Vancouver’s general manager of planning and development, Brian Jackson, has claimed that the city has no option but to increase density in the West End.
At an August 28 public meeting about the proposed West End community plan, Jackson explained that there are no federal or provincial policies in place to restrict people’s mobility after they’ve immigrated to Canada. He also told the crowd of about 200 at the West End Community Centre that there are no measures in place to prevent people from having children.
Then Jackson described the city as “an attractive place to live with a great climate and a good economy”—setting up the justification for the city’s proposed increase in the West End’s population from 44,000 to 53,000 over the next 30 years.
“What the plan has to do then is recognize that people are going to be coming to Vancouver,” Jackson said. “What we have to do is look at the areas that have the capacity for additional growth.”
That brought on some heckling from audience members who wondered why the city isn’t concentrating population increases in Shaughnessy.
Jackson soldiered on, brusquely demanding that the crowd let him finish.
“We’re trying to direct the growth into the periphery of the West End between Thurlow and Burrard, and between Alberni and Georgia,” he said.
He added that there are also going to be opportunities for growth on lower Davie and lower Robson streets. However, he noted that there won’t be additional densification in the villages along Denman, Robson, and Davie streets.
The plan proposes seven buildings of between 15 and 30 storeys along Davie Street between Denman and Jervis streets. The three proposed buildings of between 10 and 15 storeys along Denman are concentrated between Robson and Alberni streets.
Jackson acknowledged that some in the audience were opposed to the plan’s call for laneway housing, but he emphasized that it would be different from that built in other parts of Vancouver. “It is, in fact, to help us renew the rental stock that we have here,” he insisted.
The city anticipates that more development in the West End will provide housing options for the additional 27,000 to 38,000 people expected to be working in the adjacent Central Business District by 2031.
John Weldon was one of several West End residents who criticized the city’s approach, calling it a “very top-down planning model with the city controlling the planning process and the decision-making”.
“An increase of 9,000 people representing 20 percent of the population is projected over the 30-year course of the plan,” Weldon said at the meeting. “No meaningful discussion has taken place with the community concerning this projection, or with respect to neighbourhood equity relating to environmental sustainability and densification. Substantial density is being added to our already dense community, while other city communities are permitted to continue with relatively unsustainable land uses.”