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.
You can follow Yolande Cole on Twitter at twitter.com/yolandecole.