British Columbia

Vancouver city council approves Broadway Plan after long debate

An extensive plan for the future of Vancouver's Broadway corridor has been approved, but its long-term direction is still uncertain and will only be decided by a future city council.

30-year plan for major corridor passes with a vote of 7-4 and more than 2 dozen amendments

Construction of the Millennium Line extension along Broadway in Vancouver is shown on June 9. The Broadway Plan seeks to guide development decisions around the extension. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

An extensive plan for the future of Vancouver's Broadway corridor has been approved, but its long-term direction is still uncertain and will only be decided by a future city council.

After three years of consultation and five weeks of debate, council passed the Broadway Plan by a vote of 7-4 on Wednesday night, nearly 10 hours after the discussion began.

Councillors Melissa De Genova, Colleen Hardwick, Michael Wiebe and Jean Swanson cast the opposing votes.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart described the plan as "innovative" as he announced his intention to vote in favour of the plan, arguing it will create "what I think is going to be one of the most exciting neighbourhoods in the country."

The 30-year plan seeks to set strategies and building guidelines for a large swath of land north and south of where the Millennium Line extension is being constructed.

It would allow up to 50,000 more people to live in the corridor, from Clark to Arbutus Street and between 1st and 16th Avenues. 

Mixed-use developments as high as 40 storeys may be allowed near SkyTrain stations, while older rental stock, often small 10-unit buildings, could be replaced by housing developments between 15 and 20 storeys.

Some councillors who voted in favour of the plan described it as imperfect but necessary because of the new transit line.

"Not having a plan is not an option for us," Coun. Pete Fry said.

Opponents to the plan have generally argued it will create a corridor of towers that will displace current residents without making the city more affordable, while those in favour have argued a new supply of housing is needed and that new transit stations are the best place to centre developments. 

The Broadway Plan will provide a general framework for what types of buildings are allowed in these zones, with towers between 20 to 40 storeys allowed in the light blue 'centres'. (City of Vancouver)

As she prepared to cast her vote against the plan, Hardwick denounced it as a "dream scenario" for land speculators and house flippers whom she predicted would profit greatly from rising property values.

Swanson predicted that working class people with jobs in the area will still be forced to commute from Surrey or Langley every day because they won't be able to afford housing close to work.

"The investor class is not going to build the housing we need for the working class," she said.

Long list of amendments added to plan

While council approved the plan, they also approved more than two dozen amendments, a number of which ask staff to look at additions or modifications that will be debated by a new council after October's elections. 

Those include a bike lane down Broadway, freezing development on side streets for five years, having thinner buildings that allow for side lawns and tree canopies similar to the West End, and vacancy controls so that new tenants to a unit can't have rents significantly higher than the previous occupant's.

Some of the opposition to the Broadway Plan has centred on worries that smaller, more affordable rental buildings on streets north and south of Broadway will be developed quickly and displace renters. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"It's really a lot cheaper to have vacancy control than it is to have homelessness," said Swanson, who put forward the amendment to have staff work with higher levels of government and developers to look at changes. 

"If Vancouver can be a leader in climate, it can also be a leader in protecting residents."

The amendment narrowly passed, with some councillors arguing it could lead to little change, except more regulations to a jurisdiction overseen by the province via the Residential Tenancy Act.

"We've seen this time and again when we're taking on the work of the provincial government … that are funded to do this work," said Coun. Rebecca Bligh. 

While Coun. Christine Boyle supported the amendment to look at vacancy control, she acknowledged the number of amendments and future votes for council were "concerning." 

"This next election will matter, not just in terms of the actual implementation of the Broadway Plan, but all of these important ideas," she said. 

"But councillors putting forward amendments to solve city-wide problems, jammed into an amendment into this specific-area plan, I don't think that's good governance."


Justin McElroy


Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.