Towers, Towers Everywhere and Not A Park in Sight
By Carol Volkart
Parks, schools and other amenities are still missing from plans for a forest of towers along Broadway as the city rushes its Broadway Plan toward final approval, says the Fairview/South Granville Action Committee (FSGAC) in a recent post.
Over and over, the group has criticized the lack of facts, data and good planning to underpin the Plan, as well as heights and densities of the buildings, the unsustainability, the debilitating financial giveaways, the shadowing, the damage to neighbourhood character, and the lack of amenities planned for the 50,000 people who will be added to the area. But little changes, the group says, and the City keeps pressing forward onto the next phase.
“The valuable input provided by residents regarding height, density, villages, transportation, schools, parks and amenities has been completely ignored, while the bureaucrats and developers have carved up our neighbourhoods behind closed doors,” the group wrote of Phase 3 of the Broadway Plan, released by the City last November.
Clearly, it says, staff had previously made up their minds about the heights and densities, and “don’t care what the residents envision for their neighbourhoods.”
Nor have these concerns been addressed in the final version of the plan, now open for public feedback until March 22, before it’s submitted to council for approval in May.
It still contains “zero specifics about new schools, parks, senior centres, community centres, libraries and other amenities, but plenty of specifics about upzonings, heights, densities and population increases,” a group member wrote in a March 4 Facebook post. “Why are City staff conducting the Broadway Plan this way?”
There are other ways of adding people and jobs to city neighbourhoods because of new amenities such as a subway, and a City Council led by TEAM for a Livable Vancouver would have found them.
Instead of arbitrarily projecting that the subway would mean a population increase of 50,000 people, 30,000 housing units and 40,000 jobs over the next 30 years, TEAM would have used census and other reliable data sources to determine how many people would realistically be drawn to the area, what kind of jobs they would do, and what kind of housing they would need. Then it would collaborate with neighbourhoods across the Broadway corridor on how the newcomers could be accommodated. Where could appropriate new housing fit into each community? What amenities – schools, parks, transit, community centres – already exist and what would have to be added or changed to maintain the livability of each community as it densified? Community consultation would be real, and the voices of residents would shape the way each neighbourhood would accommodate the newcomers.
FSGAC, which has been involved in each stage of the Broadway Plan as it has been developed, describes a completely different process.
There is no basis for the projected population increase except staff estimates of the maximum number of people and houses that could be squeezed into the area, the group says. “When we asked workshop staff where the 50,000 target came from, they said that ‘it was a given.’” Staff took pains to point out the numbers were “capacity-based analysis” and not to be taken as “growth projections,” the group notes, adding this means the forecasts are “aspirational, and have not been based on population and job growth data for the scope area. . . .Staff also stated that ‘many things’ (immigration, rezonings, employment, etc.) can change over the 30-year lifespan of the plan, so they are looking at the most that can be built on the land available.”
As for community consultation, FSGAC has evidence - hundreds of staff emails that were received via FOI requests - that even before the Broadway Plan was launched, staff were writing about their expectations for the increased height and density the Plan would mean. Residents’ concerns about highrise towers everywhere, not just at SkyTrain stations, but in residential areas blocks away, were dismissed, and reassurances about the new buildings fitting into and enhancing neighbourhoods were clearly fiction, the group says.
When consultation did occur, workshops were manipulated by the inclusion of people who did not live in the scope area and by members of the real estate and development industry who “vociferously advocated for more density and height.” Surveys were designed to elicit affirming responses, producing “heavily manipulated and deeply flawed data that staff use to justify their proposals to Council and the public.” Technical flaws meant people sharing the same computer were limited to filling out one survey, while those who knew how to delete browser cookies could fill out the survey as many times as they wanted.
Despite its many disappointments, FSGAC is still advocating on behalf of its hundreds of supporters, and urging those with similar concerns to weigh in before mid-March. “We’re entering the home stretch, and it’s clear that City staff are keen to ram this plan through before the election,” the group says. Once the plan is delivered to council, “residents’ opportunity for discussion and input is all but eliminated.”
The City's final Broadway Plan open house is March 7 at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (2305 West 7th Ave) from 4:30 pm -7:30 pm.