Two years ago, a proposed city plan to add massive clusters of towers in Vancouver's famously left-wing Commercial Drive neighbourhood provoked such a backlash that it became a crisis for the city's ruling party.
But a new plan released this weekend, developed laboriously in a year-long process with a 48-member "citizens' assembly," is being received more positively.
The new plan suggests putting density around the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station as before, but less of it, with towers of 12 to 24 storeys only. The previous plan had proposed towers up to 36 storeys.
Other new housing would come from redevelopment along Broadway and Hastings, and the city's popular Commercial Drive would be held to no more than four storeys along most of its length.
"It seems to be very balanced," said Dorothy Barkley, the chair of the Grandview Woodland Area Council, who was also a citizens' assembly member. "What they're proposing is quite reasonable."
Ms. Barkley said residents are still trying to absorb all the details of the 250-page draft plan, but that planners seem to have listened to some key points.
The plan proposes a mix of new rental and condo towers, gentle infill and townhouses that could bring housing for 9,500 new people to the area in the next 25 years. Commercial Drive has been losing population in recent years, partly due to gentrification.
About $800-million-worth of new neighbourhood services, including some new public plazas and a renewed Britannia community complex, would come along with that.
Significantly, the plan also recommends that any redevelopment of existing rental buildings be restricted so that changes happen gradually, something city planners said they heard loud and clear that residents were worried about.
"A lot of people were concerned that developers were going to run to this area and it would be clear-cut," said Kent Munro, the city's assistant planning director for midtown. "With this, it's not going to catch on fire and change overnight."
New developments of existing rental housing sites will be limited in the first three years so that no more than 150 units are redeveloped in that time. The city would re-evaluate after that to see if the rate of change seems right or needs to be adjusted up or down.
Development on sites with no rental housing would still be able to proceed at the usual pace.
That will likely mean quick action on the site of the Safeway grocery store next to the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station, where the company has been planning to redevelop for several years.
In the plan, the Safeway site would be transformed into a large public plaza with a mix of offices, commercial outlets and residential housing in a cluster of buildings around it.
The plan also weighs in on another controversial development proposal in the neighbourhood, a 12-storey complex at Commercial and Venables.
That project, which has generated fierce pro and con factions in the neighbourhood, is the result of a collaboration between the Kettle Friendship Society, which serves people who are mentally ill, and developer Boffo Properties.
Kettle leaders say partnering with a private developer, which will build some market housing along with a new facility for the society and subsidized housing, is the only solution they've been able to find for improving their services.
Planners recommend that the project, which consists of four interlinked buildings in its most recent design, be no more than nine storeys and that the side facing Commercial Drive be no more than four storeys.
However, a presentation created for the public warns that the lower-rise "concept is not self-supporting and would require additional funding."
Barbara Cameron, a spokesperson for the No Tower Coalition that has been opposing the current developer's version of the Boffo Kettle project, said "we're heartened to see the evolution that's going on here.
"We like the notion of four storeys along Commercial Drive."
The city is running several open houses for residents to look at the proposal before council votes on it in late July.