City council has approved a long-term plan for Vancouver's West End.
The plan passed, with some amendments, at the end of a 12-hour meeting today (November 20) that saw more than 40 people signed up to speak to the document.
Some of the policies outlined in the 30-year plan include rental housing in four- to six-storey laneway infill development, increased density along particular corridors, a new building for LGBTQ resource centre Qmunity, and public realm improvements such as wider sidewalks and patio space.
"I think we heard a lot of support for the approach with the laneway housing, and a creative approach to getting housing and green space into what is right now pavement and parking lots, and that'll be a great shift for the neighbourhood," Mayor Gregor Robertson said in advance of council's vote.
The plan predicts growth of an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people in the West End over the next 30 years, which translates to a population increase of 20 percent.
Much of the proposed increase in density is concentrated along the Georgia and Burrard corridors, and in the Lower Robson and Lower Davie areas. A series of zoning changes related to the plan will be the subject of a public hearing early next year.
Randy Helten, a director of West End Neighbours, was among the opponents who asked council to extend and improve the process for the community plan.
“It’s filled with loopholes and glitches and surprises, and a lack of clarity on a lot of issues,” he told reporters. “It feels a little bit like we’re in a car dealership and the vendor’s trying to close a deal before you notice parts are missing. There’s stuff thrown in there that you weren’t expecting, and they just want to close the deal.”
Other speakers, such as West End Residents Association president Christine Ackermann, voiced their support for policies outlined in the plan, including a proposal to increase social and rental housing, with a focus on units for families. Ackermann noted the group has been calling for a diversity of housing in the neighbourhood.
“We’re getting social housing and market rental, and we’re looking at units that aren’t just one and two bedrooms and bachelors,” told the Straight by phone.
“I think that is what we’re really excited about, is the diversity in the housing, and that’s really going to help keep affordability in the West End.”
The plan was also praised by several speakers for its recognition of the LGBTQ community in the West End.
“You’ll see in the last plan 30 years ago, there’s no mention of the queer community, which is an indication of how far we’ve come politically, that not only are we mentioned, but we’re exhaustively mentioned, and I think that’s critical, because we do have a very long history in this neighbourhood,” Dara Parker, the executive director of Qmunity, told council.
The fact that the plan identifies a new purpose-built facility for Qmunity as a priority is “a long time coming”, Parker told council.
“Qmunity was founded in 1979 and we’ve been in our current space since 1984, and we’ve been looking for a new space since about 1984,” she said.
“There are some serious challenges that we have, including the fact that we’re not physically accessible. The fact that we’re a human rights organization promoting equality and we do not serve our entire community is completely unacceptable.”
Vision Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson also acknowledged the recognition of the LGBTQ community in the plan.
“I’ve been out for 38 years,” he told council before voting in favour of the plan. “When I came out we were not even in the human rights code… And now, for the first time, the community is actually embedded in the plan. I know for a lot of people it’s hard to imagine what that means, but it’s huge.”
Amendments approved by council include a proposal from Green councillor Adriane Carr that opportunities be explored for a dedicated seniors facility in the neighbourhood, given comments from the West End Seniors Network that current facilities in the area are inadequate.
Carr and NPA councillor George Affleck both moved unsuccessful motions for more community input on the plan.
“I did count the number of emails that came in, and there were a majority clearly that were not supportive of the plan in its current form that asked for an extension,” said Carr.
“Not in today’s hearing have we had a majority speaking for deferral—the majority have come in support. But in the big scheme of things, we have had the majority of residents coming to us saying that they wish for more time.”
The document was the first of four area plans to go before city council. Long-term strategies for Marpole, the Downtown Eastside, and Grandview-Woodland are also underway.