The West End Community Plan (WECP) went before City Council on November 20, 2013 and Council adopted it after 10 pm that night. Happy fifth birthday, WECP! Zoning amendments to accommodate the plan were adopted two months later, at a daytime Public Hearing on January 23. (City’s official web page for WECP.)
The WECP is based on seven broad “principles”:
- Achieve a green, environmentally sustainable urban pattern.
- Support a range of affordable housing options to meet the diverse needs of the community.
- Foster a robust, resilient economy.
- Enhance culture, heritage and creativity in the city.
- Provide and support a range of sustainable transportation options.
- Protect and enhance public open spaces, parks and green linkages.
- Foster resilient, sustainable, safe and healthy communities.
While these principles are general and came with few quantitative targets, the plan makes specific mention of creating 7,500 new “homes,” and the words “affordable” or “affordability” appear 44 times in 139 pages. For example, “Deepening housing affordability and meeting the needs of a growing community are a priority,” says the summary statement, although nowhere is the definition of “deepening” provided. Another key feature of the plan is the Public Benefits Strategy, estimated at then to provide between $585 and $630 million in benefits to the community over 30 years, with the funds coming from development.
The full WECP document can be downloaded here (PDF, 139 pages):
Within months of Council’s adoption of the WECP, Business in Vancouver reported a “Real Estate Boom Projected For Vancouver’s West End.” (Our story here.) And that is exactly what we have seen.
Excerpt: “Vancouver’s West End is on the verge of a dramatic real estate revival sparked by density brought on by a recent community plan, according to a real estate industry report… ‘Nothing would have happened without the West End community plan,’ says James Lang, the market intelligence manager for Colliers International Realty. ‘That plan unlocked value and growth potential in the downtown core where land is so scarce.‘
Let’s look back before the plan’s adoption for a moment. Early in the public consultation process (2012 – 2013), West End residents were kept busy with periodic events, such as a story-telling evening, photo competition, road painting, the West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee (WEMAC, members hand-picked by two Council members, and with all meetings held at City Hall), and the “West End Champions Network” (created for the plan process but now defunct).
Just weeks before the plan went to Council for approval and after many months of community input and comment, residents who attended staff presentations were treated (but only for a matter of seconds) with their first and only chance to view a sophisticated 3D video model of the future West End, bristling with tall new towers that had not previously been indicated as part of the public consultation process. It included bands of development going up to 60 storeys in height along the Alberni Street, Burrard Street, and Thurlow Street corridors. Given the departure of this type of development from the themes shared with residents to that point, some might conclude that members of the development and real estate industry had been involved in a separate, parallel process with the City to discuss the development potential for certain areas and sites in the West End.
Now back to 2018. In the five years since November 2013, there has indeed been a wave of development and change: many demolitions and evictions of renters from older and more affordable rental buildings, tax increases and retail business closures; developer-funded buy-outs and displacement of strata condo owners to make way for tower developments; and lots of new tower construction, with big towers, primarily along the corridors along Davie, Robson, Alberni, and Thurlow Streets. Most of the new towers have been luxury condos, but some have been rental apartments – with luxury rents anticipated.
How has the West End Community Plan worked out for you? Continue reading