One of my frustrations with the discussions regarding the proposed Broadway Plan is that while much of the focus has been on the need for densification around transit stations, and the desperate need for more affordable rental housing, there has not been enough discussion on whether it is a good plan for the neighbourhoods along the corridor.
I was therefore interested to receive a copy of a letter written by two former Assistant Directors of Planning for the City of Vancouver which was sent to Council. Since it offers some thoughtful suggestions, and generally accords with my own thinking, I am reprinting it below:
Dear Mayor and Council
We are two former Assistant Directors of Planning who have followed the development of the Broadway Plan. On March 23, 2022 we wrote to you about the draft Plan with concerns and suggestions. After listening to current discussion at Council on the proposed Broadway Plan, we are writing to reiterate, and refine, our previous suggestion for Council to strategically phase adoption and implementation of the Plan, as follows.
1. In Station Areas and the parts of Shoulder Areas directly along Broadway, allow redevelopment to proceed in accordance with the Plan. This will both support the transit line, and create more housing, including rental, with minimal loss of existing housing.
2. In the Existing Apartment Areas, where both rental and condo buildings already supply significant and affordable housing, allow only a defined, limited number of projects over the next, say, 5 years provided they either replace existing rental (under the conditions set out in the Plan), or are projects by non-profit groups. At the end of the 5 years the City should evaluate these to determine whether the hopes and/or fears being expressed by planners, residents and others are coming to pass, and how policies might need to be adjusted. This will further the goals of dealing with deteriorating existing rental buildings, adding more rental and non-market units, and maintaining most existing affordable stock, pending determination of whether the economics and various tenant protection and affordability measures are actually workable.
3. Complete the key follow-up work the Plan requires, including assessing it in the context of the overall Vancouver Plan. This will address the valid questions about park space, heritage, and other still unresolved parts of the Plan, as well as provide insight as to whether it makes sense to implement all the remaining Broadway Plan densification proposals, or some of them, or to prioritize action in other areas of the city which have lower land costs, more existing amenities, and good transit service.
Council is hearing a push from some quarters to do none of it, and from others to do all of it right away. There is valid concern about the loss of affordable rental and condos, and the true viability of the proposed development economics and tenant protections.
The Broadway Plan is very large, very ambitious, and very long term. It has both good directions and significant weaknesses, as well as many unanswered questions. It does not need to proceed all at one time. Any Council action involves risks—but let them be appropriate and measured risks.
Thank you for considering our comments.
Trish French and Ronda Howard