June 1, 2022

Nathan Edelson on the Broadway Plan: “Vancouver Needs More False Creek Souths”

On May 31,  Council concluded the public hearing in the Broadway Corridor Plan and will be deliberating on the plan at their committee meeting of June 9, 2022.

Nathan Edelson has submitted his presentation to Council given on May 26  to Viewpoint Vancouver  on the plan. He is an involved member of the Vancouver planning community, thoughtful and engaged.

Nathan Edelson is a former senior planner at the City of Vancouver who has always championed inclusive communities, and has been involved in the “replanning” of False Creek South.

He was the Senior City Planner for the Downtown Eastside where he worked on many policies related to housing, heritage, community economic development, social services and harm reduction. Nathan is married to the wonderful Norma Jean McLaren and has been been public about their journey with her Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis. 

It is unusual to see so many people that previously worked as Vancouver planners present to Council that are not working for developers. That shows not only the significance of this Broadway Plan, but the importance of evaluating and trying alternatives in what Nathan calls “uncertain and challenging times”.


Broadway Corridor Plan
Presentation to Council

“Thank you members of Council and staff for bringing forward an important plan for consideration as we struggle to address a growing housing crisis and to take advantage of an expanded rapid transit system.

I am the Project Manager for the False Creek South Neighbourhood Association’s RePlan Committee, but today I am not representing that organization.

I will speak as an individual who worked for the City for 25 years on an array city-wide policies as well as neighbourhoods including Collingwood, Yaletown and the Downtown Eastside. Today I am also speaking as an individual who lives in Fairview Slopes.

I agree that a considerable amount of housing can and should be added to the Broadway corridor. But I have four concerns about the draft plan and would ask that you to instruct staff to bring it back to residents and an array of outside experts for further consideration.

First, as others have stated,
• I am very worried that despite some of the creative restrictions that are embedded in the plan, it will result in a significant loss of existing affordable housing. And that much of the new housing will be considerably smaller and more expensive.
• Even though this is not a wholesale rezoning, it will still likely lead to a great deal of speculation as buildings are sold with the expectation of considerable increases in height and density.
• This will also likely lead to disinvestment in existing buildings as well – making it more likely that they will need to be redeveloped.

Second, I would suggest that staff and members of Council meet with the architects who have argued that properly designed low rise buildings can provide as many units as high-rise. If this proves to be true, new development – with the some taller buildings near the stations and other strategic locations – will result in a much higher level of livability and neighborliness than a market driven mix of low rise and very tall buildings.

Third, I would also suggest that much of the development should be undertaken by non-market enterprises that are dedicated to providing affordable housing.

Fourth, all of the rent control measures should be tied to the units, not the current residents. And that all such units should be managed by non-market companies. This is the best way to ensure that an array of service and health care workers, students and low income residents who currently live in the area will be able to remain into the future near expanding employment opportunity.

I would like to conclude by reminding you of some of the motions that Council unanimously adopted a few months ago to guide the future of False Creek South:
1. Existing buildings should be maintained for as long as possible because they provide more affordable housing and would have unnecessary environmental impacts if demolished prematurely. In Central Broadway, this includes Heritage Co-op
2. New buildings should be wood frame because they will be more environmentally sustainable than concrete
3. Community Amenities and Urban Design matter – they contribute to livability and help residents of different incomes and tenures to meet one another and form the kinds of relationships that can significantly reduce the sense of social isolation that has become all too common in our city.

As one Councilor mentioned, Vancouver needs more False Creek Souths –and I believe the essence of this can be carried out in the Corridor by careful community-based planning.

To achieve this, I would suggest that Council encourage consultation that engages a diversity of residents and business people to work together with staff and outside experts in a way that respects differences of opinion, generates new ideas and puts forward innovative policies and zoning that meet anticipated needs.

Surveys of various sorts can be helpful. But genuine sharing of ideas and brainstorming together alternative solutions can help build the kinds of communities in which we can be proud.

This is how we planned Collingwood Village and Yaletown – where many community amenities – parks, neighbourhood houses, health care facilities and social housing were put in place before thousands of new residents moved in. Even in the Downtown Eastside we were able to add considerable new social and market housing and provide innovative health care services as well as heritage conservation by taking seriously the ideas of a diversity of people and – where possible encouraging them to work together.

Respectful debate and trying alternatives should be a hallmark of Vancouver Planning as we move forward in very uncertain and challenging times.”

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  1. I find Edelson’s comments wise and compelling.
    I would also suggest that when selecting building forms, that those with higher measures of social connection be a key deciding factor.
    Perhaps the track record of developers’ previous projects might be scored on that measure and this score could influence selections.
    So many people I know want to see the European model of density of max 5-6 floors over store fronts, instead of the 35 floor towers.
    Environmental: both for the planet and mental health.
    Low rise with ground floor ‘common areas’ such including local retail, build social connection.

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