Hundreds rallied on May 7 to speak out against Broadway Plan and demand more respect from City Hall for people, local businesses and neighbourhoods

Above: About 350 people showed up for the rally at City Hall on Saturday, May 7, 2022, to express many concerns and hear from others.

(Update – here is a link to a video compilation of the event plus related links by documentary maker Elvira Lount – https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2022/05/12/video-stop-broadway-plan-rally-elvira-lount/)

By Carol Volkart

Vancouver residents and their neighbourhoods will pay the price of densification plans that will spread towers through much of the city, a lively, sign-wielding crowd that filled the north plaza of City Hall was told Saturday, May 7, 2022.

While the rally focused mainly on the Broadway Plan, which goes to City Council on May 18, the even more comprehensive Vancouver Plan will follow shortly afterwards. A proposed large scale development on the Jericho Lands was also on the minds of estimated 350 people at the rally of every age, from toddlers to seniors.

Above: 3D massing model of a buildout scenario of high-rises as described under the Broadway Plan may look east from Vine Street (foreground) in Kitsilano to Fairview then Mount Pleasant in the horizon.  S. Bohus, BLA

Above: Vancouver Plan proposes high-rises in every neighbourhood in all shades of purple. Low to mid-rise and multiplexes pretty well everywhere else that’s coloured

Key to the controversial plans is the large number of high-rises, some as tall as 40 storeys, they will introduce to various areas of the city. Along Broadway, they’ll create “concrete canyons” and lead to the demolition of affordable housing, emcee Bill Tieleman told the rally. “We are at a literal crossroads,” he said, noting that other great cities of the world like Paris don’t have 40-storey towers at every metro station. New people can be added with livable low-rise housing that has the approval of neighbourhoods and neighbourhoods, he said. He questioned how democratically the City arrived at the current version of the Broadway Plan, and urged audience members to write and speak out to City Council against it. 

Above: Bill Tieleman, Emcee of the rally and spokesperson for the Jericho Coalition. Photo: John Denniston.

Critics say high-rises are more expensive to build, environmentally detrimental, alienating to civic life, and encourage the destruction of existing affordable housing. They say population growth can be accommodated instead by widespread construction of low- and mid-rise buildings.

Above: Rally scenes

Signs displayed by the rally participants reflected the concerns about high-rises. “No towers at Jericho,” “No to Megatowers at Safeway,” “Stop Mega tower sprawl,” “No Concrete High-rises,” “Yes to Low Density, No to Towers,” and “Towers destroy Park Land,” were among the most frequent placards.

High-rises are worse for the environment and cost more to build than low- and mid-rise buildings, architect Brian Palmquist told the crowd (text of speech here). Noting that more than 300 such buildings are contemplated in the Broadway Plan, he said they “will condemn generations of Vancouverites to a non-sustainable, expensive and unaffordable future.”

Above: Brian Palmquist, architect and civic commentator. Photo: John Denniston.

The livability of the densification plans also came under fire. Palmquist noted that the Broadway Plan contemplates almost 300 new residents in each of the plan’s 485 blocks, but zero additional school space and community facility space, almost zero additional park space, and “probably zero” additional policing, ambulance and medical services.

“Those who cannot find a school place for their child, those who must take a bus to find a park space for children to play in, those unable to swim at Kits Pool or the Aquatic Centre, will understand what zero additional capacity means for up to 140,000 future neighbours,” Palmquist said.

Janice Douglas, whose house in the Cambie corridor area is surrounded by new development, told the crowd that children in the new apartment buildings mostly play on their balconies because there is no green space or easily accessible parks for them. There are no nearby coffee shops, and the grocery store is several blocks away, she said. “We don’t have a neighbourhood anymore.”

Above: Janice Douglas, who says she is being squeezed out by redevelopment of the Cambie Corridor, where she lives. Photo: John Denniston.

One of the main themes of the rally was the City’s disregard for residents and neighbourhoods and its failure to ease the problems created by redevelopment.

Palmquist said trust has been eroded between the City and its residents, citing as examples its refusal to release certain housing data to the public, its continuing reliance on Zoom workshops instead of in-person meetings, and its use of online, anonymous surveys that can easily be skewed.

“Trust is hard earned, and easily lost when abused,” he said. “There is no longer any trust between most of Vancouver citizens and their civic government, and that is just sad.”

Above: Larry Benge, former co-chair of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN). Photo: John Denniston.

Larry Benge, former co-chair of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN, http://coalitionvan.org/), said the city is made up of very different neighbourhoods, but the Broadway Plan only pays “lip service” to their unique qualities.

The plan “takes a very simplistic approach to urban design, increasing the density by slapping down the same building types in all the different neighbourhoods, with no rhyme or reason. It’s a totally homogenous approach, without concerns for what effect the buildings have on adjacent properties or the neighbourhood as a whole.”

Like Palmquist, he cited the lack of city data about how much new housing is actually needed. “Livability is not a concern. Good principles of urban design are not being considered or applied. The overriding concern is only the rush to build more and more, as if this will solve all the problems.”

It can be done differently, he emphasized. “We can sit down together, the planners, urban designers and resident citizens, and talk about and plan our neighbourhoods. This is called neighbourhood-based planning. It is not a new concept.”

Other speakers told the crowd about the City’s seeming indifference to problems caused by redevelopment, a warning to others facing the densification plans on the horizon.

Cambie resident Janice Douglas, who said she’s being “squeezed out” of the home where she’d hoped to age in place, described how unconcerned the City was when a trench had to be dug all around her home. When a sewage line was punctured and her basement flooded, she had to fight for proper compensation. When the permit parking spot outside her home was temporarily eliminated because of the construction, and her husband parked on the next block, he was still dinged for parking there. Nor was the City concerned when the next-door development meant that neighbours could see through the skylights into every room of her house.

Above: Linsea O’Shea, a resident of the Alma Blackwell affordable housing complex, which may be demolished. Photo: John Denniston.

Linsea O’Shea described how the City changed the zoning of the Alma Blackwell affordable housing development where she lives without any public consultation. The 36-year-old East Vancouver building is being demolished, ostensibly because of the amount of repairs it needs, even though in 2019 residents were told the building was financially viable and needed only cosmetic repairs. When the building is replaced, the new “affordable” rents will be almost double the price for suites half the size. “This leaves the majority of us floundering in a hostile and completely unaffordable rental market,” she said. Efforts to get help from the Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy Program, run by the City’s planning department, have been unsuccessful, as have appeals to the mayor, housing minister and premier. “I’m scared for the future. No matter how excellent I am at my two jobs, I will never catch up to this housing market to own a little abode. I’ve been okay with this, but when I am demovicted my income will not be enough to afford rent.”

Above: Sentheepan Senthivel, part owner and manager of Greens Organic and Natural Market in the 1900 block of West Broadway at Maple Street. Revenues have gone down by 40 percent due to construction of the Arbutus subway. Photo: John Denniston.

Sentheepan Senthivel told the crowd about his struggles to keep his Greens Organic and Natural Market (https://greensmarket.ca/our-story/) alive behind the construction fencing at Broadway and Maple, near where the new subway station is being built. He’s mortgaged his home to keep going and launched a petition calling for the province and City to offer tax breaks to businesses hurt by construction. He hasn’t had any offers of help or mitigation, he said. “If you’re not giving us anything, don’t ask for anything.” He said he’s just been told his alleyway will be blocked off so goods can’t be delivered, and that when the construction is all over, his rent will be hiked. “Businesses shouldn’t lose their livelihoods because of infrastructure projects.” [Update – there is a petition online. “Help Local Vancouver Businesses Survive the Broadway Subway Project” – link here – https://chng.it/FZxMMNYfZW]

Saturday’s rally was organized by neighbourhood groups throughout Vancouver. Among the groups represented were Oakridge, Langara, the West End, Upper Kitsilano, Kerrisdale, Dunbar, West Point Grey, West Kitsilano, Fairview, Mount Pleasant, Grandview-Woodland, Cambie, False Creek, Kensington Cedar Cottage, South Granville, and more, plus small-business owners along Broadway.

Above: Among the spectators was Colleen Hardwick, who is making a run for the office of mayor in the October 15 civic election, under the banner TEAM for a Livable Vancouver


TEXT OF SPEECHES
Brian Palmquist: Affordability. Capacity. Trust. (This is what’s been lost with the Broadway Plan) – https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2022/05/07/palmquist50_affordability-capacity-trust/


Linsea O’Shea (a resident of the Alma Blackwell affordable housing complex, which may be demolished)

I am a born and raised Vancouverite. I have been a renter my entire adult life in East Vancouver. I live, and have been for 19 years, at 1656 Adanac Street aka Alma Blackwell. One year ago the City of Vancouver changed the zoning of this site, without public consultation. Two weeks later, the 44 households of Alma Blackwell were invited to Zoom meet with the owner, ENFHS, and their consultants. ENFHS stands for Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society, in English, “Between Us women.” Their mandate is “safe and affordable housing for women.”

We were told, with a giggle, that we were being given “unofficial official notice” and that our 36 year old building might be demolished. Alma Blackwell was a thriving, diverse community of single mothers, seniors, LGBQ2T, First Nations and those with disabilities, to name but a few. The majority of us are non­subsidized “low-end market” renters and we were told by the Executive Director in a tenant meeting in December 2019 that our building was financially viable and just needed some cosmetic repairs. We have “nothing to worry about” she assured us.

Alma Blackwell was doing so well that the revenue funded the creation of 8 other housing sites in their portfolio. And here we are now being told the building is at the end of life and to “GTFO.” The new “affordable” rents for the LEM are almost double and the suites, half the size.

It’s noteworthy to mention our individual tenancy agreements do not have or include B.C. Housing as landlord yet for us to continue our tenancies and relocate into the new build. We have to register and adhere to BC Housing’s parameters. This is a breach of contract. And this leaves the majority of us floundering in a hostile and completely unaffordable rental market. The City of Vancouver has a Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy program… run by the City’s Planning Department.

We have brought a number of issues to the TRPP including a disabled senior citizen being told to go get a housing application – rather than being helped. The property manager going unannounced to people’s doors asking them where they want to move to, with an ENFHS portfolio like she’s taking a Doordash order. Single mothers being given 24 hours to make a decision on a sub-par unit being offered. Our courtyard not being lit. No snow removal during Vancouver’s Snowmageddon. Blocked from using our amenity room. No screens on our windows, and resulting bug infestations. Fences being removed and not replaced. Again, to name but a few. We brought this to the TRPP and their response was “IT’S NOT MY JOB.”

It seems to me that the Planning Department running the TRPP is in a conflict of interest and their real mandate is to ensure tenants are out, so they can then successfully get their developer cut of around 20%.

We have reached out to Mayor Kennedy Stewart, Housing Minister David Eby, B.C. Premier John Horgan. We received either no response or “talk to the TRPP.” I wrote to (minister) Shayne Ramsay (CEO of B.C. Housing). He cut-and-pasted Minister Eby’s response and directed me to the TRPP. The only person that took time to empathetically listen to us and our plight, was Councilor Hardwick.

Don’t even get me started on the RTB. In short, it costs money to file a complaint, arbitration takes months, with it being a crown corporation it seems more a political mechanism rather than an objective adjudicator and the onus is on tenants to prove bad faith or misconduct, all of which landlords are well aware and plot accordingly.

Why are renters in Vancouver, which make up 65% of the population, treated like vermin when we are the ones paying the mortgages and the landlords are reaping the ever growing capital gains? If not the TRPP to actually protect tenants in Vancouver, whose is it, and why has this not been added to the City council priorities?

I’m scared for the future. No matter how excellent I am at my two jobs, I will never catch up to this housing market to own a little abode. I’ve been okay with this but, when I am demovicted my income will not be enough to afford rent. Not to mention the rental discrimination of having a dog and cat. How am I supposed to take care of my future self when this rental market will be consuming the majority of my net income?

Thank you for listening, especially you Colleen Hardwick

Please find and join our Facebook page, Save Alma Blackwell.

PS. Stop building storage facilities on prime Vancouver land or mandate an increase in dwelling size so we are not packed in like undignified sardines. Thank you.


Larry Benge (former co-chair of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods, CVN)

I want you to think about the City and how it is organized as you travel around it. Say you were going west along Broadway from Commercial. You would pass the southern end of the Drive, with its diversity and eclecticism, move on to Mount Pleasant, where you can turn right on Main Street to the Downtown Eastside, or left to South Main hipsters. Onward to City Hall, and the VGH district of Fairview slopes, and further to South Granville and the bridge to downtown. On to Burrard, where slightly to the north lies Fourth Avenue and to the west, the West Broadway retail areas of Kits. These areas along Broadway are just a small part of all the various neighbourhoods which together form the building blocks of this City. All are unique, all have their own resources, textures, character, and needs. None are perfect, all can have their uniqueness enhanced in some way. Adding density to these neighbourhoods can form a part of that enhancement, along with the addition of parks, schools, community centres, public spaces, etc.

So now along comes the Broadway Plan, which covers all of these areas, and the Vancouver Plan covering the whole city. The Broadway Plan mentions some of these neighbourhoods, but only pays lip service to their unique qualities. The Broadway Plan takes a very simplistic approach to urban design, increasing the density by slapping down the same building types in all the different neighbourhoods, with no rhyme or reason. It’s a totally homogenous approach, without concerns for what effect the buildings have on adjacent properties or the neighbourhood as a whole. A 20 storey one here, a 40 storey one there. And how many of these do we really need? The data isn’t available, the Director of Planning says. Livability is not a concern. Good principles of urban design are not being considered or applied. The overriding concern is only the rush to build more and more, as if this will solve all the problems…

There are other options. We can sit down together, the planners, urban designers and resident citizens, and talk about and plan our neighbourhoods. This is called neighbourhood-based planning. It is not a new concept. It is practiced in many places around the world. Many of the candidates in the last election had platforms that included its introduction. Unfortunately, no actions to facilitate it followed.

We can plan collaboratively, with citizen voices and opinions being equally valued. What does the real data tell us about expected incoming populations that we need to accommodate? How do we equitably distribute those people around the city? What types of buildings and homes do we need for the students, singles, young couples, small and large families, disabled, seniors, all the different types of folks looking for a place to live? How do we make it affordable, livable, sustainable, resilient? To make our neighbourhoods available to all income levels? To learn how to incorporate the knowledge of our local Indigenous nations into the development of these plans. To include as well the need for parks, schools, community centres, public and cultural spaces, and other amenities necessary to a well-functioning city. These and other difficult questions must be answered if we are to continue to build a city which matches and enhances this beautiful, magical site we have been blessed to occupy in this very special place.

An election is coming. Its time for a change to a Council that supports neighbourhood-based planning. Vote.
I wish us all good fortune in building a better city, together. Thank you for your attendance today, and for your attention.

************

RELATED MEDIA AND LINKS

Jill Bennett show on CKNW – Interview with Elizabeth Murphy (6-May-2022)
Rally planned to protest Broadway/Vancouver plan – The Jill Bennett Show – Omny.fm

New plans map out a towering future for Vancouver along Broadway corridor (Kerry Gold, Globe and Mail 6-May-2022)
Link: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/vancouver/article-new-plans-map-out-a-towering-future-for-vancouver-along-broadway/

How SkyTrain Derails Affordable Housing (Jen St. Denis, The Tyee, 6-May-2022)
In Vancouver, new subway lines spawn pricey new units and benefit high-income people most. Can we even the scales?
Link: https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2022/05/06/How-SkyTrain-Derails-Affordable-Housing/

Vancouver’s Dramatic New Plan for Broadway: Five Questions
Here’s what’s in the sweeping proposal, and what council needs to know before voting on it. (Patrick Condon, 29-Nov-2021)
Link: https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2021/11/29/Vancouver-Dramatic-New-Plan-Broadway-Five-Questions/

Rally at City Hall – Saturday May 7 at 11 am! Neighbourhoods across Vancouver in protest of Broadway Plan and citywide Vancouver Plan.
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2022/05/05/rally-city-hall-megaplans-may7/

3 thoughts on “Hundreds rallied on May 7 to speak out against Broadway Plan and demand more respect from City Hall for people, local businesses and neighbourhoods

  1. Thanks for this excellent article and for including the texts of speeches! This was much more informative than the short items in the Sun and Tyee, although they were good to see. I have long felt that City Hall Watch needs a wider, larger readership. Although I tried twice in past years to get on your mailing list, I never did start to get direct mailings – i only receive them now via WKRA. PLEASE focus on how you can increase your readership! Being on the mailing lists of all neighbourhood associations would be a start, though those groups may be short of funds and volunteers to do mailings. Could you also try paid subscriptions? I’d sign up to pay though I’m now getting your articles free. I realize that yours is a totally volunteer, small group of people, but with the Broadway and Vancouver plans about to become a reality and the civic election just months away, it may be now or never to become heard.

  2. A big thank you to all those who showed up and stood up for a more livable city plan. I will attend all future events because I am very disillusioned with what I see and hear about where the current council is going. It will destroy the community orientation of our city; once that is gone, there is little reason to stay here in my opinion.

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