July 26, 2018

Careful Progress, Baby Steps: Vancouver’s Jericho Lands

The 90-acre Jericho Lands, a huge greenfield, sits in Vancouver’s West Point Grey neighbourhood. We all wonder what will rise there.

It’s mostly a former military garrison, now owned by the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil Waututh Development Corporation, and the Canada Lands Company. You’ll find it amid some of the priciest real estate in Canada, featuring very low density, and very expensive single-family homes. The Lands offer potentially spectacular view sites and nearby ocean-front parks. (Read some background  on this site HERE, HERE, and HERE).

Amid the enormous pressure inherent in shepherding an allocation of this multi-billion dollar site, it’s hard to get much of a sense of the possible, ultimate outcome; a veritable bonanza of opportunities to reshape an entire community. What’s to come — cheesy car-centric suburb? A forest of high rises, ripe for speculators? A complete community for average humans — what?

But maybe something beyond platitudes and vague statements is slowly emerging.

This Policy Plan (18-page PDF) is another baby step, and the whisper of a hint of an inkling of a possible direction for the Jericho Lands.

Since the City of Vancouver has zoning responsibility, it has the ability to somewhat control what the Jericho Lands will become. City Council approved this Policy Planning Program on July 24, 2018.  It includes the Lands’ owners, the city and massive rounds of public consultation.  See the timeline below.

The process will lead to a Policy Statement which establishes principles, objectives and policies relating to a range of topics, including: land use, density, height, public benefits, transportation, built form and character, heritage, sustainability and development phasing. The Policy Statement will be presented for Council’s consideration at the end of the process and, if adopted, will be used to inform any future rezoning of the Lands.

A schedule highlight:  rezoning of an anticipated Phase 1 would begin after council’s approval of the Policy Statement to be developed over the next 24 months.

Click to enlarge

Planning Events of Note:

  • May 2019:  Public launch, sub-area identification
  • October 2019: Draft site plans and initial concepts
  • March 2020: Preferred concept
  • July 2020: Policy Statement and Report to Council

Personally, I’d be delighted to see transit-oriented development, with affordable housing for Vancouver residents and few (if any) towers or mansions aimed at speculators.

I’d also be delighted to see transit in the form of the Broadway subway extended to the Jericho Lands from Arbutus, in conjunction perhaps with the much-discussed extension to UBC, and pedestrian-friendly overpasses across the 4th Avenue speedway to and from Jericho Beach Park.

And as part of the Strategic Analysis:

It is recommended that Council endorse a program that looks at site redevelopment options reflecting approved Council policies to optimize the Jericho Lands’ potential to meet City and community needs around sustainability, affordable housing, transit-oriented development, provision of ground-oriented housing suitable for families and public benefits.

Concerning existing plans that inform the Jericho Lands’ plan, I’m happy to read these discussion points:

Transportation 2040 Plan (2012):

A number of goals are relevant to Jericho Lands, including the following:

  • Support compact community development, helping to preserve natural habitat and agricultural land throughout the region.
  • Making the majority of trips on foot, bike and transit.
  • Prioritize and encourage a dense and diverse mix of services, amenities, jobs, and housing types in areas well served by frequent, high-capacity transit.
  • Support vibrant public spaces that encourage a culture of walking, cycling and social interaction.

Broadway Line:

The Broadway Corridor is a regionally important corridor and rapid transit for Broadway has been prioritized in City and regional plans for over twenty years. In 2014, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation approved a long-range transportation Vision (the Mayors’ Council Vision) which included an investment package for the first 10 years. The Vision prioritized rapid transit to UBC to be delivered in two stages. The first stage is the Millennium Line Broadway Extension (MLBE), a primarily tunneled SkyTrain extension under Broadway from VCC-Clark to Arbutus, to be delivered in the first 10 years of the Vision. A truncated B-Line bus service will continue to operate on Broadway/West 10th Avenue between Arbutus and UBC until stage two of rapid transit west of Arbutus is complete. This B-Line service stops at Alma and Broadway which is within 3 blocks of the southeast corner of the Jericho Lands.

On June 28, 2018, TransLink’s Mayors’ Council approved the ‘Phase Two Investment Plan’ which includes planning work for rapid transit to UBC which would serve the Jericho Lands.

Coordination with the Broadway planning program will occur throughout the planning process for the Jericho Lands.

The final word goes to Ian Campbell, Vision Vancouver’s mayoral candidate, who has apparently stepped back from the MST Development Corporation, but certainly retains some memory of discussion to this point:

“We’re not just a developer building a luxury product. The intent of those lands is to develop housing options.”

With thanks to Frances Bula in the Globe and Mail.

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  1. I worry about opposition to the Jericho Lands development. I recall Gordon Price writing that opposition to change in a neighborhood is stronger when there has been a low rate of change already. Well I looked it up and WPG has had 0.07% annual population growth between 1996 and 2016. Even if you took 20 years and built out the Jericho Lands exactly like the existing neighborhood it would quintuple WPG existing growth rate.

    If you built it out to West End levels over 20 years it would add 8700 people give or take. That would bring WPG up to Mount Pleasant levels of density or so as a whole, while not touching the existing neighborhoods at all.

    I don’t know exactly what the result should be, but I hope it is more like another West End than another West Point Grey.

    1. Someone should point out these little facts to Elizabeth Murphy who seems so keen to preserve Vancouver’s own version of sprawl for time immemorial.

  2. Broadway is tremendously congested for 7 months a year by the mass shipping of students (and some campus workers) back and forth between a remote western campus and affordable accommodation on the east side; 20-30 kms roundtrip daily. It’s not just time and cost, there’s a huge social impact; imagine the cumulative effects in the results of a study on student’s lost productivity and increased stress.

    Contemporary sustainable planning involves putting destinations close to residents, and, it works vice-versa. The Jericho site (a short, pleasant walk from campus … too short for some to cycle) has the same land area as South East False Creek. With most of the site dedicated for student housing, using smaller-sized units and many shared & common areas, a mid-rise building form would accommodate a very high-density population with pure greenspaces.

    It would remove over HALF of the entire current student commute. It would free-up substantial surface transit capacity, of which we have an obligation to pursue.

    Other major cities are crying, “It would be a miracle if we had 90 surplus acres near our University district.” If the rare Jericho opportunity is squandered, it will be looked back upon as a colossal error in TDM and city-building.

    1. There is plenty of developable acreage on the UEL and the UBC golf course (which alone sprawls over 120 acres adjacent to the campus) which are closer than Jericho. All three sites should be accounted for in any area plan meant to look forward 100 years. Likewise with the gentle densification of all RS land in Vancouver proposed under the Making Room initiative.

      And in all cases 21st Century planning needs to emphasize mixed-use and wonderful walking and transit-connected neighbourhoods.

      I did the 22 km round trip schlepp for four years from Mt Pleasant and never once considered living on campus because I had a rather small but very comfortable self-contained apartment in a good neighbourhood that I didn’t want to lose. Back then there was no such thing as a B-Line express, and the slow mo daily grind was painful, especially the transfer from the Number 9 to the Number 10 at Granville while carrying a pack, a plan tube and an umbrella.* Even if there was an express bus — or a subway — I wouldn’t have considered moving. I doubt you’d find half the students at UBC who would consider living in student housing if they had a better living choice elsewhere. These elements are not considered with TDM.

      * The same stupid transfer penalty will occur at Arbutus with the Broadway Line terminating there. It would be eliminated if UBC and other entities could help fund the Millennium Line all the way to campus. In some respects the efficiency of a subway will help shorten distances, so to speak.

  3. Good insight here albeit not much detail.

    Will there be a second subway stop 8-10 blocks west of Alma at top of or even right in the middle of Jericho Lands?

    Was Jericho Lands densification even considered in the various routes west of Alma ?

    Not one shuffle should hit the ground at Jericho lands until the Broadway subway line is at least extended to Alma. Otherwise we will see a total traffic mess along 4th and Broadway.

    What $s by the new land co-owner, the Musqueam Indian Band, will be contributed ? UBC hinted at some $s but also coy.

    With so many parties involved, who takes the lead here actually ?

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