Community plan aims to revitalize West End

More arts and culture, a new Qmunity facility, and laneway housing are among the recommendations.

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      Laneway housing, new public gathering spaces, and a cultural hub are some of the proposals outlined in a long-term community plan for Vancouver’s West End. The draft 30-year plan is expected to go before city council this month.

      Kevin McNaney, Vancouver’s assistant director of planning, noted the city is looking at creating more rental housing for families as part of the plan, including infill housing in laneways.

      “Families are really struggling to find housing in the West End, and we saw the laneways as an opportunity to provide that rental housing while providing some beautification as well,” he told the Georgia Straight by phone. “The bulk of the stock in the West End is either studios or one-bedrooms. So it’s a real challenge for families.”

      The strategy, which was recently posted on the city’s website, includes a goal to create more than 1,500 new homes for people in need. According to the plan, the West End is home to about 45,000 residents and is expected to grow by 7,000 to 10,000 people over the next 30 years. About 50 percent of the community’s residents are between the ages of 20 and 39, and the neighbourhood has the fourth-highest density of children in the city.

      The plan also sets out goals for revitalizing the three “villages” along portions of Davie, Denman, and Robson streets, upgrading aging community facilities, and expanding transit services. Public-realm improvements in the three villages could include more of the kind of public gathering spaces piloted at Davie and Bute streets, where rainbow crosswalks were painted earlier this year in recognition of the area’s LGBT history.

      “Particularly in the villages, we are looking at plazas and parks and parklets and lighting and wider sidewalks, because the villages really are the heart of the business in the West End, and everyone’s told us they need some revitalization,” McNaney said.

      A section of the plan that focuses on arts and culture proposes a cultural hub on Robson Street between Bute and Cardero streets and suggests that the city explore opportunities to create an arts-and-culture-themed plaza.

      “There are a lot of artists in the West End,” McNaney noted. “We’d like to work with the nonprofits and the groups that are already there. Many of them use Gordon Neighbourhood House and the community centre, so we’re looking at improving facilities, and on the public-benefit strategy is a new community centre.”

      A new purpose-built facility for B.C. queer resource centre Qmunity is also slated to better support LGBT community members.

      The draft West End document is the first of four neighbourhood plans to go before city council. Vancouver granted extensions to the other three in response to community opposition.

      John Wheldon, a West End resident for the past 35 years, said he wants to see this plan given an extension as well.

      “I would hope that the city would acknowledge the fact that a lot of people are unhappy with the plan and give an extension of at least six months so that we could try and have a more collaborative process so that people would feel a sense of ownership about the plan,” he said in a phone interview.

      He criticized what he called a “top-down process” in developing the strategy. He noted he would like to see the use of elected neighbourhood associations who could work in collaboration with city staff.

      “People in the community would obtain a sense of ownership in the plan, because now they don’t,” he stated. “It’s the city’s plan for the community.”

      Wheldon also objected to the density increase proposed in the plan.

      “The West End is already dense enough, and there are other neighbourhoods in the city that have unsustainable land uses and should perhaps be taking growth,” he said.

      The plan was developed over the course of 20 months, according to the city. McNaney said 110 meetings were held and the process involved more than 7,300 participant contacts.

      “I think it’s a great plan,” he said. “It’s a very strategic plan for the next 30 years to get some affordable and rental housing and social housing built and housing for families in the West End while protecting the character of the neighbourhood.”

      McNaney noted that if council approves the plan this month, zoning changes will be referred to public hearings early next year.

      The draft plan is expected to go before council on November 20.




      Nov 14, 2013 at 9:55am

      How about more improvements for pedestrians/joggers/cyclists... a CAR-FREE zone? If there's going to be density, you don't want more cars in the area.

      Disillusioned Resident

      Nov 14, 2013 at 10:51am

      Funny, the article doesn't mention the many towers proposed at 7.0 and 8.75 FSR for Lower Davie and Lower Robson or the fact that the proposed laneway housing can be six storeys high and located 20 feet away from people's living room windows. Or the fact that the eastern swath of the neighbourhood near Burrard is slated for re-development, but with no maximum density provisions.
      Yes, "it's a great plan" if you're a developer or looking to operate a night club in the new "Davie Street Entertainment Zone." But it doesn't really reflect the input of the vast majority of West End residents.


      Nov 14, 2013 at 11:17am

      I'm not sure why they think that they need to cram more housing into the West End, especially 'affordable' family housing. Not every area of the city need to be affordable (should we start building co-op housing in Shaughnessy?) and the West End is already quite densely populated.

      I'd rather that the city keep pushing towards increased density along the Broadway corridor. Build some towers near the future skytrain hubs (Commercial, Main, Cambie, etc). I would rather see Kits get some more density than the West End. And I say this as someone that lives near Broadway/Kits.

      Missing in Action?

      Nov 14, 2013 at 11:20am

      It's odd to see Councillor Tim Stevenson featured in the photo with this article. He was one of the Council Liaisons for the West End Community Plan process but I don't ever recall seeing him at any of the consultation events.


      Nov 14, 2013 at 11:22pm

      Regarding lane houses: what about garbage / delivery trucks? Since the installations of bike lanes and mini parks the traffic in back lanes has increased tremendously, especially during rush hours and weekends when these venues become short cuts by drivers trying to avoid congested Denman and Robson. Planning has to involve voting citizens who live in this area and not a handful of people who do not live the Westend.


      Nov 15, 2013 at 5:57am

      The west end is dense enough,we don't need people living so close there is no privacy.

      collarbone o'hare

      Nov 15, 2013 at 9:54am

      to the above contributors. don't worry, increased density over 30 years won't adversely affect the price of your condos. they'll go up in value. there now.


      Nov 15, 2013 at 6:43pm

      I think the West End is the perfect place to jam in more people - most people there are renters and won't really object to an increase in density. There's already a bunch of towers, why not allow developers to put in more?