Development plan for Vancouver’s Cambie Street corridor moves forward

The City of Vancouver is moving forward with a plan to increase density along the Cambie Street corridor, a strategy that staff describe as the most complex piece of area planning outside the city's central region.

Vancouver city council voted 7-2 in favour of the Cambie Corridor Plan on Monday (May 10).

The long-term area plan focuses on land use along the Canada Line on Cambie Street, a corridor which city staff estimate will draw an increase in population of about 13,500 by 2041.

“It introduces a fundamental new thinking around urban form that emphasizes mid-rise perimetre block development similar to what you see in cities like Portland and European cities, with towers as the exception, not the rule,” city planning director Brent Toderian told the Straight by phone.

While mid-rise buildings of four to ten storeys are described as the prevailing form in core areas of the corridor, the plan also proposes towers near transit stations, including 12-storey structures in the Oakridge Centre area, and up to 36-storey high-rise buildings at Cambie Street and Marine Drive.

The area plan encompasses Cambie Street from 16th Avenue to the Fraser River, and includes neighbourhoods such as Riley Park, South Cambie, Oakridge and Marpole. The area includes four existing Skytrain stations and two potential future stations, at 33rd Avenue and 57th Avenue.

Mayor Gregor Robertson called the plan an “excellent next step” to developing the Cambie Street corridor, but expressed concern about the amount of affordable and rental housing.

“This plan is an attempt to get us up to the 20 percent mark, and I’m hopeful we can exceed that with some creative approaches and staff’s work to come back through phase three, and considering the potential for more affordable and rental housing as the area is built out more,” he said Monday before the council vote.

The plan includes a 20 percent affordable housing target for all major project areas, and a 20 percent market rental housing goal along the broader corridor.

COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth, who voted against the plan, questioned the effectiveness of the 20 percent target.

“It’s not clear to me that we’re going to get the affordable housing that we so desperately need,” she said. “We’ve had this target in place for a long, long time, and I haven’t seen a situation where we’ve achieved it.”

Woodsworth is concerned that tower development near transit stations along the corridor could impact existing low-income units and affordability for residents in the region, including seniors.

“There’s a lot of seniors in these areas, and once you reach 65, your income drops significantly,” she said. “Where are they going to go?”

"You want to keep your affordability around your stations so that those people of low-income can use public transit," she added.

Woodsworth said she’s also concerned about whether the Cambie plan will over-ride some of the existing community plans in the area.

“We had promised that there would be area plans for a number of these neighbourhoods, and one of the most important ones was Marpole,” she said. “We should have waited until we had that area plan in place to take a look at the broader impact of this rezoning.”

The Marpole Area Residents’ Alliance asked city council to delay approval of the Marine Landing portion of the plan until they had completed a community survey.

According to spokesperson Jo-Anne Pringle, the group supports large-scale development at Marine and Cambie, but wanted a better urban design created for the area.

"Basically the city supported what the developers proposed and what they want in their areas, as opposed to the city looking at the best urban design and then having rezoning applications fall into the framework that the city has created," she told the Straight by phone.

"It was really disappointing for us as a community that is supporting big development in our own neighbourhood to not even have really rational ideas even considered - we were just sort of wiped off the slate," she added.

Pringle noted two rezoning applications have already been filed in the Marine and Cambie area.

The Cambie Corridor policy passed Monday is the second stage in a planning process that was approved by council in 2009. A third phase is slated to set out a land use policy for a wider corridor around Cambie Street.

Toderian said the plan brings the city to what he called the “cutting edge of transit-oriented planning and thinking”.

“In the past, we’ve been a bit behind in terms of planning for sufficient densities to make transit really work, so not only does the Cambie Corridor Plan provide the answer for the corridor, but it also begins to set a template for how we’ll think about transit-oriented density across the city,” he said.

Toderian expects the first rezoning applications to come before council will be in the Marine Landing area.

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Fan'o Truth

May 10, 2011 at 4:18pm

I would be interested in seeing an explanation as to how fewer than 15,000 additional residents is going to "make transity really work".


May 11, 2011 at 10:38am

Here's a radical idea. How about the city planners first prepare a "plan" for densification of the city for the citizens to input and agree to, before the bulldozers show up? This crazy concept is called "urban planning," and it has been known to work. Planning departments in some cities are actually more than taxpayer paid facilitiators for developers. It also involves something called "democracy," a concept that still clearly puzzles Vision Vancouver.

"trust me, I'm a planner"

May 11, 2011 at 1:07pm

-poorer people get pushed out (no basement suites, house rentals, room sublets left),
-condos get built and developers get rich
-rich people move in/[or invest and leave vacant perhaps?]

It's all in this this very interesting study I found recently via online 32 summarizes the study

"trust me, I'm a planner"

May 11, 2011 at 2:17pm

re: my previous post AND I forgot to mention

-being near transit doesn't make people switch to take transit.

It is all laid out in the study by Nicole Dublanko.

Fan'o Truth

May 11, 2011 at 2:33pm

@Evil Eye
The folks at Rail for the Valley think so.

You ARE the folks at Rail for the Valley!


May 12, 2011 at 4:57am

There is NOT a lot of support for this plan outside of the developers and flippers. According to the raw data taken from the latest open houses the city held regarding this plan 75% of respondants supported only 3 storey townhouses or lower.

The Cambie Corridor density plan was rammed though... ripping up and throwing out the RPSC Community Vision in the process. This Official Community Vision Plan was not old (adopted by city council in 2005) and was not outdated because it had already considered the RAV line & stations. Community Vision Plans now have NO worth... after millions spent on these exhastive public processes, they aren't even worth the paper they are printed on. This message should be heard loud and clear by West Point Grey, ARKS and Mt. Pleasant that all have had their Community Visions recently adopted by city council.

To correct a misrepresented notion... There is NO social housing in this Cambie Corridor plan at all. Social housing MAY be included in a couple of larger site redevelopments that are outside the boundaries of the Cambie corridor density plan. The “market” rental units may or may not even materialize depending on if it’s feasible to do so. It will only be feasible in large complexes and the city will "trade" Community Amenity Contributions that they normally put into public amenities like parks and community centres for the rental units. And, because they are "market" they will not be affordable.

The proposed plan doesn’t properly address many of its own planning principles, including: sensitive transitions to existing neighbourhoods and walkable communities.

Increasing density in a circular footprint and spreading it out over the entire 500 meter “walking zone” around a station, with a tiered concept in mind that would NOT situate single family homes and 4-12 storey apartment buildings back to back, but still get the same density increase, should have been the goal, but instead, they used a finger or “t” approach on a few prime blocks.

To be clear, it’s not just about “increasing density”, it’s that the city wants to achieve this by building towers and large scale complexes that are favoured by large development companies and generate CACs for city coffers. This is not good urban design.

Councilors Anton and Woodsworth were the only ones that tried to ammend the flawed plan and are the only two current councilors that will have my vote in the November election.

This was a developer driven, back room deal to capitalize on prime westside property right from the start. After this sham of a planning process, with only a guise of public consultation, I will NEVER vote VISION ever again. The most un-transparent and manipulative civic party to ever exist. They did exactly the opposite of what they promised in the last election. Fool me once... shame on you, fool me twice... shame on me... I don't think so.

BTW good luck getting on the Canada Line 10 years from now. There won't be money to expand ridership, it will be like a sardine can and everyone will be getting back in their cars.

Steve Y

May 12, 2011 at 9:08pm

The same idiots posting on here decrying the densification of the Cambie street corridor will be the same idiots complaining about "urban sprawl" on the next GS news posting and furthermore be the same idiots complaining about the need to reduce our dependence on oil and cars. You can't have it all ways. Taller buildings surrounding transit hubs is the most economic, environmentally sound way to design our urban environment. If a few slum illegal suites and rundown lowrises get smashed in the process, so be it.

monty/that's me

May 13, 2011 at 12:28am

Anyone got a list of who owns these various properties which were being bought up while the Canada Line was being built?. Watch for all the developer-bought-local-councils to ram through projects before the November elections. They will need all that developer backing to get re-elected unless the voters have the intelligence to toss them all out. Too bad Susan Heyes is out of town as she could contribute a lot to this discussion.