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Spring start to West End planning anticipated

'We are going to be giving great consideration to the role of the gay village: city planner

The West End will have its own team overseeing the area’s planning process set to begin this spring, says Kevin McNaney of the City of Vancouver’s planning department.

McNaney, who anticipates an April kickoff, says the city plans to hold more open houses and citizen circles in the coming months as it gauges specific community needs for each of the three neighbourhoods slated for updated plans. Last year, city council indicated that planning for the West End, Grandview-Woodland and Marpole communities would occur concurrently. Although the West End placed only third on the community priority list, staff explained that the area has seen the largest population growth, has significant housing issues and ranked highest in social indicators.

McNaney assures that the gay village’s identity will be considered in the West End planning process. “We’re certainly concerned with preserving the culture and defining elements of every community involved. In the West End the gay community is obviously a strong component of the area, so naturally we are going to be giving great consideration to the role of the gay village on Davie St,” he elaborates.

“It’s essential,” agrees Councillor Tim Stevenson.

Last July, senior city planner Matt Shillito also assured that all three plans would be uniquely tailored to address the specific needs of each community. “We recognize that Vancouver is a city of diverse and distinct neighbourhoods, so we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to community plans,” he said. “Instead we tailor each one to the unique characteristics and attributes of the neighbourhood while also looking at the role that the neighbourhood can play in helping to address issues that the city as a whole is facing.”

Future area plans will address both residential and commercial aspects of each neighbourhood, adds McNaney.

Planning staff say they have been engaged in talks with neighbourhood business improvement associations about the ways in which the commercial sector can be better supported through the plans. The recent spate of retail closures in the gay village is also something city council says it plans to address.

“Retail turnover is something that happens all over the city, not just on Davie,” says McNaney, “but we will certainly be looking at that.”

Staff also say that various reports from the West End Mayor’s Advisory Council, a city-appointed group created and tasked with investigating the neighbourhood’s needs, will also be considered in the design of the community plan.

City staff have said it will take approximately 21 months to complete all three area plans.