This year the West End Community Plan will turn ten, on November 20, 2023, the day City Council adopted the non-binding plan during a daytime meeting. The coming months leading up to the tenth anniversary date are a good opportunity to look back at how the plan came about, how it has been implemented so far, and what’s the future of the thirty-year plan.
Actually, today (January 23, 2023) marks exactly nine years to the day since the public hearing of January 23, 2014 when Vancouver City Council approved major amendments to the Zoning and Development By-law and District Schedules for the West End. By that vote, Council passed into law the zoning-related legal finishes to the West End Community Plan, a guiding policy document that had been approved by Council just two months earlier.
A tremendous amount of change has occurred to this community, enabled by the WECP. There’s been a lot of demolition, construction and turnover. Hundreds of millions of dollars of development fees have been collected from rezonings. Is that money being used to benefit the community that has accepted so much density?
The “promise” of the plan included (1) increased stock of affordable housing and (2) community benefits.
Has either been realized? We hope that during this tenth anniversary year that question can be answered.
Increased density was presented as the vehicle for achieving community benefits, including affordable housing. Increased density in the form of massive towers was added to the plan in the final weeks before it was adopted in 2013, in absence of adequate communication with neighbours.
At the five-year mark, West End Neighbours marked the anniversary with a summary of the history of the WECP, still valid. We also asked City Hall for an update on the implementation of the WECP. Nothing happened until 2021, when the planning department published a West End Public Benefit Strategy Implementation Progress Report (PDF).
A more complete and up-to-date picture is needed. What has been the net change in population? How many renters have had to move out to make way for new units? How has the public benefits money been spent, how much is in the fund, and what is the current plan? How has the experience of West Enders been during the implementation of the WECP?
The WECP envisioned increased density to have an additional 7,500 to 10,000 new residents by 2041. But after the plan was adopted, there was a rush of applications by developers, when the real impacts became known, as stated in this article – West End Plan will spark a real estate boom here, says Business in Vancouver (June 17, 2014). The City stopped publishing WECP implementation newsletters within a couple years, and it turns out the Park Board actually had a better handle on how much development was happening as they were trying to project user demand on its facilities. See Keeping track: Behold the West End’s new housing unit count (via Park Board)), where CityHallWatch used Park Board numbers as of the summer of 2020, and estimated additional population for projects approved and in progress was 25,627 residents up to that point after just seven years of the 30 year plan. Much more development has been approved since then.
While the processes leading up to and during the WECP consultations involved a lot of community activism, public involvement in planning-related matters appears to have dropped significantly.
For an example of how the WECP is being implemented today, have a look at a 47-storey tower at 1063-1075 Barclay (mostly strata condos, with some social housing, see “New Vancouver City Council approves its first building: a 47-storey residential tower” – Jan 18 article in Daily Hive). It was approved in less than 37 minutes at a public hearing on January 17, 2023, with just six letters to Council (two in support, four opposed) and a couple of speakers asking questions.
West End Neighbours organized a few town hall events from 2010 through 2013 that attracted hundreds of attendees, and garnered over 13,000 signatures on a petition that called for meaningful consultation with the community. Does the drop in community involvement in public hearings mean that the vast majority support what is going on?
Significantly, this building in the West End was the first building to be approved at the first public hearing of the new years, by the newly elected supermajority of ABC Vancouver under mayor Ken Sim.
The only member of the current Council that was there when the WECP was adopted is Vancouver Greens’ Councillor Adriane Carr. At the time in 2013 and 2014, together with NPA Councillors Affleck and Ball, she opposed the plan, saying the consultation had not been done properly, and more time was needed to get real community input. On 24-Nov-2020 she made a motion in Council to have staff report publicly to Council on progress to date in implementing the WECP Public Benefit Strategy and “any measures needed to achieve the community benefits detailed as plan objective,” which resulted in the 2021 report mentioned above.
City’s official page for the West End Community Plan – https://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/west-end-community-plan.aspx
West End Neighbours releases 3D images of the future based on West End Community Plan (City Hall withheld details during the consultations prior to adoption). Posted January 23, 2014.
November 20 marks FIFTH anniversary of the West End Community Plan: How has it been for you?
Posted on November 20, 2018.
Want to keep track of all new developments coming to the West End and get updates on current projects? Brian Palmquist has a database of rezonings and developments in Vancouver. You can write him to be added to the list for notifications on anything to do with the West End. See “Hiding in Plain Sight…and how we can find it Together (CC96: Where Vancouver hides housing data, how I find it and will share it) by Brian Palmquist,” and you can write him at the e-mail address indicated.