The following letter went out to Vancouver Mayor and Council today.
January 16, 2019
Re: Request for a five-year review and report on the West End Community Plan (WECP)
Dear Mayor and Council, City of Vancouver:
We write to introduce West End Neighbours and to request a five-year review and report on the West End Community Plan (WECP). We believe such a report will be of value to West End residents. It could also be valuable information for the entire city now that Vancouver has initiated a citywide planning process.
In 2009, West End Neighbours launched the “No Rezoning Without a Comprehensive Plan” petition and garnered over 13,000 signatures. We held many public meetings and events on community issues, and these activities factored into City Council’s decision to eventually start the West End Community Plan process in 2012. Our website (www.WestEndNeighbours.ca) provides an extensive archive of our correspondence, reports, issues and activities. We are a member of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN). Please also refer to the Appendix to this letter for additional background on some of the issues in the community.
Five years have passed since Council’s adoption of the WECP (November 20, 2013), so we think it is appropriate now to undertake a review of the results of the WECP to date, and to look ahead to the future. The community has been subject to a great deal of change over the last five years, and quite a lot more is still expected. Residents deserve a review of how the community plan has been working, and the outcomes to date.
In fact, the City’s planning department must already have much of this information. The criteria for “definition of success” (WECP original Terms of Reference) include these two points: “Have the commitment of the City (and, where appropriate) its partners to tracking its [WECP’s] long-term effectiveness” (Item 8); and “Provide a framework for positive change in the well-being of the West End” (Item 9). Presumably, City staff are already tracking the plan’s effectiveness and have criteria and means of verifying positive change, the results of which should be shared in the community.
As a start, topics for documentation could include:
- How many projects and units have been approved since the adoption of the WECP?
- How many projects and units are under application but not yet approved?
- What Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) have been secured to date?
- Where are CAC’s being allocated and how do they benefit life in the West End?
- How much social housing and rental housing has been created?
- How many existing rental units have been demolished or are proposed to be demolished?
- How much density from the Heritage Density Bank has been absorbed in the West End?
- Did approved projects, including laneway infill projects, comply with guidelines in the WECP and have they achieved outcomes that were suggested in the plan?
- What is the City doing to reduce construction impacts and protect the quality of life of existing residents during construction?
- Who can residents speak with regarding negative impacts of construction work, and what are the statistics on reports or complaints?
Conclusions reached from examining these types of questions can inform whether adjustments to guidelines or zoning are appropriate to ensure plan objectives are being met, and could help to inform policy development on the overall citywide plan.
As we move into a new phase of civic governance, we are looking forward to a respectful conversation on the future of our neighbourhood and we hope that we can rely on you to assist in ensuring that the interests of the West End are considered carefully. If it would be helpful, we are pleased to provide more information or to meet to discuss these issues.
Regards, V. Richards, Director, West End Neighbours,
APPENDIX: West End Neighbours (WEN) letter to Vancouver City Council
“Re: Request for a five-year review and report on the West End Community Plan (WECP)”
January 16, 2019
For decades the West End has shouldered more than its fair share of density and provided a large proportion of the purpose-built rental housing in the city. Somehow the mix of buildings, businesses, people, and parks coalesced to produce an award-winning neighbourhood that residents and visitors alike cherish and enjoy.
In the interests of contributing to this cherished community, West End Neighbours (WEN) began its activities in 2009 with the following mission:
“To enhance and celebrate the quality of life, the distinct, diverse character and the heritage of the West End, a livable neighbourhood between downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park. We accomplish this by influencing policy decisions and ensuring change is based on evolving community needs, is neighbourly and respectful and reflects relevant and timely engagement with residents.”
WEN was a strong voice in requesting a community plan process for the neighbourhood, and the city embarked on this process in earnest in 2012. Many members of WEN participated in the consultation process leading up to the plan, including involvement with the “West End Champions Network” created by the city. Ultimately, the West End Community Plan (WECP) was adopted by Council in November of 2013, despite many concerns and unanswered questions being expressed by the community.
Since the adoption of the plan, we suspect that the “uptake” of the WECP development policies has been faster than originally anticipated by the city. It is certainly faster than anticipated by the community. In the five years since November 2013, there has been a wave of development and change: eviction of renters and demolitions of older and more affordable rental buildings, tax increases and retail business closures, multiple construction projects, and dozens of development applications.
Recently, it has been suggested by some in the community that the WECP reflected a compromise whereby construction of tall towers on the “edges” of the community would be accepted, while limited development would be directed toward the inner portions of the neighbourhood. A compromise of this nature was never discussed with the community during consultations. Rather, the plan was intended to allow for an increase in density in the neighbourhood – to accommodate the city-defined target of an additional 10,000 residents – while respecting all parts of the West End. WEN’s focus has always been to consider the West End as a whole, and to work toward improving it for the good of all, making it a better place in which to live, learn, work, and play.
Some in the community have been surprised by the dramatic impacts of development arising from the WECP, such as the demolition of the 19-year-old Safeway building on Davie Street and the demolition of the Empire Landmark Hotel on Robson Street, as well as the sheer volume of development. Most residents have been impacted in some way by the many construction projects, big and small, either through noise, privacy impacts, or disruption to mobility.
Given the change taking place in the neighbourhood, the impacts of construction, and the promises made during the planning process, questions are being asked about the benefits of the plan. How are the many millions of dollars in community amenity contributions secured through rezoning applications being allocated? When will the neighbourhood see new, tangible benefits such as an improved public library? A key feature of the WECP is the “Public Benefits Strategy” estimated (in 2013) to provide between $585 and $630 million in benefits to the community over the 30 year life of the plan, so it is not unreasonable for the community to question why our parks are in need of upkeep, our sidewalks are cracked, and our public facilities are crowded and out of date.