There are, of course, plans over the coming decade to extend Metro Vancouver’s SkyTrain network to the westernmost and easternmost areas of the region.
In recent months, during separate decisions, the Mayors’ Council approved early steps for the extension of the Millennium Line past the 2025 terminus at Arbutus Street to the University of British Columbia’s campus and the Expo Line from King George Station to Langley Centre.
Both the municipal governments of Vancouver and Surrey have also given their respective projects the preliminary approval required to proceed planning as SkyTrain extensions, and they have followed up on these decisions with the launch of land use planning processes for their SkyTrain corridors.
Last month, Vancouver city council unanimously approved an amended version of Green Party councillor Pete Fry’s original motion for an Emergency Interim Rezoning Policy for the Broadway Corridor to UBC, which is now essentially an extension of the same temporary rezoning restrictions that went into effect for the Central Broadway Corridor area framed by Clark Street to the east, 1st Avenue and False Creek to the north, Vine Street to the west, and 16th Avenue to the south.
The new interim rezoning moratorium policy covers the expanse of the Kitsilano and West Point Grey neighbourhoods, from Vine Street to the west, Burrard Inlet to the north, the university endowment lands to the west, and 16th Avenue to the south.
On a temporary basis until the corridor planning process west of Vine Street is complete, rezoning applications will generally not be permitted, except for mid-stream applications, proposals involving 100% social/supportive housing or community care facilities and group residences, proposals with 100% below-market rental housing, or 100% affordable student housing associated with educational institutions.
The 90-acre planned redevelopment of the Jericho Lands is exempt as well, given that it has its own independent area-specific planning process.
Such a moratorium was pushed forward in a proactive attempt to curb rampant speculation, which was experienced along the Cambie Corridor during the similar planning process that was undertaken after the completion of the Canada Line.
The Development Cost Expectation policy that was put into place for Central Broadway last year has also been extended westward to include Kitsilano and West Point Grey. This secondary policy intends to inform property owners, realtors, and developers of the municipal government’s intention to preserve and grow rental housing, job space, and public benefits along the corridor.
“By articulating the city’s priorities and expectations at the outset of the planning process, sellers and buyers of land in the Broadway study area will be able to make informed decisions with respect to land transactions,” reads a Vancouver city staff report.
These planning processes will outline aspects such as building heights, the extent of new densification, new housing types, new job growth opportunities, new public spaces, new community facilities, and new transportation plans. Extensive public consultation will guide the entire process.
The specific planning process for the Broadway Corridor east of Vine Street will be completed by next year, when the resulting area plan will take over and guide future rezonings. While the SkyTrain extension to Arbutus Street is scheduled to open in about six years, a further extension to UBC is not expected to be finished until the late 2020s at the very earliest.
Over in Surrey, its city council approved last month the Fraser Highway Corridor Planning Areas review, which entails conducting preliminary planning and background studies to form the basis for the development of SkyTrain supportive land use plans.
The planning area for this corridor is divided into two areas separated by Serpentine River and the large swath of agricultural land reserve.
The review includes corridor considerations for market assessment of land availability and development opportunities, environmental study, heritage study, growth forecasts, transportation review, city service requirements, and new and updated land use plans for the West Fleetwood Neighbourhood and East Cloverdale along the boundary with the City of Langley.
Roughly 90% of the complete 17-km-long Fraser Highway SkyTrain project runs within the City of Surrey’s jurisdiction.
Guided by public consultation at each phase of planning, background studies and an exploration of land use options should be completed by this summer, and the finalization of land use options will be done by the middle of 2020. Further refinements will be made in 2021.
Overall, Surrey’s process is less intensive than Vancouver’s process for the Broadway Corridor.
“The development and update of these land use plans will involve a comprehensive strategy, and phased approach supported by technical and engineering studies,” reads a Surrey city staff report.
“Staff will prepare a phasing strategy to review and develop land use plans along the Corridor. Considerations will include findings from background studies and surveys, role and location of stations, and local context.”
However, Surrey significantly deviated from Vancouver’s approach when its city council rejected a motion in a 5-4 vote to enact a similar temporary moratorium on new development applications along the Fraser Highway SkyTrain Corridor planning area.
Safe Surrey Coalition councillor Brenda Locke’s motion called for a moratorium length of between eight to 10 months, whereas Vancouver’s rezoning moratorium for Central Broadway will be at least more than two years long. Applications for student housing, social housing, and below-market affordable housing would be exempt.
In addition to the area plan consultations in Vancouver and Surrey, further details on all three planned SkyTrain extension projects should be made available to the public as 2019 progresses, including the launch of public consultation for the station designs and routing of the Millennium Line extension to Arbutus Street and the release of the draft business case of the Fraser Highway SkyTrain project in July.
TransLink estimates a significant portion of the Fraser Highway SkyTrain project can be completed by 2025 by using a reallocated $1.6-billion Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT budget, but the remaining journey to Langley Centre will require the finalization of Phase III funding.
Early-stage planning work currently being conducted by TransLink for the Millennium Line extension from Arbutus Street to UBC could progress to the development of a draft business case starting in the middle of this year.