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Station Area Planning History

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A History of Planning in the Nanaimo / 29th Avenue Station Areas

February 2018

In November 2017, Vancouver City Council approved Housing Vancouver Strategy (2018-2027) and 3-Year Action Plan (2018-2020). (Find multiple links to report, appendixes, staff presentation, video clip at http://council.vancouver.ca/20171128/regu20171128ag.htm )

According to this document, a major planning program for the Nanaimo and 29th Avenue station areas will begin in 2018. Land around these stations will be rezoned “to create more affordable housing and deliver large increases in rental, social, and ground-oriented market housing.” (p. 10) Appendix B page 7 lists as “Key Strategy 1-B” to “launch” these new station area plans immediately after Council approval of the policy document.

Eye on Norquay sees a need to provide background context for this imminent planning program. Past planning processes for the Nanaimo / 29th Station Areas are described below.

1.  Nanaimo / 29th Avenue Station Areas Plan (1987)

Summary document only online at:

In 1981 the Government of British Columbia announced the selection of the Advanced Light Rapid Transit (ALRT) system for Greater Vancouver. Soon after, the City of Vancouver began to plan for the lands immediately around the four SkyTrain stations proposed for East Vancouver: Broadway, Nanaimo, 29th Avenue, and Joyce. Separate plans were developed for the Broadway and Joyce Station Areas.

A single plan was proposed for the Nanaimo and 29th Avenue Station Areas. No reason is apparent in available city documents for the combining of planning for these two stations into a single program. The life expectancy of a plan is often set at 25—30 years. The provisions of this plan are no longer referenced in City of Vancouver planning documents.

Plan Summary

Properties between Victoria Drive and Rupert Street, and between Kingsway and roughly East 22nd Avenue, are included in this plan. The northern boundary zigzags because the ALRT line runs parallel to Kingsway, which cuts across the street grid.



Most of the Plan consists of a detailed analysis of 21 potential development sites. The sites were selected because they met at least one of these criteria:

         Vacant city-owned sites
         Sites severely impacted by ALRT
         Sites soned for uses other than residential
         Sites either under-utilized or containing derelict properties

Redevelopment opportunities were to be limited to these 21 sites. (See Appendix A for details of implementation.)

The 21 selected sites are identified by the letters on the map below. Sites that were City-owned in 1987 are Sites A, C (partial), D, E, G (partial), J, K, L, and N (partial), In cases where the City owns only a part of the identified site, no redevelopment is specified to occur until adjoining private land has been purchased and incorporated into the site.



The Plan recommends multi-family townhouses (described as “medium density”) as the form of development most viable and appropriate for the majority of the identified sites. Unit density is set at 25-40 units per acre and maximum FSR is set at 1.0. The proposed developments are to act as a noise and visual buffer between the SkyTrain alignment and the existing single-family residences to the north and south.

Commercial redevelopment is to be small-scale and serve local needs only. It is not to negatively impact Kingsway, which is to remain the primary commercial area.

Considerable analysis of ALRT impacts is included in the Plan. Unresolved impacts identified in 1987 are primarily related to noise, privacy loss and visual intrusion.

The amenity most desired by the community in 1987 was an indoor swimming pool. However, Council rejected this request on the advice of the Park Board. Staff believed that residents already had sufficient access to swimming pools in nearby neighbourhoods.

In 1987 Vancouver had no shortage of sites for development. The population was expected to grow slowly and the economy was recovering from a recession. Redevelopment of the Nanaimo / 29th Avenue Station Areas was expected to be gradual and low key.

2.  Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision (2004)


CityPlan (1995) was the City’s policy framework to direct future Vancouver city planning, especially in residential neighbourhoods that had not previously experienced detailed planning initiatives. Nine neighbourhoods, including Renfrew-Collingwood, went through extensive visioning processes that were directed by City staff but included substantial community input.

The resulting Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision looked at locations for future low-rise housing forms (primarily townhouses and 4-storey apartment buldings). The relevant direction for the Nanaimo and 29th Avenue Station Areas reads:

        New housing types should be permitted in existing residential areas around the Nanaimo and
        29th Avenue SkyTrain stations, subject to detailed planning and impact mitigation. (p. 42)

This direction received more than 50% agreement in a community survey, but fell short of the support it needed to be classified as “approved.” It was classified as “uncertain,” which means that it will “remain on the table for future community discussion in subsequent planning processes.” (p. 6)

3.  The Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Draft Plan (2007) [rejected]


The Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre planning process began in 2006. The area to be included was originally defined as the area near Kingsway between Nanaimo Street and Earles Street. Boundaries were extended during the planning process to include most of those areas that had been identified as “development opportunities” in the earlier Nanaimo and 29th Avenue Station Areas Plan (1987) as well as additional lands further from the SkyTrain alignment. Residents rejected the draft plan (map shown below) via a community survey in 2007. (That was the last formal community survey that City of Vancouver ever undertook.)



4.  The Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan (2010)


A second phase of Norquay planning 2008-2009 failed to produce a plan. When a third planning phase was launched in November 2009, the areas near the SkyTrain alignment were removed from consideration. The map below shows the final boundaries of the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre as well as the areas near the SkyTrain that were excluded from the planning process at that time.



The two station areas were designated for a future station area planning process. The relevant board from a community open house on 30 January 2010 is reproduced below.



Slocan Park is located in the area that was removed from the planning process, but the park serves a large area of Norquay. A direction was included in the Plan to incorporate additional land into the park to provide an enhanced street presence. (p. 71)

5.  Norquay Village Public Benefits Strategy (2013) and
Norquay Village Public Realm Plan (April 2016)


These later documents reiterate the need to upgrade Slocan Park. The park is included in the listing of Norquay’s parks to be renewed “over time and as the surrounding population and park usage increase.” (Norquay Village Public Realm Plan, p. 8)

Appendix A: Redevelopment under the 1987 Nanaimo and 29th Station Areas Plan

The twenty-one sites identified in the 1987 Plan as potential sites for redevelopment were subsequently rezoned to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development).

Many of the sites identified as suitable for multi-family residential development have not yet been redeveloped as planned. No redevelopment has occurred on adjoining Sites B and C, a fairly large area that includes the Copley Community Orchard. A few parcels have been redeveloped with single-family houses within Sites F, N, and O. Within sites M, R and S, small-scale redevelopment has taken place in the form of duplexes or triplexes on a few individual lots.

In October 2015 a policy document titled “Parking Amendments to Various DC-1 By-laws for Sites Adjacent to SkyTrain was approved by City Council. This policy reduced parking requirements on identified sites that had not yet been completely redeveloped (i.e. sites B, C, F, G, M, N, O, Q and S). The reason given for reducing the parking requirement from 1-2 per unit to 0.65 per unit is the proximity of the sites to SkyTrain stations. City staff argued that excessive parking requirements were hindering redevelopment of these sites.

Sites that have been completely or partially redeveloped as multi-family housing include:

Site G:  The Nanaimo SkyTrain Station and bus loop covers the northern corner of this site. The Westridge (4170/4180 Nanaimo Street), a complex of two 4-storey affordable rental apartment buildings, has been built along the Nanaimo frontage. The 10 parcels with single-family houses along E. 26th Avenue have not been yet been incorporated into the site. The City-owned land east of the apartment building, where a steel foundry was located in the past, is likely contaminated and remains vacant.

Site H:  Chelsea Green (4120 Kamloops), a 29-unit “family townhouse” development with rents set at 30% of income, was built on this site in 1989.

Site N:  Until now the City-owned part of this site east of Kaslo Street has been in use as a community garden. A development application is in process to build a 52-unit Temporary Modular Housing development at this location. The community garden will be moved to Slocan Park.

Site P:  Heritage Gate (2960 East 29th Avenue), a 56-unit strata described on management’s web site as a “townhouse style apartment complex,” was built on this site in 1990.

Site Q:  A 3-unit traditional rowhouse development is currently under construction at 4521 Earles Street.

In advance of expected station area planning, two sites have been assembled recently:

Site F:  Has been assembled and sold.

Site O:  Has been partially assembled, but to our knowledge no land has yet been sold.

A few small sites have been developed for uses other than housing, as recommended by the Plan.

Site E:  Three of the four lots on the northwest corner of Brant Street and E. 25th Avenue have been incorporated into the Learning Tree Daycare Centre. One lot was considered surplus to their needs and has presumably been sold.

Site J:  This small site functions as a pocket park.

Sites K and L:  These sites are now a part of the B.C. Parkway system, to be maintained by the B.C. Parkway Society. Site K on the south side of the alignment is named the Penticton Children’s Park. However, all of the play equipment originally installed in the park has been removed and not replaced.

Sites A and D  were reserved by the Plan for future development opportunities. Site D is currently being used as a community garden.

Some redevelopment has taken place on unidentified sites adjacent to the SkyTrain alignment. These include:

The Beacon (4320 Slocan Street):  A 4-storey, 41 unit affordable rental building with ground-level retail was completed in 2017 under the Rental 100 policy.

Earles Court (4590 Earles Street):  A former B.C. Electric Substation was converted into 12 apartment condo units in 1990.

3560-3570 Hull Street & 2070-2090 East 20th Avenue:  A rezoning application is currently in process to rezone this site to CD-1 to permit a 3.5 storey development of 41 townhouses, a 28-unit apartment building, and a heritage house under the Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning Policy.

Written by eyeonnorquay

10 February 2018 at 11:27 pm

Station Area Planning

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A Stealth Swath Across East Vancouver?

Over the past six years, Vancouver planners have mentioned “station area planning” in various contexts. In two instances, clear and specific proposals have encountered immediate strong resistance: Broadway and Commercial (2013) and Joyce (2015). Towers of 36 and 35 storeys at either end. The City of Vancouver has shown tendencies to view this large swath as a corridor. Yet so far it only dabbles in piecemeal attempts.

The primary purpose of this review is to put five pieces together, latest first:

        October 2015 — Joyce Precinct Review
        October 2015 — Changes to Eight CD-1 Areas
        August 2014 — Brian Jackson Glimpse of the Future
        June 2013 — Grandview-Woodland Meltdown
        November 2009 — Norquay Backstory

The only thing that saves East Vancouver from a Cambie Corridor type onslaught is the patchwork of actual development (Collingwood Village, Wall Centre Central Park) and recent planning (Norquay) that now stands in the way.

If Vancouver had undertaken considered development rather than impulsive this-and-that, SkyTrain today would be a subway that runs along Kingsway. That major highway cuts across the grid to follow an early route adapted to East Vancouver landforms. SkyTrain does not. The terrain between Broadway/Commercial and Joyce includes wetlands, a contaminated site, and considerable divergences in elevation. And understandably, no existing local area shopping.

In the end, Norquay planners insisted that the supposed “neighbourhood centre” could not locate anywhere off of Kingsway. The key idea was core density with a walkable radius. To now seek to locate significant new density at the periphery of that radius would dismiss that recent planning as fumble. (Avalon Mews at the south edge of Norquay has already abused the concept.) City of Vancouver abandoned the many millions of dollars and the many years invested in CityPlan. Anything can happen overnight when “planning” turns into subterfuge.

To propose a double-tracking of new development across an already dense East Vancouver further disrespects a region that has already endured more than its share of disrespect. The outstanding characteristic of Renfrew-Collingwood redevelopment over the past two decades has been grudging increase in amenity infrastructure. Increase means provision of new facilities — not refurbishment or replacement or extension of what was already there. Collingwood Neighbourhood House (1985/1995) is what planners love to point to. Twenty to thirty years old is far from new.

Panel 19 for the Joyce Station open house typifies a dismissive give-nothing-more blandishment in connection with proposing to inject thousands of new residents:

         Joyce-Collingwood is generally well-served by existing and planned facilities

That statement flies in the face of the promises written into the 2004 Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision:

Each proposal for a new housing type has been made conditional not only on an increase in community facilities and programs needed to serve any population growth generated by the new housing type but also on an assurance that parking and traffic impacts would be addressed.  (p. 30)

Planning in Vancouver seems to have become a mechanistic exercise in rezoning, collecting fees, increasing property tax revenue — and giving nothing back to the affected community. Not even sidewalks and garbage cans.

October 2015 — Joyce Precinct Review

In fall 2015 the City of Vancouver Joyce-Collingwood Station Precinct Review became highly contentious. A 21 October 2015 open house unveiled sudden surprises, only in English, to an area that is about one-quarter Chinese. A massive amount of information was confusingly presented in a series of twenty panels.

Astute residents quickly recognized serious problems and formed the Joyce Area Residents Association (JARA). In late November JARA held two grassroots open houses and submitted a formal report to Mayor and Council and to planners.

The prior acceptance of a 29 July 2015 development application for a 29-storey tower at 5050-5080 Joyce Street seems extremely prejudicial to any good-faith planning for the entire area. Setting up a single blockbusting precedent just ahead of local area planning has become a particularly nasty habit of the City of Vancouver — starting with King Edward Village and 2300 Kingsway (at Nanaimo Street) in the middle of the last decade.

October 2015 — Changes to Eight CD-1 Areas

On 20 October 2015 a “parking amendments” document —

         Parking Amendments to Various CD-1 By-laws for Sites Adjacent to SkyTrain

— went before City Council. The map below shows the eight areas in the vicinity of the Nanaimo and 29th Avenue SkyTrain stations where developers have avoided the difficult site conditions mentioned in the introduction. If they are allowed to avoid excavation into bogs and contaminated sites, who knows what they might be able to achieve at the expense of existing neighbours?


It seems clear that the only consultation that Vancouver city planners anticipate for residents in the areas of the Nanaimo and 29th Avenue SkyTrain stations is a single out-of-the-blue invitation to spectate a done deal at a City of Vancouver public hearing.

A favorite planner phrase is “next steps.” All that the public gets to see here is one giant step. Perhaps the best speculation: look east and west to see the proposals for 35-storey towers that have already raised a ruckus at Broadway and Commercial and at Joyce.

August 2014 — Brian Jackson Glimpse of the Future

In August 2014 Eye on Norquay provided context for the following comment that Brian Jackson made to Vancouver City Planning Commission. (At the time he was General Manager, Planning and Development Services, City of Vancouver — he suddenly announced his decision to retire on 26 June 2015.)

Our other proposal is for doing some station area planning around two of the Millennium Line stations at 29th and Nanaimo which have development opportunities. … We’ve got a lot on our plate, and it may take us a while to get to those last things, so those things are looking like they’re mid to late 2015.

June 2013 — Grandview-Woodland Meltdown

The specifics of what City of Vancouver top-down planning had in mind for the Broadway & Commercial station area became apparent in the summer of 2013. An “emerging directions” presentation, with a proposal for multiple towers, one as high as 36 storeys, set off a chain reaction. (The southern boundary of Grandview-Woodland is Broadway. Planners chose to bite off extra by reaching into already neighbourhood-centred Kensington-Cedar Cottage.)

Subarea Focus — Broadway Commercial & VCC Clark Transit Oriented Community

The ensuing heat — see Charlie Smith. City of Vancouver seeks input on densifying area around Commercial-Broadway Station. Georgia Straight (26 June 2013) and Yolande Cole. Grandview-Woodland residents rally for more time on community plan. Georgia Straight (9 July 2013) — eventually led into the forensics of an unprecedented “citizen’s assembly.” The results of that long and expensive attempt at decontamination remain unclear at the end of 2015.

In the interim, on 10 November 2014, a comment by Senior Urban Designer Scot Hein lifted the veil on the planning shenanigans that led to the debacle.

November 2009 — Norquay Backstory

One of the biggest surprises ever during the years of planning for Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre came on the evening of 2 November 2009. After more than three and a half years, Director of Planning Brent Toderian bombshelled the Norquay Working Group with the news that about one-fifth of what had been outlined as Norquay would be excluded going forward.

Four months earlier, a substantial majority of Norquay Working Group had signed a document in support of the plan that they had developed during a prolonged and intense 2009 process. (Residents in a mid-2007 formal survey strongly rejected cut-and-paste quickie “draft plan” based on the mass rezoning at Kingsway & Knight).

That 9 July 2009 meeting was the last one ever where Norquay Working Group had status as participants. The City of Vancouver went into indefinite recess, and then came back with a brand new set of planners.

What Toderian then called “station area planning” to the north would be put on indefinite hold. This out-of-the-blue severance disrespected the many Norquay residents from that area, many of whom had put in the equivalent of several working weeks of volunteer time.

Written by eyeonnorquay

17 December 2015 at 5:02 pm

To Top It Off

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For a long time, the final item on the extensive Norquay timeline has read:

        Uncertain:  Planning for the SkyTrain area of Norquay that planners excluded on 2 Nov 2009

Background:  Norquay planning officially “kicked off” in March 2006. After years of engagement, the Director of Planning sailed into a 2 November 2009 meeting to declare that the northern section of Norquay would no longer exist. That carve-out disrespected quite a few Norquay Working Group participants. In one instant, Vancouver city planning trashed their months of investment in working on a plan and threw their future into limbo. This is what Vancouver calls planning. Norquay residents call it abuse.

     The November 2009 Norquay Exclusion Outlined in Red

Note:  A mapping of the original core Norquay “neighbourhood centre” plus its various accretions can be found at http://www.vcn.bc.ca/norquay/nrqexp.pdf ]

Until now, the only inkling we’ve had of this murky future has been these few highlighted words in the closing sentence of Community Plans: Next Steps, a report that went to Council on 25 September 2013 [1]:

Staff also note that significantly extending more than one planning process would impact the Planning and Development Services Department’s ability to deliver on other Council priorities for area planning, including Cambie Corridor Phase 3, Broadway Corridor, the Eastern Core, South East False Creek, North East False Creek and other Station Areas (such as Nanaimo and 29th Avenue).  (p. 15)

Thanks to a CityHallWatch video record [2], Eye on Norquay is able to provide the following easy-access transcript of a second inkling. On 30 July 2014 Brian Jackson (General Manager, Planning and Development Services, City of Vancouver) spoke to Vancouver City Planning Commission [3] for sixteen minutes [0:00 to 15:58]. His overview of recent and upcoming City of Vancouver planning activities included two segments specific to Norquay.

     Brian Jackson  (credit: CityHallWatch)

Brian Jackson   0:44 to 1:22

But in addition to the three large areas that we’ve approved — or that Council has approved [as?] we recommended, we can’t forget we also did the implementation strategy for Norquay — we finished that, we finished the Mount Pleasant implementation strategy, we did a new policy statement for Pearson Dogwood, we did a new policy statement slash structure plan for Great Northern Way. So it’s been an incredible year as far as policy is concerned. All of this is taking place in 2014, which is going to prove to be our busiest year ever in terms of development applications.

Comment —  The implementation strategy for Norquay was created by planning staff with no resident involvement, other than a one-time opportunity to react to what staff cooked up. Norquay Working Group was terminated on 3 February 2011, and promised new groups for public benefits strategy and for public realm planning were never allowed to form. Meanwhile, the parallel implementation strategy for Mount Pleasant crammed a planning staff agenda down the throats of a very unhappy implementation committee. These were probably the last such resident “involvements” that Vancouver city planning will ever allow. (Also notice Jackson’s rhetoric: the backtrack from saying that planning did the approving, and the language surrounding mention of Norquay — “we can’t forget” and the redundancy of “we finished that.”)

Brian Jackson   14:04 to 14:40

And then, to top it off, our other proposal is for doing some station area planning around two of the Millennium Line stations at 29th and Nanaimo which have development opportunities, and the community itself is very interested in taking a look at what could happen around the immediate station area. So, I’m mentioning that last, because we’ve got a lot on our plate, and it may take us a while to get to those last things, so those things are looking like they’re mid to late 2015.

Comment —  Far closer to the truth:  the “community itself” dreads a second all-take-no-give planning incursion — except perhaps for developers who have assembled land or profiteers who expect to cash out and escape. “What could happen”? Surely not tall towers! But right now the “plate” is filled with seeing just how tall a tower can be forced onto the Safeway site in northern Cedar Cottage as part of the technically adjacent Grandview Woodland plan.

•   •   •   •   •   •   

[1]  Community Plans: Next Steps  (25 Sept 2013)

[2]  Brian Jackson’s status report to Vancouver City Planning Commission

[3]  Vancouver City Planning Commission — Agenda, 30 July 2014

See also:

Brian Jackson charts future path at Vancouver City Planning Commission meeting
CityHallWatch posting of 6 August 2014

Written by eyeonnorquay

8 August 2014 at 8:29 pm