Broadway Plan finally approved, after marathon Vancouver City Council process

Jun 23 2022, 3:20 am

After six public meetings — which spanned several weeks, and heard from hundreds of public speakers — and then going through dozens of amendments, Vancouver City Council has approved the final form of the Broadway Plan.

The marathon and heated process finally ended Wednesday evening, with city council separately voting on individual components of the plan as amended, before voting on the entire plan as amended.

The Broadway Plan as a whole was approved in a 7-4 vote, with Green Party councillor Michael Wiebe, TEAM councillor Colleen Hardwick, COPE councillor Jean Swanson, and NPA councillor Melissa De Genova in opposition.

Many of the considerations, policies, and strategies guiding the Broadway Plan as approved now look considerably different than what city staff provided to city council in their draft final plan this past spring.

The plan is still grounded on the basis of adding significantly more housing — especially affordable housing — and employment spaces surrounding the future SkyTrain Millennium Line Broadway Extension reaching Arbutus, enough to accommodate 50,000 additional residents and 40,000 jobs over three decades. But the framework of getting there — creating a second city centre, effectively expanding downtown Vancouver southwards — has been greatly altered due to city council’s desire to achieve a greater balance with mitigating the impact on existing residents and improving livability. It also puts the viability of achieving the plan’s stated aims in question, given the hodge-podge nature of the amendments.

City councillors and the mayor proposed a total of at least 42 amendments to the Broadway Plan, and in the end just under 30 amendments were approved, with some amendments with opposing directions neutralizing each, and other amendments being withdrawn by their proponents. These amendments were debated and voted on over multiple meeting dates after hearing from public speakers.

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Aerial of the existing condition of the central planning area of the Broadway Plan south of the downtown Vancouver peninsula. (Google Earth)

At times, the wide range of stated aims and goals of city council were contradictory, if not compliant, with others — pushing and pulling on other policies.

Most of city council agreed on the need for more housing, especially the plan’s targeted strategy of encouraging more market rental housing, below-market rental housing, and social housing.

But they also wanted to accomplish the delivery of additional housing without severely impacting the existing residents of affordable rental housing, given that a significant portion of Vancouver’s affordable rental housing supply is located within the Broadway Plan area, where there are large clusters of older low- and mid-rise apartment properties. There was also an expressed desire by some councillors to achieve more affordability in the generated rental housing.

At the same time, some city councillors also took issue with urban design factors such as city staff’s outlined permissible building heights and massing, and tower placements. But reducing the height and massing — effectively reducing the total floor area — also reduces the financial viability of the projects for non-profit and for-profit developers.

City council as a whole repeatedly expressed a strong desire for more public parks, community centres, recreation spaces, and other amenities — but they did not identify a clear path forward on how to pay for them, given that the baseline Broadway Plan public amenities and benefits already proposed by city staff were largely dependent on community amenity contributions (CACs) by developers.

Some condominiums and other market-driven developments are needed to generate the $1 billion in public amenities, benefits, and utilities over the first 10 years of the Broadway Plan, nevermind city council’s wish list add-ons.

Theresa O’Donnell, the chief urban planner, told city council that if they were not to include any condominiums to pursue more affordable housing, all of the CACs would disappear.

broadway plan vancouver final 2022

Example of a SkyTrain station area in the Broadway Plan area with new higher density, transit-oriented development. (City of Vancouver)

Some of the potentially most consequential amendments were deliberated and approved during today’s final public meeting on the plan.

City council narrowly approved an amendment by COPE councillor Jean Swanson that requires replacement below-market rental homes for existing tenants exercising their right-of-first-refusal not be counted towards the plan’s below-market rental housing requirements. A similar policy already exists in the City of Burnaby, but this was accomplished with the support of the developers by providing them a framework that adds extra density to their projects to offset the costs of providing more affordable housing. This was not suggested by Vancouver City Council.

City council green lighted an amendment by Green Party councillor Pete Fry on requesting city staff to explore a “Tower in the Park” model of building design similar to the common typology found in the West End. This involves removing the multi-storey podium base of the tower, and instead allocating the private property footprint surrounding the tower for green and open spaces.

“It certainly introduces a level of uncertainty into the plan,” said O’Donnell, when asked to comment on how removing podiums and the associated floor space would impact housing and CAC objectives, emphasizing that “it would put pressure on the pro forma of developments.”

“We would go forward with the plan as is, and staff would study, we would do some financial testing, and we would undoubtedly show additional heights would need to be required to recover those units. We would put those amendments forward to council, and it would be a significant revision to the plan.”

1477 west broadway vancouver south granville station tower pci developments

Artistic rendering of the city-approved tower above the future South Granville Station at 1477 West Broadway, Vancouver. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership/PCI Developments)

Another amendment put forward by Fry was later amended by ABC councillor Rebecca Bligh. Fry wanted to regulate a phased implementation of the Broadway Plan, starting with the “centre” areas around the future subway stations and industrial/employment areas, as well as social housing projects, over the first five years. Fry said a similar phased implementation strategy was put in place for the Cambie Corridor Plan.

“I’m nervous around what is going to happen to a lot of the existing rental,” said Fry. “We’ve been paying attention to all the land assembly happening, we’re seeing all of the older apartments being prepared to be sold. We know that pressure is coming, and it makes me nervous, but I can live with this amendment.”

Green Party councillor Adrianne Carr, who worked with Fry on his amendment, said the intent is to prevent the “wholesale development in the area” and the displacement of existing affordable housing.

“My intention working with councillor Fry on this is really to ensure we don’t go down the path of rampant development, which will escalate land values with the proposals by developers to buy out and develop the currently affordable residential buildings in the plan area,” said Carr.

Bligh’s amendment overrided Fry’s original amendment, instead directing city staff to report back on a “pace of change” approach for redevelopments in the Broadway Plan area, including further study on an appropriate number of applications for intake.

The version of the amendment by Bligh was supported by city staff, as they expect the greatest interest in development will organically be near the future subway stations.

“We don’t recommend phasing,” said Matt Shillito, the acting director of the special projects office of planning and sustainability for the city.

“We believe there will be a natural focus in the centres anyway by virtue of the land use and built form directions in the plan, and we believe development in the residential areas will be slower, primarily due to the financial viability of those projects over the short term. We believe it is important to enable new housing, including new rental housing and the renewal of the aging rental stock, in the residential areas.”

vancouver broadway plan november 2021

Broadway Plan, November 2021. (City of Vancouver)

An amendment proposed by Wiebe was also successfully amended by ABC councillor Lisa Dominato. Old community plans that overlap with the Broadway Plan area — the 1970s Kitsilano and Fairview Slopes plans, 1990s Central Broadway and Arbutus Neighbourhood Policy Plans, 2007 Burrard Slopes Plan, and 2010 Mount Pleasant Community Plan — have now been repealed. City staff will explore ways of incorporating components of these old plans into the Broadway Plan.

Here are a few other notable amendments approved by city council made throughout the course of the multi-day deliberations:

  • Paid relocation to a temporary rental for existing renters displaced by developments, with a top-up keeping interim rents the same
  • The right-of-first-refusal to return to the new development, with rent at 20% below CMHC’s city-wide average rents or existing rent, whichever is lower
  • Considering how CACs can be further generated to help pay for more public amenities and benefits
  • Exploring ways to add more public parks and green spaces
  • Asking the provincial government to consider more investments in the area’s school capacity
  • Limiting the number of towers to three per city block in the “centre” areas near to the future subway stations
  • Allowing developments to occur on narrower street frontages to reduce the need for more land assembly, down to 99 ft instead of 150 ft
  • Adding bike lanes on Broadway by reducing road space for vehicles below the four-lane arterial standard outlined by city staff

“A heartfelt thanks to city staff for all the countless hours, and helping with a very unique council that likes to input on everything and make it a very successful consideration of councillors have brought forward from the community,” said Forward Together mayor Kennedy Stewart in his closing remarks.

“I think this is an amazing plan as it stands. This is what is expected by senior levels of governments when they make large transit investments — that they make sure during an acute housing shortage that we match their investments with plans that will bring density of a mixed type, not luxury condos all along the line but really building complete communities that people will really want to live in and can live in. I think this plan accomplishes all of that… it’s going to be one of the most exciting neighbourhoods in the country.”

Green Party city councillor Fry: “It’s a big game changer for our city… [but] public opinion has been polarized and even weaponized, and we’ve had to bear a lot of angst with this plan. Not having a plan is not an option for us, we have a subway and it’s a done deal that it’s going to Arbutus already. We need to anticipate what kind of impacts it’s going to have on the existing community and what kind of impacts it is going to have on existing renters along the corridor. What I think we’ve landed on with all of the amendments is some really strong regulations protecting renters.”

ABC councillor Rebecca Bligh: “It is our job to listen to feedback from the public, and I believe we’ve actually done that in a very thoughtful way. Presenting this as binary and a ‘yes or no’ vote is not what this is, it was never going to be the outcome of this plan, but rather about shaping feedback and striking that balance… this is not something council rammed through despite public opinion. Of course there will be some folks who won’t want change, and I appreciate that, but this is where leaders have to step in.”

ABC councillor Lisa Dominato: “We do need to plan for growth, we do need to plan for change. This plan delivers a range of housing… and it also supports employment and job space, and local jobs and small businesses, which I think are critically important. We can’t simply be a city of housing, we need to be a city that has jobs for people. The reality is many people come to Vancouver because of the job opportunities the city presents, and they want to live close to where they work.”

TEAM councillor Colleen Hardwick: “The Broadway Plan was decidedly not created by everybody. A Broadway Plan where hundreds of public speakers raised their concerns night after night was clearly not created by everybody. A Broadway Plan where thousands of renters fear losing their rent-controlled homes throughout the Broadway Corridor to demovictions is not providing something for everybody… The Broadway Plan has already escalated property prices. There are apartments listed for sale and advertisements from commercial agents who specialize in monetizing the Broadway Plan for owners. Land inflation will be the inevitable outcome with higher rents and home prices… This plan is definitely not progress.”

COPE councillor Jean Swanson: “I don’t think vulnerable people are centred on this plan. I don’t think we can centre vulnerable people if we depend on the private sector. We need something comprehensive that will give us the affordability that we need, but this is not it… I think the amendments have improved the plan, but I’m still really worried about it. I worry because small businesses will be gentrified, and we need measures to protect them before we implement the plan, not way down the line. I worry because there’s nothing for the poorest one-third of renters. They won’t be able to afford the 20% below-market units.”

ABC councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung: “From my perspective, not doing anything at the end of a four-year term and a mandate is not a solution. This is a 30-year plan to guide growth, essentially over a generation… to me, this is a recognition that changes aren’t happening overnight, but we’re setting a framework for what kind of city we want to build. That framework has the opportunity for continued refinement and adaptation over time. We do need a plan, the subway is here, and it is being built, but without a plan we’re not guiding the change. The train has left the station.”

broadway plan draft uses heights

Draft land uses and heights of the Broadway Plan, previous March 2022 version. (City of Vancouver)

vancouver broadway plan greenways bike lanes

Existing and future greenway routes within the Broadway Plan. (City of Vancouver)

vancouver broadway plan greenways bike lanes

Existing and future greenway routes and purpose-built bike routes within the Broadway Plan. (City of Vancouver)

broadway plan vancouver final 2022

Areas where higher buildings will be considered in the Broadway Plan area for intrusion into View Cone 3 emanating from Queen Elizabeth Park. (City of Vancouver)

The planning process for the Broadway Plan was initiated in Spring 2018 by the previous Vancouver City Council led by Vision Vancouver.

In exchange for the $2.8-billion subway investment by the federal and provincial governments, the City of Vancouver is required to densify Central Broadway with added housing and employment spaces. The Broadway Plan planning process was triggered by the subway project’s Supportive Policies Agreement signed between the City of Vancouver and TransLink in 2018.

Since the middle of 2018, a temporary moratorium on most types of rezonings has been in effect within the Broadway Plan area to prevent speculation during the planning process. Now that the plan has been finalized, the moratorium will come to an end, which continued one year longer than previously anticipated due to the pandemic’s earlier impacts.

The tallest buildings of the Broadway Plan will be closest to the future subway stations, with the South Granville Station area (which is not impacted by the Queen Elizabeth Park view cone) pegged for the absolute tallest — up to 40 storeys. Offices, hotels, and a mix of uses with residential — complete with ground-level retail/restaurant frontage — will be encouraged. In the centre or shoulder areas, towers between 20 and 30 storeys will be permitted.

In the existing apartment areas, which accounts for much of the Broadway Plan area, tower heights of between 12 to 20 storeys will be generally allowed, but with the limit of two towers per city block.

Although these are relatively significant changes compared to what exists today, even prior to city council’s amendments, city staff have maintained that the pace of redevelopments will be incremental, spread over decades.

The Broadway Plan spans a six square kilometre area roughly framed by 1st Avenue to the north, Clark Drive to the east, 16th Avenue to the south, and Vine Street to the west, covering a portion or most of the districts and neighbourhoods of Kitsilano, Fairview, and Mount Pleasant.

Similar to other area plans, the Broadway Plan identifies urban design, housing, job growth, and land use opportunities that align with broader municipal and regional needs and interests, along with new and improved public spaces, community amenities, transportation infrastructure, and supporting utilities.

But the Broadway Plan was a far more controversial process than the Cambie Corridor Plan, Grandview-Woodland Plan, West End Plan, and Downtown Eastside Plan.

Throughout the planning process, the Cambie Corridor Plan’s pitfalls were frequently reiterated, specifically its focus on generating condominiums, and the lack of rental housing and social housing inclusion to the same degree as what is outlined in the Broadway Plan.

While the Cambie Corridor Plan to date has overwhelmingly generated strata housing as its predominant housing tenure type, the city is aiming to have rental housing account for more than half of the new housing supply in the Broadway Plan: 46% market rental homes, 7% below-market rental homes, 12% social housing, and 34% market condominiums/strata. The target is to generate a combined total of 30,000 additional homes for all income levels across the range of housing tenure types.

The planning process for the Cambie Corridor Plan was also conducted without a rezoning moratorium, and caused rampant speculation activity to occur over the years-long consultation and planning work. And unlike the Broadway Plan, the process to create the Cambie Corridor Plan began only after its SkyTrain spine, the Canada Line, opened.

The six-km-long, six-station extension of SkyTrain’s Millennium Line Broadway Extension to Arbutus is scheduled to open in late 2025.

The next area plan to be created by the city will be the Rupert and Renfrew Station Area Plan, which saw its planning process approach approved by city council this past spring. A draft final plan for densifying several square kilometres surrounding SkyTrain’s Rupert and Renfrew stations in East Vancouver is expected to be considered by the next city council in Summer 2023, after public consultation.

It is unclear whether the current city council will have enough time before the end of their term to deliberate and decide on the final draft of the Vancouver Plan before the October 2022 election. The Vancouver Plan is a high-level, city-wide plan that does not offer the same degree of policy prescriptions and stipulations as an area plan, like the Broadway Plan. But it sets the foundation for future additional planning processes to create new area plans in areas of the city that do not already have an area plan or are governed by an old area plan.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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