Letters to Council on UBCx extension (Council decision slated for 29-March/Tues)

This topic “Millennium Line UBC Extension Alignment and Integration” is before City Council today, Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

Agenda and staff report here: https://council.vancouver.ca/20220329/regu20220329ag.htm

Staff report here: https://council.vancouver.ca/20220323/documents/r1.pdf

A lot of correspondence has been sent to Council on this topic. Below we share excerpts of what has been shared with us… See “Jericho Lands” on CityHallWatch for more coverage.


Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN)

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) is opposed to the staff recommendations in this report and concerned that, once again, Council is being asked to make a major decision before meaningful neighbourhood consultation has taken place. The proposed recommendations would bring major changes to the neighbourhoods of Kitsilano and West Point Grey.

It is entirely premature to be deciding on proceeding with station area planning when a subway extension to UBC is far from even being decided. The business case has not been produced, and an extension to UBC has not been declared a regional priority. This is at the bottom of the list of TransLink’s regional Transport 2050 priorities, as it is only the sixth priority of seven total. Only after all other priorities are funded would this subway extension even be considered.

The staff report recommends proceeding with planning for towers at the hypothetical stations, although the concept is decades away, if ever, from ever becoming a funded project. For your consideration, attached are a few of the many issues raised by the affected neighbourhoods for your consideration.


Upper Kitsilano Residents Association (UKRA)

The Upper Kitsilano Residents Association (UKRA) strongly urges you to reject the integration of the UBCx with the Broadway Millennium Line, and the three proposed subway stations. We represent residents living west of Vine to Alma Street, and from West 10th to 16th Avenue, most of whom will be negatively affected by this plan. Many of our members feel they have not been properly consulted and are loathe to support the motion because it lacks neighbourhood planning.

We believe that transit-oriented development (TOD) can have costly unexpected consequences, such as turning closely knit neighbourhoods into veritable ghost towns. This type of planning gets people from A to B but does nothing to encourage people to linger in or shops in areas in-between stops. One need only look to Cambie Street and the uber-exclusive Oakridge development to understand why we are against it.

If we have learned anything about housing in the past few years, it is that density does not mean affordability. In Vancouver, the price of housing escalates every time a new house or apartment is built. People need housing, but housing they can afford. This plan, which promotes glitzy hi-rises for the wealthy, will unquestionably make housing even more expensive.  It will benefit neither current residents nor those lower and middle income families that want to move to the neighbourhood.

The extension and its insistence on a subway rather than lighter forms of transit as well as towers better suited to downtown is short-sighted in another way: the concrete and steel used in both will leave a Bigfoot-sized carbon footprint. It’s a disastrous choice for our environment and makes a mockery of Vancouver’s stated intent to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Having read the report closely, we can only conclude that developers, TransLink, investors (both national and offshore) and REITS will benefit from this plan. Residents of the affected neighbourhoods will not

The UBCx and proposed hi-rises for the area west of Arbutus will change communities whose scale and access to amenities have worked well for decades. We suggest Council delay any decision on this plan before more research has been completed and proper consultation of neighbourhoods along the line has been made. Many questions remain unanswered. How many new residents will be arriving in the future? What will 60 new towers in the Jericho Lands do to the surrounding area?  Will they really all be built? How will the coming Surrey campus of UBC change the need for student transit? Where will the Jericho Lands station be built? What will happen to the businesses along West 10th if the subway is routed away from the neighbourhood? And where is the planning for more schools, medical services, police and fire, seniors housing, and basic infrastructure that must surely attend all of this proposed growth?

Until these questions are answered satisfactorily, and until the City recognizes that we make up a collection of diverse neighbourhoods rather than a single transit corridor, we cannot support the plan. For all the reasons given, please do not endorse this motion.


West Kitsilano residents Association (WKRA)

Just last week, the on-line survey for the Broadway Plan signalled the end of public consultation for the Subway east of Arbutus. The proposed redevelopment of the neighbourhoods east of Vine is an indication of what will almost certainly be in store for our neighbourhood if the SkyTrain subway extension is approved.

Now a related vote that will be even more defining of the future of our neighbourhood is to take place this coming week.

A Staff Report on the extension of the Subway to UBC will go to Council on Tuesday, March 29.
The Report asks Council to support further planning for an extension of the Subway from Arbutus to UBC, to endorse three stations at MacDonald, Alma and Sasamat St. on the Jericho Lands in Point Grey and to begin planning for development integrated with the stations. No budget figure is given but in 2019, the estimated cost was up to 3.8 Billion dollars in 2018 dollars and is now estimated to be well over 4 billion dollars.

Three years ago, Vancouver’s newly elected Council (all but Councillor Colleen Hardwick) were persuaded by Mayor Kennedy Stewart and voted to approve (in principle only) the UBC Subway Extension from Arbutus St. to UBC. Staff maintained that it was a ‘do or die’ vote to get once in a lifetime funding!
Now, with no significant money on the table yet, another vote is coming before Council.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart has already sent a message over his personal website to his supporters asking for letters to Council in support of the Subway SkyTrain Extension.

Many of us are very supportive of good transit for those travelling to UBC. After all, some of us study or work there. We also support having a good network of transit throughout the City to encourage more transit use overall.

Last time, few people knew of the pivotal vote.

This time, we all need to write to Council asap to ask them to DELAY a vote on the Subway Extension for the near term. It is premature to be deciding station locations, alignment (above or below ground), preferred technology, and route before there has been any neighbourhood input and with so many unknowns. For example, the latest proposal is to have a station on the Jericho Lands but not on West Tenth to support that shopping area. The staff report also suggests that Jericho Park could then become a regional ‘destination’ , putting even more pressure beyond the extra use that it will have due to development of the Jericho Lands.

Many things have changed since the previous vote three years ago. This list is long and includes:

  • Covid has fundamentally reduced demand along Broadway for the Subway due to smaller numbers of students travelling to UBC and reduced commuting to work in central areas. We need to determine impacts on transit ridership overall and for the longer term. Kevin Quinn, CEO of Translink has said “I don’t want to leave the impression that we are going to return to pre-pandemic ridership anytime soon… The fact is that we are heading towards the new normal given the long-term impacts of the pandemic on the economy, travel, and work behaviours” (Dec, 2021, Urbanized) And yet, the high cost of SkyTrain tunneling means ridership must be extremely high.
  • announcement by UBC of a UBC satellite campus in Surrey which will further reduce demand from students and staff
  • new plans for development that will strand over ten thousand people at Senaq’w and other developments north of First Avenue near Burrard, far away (uphill) from any Subway station. This reveals a fatal flaw in SkyTrain Subways – few stations and few routes. The option of a rapid transit line from Science World/Olympic Village past Senaq’w to Arbutus St. has already been discussed. It then would make sense to continue the lower cost transit to UBC
  • much more awareness of the negative impact of embodied emissions from construction on climate change (Subways use so much concrete and energy during construction that some engineers believe they never repay their carbon footprint) Subways sky-high costs also lead to Transit Oriented Development (concrete high rises)- also the worst form of development for climate impacts both during construction and after.They are not a Green option!

*change in City’s land use policies to promote high density ‘complete’ neighbourhoods distributed throughout the City with few if any accompanying parking requirements – requiring fast convenient transit networks to allow people to leave their cars behind. The lower cost of light surface rail means that funding for a full network of transit routes would be possible with the same amount of money.

Is this the best use of over 4 billion dollars when the City and the Province face many issues such as the need for affordable housing and climate change mitigation?

In a surprise change, the report calls for a station on the Jericho Lands at Sasamat Street and a route change for the Subway that swings north of West Tenth Avenue. There are no immediate plans for a station in or near the West Tenth Point Grey village.

The proposed Broadway Plan for east of Arbutus shows no recognition of the context for development from one neighbourhood to another. The proposed redevelopment of the affordable rental buildings in eastern Kitsilano, the 40 storey high rises around Arbutus St station, the proposal for 18 storey apartment buildings on all sides of Tennyson School yard; the proposed redevelopment into six to eighteen storey apartments of RT areas of the City with extremely high heritage values that are some of the few areas of the City to provide missing middle ground-oriented family housing (both strata and rental), just what many families are looking for. Council has yet to vote on this plan.

While on-line surveys show support for a SkyTrain Subway technology in Vancouver, these surveys can be easily biased by self selected responses and the wording of questions. Respondents have yet to be offered alternatives or given costs. We appreciate that people want good transit to UBC.

Letters are needed to Council asking them

  • to postpone any vote in favour of the SkyTrain Extension until longer term trends are clear and other alternatives are considered based on recent changes
  • to receive next week’s Staff Report for information only.


Neighbourhoods for Sustainable Vancouver (NSV)

There is no funding or business case or regional priority for a subway to UBC.

The request for City Council endorsement at this premature stage is to allow land use planning for tower development around the proposed station areas.

This is about tower development not transportation.

The City’s Broadway Plan proposes towers throughout without any meaningful neighbourhood planning.

Tower development will likely be extended throughout Kitsilano and West Point Grey, especially on the Jericho Lands, if the subway to UBC is approved.

The Broadway Plan covers 16th Ave. to 1st Ave., Arbutus St. (Vine) to Clark Dr., covering parts of Kitsilano, South Granville, Fairview, and Mt. Pleasant. If the subway is extended to UBC, expect this kind of plan to also be extended to cover the rest of Kitsilano and all of West Point Grey.

 Issues to Consider:

A proposed station at Jericho Lands instead of WPG Village 10th Ave. & Sasamat St.:

  • Bypassing WPG Village would further undermine the existing struggling neighbourhood centre
  • A station at Jericho Lands would mean even more towers than currently proposed in order to raise CACs to pay for a station 

There is no business case for a subway extension to UBC:

  • It is not a regional priority and there is no funding
  • The kind of tower development that goes with subways is not supported in Kits and WPG
  • Data-based population growth projects do not require towers, only incremental 1% per year
    Promotes land speculation and inflated land values

Ridership needs to be re-evaluated:

  • Post-COVID impacts of work and school from home part-time has not been considered
  • UBC is building a new satellite campus in Surrey, possibly more throughout the region in the future
  • Most UBC ridership is on subsidized U-passes that have limited funding for operations
  • Lack of funding would mean cuts to the broader transit system, as is typical in all subways, but more so for UBC
    With density increases approved throughout the city grid, transit demand will be going up citywide

The Broadway Plan proposal includes major towers, which likely would also be extended to UBC:

  • Allowing 6 to 18 storey towers in low density RT/RS zones
  • Undermines character and heritage building retention incentives
  • Allowing up to 20 storeys in existing walk-up 3-4 storey apartment zones
  • Allowing up to 40 storeys near stations and broadly around the area

General lack of planning principles in the Broadway Plan and expect the same for a UBC extension:

  • No meaningful neighbourhood-based planning process
  • No proper planning for impacts of scale, parking, & infrastructure
  • Impacts the major view cones, shadowing parks
  • Development fees only cover a small amount of actual costs of infrastructure and amenities, so property taxes cover the rest and will increase
  • Will displace existing more affordable rentals
  • No meaningful affordability measures as claimed
  • The City already has more development approved than required to meet future growth, so there is time to plan properly in each neighbourhood
  • The proposal provides much more development than what can be justified to meet future growth

Lack of meaningful public consultation:

  • There has been no meaningful public consultation on a subway extension to UBC
  • The TransLink process has been flawed and biased, without people being properly informed on the issue or most people who are affected by this even aware of it

It is entirely premature to be considering station locations for development planning purposes prior to a business case being made, proper evaluation of actual ridership completed, or any meaningful public consultation.

LINKS to related coverage

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