Vancouver approves West End community plan

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      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.



      West Ender

      Nov 21, 2013 at 8:21am

      Thank you to Councillor Carr in particular for speaking up in reponse to the hundreds of concerned residents who couldn't take time of work to attend a 9:30am Council meeting on this important topic. Many in the community are unaware of the plan, and of those who are, many are concerned. Vision Vancouver and the media continue to focus on "laneway housing" as the key element of the plan, but it's clear that the economics of this mean few new units of this type will be produced. The vast majority of the new development will be, as the article notes "concentrated along the Georgia and Burrard corridors, and in the Lower Robson and Lower Davie areas." And it will be in large tower developments of precisely the type that the neighbourhood indicated clearly the did not want. This plan is a convenient way for developers to add density to an already dense neighbourhood.


      Nov 21, 2013 at 10:13am

      Well that didn't take long

      collarbone o'hare

      Nov 21, 2013 at 10:35am

      Excellent long-term plan. If more West Enders would have taken the time to fully understand it, the support for it would have been overwhelming.
      Hard cheese, WEN. Your real estate buddies and backers, you know those 'only baby steps to the beach' folks must be disappointed too.

      The Manhattan Man

      Nov 21, 2013 at 10:42am

      This is absolutely a plan catering to foreign investors, masked behind some buzz words like "social housing" and revitalizing community centres. It's a joke to think that the plan will maintain the affordability of the West End, when the West End is already unaffordable to most of it's own residents when you look at their average income. They've ran out of buildings to tear down in Yaletown and now they're coming for prime real estate in the West End, and as always it's the low-income population that will suffer. Co-ops like the Manhattan and Mole Hill will be forced out of the West End, the heritage buildings removed, and it will signal the end of any real affordability for the average family in downtown Vancouver.

      Bruce MacDonald

      Nov 21, 2013 at 10:42am

      I live on Comox Street. I fully support the plan, including the excellent bike lanes that have already gone in on my street. The complaints about not enough time are, in my view, unwarranted. People have been working on this plan for two years, and I have attended a number of updates and had plenty of opportunity for input. For the NIMBYs among us, delay the plan = kill the plan. I'm glad we have a mayor and city council who are looking 30 years ahead, and not just to the next election. And no, I am not a "political insider." None of them know me, except Tim Stevenson would remember me.

      Lee L

      Nov 21, 2013 at 12:03pm

      Remembering the past....when the FIRST 'revitalize the West End' took place and the neighbourhood of stunning old growth built heritage homes was made 'vibrant' and modern by demolition. At that time it all sounded the same and the developers had their man in office who surpassed even Robertson and his VV zealots as the absolute worst mayor Vancouver ever had. At that time, anything high rise was a 'go' and the City's mayor Tom Campbell bemoaned any influence of those who would stop the madness or slow the pace just to see if it made any real sense. His crowning glory, as I recall, was being quoted as saying "Stanley Park is a waste of a tremendous piece of real estate".

      Robertson and his ecozealots have already sprawled special traffic lanes for bikes through the Park, and I wonder how long it will be before 'affordability' will demand sprawling high rises next to Lumberman's Arch?


      Nov 22, 2013 at 9:53am

      I wonder how long it will take for Vision to toss this plan in the dumpster and continue their trademark site by site rezoning? I can't see Vision's developer supporters accepting the constraints of any plan or zoning, even this one which was developed largely in their interest. Don't forget that everything with Vision is just theater.


      Nov 24, 2013 at 6:08pm

      Another stellar example of Vision's pretence of community consulation while handing over the city to developers. Gregor may admire China but I think North Korean public engagement is more Vision's model.