Vancouver City Council gearing up for consequential Broadway Plan decision

May 13 2022, 8:27 pm

After a four-year planning and public consultation process, the Broadway Plan will reach its final crossroads on Wednesday, when Vancouver City Council begins its deliberations on City staff’s proposed area plan for approval and implementation.

This will likely be a multi-day marathon affair, with potentially hundreds of public speakers given the interest and controversy the area plan has already sparked. The three-night public hearing last month for a 39-storey rental housing, office, and retail tower directly above SkyTrain’s future South Granville Station doubled as a litmus test for what is to come for City Council’s final consideration of the Broadway Plan.

If approved, the Broadway Plan will be the most consequential policy made by this city council, now months away from the end of its current term. The highly prescriptive nature of the plan in a central area of the city will directly guide future rezonings and development permit applications, making it arguably more consequential than the high-level vision of the forthcoming Vancouver Plan.

The area plan was triggered by SkyTrain’s Millennium Line Broadway Extension, which will add six subway stations by 2025 within the planning area — 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, spanning the districts and neighbourhoods of Kitsilano, Fairview, and Mount Pleasant.

The Broadway Plan is similar to the previous planning processes that led to the Cambie Corridor Plan, West End Plan, Grandview-Woodland Plan, and Marpole Plan.

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Land uses and heights of the Broadway Plan. Click on the image for an enlarged version. (City of Vancouver)

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Concept sketch of the future Central Broadway skyline as the result of the Broadway Plan. (City of Vancouver)

In exchange for the $2.8 billion public transit investment, the City of Vancouver — through its Supportive Policies Agreement with TransLink, signed in 2018 — is obligated to significantly increase density in the Broadway Plan area to do its part in helping achieve regional goals. This includes substantially more housing options, especially affordable housing such as rental housing, as well as more employment space. All the while, this transit-oriented development helps drive more public transit ridership and meaningfully contributes to sustainability goals.

In essence, the Broadway Plan extends downtown Vancouver southward across False Creek, enabling residential densities and heights similar to the West End, and creating ample new employment space that maintains the region’s economic vitality. As expected, the greatest tower heights are generally located near the subway stations — up to 40 storeys near South Granville Station, and generally up to 20 to 30 storeys for peripheral areas, even in Kitsilano.

The downtown Vancouver peninsula may be the economic core of the region, but it is increasingly being built out: its long-term growth is highly constrained by being surrounded by water to the north and south, Stanley Park to the west, and the social issues and historic areas of the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown to the east. View cones have also greatly limited the potential of downtown, forcing growth to be more horizontal — requiring more land to achieve the same density — than going vertical.

For this reason, the City’s Employment Lands and Economy Review two years ago emphasized the importance of office and hotel development uses within the central areas of the Broadway Plan.

The general area between Broadway City-Hall Station and Oak-VGH Station — which is currently anchored by Vancouver General Hospital and related healthcare facilities and offices — would be solidified as a second central business district, with the area dedicated to office and hotel uses.

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Tallest towers in the Broadway Plan area will be near SkyTrain’s future South Granville Station. (City of Vancouver)

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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)

To achieve these goals, the Broadway Plan would allow higher buildings to enter the lower elevations of View Cone 3 emanating from Queen Elizabeth Park to catalyze developments with affordable housing (market rentals and below-market rentals) and/or significant job space, such as office, hotel, and institutional uses.

“Staff’s analysis indicated that restricting new development from entering view sections 3.1 and 3.2.4a would significantly limit capacity for new housing, job space, amenities, and public benefits in close proximity to rapid transit,” reads a City staff report.

Currently, the area of the Broadway Plan is home to about 78,000 residents in 50,000 homes and about 84,400 jobs.

If approved, the plan would set in motion redevelopments allowing 40,000 to 50,000 additional residents, bringing the area’s total population to 90,000 to 100,000 residents in 30 years. The number of homes would increase by 24,000 to 30,000 units.

In addition, the employment base of the area would increase by 33,000 to 42,000, reaching a total of 117,400 to 126,400 jobs.

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Potential transportation concept for the Broadway Plan, March 2022 draft plan. (City of Vancouver)

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Priority new and improved priority walking and cycling routes within the Broadway Plan, March 2022 draft plan. (City of Vancouver)

Other considerations of the Broadway Plan lay out the strategies for new and improved community and recreational facilities, public parks, plazas, active transportation infrastructure, and utilities. City staff is targeting to raise $1.2 billion from new developments over the first 10 years of the plan’s implementation to build public benefits, infrastructure, and utilities that support the influx of new residents and jobs.

Ahead of next week’s deliberations, Mayor Kennedy Stewart has indicated he will introduce four amendments to the Broadway Plan, such as amendments that protect existing renters, given the area’s high concentration of existing rental housing.

This includes amendments to ensure the “right of refusal” to existing tenants to return to a new rental unit at a 20% lower rent than the city-wide average market rents, or at the tenant’s current rent, whichever is less. Another amendment would ensure existing renters understand the enhanced protections they are entitled to receive.

As well, Stewart is proposing to ask the provincial government for funding assistance and regulatory changes in order to expedite the approval and permitting of rental and social housing, and direct city staff to pursue ways to expedite permitting and development within the Broadway Plan area.

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