An EcoDensity Update

As you know, our government established Five Goals to guide our service to Vancouver over the course of our term in office. They reflect the values of the residents, businesses and community organizations we serve. To support these goals, we have embarked on two major policy initiatives: Project Civil City and EcoDensity.

Vancouver EcoDensity InitiativeProject Civil City represents a comprehensive and compassionate plan to address the social challenges we face. My last communiqué identified many of the measures we have delivered to support Project Civil City over the past year, under the leadership of Councillor Kim Capri.

This message focuses on the other major policy initiative we have unveiled. EcoDensity represents Vancouver’s contribution to meet the challenges associated with climate change, housing affordability, and population growth in the Lower Mainland.

In addition to protecting the environment and building on Vancouver’s reputation as an international leader in sustainable development, Councillor Suzanne Anton and I have introduced EcoDensity as a comprehensive action plan to help combat urban sprawl.

“EcoDensity is the most significant policy put forward by Mayor Sam Sullivan and this council during the 2005-2008 term.”
– COPE Councillor David Cadman, November 27, 2007

Rising to the challenges of growth, and climate change

Climate change is the greatest challenge faced by all governments today. Cities are uniquely positioned through land-use decisions to achieve significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions.

In June, thanks to the leadership of Councillor Peter Ladner, Vancouver Council adopted new GHG reduction targets including carbon neutrality for all new buildings by 2030. The BC government has committed to reducing GHG emissions by 33% of current levels by 2020.

Through EcoDensity, we can reduce Vancouver’s ecological footprint and contribute to achieving provincial, national and international emission targets. We can help families live more affordably, closer to work and transit.

At least 1 million more people are expected to arrive in Metro Vancouver by 2031. EcoDensity will help us meet that challenge, embrace the opportunity and protect our quality of life.

Last year, Vancouver Council unanimously supported EcoDensity and an extensive public involvement program was initiated. Mayor Sullivan and Councillor Anton have been fully engaged in this process.

Staff presents results of public consultation

This week, city staff presented the results of the consultation and made recommendations about the next stage of action and community participation (pdf). The report includes an EcoDensity Charter and 16 recommendations to be presented at a special Council meeting on February 26, 2008. They include:

  • green rezoning opportunities for buildings over four stories
  • increase density for rezoning inquiries & applications on large city sites
  • interim rezoning policy allowing green projects to be considered in advance of area planning
  • use city land for one or more EcoDensity demonstration projects
  • city-wide review of amenity & renewable energy policies
  • options to require, allow and/or encourage secondary suites in all forms of housing (homes, town homes & condos) to help increase access to rental units
  • more backyard laneway infill housing
  • improved accountability structures & measurement tools

Council unanimously confirmed their support for the Charter and the staff report. Council also approved a series of other EcoDensity measures proposed by Councillor Anton including:

  • relax building height & density restrictions in Gastown, Chinatown and Downtown Eastside on signature sites to support heritage preservation and provide replacement SRO housing
  • finance major public amenities by allowing a density increase of up to 10% without rezoning where similar provisions exists for heritage
  • invest in neighbourhood plazas and community gathering spaces as public benefits of EcoDensity to improve quality of life & livability
  • consider giving additional floor space to single family homes which conform to green design

Promoting the Millennium Line completion, and other green initiatives

Last month, in a pre-budget submission, I invited the Province of British Columbia to support the goals of EcoDensity by confirming their commitment to complete the Millennium Rapid Transit Line to UBC and establish policies to reward municipalities that reduce GHG through higher densities.

In addition to promoting EcoDensity and completion of the Millennium Line, we have been working on many other initiatives to protect the environment and promote sustainable development over the past two years, including:

  • internationally recognized environmental design innovation at Southeast False Creek/Athletes Village development
  • helped secure close to 100 additional buses for 2008 from Translink
  • millions for greenways, new bike lanes & safer pedestrian corridors
  • more hybrid taxis
  • tough anti-idling & anti-smoking by-laws
  • $2 million to restore Stanley Park following last season’s damaging storms & helped secure $4 million in federal/provincial funding
  • $200,000 “Green City” award from provincial government
  • extensive public consultation process for Millennium Line project
  • promoted "zero-waste challenge” at Metro Vancouver
  • supported Vancouver Co-operative Car Sharing Network

We look forward to hearing from you in the coming weeks and months about these issues. As always, your input and ideas are greatly appreciated.


Sam Sullivan

Sam Sullivan