By Janice Wong
WE Act Now

Janice Wong.

Janice Wong.

For the past few months, my neighbours and I have been advocating to have the City, Mayor and Council, commit to respecting, upholding and enforcing the agreements in the West End Community Plan (the Plan). Recent development within the “protected” four inner West End Neighbourhoods have alarmed the community, as the City’s Planning department moved forward with a number of development projects that contravened promises in the Plan by allowing larger, luxury market condo units to replace affordable rentals and affordable ownership.

Assembling data and organizing a petition, we were keen to highlight these issues during the 2018 civic election, and also to press forward with these issues with the new Mayor and Council.

During the October 9, 2018 West End Mayoral Forum, our group’s question was number two on the list.

Our preamble and question was:

The West End Community Plan is a compromise between the City and West End residents to allow large scale development along the outer corridors in exchange for preserving the character and liveability of the inner neighbourhoods, including a six-storey height limit on new developments.

The City recently approved the replacement of 19 affordable units in a three-storey walk-up for 21 luxury units in an 11 storey tower in our inner neighbourhoods. Another 10 storey luxury tower is now being proposed in the same area. These are violations of the West End Community Plan.

If elected, will you:

Stand with the community and honour and enforce the commitments made by the City in the West End Plan by taking immediate steps to ensure the Planning department and the Development Permit Board do the same?

We recently reviewed Mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart’s response. His is the second response to our question which begins at the 30:57 minute mark on the video here.

Mayor-elect Stewart prefaced his response by stating “The West End has got it right for so long,” and said he really understands this community. He cited Mole Hill as a beacon for how this neighbourhood should work and said he thinks it (Mole Hill) is “encapsulated in the Plan that we have.” He stated that “There is no other neighbourhood in Vancouver that’s under more stress than the West End. There’s so much pressure to develop because people are used to development here, but it can’t all just be in the West End.” He ended by mentioning plans to bring in a renters’ advocate because the “West End is a renter’s neighbourhood. And we have to protect renters here and that’s what I’ll do if I’m mayor.”

According to the city’s 2016 census, the West End, with 80% renters, is a diverse community with a blend of buildings that also includes equity co-ops and housing cooperatives. The 2016 median income was $51,410 and the community, along with the downtown area, has carried 50% of the city’s density for decades.

NPA Councillor George Affleck and Green Councillor Adriane Carr were in the audience at the West End Mayoral Forum. Neither supported the Plan when it initially went before Council in 2013. In a Globe and Mail interview with Kerry Gold “In Vancouver’s West End, a significant change has begun”, Carr mentions the loss of affordable rental buildings, the questionable community amenity contributions, questions why we are allowing significant redevelopment in an area that is home to vulnerable groups such as fixed-income students, immigrants and seniors and questions why we’re pushed towards density for density’s sake, the no-win end game where we have a city that’s increasingly less affordable.

During election night coverage, George Affleck was a commentator with CTV News. He made several remarks with respect to the new NPA Councillors and their greater desire for community consultation. He noted that during his time on Council, his NPA colleagues, along with Councillor Carr, had frequently voted in tandem, against density proposals that were supported by Vision, proposals that were advanced without adequate community consultation—(examples include the recent RS1 rezoning, the West End Community Plan, the Beach Towers redevelopment)—and how he expected the two parties, now represented by five NPA Councillors and three Green Councillors, would be in agreement with respect to future neighbourhood consultation and planning.

As the dust settles on the somewhat confusing and contentious 2018 civic election, our group looks to Councillor Adriane Carr and the support of the Green Party, and are hopeful that centrists such as the NPA’s Colleen Hardwick, who has been described as progressive, will uphold the agreements in the Plan, and further yet, help us by amending the zoning by-laws to give our Community Plan “legal teeth” so that it cannot be ignored or overridden by Council or the Development Permit Board.

Janice Mar Wong is a visual artist, writer, concerned citizen and West End resident

WE Act Now is a group of West End residents who were involved in the development of the West End Community Plan. We are concerned by the City's current interpretation of the Plan. Currently, we have support from West End Families in Action, West End Arts and shared concerns with West End Seniors' Network, Denman and West Neighbours and Mole Hill Community Housing Society.

You can find WE Act Now here and you can support their Petition to Mayor and Council here.