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UPDATE: Councillor calls for new West End plan

Council asks staff for timeline on West End plan

UPDATE: April 9, 3:35pm –

City council voted unanimously Thursday evening to direct staff to produce a process and timeline for a new West End plan.

A timeline for the visioning process, which will involve West End residents in future housing development plans in the area, is expected to reach council by the fall.

Lesbian councillor Ellen Woodsworth, who introduced the motion, says she is pleased residents will finally have a say in the growth of their community.

“The whole point of my motion is that the neighbourhood needs to be driving development in an area, and that the strength of our cities is in our neighbourhoods,” she says.

Michelle Mathias, who circulated a petition to end fast-tracked “radical rezoning” projects in the West End, welcomes Woodsworth’s motion but remains skeptical.

“I’m happy about it being passed, but it’s vague,” Mathias says. “I’m hoping the councillors will take it seriously, the way it deserves to be taken.”

Mathias notes she’s not looking to jump the queue for a new neighbourhood plan if the West End is not next in line. “What we were hoping is that they [council] would put these radical developments on hold until we do get this comprehensive plan,” she explains.

Woodsworth’s motion also called on staff to hold an open forum on affordable housing and West End residents’ needs in light of two proposed redevelopment projects now being considered on Bidwell and Comox Sts.

Woodsworth attempted to amend that section of her motion to expand the open forum topics to include council’s Short Term Incentives for Rental initiative underlying the redevelopment applications, but council defeated the amendment.

“For me, those are really important components,” a disappointed Woodsworth says. “I was very surprised that [they were] defeated because we know there’s a real urgency in the West End.”

In the end, the COPE councillor voted against the second portion of her own motion.

Gay city councillor Tim Stevenson — who on Tuesday referred to Woodsworth’s motion as “redundant” and “unnecessary” because the planning department is already aware of the West End’s need for a new plan — says he is disappointed Woodsworth voted against a community consultation.

“I think it’s really unfortunate,” says the Vision Vancouver councillor.

In the end, though, “the motion that came out is exactly what I’ve been asking for,” Stevenson says. “I’ve been asking for a community process.”

City staff are expected to begin organizing a community meeting in the West End within a few weeks, as the community itself holds a forum at the Coast Plaza Hotel on April 22 at 7pm.

April 8:

City hall will vote today on a proposed plan by lesbian city councillor Ellen Woodsworth to give West End residents a say in their neighbourhood’s housing developments.

Controversy has erupted in recent months over proposed high-rise developments in the area that some say amount to a radical rezoning with insufficient community consultation.

Woodsworth brought her motion – called the West End Visioning Process – before council on Tues, April 6.

“What I want immediately is for the [planning] staff to let us know when this community visioning process is going to take place in the West End,” says Woodsworth, acknowledging that there are other Vancouver neighbourhoods awaiting such a plan.

“We don’t want to bump out existing processes or neighbourhoods that have been short-listed, but we do want to set something up so that people can say what their priorities are, and so that any developer who’s working in the neighbourhood can get a sense of what the priorities are,” the COPE councillor says.

Gay West End resident and Vision Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson agrees the neighbourhood needs a new community plan, but says there’s little point in pushing staff to say when the West End will get its turn.

“As far as the visioning process is concerned, of course Vision Vancouver is very much in favour,” says Stevenson. “What I can tell you is that the motion is redundant, it’s not necessary. The staff is going to get up and say what councillor Woodsworth is asking for, we already have.”

Prior to Tuesday’s council meeting, the Mayor’s office received a petition with more than 2,000 signatures calling for an end to fast-tracked rezoning projects in the West End, such as the proposed 22-storey tower at 1401 Comox St, which petition organizer Randy Helten calls “the tip of a huge iceberg.”

“That site is a dramatic departure from the currently approved community plan, which has a height of six storeys,” says Helten, who plans to address council at today’s meeting.

“The greater picture is that this is only the second of what might be as much as five or more large apartment towers being proposed in the West End during the life of the STIR program.”

The Short Term Incentives for Rental [STIR] program was introduced to promote more market rental housing in the community, but Helten says it isn’t worth the headaches that will come from a boom in the neighbourhood’s population.

“You take the accumulative impact of these projects – the average taxpayer in Vancouver is going to have to pay for the increased burden on libraries, swimming pools, roads, everything.”

Calling the Comox St development process “completely transparent,” Stevenson says STIR is the best way to increase the number of rental units in the West End.

“We’ve come up with this STIR program and now we have quite a number of developers who are looking at vacant lots,” says Stevenson.

If council passes Woodsworth’s motion, she would like to see an immediate community forum in the West End concerning developments like 1401 Comox St, and hopes the developers would also take part.

“I think if they’re smart, they would attend the meeting,” she says.