Vancouver residents rally against 'Broadway Plan'

A proposal to redevelop along a planned subway line in Vancouver has some residents worried about the future livability of the city.

The City of Vancouver’s Broadway Plan would create enough housing for 50,000 more residents over the next 30 years, concentrated around a major arterial that will be the route of a subway by 2025. 

However, some feel the plan goes too far, and on Saturday morning they took their concerns to City Hall.

“What we have is a battle for the soul of the city,” said Bill Tieleman, co-organizer of the rally, to a crowd of about 200 people gathered on the steps.

The city’s website describes the Broadway Plan as a “comprehensive area plan for Broadway between Clark Dr. and Vine St., a 30-year vision for new housing, jobs and amenities around the new Broadway Subway."

Planning and engagement for the project started in 2019 and the draft plan will go to council on May 18 for a vote.

Of particular concern to some residents is the creation of a high-density zone along Broadway, allowing for residential towers up to 40-storeys tall. According to the plan, central Broadway would become a second downtown.

Vancouver Resident Lise Botman attended the rally on Saturday, holding a sign that read “Stop Mega Tower Sprawl.” Botman says she knows the city needs more housing – rental units in particular.

“But, let’s have 10-storey things,” she said. “(Vancouver) is not as livable if it’s all towers, skyscrapers, and cold shadows.”

Some protesters in attendance feared the redevelopment of existing low-rise buildings along the Broadway corridor would cause them to lose their homes to so-called demovictions.

"We’re not happy with the city thinking it can do what it wants and push us around and move us out of where we live,” said Josh Zumstein, who lives in Vancouver's Fairview neighbourhood.

“(Resident displacement) is something we’ve looked at very carefully and are very conscious of, and we’ve brought in the strongest tenant protections in Canada to address that really important issue,” said Matt Shillito, the city’s acting director of special projects.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Kennedy Stewart told reporters any displacement of residents due to construction would be temporary.

“These folks would be fully compensated with either a cash payout or the right to return to a new building at or below their current rents,” he said.

The plan for a cash payout to tenants who need to be relocated for developments or renovations already exists under the City of Vancouver’s current Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy

And the option for tenants to leave and then come back to the new development at the same, or lower rent was included in council’s staff presentation back in November.

Vancouver-based architect and city blogger, Brian Palmquist says the scale of the Broadway Plan is far too large. He says Vancouver’s population has grown by one per cent every year since Expo 86. However, he says the Broadway Plan suggests Vancouver is growing at a rate of 3 per cent annually.

“By the time we realize – wait where are these folks coming from? It’ll be too late. We’ll have way more empty high-rises then we already have,” he said. "It really is the destruction of our city as we know it."

City staff disagrees.

“This is the most logical place to accommodate the growth that we know is coming,” said Shillito.

"This is a brand-new rapid transit line. It’s a $3-billion investment and it’s really important we capitalize on it and help make the neighbourhoods it runs through more complete, inclusive and sustainable over the next 30 years.”

With files from CTV's Alissa Thibault