May 2020 Update: COVID-19 Pandemic and OCP Review
The OCP Review continues despite challenges emerging as a result of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 9, 2020, a report was presented to Council outlining the results of public consultation held in November and December, 2019, focused on the Waterfront Enhancement Strategy (WES) and the Town Centre (i.e., urban design, including building heights, and the public realm). The following Figure was included in the report and outlines how members of the public would allocate resources towards waterfront enhancement if given the opportunity to be “Mayor for a Day”.
As outlined in the Figure, the majority of respondents felt that the issues of improving accessibility and strengthening waterfront business and character warranted additional investment. Strategies related to these two issues, discussed during the engagement activities, include:
- Refine parking program and traffic management;
- Reconsider Marine Drive as a “Pedestrian First Zone”;
- Improve the pedestrian connection to Uptown;
- Improve wayfinding signage;
- Expand access to East Beach;
- Widen the sidewalks in west section of West Beach; and
- Develop a rail-free waterfront in the mid-to-long term.
Strengthen Waterfront Business & Character:
- Reintroduction of a “façade facelift” incentive program;
- Completion of character design guidelines for East and West Beaches;
- Creation of a “Vacancy No More” campaign;
- Support a richer mix of uses and expand promotion; and
- Improve policies and regulations.
Regarding the Town Centre, the report summarizes 12 draft recommendations coming out of community engagement activities held between May and July, 2019; a public open house to more specifically discuss the recommendations was held on December 10, 2019. The 12 draft recommendations were grouped into three different categories and are summarized as follows:
A Green Town Centre
- Grow the Tree Canopy and Species Mix
- Manage Rainwater Sustainably
- Improve Soil Connectivity
- Prioritize Green Buildings
A Strong and Connected Community
- Create Social and Affordable Housing
- Increase the Mix of Uses
- Identify Transit Exchange Options
A Vibrant Sense of Place
- Refine the Community amendment Contribution Density Bonus Policy
- Building Heights (as recommended within an accompanying map)
- Promotion of Plazas, Patios and Green Space
- Build the Open Space Network
- Identify Town Centre Priorities
Members of the public were invited to complete a survey regarding the above-listed recommendations and, in doing so, to indicate their level of support or non-support for each. There was also an opportunity to add open-ended responses regarding each recommendation within the survey.
A report regarding the conclusions of the Town Centre urban design and public realm review will be presented to Council in Summer, 2020. It is anticipated that the report will seek direction from Council to implement changes to the OCP so as to support a policy framework more closely aligned with the aspirations of the public.
In addition to the WES and Town Centre review, the OCP Review project is more broadly scoped to evaluate the following six key policy areas/opportunities:
- ‘Greening the City’ (strengthening policies regarding greenspace);
- City-wide building height review (heights outside of the Town Centre);
- Updating affordable housing policies;
- Strengthening transit policies;
- Strengthening policies regarding Peace Arch Hospital expansion; and
- Developing an OCP scorecard to measure success and track OCP implementation.
City staff are currently in the process of preparing options within each key policy area based on a review of approaches adopted in other jurisdictions and the feedback received to date. Similar to the WES and Town Centre policy reviews, once options are available, the City will look to share the materials with the public so as to garner feedback and opinion. Due to current COVID-related limitations on public gatherings, opportunities for public input may need to initially rely on digital platforms for engagement and, following the lift of restrictions, a return to more conventional engagement methods will occur.