But an agreement between City of Vancouver and TransLink has come to light entitled Supportive Policies Agreement – Millennium Line Broadway Extension Project, dated June 20, 2018. If it is still in place, the City of Vancouver is still committed to keep the Mount Pleasant Community Plan in place.
3.1 City Plans and Initiatives Approved or Underway
The City has previously completed or initiated a significant amount of work in preparation for the Project and toward the achievement of the objectives and principles described in Article 2. For the continuation of that work, the City hereby commits to maintain in place and/or follow through with the implementation of the following:
(a) the approved Housing Vancouver Strategy (2017) to significantly increase housing supply across the City and to improve housing affordability over the next 10 years by shifting the supply towards the ‘right supply’ including rental, social, and supportive housing, while also providing a greater diversity of forms in the City’s ground-oriented housing stock;
(b) various approved planning programs over the past decade that have sought to intensify land uses supportive of rapid transit including the False Creek Flats (2017), Mount Pleasant Industrial Changes (2016-2017), Mount Pleasant Community Plan (2010), and the Metro Core Jobs and Economy Land Use Plan (2007);
May 18, 2022—My remarks to City Council at the meeting to consider the Broadway Plan.
The Broadway Plan’s contemplated towers, looking east from its western border near Arbutus—ours is the only accurate model available—3D model images by Stephen Bohus, BLA
As we have rushed up to this meeting, mere days after the final Broadway Plan was finally shared by city staff, all 493 pages of it, I found myself asking, “Why are we getting so much information, so late? What’s the rush?”
I know that the easy answer to “What’s the rush?” is that we have a housing affordability crisis. We get that. What we don’t get is “Why has it taken so long to get information that is voluminous, yet disingenuous?”
Why is it that literally for years, ordinary citizens like me have had to collect the information that underlines our increasing concerns about this Plan? Why have we had to model the Broadway Plan instead of city staff? Perhaps because we have discovered that the Broadway Plan’s proposed density can be achieved without much high-rise at all and feel it important to illustrate what the high-rise option might really look like. Why is it that city staff have declined to provide you, Council, with the bigger picture development “pipeline” that should be there to explain the Plan?
Unable to get useful information from city staff, we have done the heavy lifting, the analysis that city staff have declined to do, or if they have done it, to share it.
Members of the Fairview/ South Granville Action Committee met recently via zoom with several but not all members of Council. This committee includes amongst its members some very experienced, credentialed environmental scientists and engineers, who assembled literally dozens of peer-reviewed studies conclusively demonstrating the climate and sustainability disaster that is concrete high-rise. Some of these studies were even prepared by city staff, yet have not been re-tabled as part of the Broadway Plan’s process, possibly because they run counter to the “high-rise for all” focus of the Plan.
More recently, staff tabled a Housing Progress Report with you, purporting to show the good work you and they were doing, especially for renters. But there is no objective data available behind the bar charts in that report. Again, private citizens have stepped up.
Frustrated by staff’s unwillingness to provide data on the true state of housing, especially where approved by spot rezonings, of which more than 380 have been initiated during this Council’s term, we dug deeper. And “dug” is the operant word.
First we went to more than 380 individual Shape Your City websites, one for each spot rezoning, in order to find the most basic data: what was proposed, how many of what type of housing; and what was the status of each rezoning. There is no centralized assembly of that basic data that is accessible to and usable by citizens in their neighbourhoods. We had to go separately to a completely different building permit database in order to find out which projects have moved forward and which are languishing as derelict homes or vacant sites—and there are many.
Perhaps some of our housing affordability crisis might be explained by what we found:
Of the more than 380 spot rezonings commenced during this Council’s term, only half have been approved so far—the balance are grinding their way through city staff—they have not reached the public hearing stage that civic administrations advise are delaying housing delivery;
Of the half that have been approved, only half of those have actually applied for building permission. The average time from an approved spot rezoning to getting its first phased permit, usually to dig a hole in the ground, is two years. Perhaps an accelerated approval process at city hall might make that easier?
Many of the half of spot rezonings that have not received initial building permits have nonetheless received demolition permits to clear away the existing housing that will someday be replaced—meanwhile many tenants have been evicted, much housing has been destroyed, many sites have become vacant, derelict lots. Some have been flipped, resold at a premium based on the promise of higher density under the Broadway Plan, with the premium costs to be passed on to the eventual occupants as higher sale prices or rents.
Of the half of the spot rezonings initiated during this council’s term that have received building permission, only five have been completed, representing 684 homes, of which 17% are rental, 83% are strata. Other completed projects were started by previous Councils.
This is trickle-down economics at its worst and it leads to the range of anguished, polarized debate that you will hear over the next while.
Our research on more than 380 spot rezoning city websites shows that there are more than 60,000 spot rezoned homes that have been approved but not completed, more than half of which are rental—that’s twice the staff’s projection for the entire buildout of the Broadway Plan. There are another more than 60,000 homes contemplated but not yet applied for, including the Broadway Plan, the Jericho Lands, Skeena Terrace and many others. So if the Plan is approved, how long will it be before any of this has any impact on the immediate affordability crisis—local history suggests a very long time, several years, in fact, since the Broadway Plan assumes no changes to the business as usual glacial pace of staff review.
As we have published this data in various posts and most recently, our 3D model of what the Broadway Pan contemplates, city staff have occasionally challenged our data in social media. Each time we become aware of such a challenge or question, we have responded, “Let’s sit down and compare your data to ours.” Each time when we reach that moment and make that suggestion, we are greeted with silence. That’s why our 3D model is used by the media—there is no other, even when they ask the city for it.
Council, you may have unanimous staff support for this Broadway Plan, but you most assuredlydo not have anything close to citizen support. Please send this flawed Plan back to staff with suitable instructions, so that when the Broadway Plan comes back, it comes back with today’s opponents as tomorrow’s supporters, as used to be the case in this city.
Call to Action
The speakers list for the Broadway Plan now exceeds 200, is in fact closed to further speakers. Council will resume hearing speakers on May 25 from 3pm. To listen to those presentations, click here.
May 15, 2022—This morning during a CBC radio interview, the Mayor referred to the work of myself and Stephen Bohus, BLA, as “false diagrams.”I have a few thoughts about false narratives.
This is one of the “false diagrams” the Mayor refers to—but the city has none other so media use ours
When the Broadway Plan’s (the Plan) last-but-one draft was issued in March, it was the first substantive document capable of professional review. Until then, the reality of what the Plan meant was couched in survey language—the kind of online, directed “research” whose purpose was to support the Plan’s top down messaging that pretends to be a plan for all Vancouverites.
The March “draft” consisted of 54 “boards” that purported to explain the Plan. I was surprised that a plan of this complexity could be presented in such a concise fashion, dived in anyway. It quickly became apparent that the Plan could actually have been explained in far fewer boards but would benefit from many more diagrams—or perhaps just a single 3D model. Stephen Bohus had previously submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for access to the city’s 3D model base, but this had been denied, so we determined we would have to build our own model.
We developed a two-part approach to understanding the Plan. I would use Google Earth to identify how many towers of what height the plan would permit, and approximately where. That was the easier job, involving (the hard part) reading all the 50+ new zoning areas (compared to 24 existing zoning schedules, all now to be abandoned) and identifying how many towers of what height could go in each zoning area. This allowed me to electronically paste rectangles measuring 24-meters square onto those locations where the Plan indicated a tower might go. Each square had a number in its centre, representing the number of storeys the Plan advised might go there. I told you it was simple!
Airphoto (draped over 3D terrain) view of the Kitsilano portion of the Plan, showing contemplated tower locations and heights in storeys
CityHallWatch has obtained this opinion piece relating to the Council meeting May 18 where City Council is expected to make a decision on the proposed Broadway Plan. The authors are Jack Habart, BA, MBA (retired after 30 years of experience with energy efficiency programs) and Paul Morris, PhD (former Research Leader for Durability and Sustainability for FP Innovations)
The Need to Revisit the Proposed Broadway Plan
The current Broadway Plan runs contrary to the science around housing supply and demand, transit planning, affordability, environmental impact and livability. The plan would put 25% of the City’s projected growth into less than 7% of its area in the communities of Kitsilano, Fairview and Mount Pleasant.
The Plan is proposing an increased density of 50,000 people in a 500 block area over the next 30 years. The City envisions high-rises the length of Broadway, with towers up to 40 storeys around subway stations and up to 30 storeys between stations. In surrounding residential areas there would be gradual erosion of existing older 3 to 4 storey wood-frame affordable housing apartments to be replaced with 15 – 20 storey towers. The result will be the displacement of renters from their current affordable homes and that will have a devastating impact.
There has been some public dialogue about this plan but the City has not been transparent with many of the relevant issues that affect both residents and neighbourhoods.
For starters, how much housing do we really need? Over the past 20 years, Vancouver’s population has grown at a rate of 1%, or about 7,000 per year. Based on the average household size of 2.2 people, this means about 100,000 new homes over 30 years. Unfortunately, the City does not publish how many developments have already been proposed. However, local architect Brian Palmquists’ review of data on various City websites shows almost 130,000 units in the pipeline, without any additional housing proposed in the Broadway Plan.
May 14, 2022—I almost missed the alert in CityHallWatch (CHW). I’ve been working to a professional deadline, barely had time to do more than lightly monitor the slow moving disaster that is the Broadway Plan and its potential approval at Vancouver City Council next Wednesday [May 18]. Thank you, CHW, for bringing to my attention city staff’s intention to wipe out 45 years of Vancouver planning history. I hope this is not a requiem for the best of our city—my five minutes of remarks to Council may change before the event on Wednesday [May 18].
These are the eight neighbourhood guidelines and policies that the Broadway Plan repeals—45 years of history declared redundant
In one sense, it was inevitable that the ascendancy of the Broadway Plan would require some tidy up. I understand that, but am gob smacked by what that tidy up really means— the desecration, the disrespect, the destruction of 45 years of Vancouver’s planning history—eight separate major plans and policy documents covering Kitsilano, Central Broadway, the Arbutus neighbourhood, Burrard slopes and Mount Pleasant. We should pause to think if we are truly ready for that. Staff say yes, let’s repeal the lot. I ask for clemency.
Full disclosure—I had little to do with the creation of the eight key planning documents that are now set to be erased from our history. My excuses are the usual—too busy raising a family, establishing an architecture and planning career. My community involvement was pretty much limited to coaching my daughter and son in baseball and soccer—community involvement lite.
But I and thousands of other citizens could do community involvement lite because we knew there were more connected, more committed and compassionate folks who were doing the heavy lifting for us—they are the folks who attended thousands of meetings and work sessions, were thoughtful about their neighbourhoods and the wider city context, made the compromises that resulted in the eight or more significant plans, policy plans and guidelines that benefited all of us for decades yet will be cast aside for the Broadway Plan.
The focus of the Broadway Plan on towers and demovicting low income residents in low rise apartments in Mount Pleasant, Fairview and East Kitsilano, will have a massive impact on the liveability, sustainability and affordability of these neighbourhoods in the Broadway Corridor. Furthermore, there are no new schools, community centres and very little new park space in the plan. This is a VERY important issue to turn your attention to. The Broadway Plan envisions turning the Broadway Corridor into a 2nd downtown.
(Below is an opinion piece submitted to CityHallWatch.)
The Future of Our Vancouver. Let’s Use Change to Nurture Neighbourhoods by John Geddes
I care deeply about our city. I believe we can do better than the current Vancouver Plan, the Broadway Plan, and the Jericho Development Proposal by predicating the evolution of our city with a focus on people and their connections to one another.
Let’s build people-centred housing rather than replicating Metrotown. The distinctive character of our neighbourhoods is an asset too valuable to throw away.
I agree with Mr. Toderian that we must do things differently. I also agree that a good plan must “skate to where the puck is going to be“ instead (in his words) of being excessively fixated on the interests, controversies and fears of today.
But it is clear that he and I have very different view of “where the puck is going to be”.
In his world and world of planners like himself, especially those in Vancouver, he believes that this must be determined by: – the climate crisis, – the housing/affordability crisis, – the infrastructure and service cost crisis (aka the urban financial crisis), – the social equity/racism/classism crisis, – and the public health crisis. . . . all nice buzz-words*.
(* “Buzz-words – often an item of jargon, that is fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context”. I am not saying that these issues are not important; rather that they are being used with loaded assumptions in the context planning here in Vancouver.)
In my world, we need to be focused on building neighbourhoods. The weakening of community is tearing at our social fabric, and on many fronts, threatens to get worse. Our planning should be moving toward supporting neighbourhoods and building community. Toderian can claim expertise in urban planning but I don’t believe I need a degree in planning to see that Metrotown-like forests of towers are not the way to nurture neighbourhoods. Let’s compare the Arbutus Walk neighbourhood with Coal Harbour. Which has the greater feeling of community?
This caused me to do a “back of the napkin” urban design comparison between high-rise and low-mid-rise options for the Broadway Plan. The results may surprise.
The possible build out of the Broadway Plan contemplated by its own words. What happens if we consider only low and mid-rise?—image by Stephen Bohus, BLA
“Dad, your speech at City Hall caused some pretty strong reaction!” offered my son, who was there among the 350 or so who gathered in opposition to the Broadway Plan (the Plan). Six of us spoke about our different visions and experiences in reaction to the Plan. He continued, “I see on Twitter and Facebook you’ve been pretty much demonized by those who favour a high-rise solution to our future. What have you got in response?”
I smiled. “I’ve just been working on an alternative. But before the big reveal, let’s remember, our horrific model is just what the BP says: more than 300 towers across 485 blocks of the city, room for 140,000 new residents, mostly living in high-rises, not the 50,000 folks the planners see in their “vision.” We weren’t exaggerating in our model—we simply said here’s what you get if you read your plan and build it.” He nodded his understanding of my basic concern, that the Plan plays fast and loose with a huge swath of the city, ignoring neighbourhoods, destroying views, neglecting the amenities that make up a community.
“The feedback around high-rise was so venomous by its supporters that I asked myself the question, what can we do if we just go lower? The results surprised even me,” I continued with a smile. He gave me his keep going look, so I did.
Above: Recent scene of construction site at 1477 West Broadway. It was originally rezoned for five stories. Construction began, albeit inexplicably with a foundation for a much taller building. Discarded architect drawings were for a tall tower were discovered in a dumpster. Lo and behold, on April 26, 2022 Council approved 39 storeys.
This is all very timely, as the overarching Broadway Plan for dramatic changes to nearly 500 city blocks from Vine to Clark and 1st to 16th Avenues and affordable housing for tens of thousands of current renters, goes to Vancouver City Council on May 18, 2022.
Concerned citizens sent the following e-mail to Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Council on May 9. It details what appears to be a track record of unacceptable and inappropriate behavior by Vancouver’s planning department. It even seems to have elements of fraudulence on the City side, at least when it comes to public engagement, and maybe even in material presented to elected officials over the years. This particular case traces back ten years and up to today, relating to a rezoning just approved for a 39-storey tower, on April 26, 2022. CityHallWatch obtained a copy of written correspondence to Council and provide it here for our readers. As of May 15, Mayor Stewart had not responded or even acknowledged receipt of the correspondence (only one Councillor — Clr Colleen Hardwick did).
Here are some key observations regarding revelations from the Freedom of Information inquiry results:
In PCI’s first application in 2012, the City’s planning department staff told the developer to seek 300 feet height at this site, which was far above the zoned height at the time, and far more than PCI initially sought.
Staff knew that PCI wanted 400 feet in at least Dec 2018…and probably earlier, based on wording used in the rezoning enquiry, and MIRHPP applications reviewed by citizen researchers.
Based on the graphics and renderings, the developer appeared to have insight concerning the height of other buildings on the same block. Between this and staff’s advice to go to 300 feet in 2012, it appears that staff had made decisions on height before any public engagement had even begun.
For CityHallWatch, the material discovered by this inquiry is serious. It appears that staff in the planning department concealed crucial information from our elected officials and the public in this specific case of 1477 West Broadway, and it appears they were in collusion with a private firm over a long period of time. Is such behaviour systemic and entrenched in the department? We sincerely hope not. Was this an isolated case? We hope so (despite evidence from other cases to the contrary). We hope that, led by Mayor Stewart, City Council will investigate the behavior of the planning department in this case, and beyond, and if it is found to be systemic, to take actions to rectify the situation. Ultimately, staff are accountable to our elected officials, and our elected officials are accountable to the public. We wonder not only about the ethics of the behaviour in the planning department, but also about the legality.
EMAIL TO COUNCIL Sent: Monday, May 9, 2022 1:38 PM To: Mayor Kennedy Stewart, and Councillors Rebecca Bligh, Christine Boyle, Adriane Carr, Melissa De Genova, Lisa Dominato, Pete Fry, Colleen Hardwick, Sarah Kirby-Yung, Jean Swanson, Michael Wiebe
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.