The relationship between Vancouver’s city skyline and its picturesque mountain setting is the “signature” of Vancouver. Changes to our city that affect our views and our skyline must be handled carefully. Any discussions about preserving these views should not be complicated by the addition of proposals to amend community plan and zoning provisions for specific sites.
The public needs to understand clearly whether the issue is the preservation of views or the accommodation of increased density and taller buildings.
The City of Vancouver council meeting agenda for Thursday December 16th (Planning and Environment Committee) includes a staff report dated November 29th entitled Implementation of Vancouver Views and Opportunities for Higher Buildings in the Downtown as well as a correction to the report referred to as the Yellow Memo. Staff are recommending revisions to the policy on higher buildings that could allow for increases in height that would impact the Queen Elizabeth Park view corridor as well as change the Downtown South Official Development Plan on maximum building heights.
This slide show gives examples of what these changes represent and show images from selected other cities and studies.
It is clear the public has a limited appreciation for the changes proposed in the staff report. The proposals included in the report are based on a public consultation attempt that did not successfully engage residents - only 72 members of the public completed a survey on this issue. Further, it is possible that many who did complete surveys had something to gain by supporting the proposed increases in height and infringements upon protected views. Public policy of this nature should be based on the input of the many, not the few.
There are also additions to the final report that were not part of the public consultation process. An example is the Burrard and Davie Street location. It was not part of the public open house display materials, but is noted in the report as the location for two potential very tall towers. If the conditions have changed since the October 2010 public houses, the public needs an opportunity to review these changes and to comment on them before it goes to Council.
Council’s decision to defer discussion of this item until January 20th, 2011 is a positive first step. But the deferral itself does not solve the problem.
The Vancouver Planning Department needs to address the fact that the public is not appropriately informed about the trade-offs on the table. WEN encourages City staff to raise the issue with the public, to engage stakeholders, to clearly identify the neighbourhoods affected (including the West End) and to report on the additional public input before Council considers it.
These proposed changes could change our city substantially for the next century. They must be managed in a way that accurately gauges and reflects the objectives of all stakeholders. There should be no rush to replace majesty of the North Shore mountains with the corporate signatures inherent in tall buildings.
For more information, see Vancouver’s height, density and view giveaway to developer’s, a holiday gift? and It’s Davie Village, not Davie City.