British Columbia

Vancouver council approves launching city-wide plan; vote on duplex do-over to come Thursday

Vancouver looks set to embark on its first city-wide plan in nearly a century, which could result in the mass rezoning of large parts of the city following extensive public consultation. A vote on undoing a controversial zoning for the majority of the city to allow duplexes was pushed to Thursday.

City-wide plan would be first comprehensive look at zoning in the city in nearly 100 years

Vancouver's last city-wide plan was conducted in 1928. Plans since then have generally been conducted on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

The City of Vancouver looks set to embark on its first city-wide plan in nearly a century, which could result in the mass rezoning of large parts of the municipality, following extensive public consultation.

City council unanimously passed a motion Wednesday to begin "scoping ... an expedited work plan and timeline" ... to "determine what kind of city they want Vancouver to become and how best to tackle key city-wide challenges like housing affordability, densification to accommodate growth and demographic changes."

"This is an opportunity to look quite broadly and quite deeply into the city's future," said Gil Kelley, the city's chief planner, as he took questions from councillors.

"I think this exercise is honestly more than a review of existing bylaws and plans — it's an opportunity for Vancouver to think bigger than generations, perhaps." 

The motion was put forward by Adriane Carr, who at the end of the multi-hour debate was effusive in her praise.

"This new council is making our mark. This is going to be a new era that is very different in terms of engagement. People are yearning for that. I think this is a wonderful way for us to start our term in office," she said.

Staff will report back to council on a timeline for a city-wide plan before the end of March 2019, along with several details for the process, including how it will impact rezoning applications currently underway.  

The city's zoning plan as of mid-2016. The majority of Vancouver was reserved exclusively for single-family homes.

Neighbourhood vs. city-wide

Several political parties advocated a city-wide plan during October's municipal elections, arguing it was necessary given the city's affordability crisis.

While most municipalities in Metro Vancouver have an official community plan, updated every decade or so, Vancouver has opted to conduct plans for individual neighbourhoods, one at a time, to determine rules around zoning and transportation.

But Kennedy Stewart said a city-wide plan could unite people from throughout the municipality, instead of creating intense focus on — and potential division of — individual neighbourhoods.

"This is an opportunity to have people perhaps alienated a bit from what's happening in the city to be drawn into thinking about the future, and it's a great initiative," he said.

"This is big thing we're voting for. What we're voting for is a plan that will set the course for Vancouver in the coming decades."

The motion asks staff to prepare for a "robust and collaborative public engagement process that could include neighbourhood planning bodies" as part of the process, something all councillors agreed was key.

"This should be a Vancouver for everyone, and we'll achieve that, if we achieve the greater goal of listening to people," said Coun. Melissa De Genova.  

Duplex re-do vote held for Thursday

Wednesday's meeting went over 12 hours and council decided to wait until Thursday morning before holding a key vote.

Council could re-examine a policy made by the outgoing Vision Vancouver government to allow duplexes throughout the city.

NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick, who brought the motion, argued the blanket rezoning wasn't done with proper consultation and predicted many single-family neighbourhoods would embrace density — within the context of a city-wide plan.

"Throughout the campaign, I went out and I spoke to communities, neighbourhoods, residents' associations across the city and nowhere did I meet any kind of pushback where people said, 'no, not in my backyard,' despite the representations out there," she said.

"Everyone understands that we need to build density, and I firmly believe that we can encourage density, again, that's going to be in keeping with the individual characteristics of neighbourhoods."

On Wednesday night, three members of the public spoke in favour of Hardwick's motion, while two spoke against it. The meeting went well past its scheduled time and two scheduled speakers left before being called to address council.

Councillors will reconvene and vote on the motion Thursday morning.

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