratio of 16.1 and a height of 91.44m (300 ft).

“Potential future in 30 years” is prominently indicated in the presentation slides. So since they are using the West End as a model, this next point merits a careful read. Once the City approves a plan (and especially if Public Hearings are going to be eliminated), the City seems to lose control of the pace of development. On top of that, City does not even seem to be capable of keeping track of implementation and reporting to City Council. The West End Community Plan (WECP), adopted in late 2013, anticipated 7,000 to 10,000 additional residents over 30 years. But we calculate that within the first seven years, the thirty projects approved and/or in progress in Sept 2020 amounted to nearly 26,000 residents (estimated from numbers discovered in a Park Board report, not from City planners, see “Keeping track: Behold the West End’s new…” Maybe that is one reason the planners have still failed to produce a WECP implementation report or update for City Council and the public as we approach ten years after adoption of the WECP. There’s another connection between the West End and Broadway Plans – one of the same lead planners, Mr. Grottenberg, who was responsible for WECP implementation for at least the first five years.

Related, see also our recent post “Rental apartment zone changes being proposed under the Broadway Plan: Our initial analysis of what’s in there.”

BELOW: City staff are also proposing ‘Station Areas’:

BELOW: Sub-areas as proposed by planning staff:

This is panel #35 titled “Kitsilano – What We Heard”. How does the proposed Shoulder Area fit in what the planning staff say they heard?

BELOW: The full set of original panels from the City can be found in the following PDF: (note the City is not showing all of the panels at the Open House)

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

5 thoughts on “Broadway Plan: The proposed ‘Shoulder Areas’ look like the downtown core. Heads up: In-person Open House Nov 20th (10-2 on Sat, 4 hours only)

  1. It is laughable to call an online public participation session a “WORKSHOP” if participants’ microphones are muted for nearly the entire event. I would call these public education sessions, or maybe public input collection sessions. Where is the dialogue?

  2. What you reveal at the end of the article is very provocative. The WECP, adopted in 2013, anticipated a population growth of 7,000 to 10,000 over thirty years. Instead, we have seen – by your estimate, and the park board’s – growth of 26,000 in the West End over just 7 years.

    If this keeps up, population growth in he West End would be 110,000 over the entire 30 year period. This would more than TRIPLE the population of the West End. This would be 11 to 16 TIMES the population growth estimated by the city.

    Is this acceptable? Of course the city should do an update report on the WECP, and such update report should be provided to council and debated BEFORE the Broadway Plan and the Citywide Plan are considered for approval. Otherwise, these plans will not be worth the paper they are printed on.

  3. Further to my previous comment, Colleen Hardwick has documented that Vancouver’s population growth over the last 20 years, based on Stats Canada census data, averaged 1% per year. If this rate continues, the population of the entire city would increase from 675, 000 today to 820,000 in thirty years, an increase of approximately 140, 000 (rough estimate).

    If the ENTIRE CITY needs to accommodate a population growth of 140,000, then obviously a growth of 110,000 in the WEST END is too much. Either the development boom will come to a crashing halt, or it could persist.

    This growth rate would NOT based accommodating population growth, but rather would be based on speculation, investment and foreigners parking their money here. This is a great recipe for a housing affordability catastrophe.

    • There is an ‘investment rule of 72’ that states that if you achieve 1% return on capital, it will take 72 years to double the investment.

      We can apply this to City Plan: if the city is growing at 1% per year (and it is trending lower) then a plan that doubles the density is a plan for the next 72 years.

      Of course the ‘tower mania’ of this god-awful planning in Vancouver is project growth at much higher levels. And why not? The tower units are mere chips in investment portfolios and REITs. So build away! The windows will all remain dark.

  4. Steve and I met at Cambie & Broadway, yesterday, and spent an hour in the Corridor Plan presentation looking at the boards, taking pictures, and getting no-answers from the young staff on site.

    I will be writing a post on our discussion and sharing it later. But for now, lets just put down some markers.

    This is Towers-and-Skytrain planning being rammed down the throats of our neighborhoods. Stakeholder input is being micro-managed. And judging from the turn out at the Saturday event—very thing—everyone in Vancouver has given up on the planners.

    We know they have bought the tower planning hook, line and sinker. It is Planning By The Numbers (of Floors). And the planners and their boards are lying about that too. Everything is couched in impressive language so it can be interpreted this way and that once the plan is approved.

    The Planners see Corridors. I see ‘idiots’.

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