Practice Details

Title of Practice: Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP) for the Greater Vancouver Regional District
Year: 2002
BPTag: Award Winner
Reference Number: CAN259
City / Town / Village: Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD)
Region: North America
Country: Canada
Has this practice been submitted previously? No
Previous Title:
Address: 4330 Kingsway
Burnaby, British Columbia
V5H 4G8, Canada
Telephone: (604) 432-6380
Fax: (604) 436-6970
Email: hugh.kellasgvrd.bc.ca
Website: www.gvrd.bc.ca
Name of Contact Person: Hugh Kellas, Administrator
Email of Contact Person: hugh.kellasgvrd.bc.ca

The Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP) is Greater Vancouver's official regional growth strategy.It provides the framework for making regional land use and transportation decisions in partnership with the GVRD's 21 member municipalities, the provincial government and other agencies.

The purpose of the plan is to manage population growth, protect and enhance environmental health and quality, create livable and complete communities linked by effective transportation systems through a shared vision and coordinated actions.  The plan's strategies are built around four main goals:

  • Protect the Green Zone;

  • Build Complete Communities;

  • Achieve a Compact Metropolitan Area; and

  • Increase Transportation Choice.

The creation of a shared vision of environmental, social and economic health by the Region's 21 member municipalities, the Province and partners to guide the plan has been fundamental to the success of the LRSP.  Regional awareness of the plan and the ongoing coordination of activities through the common framework is a major achievement attributed to the plan.  More specifically, the establishment of the region's Green Zone serves as an effective urban containment area while protecting the region's ecology, health and agriculture.  The development of urban centres has been successful in containing the majority of developmentwithin a concentrated urban area while establishing diverse and more complete communities.  The establishment of a regionally controlled and operated transit authority (Greater Vancouver Regional Transit Authority) from the previous provincial entity is a major outcome linked to the LRSP. Together, these initiatives have enhanced the region's social, economic and environmental health.

Key Dates: •July 1990 – GVRD adopts vision: Creating Our Future •1993 – LRSP developed; implementation agreements initiated •January 1996 – LRSP endorsed by GVRD Board •February 1996- Province adopts as regional growth strategy •1997- present – ongoing annual reporting of LRSP
Norminating Organization Details
Name of Organization: International Centre for Sustainable Cities (ICSC)
Contact Person: Alastair Moore, Project Manager
Type of Organization:

Name of OrganizationAddressContact PersonOrganisation TypeType of Support
District of West Vancouver750 - 17th Street
West Vancouver BC V7V 3T3
Margaret Warwick, Municipal Clerk, NOT PROVIDEDLocal AuthorityFinancial Support, Political Support
Township of Langley4914 - 221st Street
Langley BC V3A 3Z8
Mark Bakken, Administrator, NOT PROVIDEDLocal AuthorityFinancial Support, Political Support
City of New Westminster511 Royal Avenue
New Westminster BC V3L 1H9
Susan Brown, City Clerk / Director of Legislative & Information Services, NOT PROVIDEDLocal AuthorityFinancial Support, Political Support
Village of Anmore2697 Sunnyside Road, RR#1
Anmore BC V3H 3C8
Howard Carley, Administrator, NOT PROVIDEDLocal AuthorityFinancial Support, Political Support
City of Burnaby4949 Canada Way
Burnaby BC V5G 1M2
Debbie Comis, City Clerk, NOT PROVIDEDLocal AuthorityFinancial Support, Political Support
City of Coquitlam3000 Guildford Way
Coquitlam BC V3B 7N2
Sonia Durham, Deputy City Clerk, NOT PROVIDEDLocal AuthorityFinancial Support, Political Support
District of Maple Ridge11995 Haney Place
Maple Ridge BC V2X 6A9
Terry Fryer, Municipal Clerk, NOT PROVIDEDLocal AuthorityTechnical Support
City of North Vancouver141 West 14th Street
North Vancouver BC V7M 1H9
Bruce Hawkshaw, City Clerk, NOT PROVIDEDLocal AuthorityFinancial Support, Technical Support
District of North Vancouver355 West Queens Road
North Vancouver BC V7N 4N5
Agnes Hilsen, Municipal Clerk, NOT PROVIDEDLocal AuthorityFinancial Support, Political Support
City of Surrey14245 - 56th Avenue
Surrey BC V3X 3A2
Donna Kenny, City Clerk/General Manager of Legislative Services, NOT PROVIDEDLocal AuthorityFinancial Support, Political Support

Infrastructure, Communication, Transportation
Urban and Regional Planning
Urban Governance

Situation before the initiative began

The region's population grew by 750,000 since 1980 and is presently 2,030,000.  Past trends saw Greater Vancouver's growth in the form of low density sprawl, interspersed with pockets of higher density unconnected by effective transportation services.  Pressures on green space, traffic congestion and declining air quality were significant. A regional vision and coordinated actions were lacking.

Establishment of Priorities

A vision was developed and endorsed by the GVRD, its member municipalities, partners and members of the public through extensive consultation:

<dir>"Greater Vancouver can become the first urban region in the world to combine in one place the things to which humanity aspires on a global basis: a place where human activities enhance rather than degrade the natural environment, where the quality of the built environment approaches that of the natural setting, where the diversity of origins and religions is a source of social strength rather than strife, where people control the destiny of their community, and where the basics of food, clothing, shelter, security and useful activity are accessible to all."</dir>


Formulation ofObjectives and Strategies

The plan's four main objectives (highlighted) and resulting strategies were defined through extensive consultation with partners. To protect the Green Zone,municipalities designated open space lands for protection from intensive development. To build complete communities, housing choices, jobs,services, were planned in town centers. To achieve a compact metropolitan area, efforts to target population increases within a centralized area of the region have occurred.  To increase transportation choice, major transit and transportation routes linking town centres are identified.

Member municipalities' Official Community Plans are required to be consistent with the LRSP and are the primary means of implementing the plan.


Mobilisation of Resources

Human resources, mobilized through the planning process were the most significant contribution in preparing the plan.  A large percentage of resources came through the in-kind contributions of partners.

Preparation of the LRSP is estimated to have cost approximately 3 million dollars. An examination of the costs of infrastructure under the plan were compared to "business as usual." It showed that infrastructure savings of $2.2 billion could be realized by implementing the growth management and transportation strategy.  As the focus of strategic planning work between 1989 and 1996, the plan was financed primarily through the GVRD's operating budgets, derived in part through municipal tax contributions.  Implementation and monitoring continue to be a significant part of the GVRD's work program..  Provincial planning grants also contributed substantially. Implementation of the plan is integrated into the budgets of the member municipalities through their official community plans

A rigorous technical review was required to develop plan strategies. Technical assessments, workshops and reviews were undertaken to address these needs primarily through GVRD operating resources. Municipalities provided extensive technical input into the plan through the assessment of municipal populations, jobs, housing and other statistics and trends to determine projected growth within the regional context.



A comprehensive consultation process with member municipalities, the Province, the public,community and interest groups and the business sector occurred to develop the LRSP  between early 1990 to the plan's adoption in 1996. Choosing Our Future was the first regional vision created by these partners in 1990. While there was support for the vision, municipalities recommended the GVRD get going on actions and implementation. The process to develop the LRSP was initiated.

From 1991 –1992, a series of workshops with partners and stakeholders occurred addressing a wide variety of topics related to the plan.  Thousands attended including local politicians, staff, the public, interest groups and the business sector. Protection of a regional network of green space held strong interest and emerged as the region's "Green Zone."  The Green Zone would serve as the urban containment boundary for the region. Projections of the region's growth led to the definition of a growth concentration area and distribution through town centers.  Other key elements of the plan including transportation corridors and complete communities were developed. The first"Council of Councils" of all elected officials in the region took place in 1992 to discuss regional issues within the framework of the LRSP.

 In June 1994, the GVRD Board approved the LRSP policies in principle while recognizing that municipal growth targets  were preliminary and subject to further review.  Eighty- five presentations and meetings on the LRSP took place with stakeholders in support of this.  Newspaper inserts, mail-outs and a video on the LRSP also reached a wide circulation.

Recognizing the reality ofplans lie in implementation, partners highlighted the need to developimplementation and partnership agreements. By late 1995 an implementation agreement framework was developed which incorporated statements of shared goals, partnership principles, coordination of policy and actions joint undertakings and administrative procedures.

The Provincial Growth Strategies Statutes Amendment Act was passed in 1995 providing critical  legislation to support the LRSP as an official regional growth strategy.  By mid-1995, public and municipal feedback generally showed strong support for the LRSP, however significant objections were voiced by three member municipalities(Surrey, Langley and Richmond). The planning process focused on working through these objections. Mutually acceptable memoranda of understanding were developed and ultimately appended to the LRSP.  The LRSP was adopted by the GVRD Board in January, 1996. It was deemed to be a regional growth strategy by the Province of British Columbia in late January, 1996.


Results Achieved

Implementation of the LRSP is monitored and reported annually through a series of indicators and qualitative evaluations. Monitoring of the plan in its first six years shows itis generally working.  In particular, the plan has provided a critical framework for coordination and integration of partners and means to monitor outcomes and adapt management strategies. This has enhanced institutional capacity and efficiency and is guiding the current review of the plan.

Protected habitat within the Green Zone occupies two thirds of the region's area and has increased by approximately 60,000 hectares since 1991. Many municipalities and the GVRD are constructing green ways and promoting environmental stewardship.

Almost 70% of  new housing built in the region is multi-use dwellings. Regional town centre development with housing, shopping, community and education facilities is progressing, however, these have not been as successful in attracting new jobs. Housing affordability and homelessness remain a challenge..

The plan is close to it's target of realizing 70% of new growth with the growth concentration. There has been a strong concentration of new dwellings around regional centres and along major transit corridors.

The plan has resulted inthe establishment of the Greater Vancouver Transit Authority (GVTA). from a provincially managed service. The number of transit rides per capita dropped slightly through the 1990's however, there has been an increase in transit trips at peak periods and the proportion of people walking and taking transit ishigher in regional centres.

Air quality improvements have been significant as a result of reductions in emissions from industry and vehicles however greenhouse gas emissions have been generally increasing.



The vision of Creating Our Future upon which the LRSP was built, is inherently tied to the tenants of sustainability.  These emphasize human activities that enhance rather than degrade the natural environment, diversity of origins and religions as a source of social strength, community empowerment and decision-making as well as the provision of basic needs for all.   These tenants are carried through in the goals and strategies of the LRSP which integrate land-use and environmental protection in a sustainable manner. These in turn are associated with social and economic systems and work towards the creation of sustainable communities..Implementation and monitoring of the LRSP has moved the GVRD well on its way on the path towards sustainability. However, monitoring of the plan a deeper understanding of urban sustainability and current stresses on the region are informing the GVRD on what is needed to become a sustainable region. As the LRSP focuses primarily on the coordinating land use and transportation, there are opportunities for greater integration of social and economic initiatives.   Other realizations regarding the sustainable management of the Green Zone include biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture.  Shaping the growth and creating complete communities continues to be a challenge. The current focus on energy and greenhouse gas management needs to be addressed.

Under the Provincial Growth Strategies Act, the LRSP must be reviewed every 5 years. This milestone was reached in 2001and the GVRD is currently embarking on a review of the plan with its partners.  The central theme for the revised plan is the sustainable Region recognizing the need for social,environmental and economic sustainability. The Sustainable Region Initiative(SRI) was launched by the GVRD in the fall of 2001and includes regional,corporate and partnership Initiatives.


Lessons Learned

The value of the comprehensive consultation process and partnerships that resulted through the development and endorsement of the LRSP is perhaps the greatest lesson learned.  As the plan addresses sensitive issues, such as the allocation of growth within specific municipalities, the meaningful involvement of partners was essential to the success of the process.  In embarking on revising the LRSP, the GVRD recognizes the need to expand partnerships to more fully engage the social, economic and environmental communities.

Many lessons have been learned through monitoring the LRSP. These will guide the review of the LRSP under the Sustainable Region Initiative.  Included in these is the realization that the plan does not adequately address social issues such as poverty, homelessness and culture which are critical to a healthy region.  While the GVRD does not have a mandate over the economy, regional economic development must be addressed for the region to be economically sustainable and to ensure social and ecological components are healthy.  There is a need to re-examine the relationship between transportation corridors and centres to better understand how growth can be encouraged in specific areas as current concepts have only been partially successful. Energy management has become a critical issue for communities and linkages between the built environment and energy management must be addressedin a sustainable region.  While the plan has successfully established a major network of green space, biodiversity conservation, sustainable agricultural and development practices are required for the future.

Finally, a major lesson learned is that the LRSP process has perhaps been as valuable as the product and the extensive period of time involved in developing and implementing the plan has been necessary. . The awareness of the plan is reflected by its"brand name" that is iterated well beyond the bounds of the region.



The significance of Greater Vancouver's experience with urban sustainability has begun to attract worldwide attention and the LRSP is the region's key strategy in this regard.  Through the Vancouver-based International Centre for Sustainable Cities, established in1993 as one of Canada's first Agenda 21 actions, Canadian expertise and technology is being applied in practical urban sustainability demonstration projects in the developing world, notably China, Southeast Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. The LRSP has been selected as an Ambassador Project in the 2002Stockholm Partnerships for Urban Sustainability Awards competition to be concluded in June 2002.  Greater Vancouver has also been selected by the Canadian Gas Association to represent Canada in an international World Gas Union competition to show how a major urban region can develop a 100-year strategy to achieve sustainability. In recognition of the approaching 30th Anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements held in Vancouver in 1976, a proposal is under development to hold an international conference on sustainability in Vancouver in 2006 in conjunction with the United Nations Urban Forum. 

The framework of the LRSPis based on a common vision with fundamental regional goals which can be usedas a template in other areas.  The LRSP Annual Report shares knowledge with partners to adapt management strategies.Workshops held in developing the LRSP highlighted other practices thereby benefitting the plan. Current initiatives such as the GVRD Storm water Task Force or municipal green ways programs enhance ongoing implementation of the LRSP.

The plan is being replicated by many member municipalities through their OCP's.  The LRSP is held as a model of a Regional Growth Strategy by the Province and has been referenced by other regions in-British Columbia.Aspects that could be done differently in the future include stronger integration of social and economic components.

•"Census shows growth strategy is working: GVRD livable region plan only partially successful". Vancouver Sun, Ward, Doug, and Tom Barrett. March 14, 2002, B1, B5.
•Planning Canadian Regions. Hodge, Gerald, and Ira M. Robinson. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2001.
•"Plan monitoring: Are we getting it right? Part 2." Plan Canada. Knight, Nancy. Volume 38: 6, November 1998, 30-32.
•"Bold vision in Vancouver". Mass Transit. Duffy, Jim. Volume 24: 6, November/December 1998, 8-15.
•"Richmond's official plan forecasts 62,000 more residents: Regional district compromised with city to reach lower limits than in an earlier plan." Vancouver Sun, Pynn, Larry. April 20, 1998, Final Edition, B4.
•"Vancouver's 21st century growth model". Nation's Cities Weekly. Peirce, Neal. Volume 19:32, August 12, 1996, 2.
•"Minister approves Livable Region Plan" Vancouver Sun, Gram, Karen, Feb. 12, 1996, City Desk, B-2.
•"Toronto wants to be like Vancouver; Analysis: Ontario study sees GVRD as a model for
•regional government" Vancouver Sun, Bellet, Gerry Feb. 8, 1996, C-6
•"A dream of "greater" Vancouver: Regional district's manifesto envisions a region in which utopians would feel at home". Vancouver Sun, Bellett, Gerry. January 25, 1996, Final Edition, B1.
•"GVRD's future aim: "Livable". Province (Vancouver). October 29, 1995, Final edition, A20.

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