July 4, 2022

Overall Vancouver Plan Creates Capacity, Nixes Neighbourhood Input

It is kind of in reverse order, but after passing the Broadway Plan with a myriad of amendments Vancouver City Council is this week considering the Vancouver Plan. If the  Vancouver Plan was slated  first it would have provided the pattern language for comprehending what the Broadway Plan hoped to achieve.


The Vancouver Plan is another top down plan and is in keeping with the Americanization of planning and processes at city hall. The press event to announce the fact the plan was going to Council this week did not include a panel of community members from across the city, or advocates that had followed the plan from inception to fruition. Instead it was the Director of Planning and the head of Finance that directed the meeting announcing the plan is being considered by Council this Wednesday.

The plan is Vancouver centric and creates capacity for a population increase from 675,000 to 920,000 in thirty years. The plan is organized around three themes of reconciliation, equity and resilience. You can take a look at the plan in its entirety here. 

The plan is shy in describing the placement of Vancouver in the Metro Vancouver region as part of a larger system. The impact of regional climate change on any planning process could be seen as the missing major overarching principle. If areas are going to be underwater or subject to severe climatic events that will impact livability, those should be identified first, and the plan work around those impacted districts. The plan also assumes growth, but does not have alternative scenarios if that projected growth does not occur, or goes in other directions regionally.

The document reflects the fact that the people that were consulted with were mostly online, and seems shy on the voices of multicultural areas or neighbourhoods that already may be living at a higher density in  dwellings as part of cultural traditions and practices.

While all change is good, there is a  “missing link” in the Vancouver Plan between Vancouver citizens recognition of being “neighbourhood based” and being able to speak out as development unfolds and incremental change begins. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s Vancouver was known for its planning model as a City of Neighbourhoods. That’s all gone now, and there is no ongoing resident participatory engagement or community champions.

It  looks a lot like any other American city  based plan, with the exception that there is no citizen committee or task force from across the city providing input and guidance which is a key component in American cities. It is clearly a plan by zoning map, and one that the Mayor and Council assume will confirm their re-election.

Reading the  230 page plan there is a pastiche of zoning and potential housing form being prescribed for for neighbourhoods.

It’s good news for developers, who get a clear indication of how high they can build and where they can pluck property with little fussy bonusing. Development heights are 12 to 18 storeys in rapid transit centres, up to six storeys in neighbourhood centres, 3 to 6 storeys in “villages”, and 2 to 3 storeys in “multiplex” (that’s detached/duplex areas), with 4 to 6 storeys achievable if the secured rental policy is adhered to.

It  is a political document to cut red tape as much as it is a plan.  It snips out input from neighbours and residents on individual applications. The Plan contains all kinds of suggestions of what the future should look like, and what kind of housing and density will be considered, but offers little guidance on how this is to be achieved or what kind of staging is anticipated.

Just as in the Broadway Plan there is a weakness in identifying how  infrastructure will be paid for so that future parks, schools, sewer and water infrastructure can keep up with built density.

There’s also still some work that is needed to address former detached and duplex neighbourhoods. While a  detached or duplex lot can embrace  six new units, incentives to create  properly sized and situated units for families will be key.

You can take a look at the draft plan here and also view this snappy video on YouTube put out by the City.





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  1. Of course it’s imperfect but somebody’s got to be the adult in the room. Neighbourhood-based planning outcomes have unfortunately been “No. Our area is too precious to change”; hence much of the reason we find ourselves in our current state.

    Furthermore, the Plan only notes what is permitted to happen, not what must. If people don’t come, then developers won’t build – unless the City steps up to subsidize. In the meantime, nobody should expect their neighbourhood to be forever preserved in amber. This type of plan is what responsible-but-imperfect governments do. I applaud it.

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