To be or not to be in the West End. That is the question.

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to 2011 in which we see a renewed sense of accomplishment paired with the excitement of what is possible for the community. We hope you all had a wonderful time surrounded by loved ones, friends, family.

Continuing where we left off just before the holidays, on Thursday December 16, 2010, City Council sat for a Views & Higher Buildings presentation by the Planning Department, which made suggestions of locations where building heights in the city could be proposed to go even higher.

It certainly caught our attention when we saw that the west corners of Burrard and Davie, and the south west corner of Burrard and Georgia within the West End were a part of these higher building zones. Yet we heard the Planning Department staff repeatedly state (and Councillor Tim Stevenson reinforce) that these higher building regulations would NOT create additional height in the West End.  We weren’t sure how the city went about reconciling this inconsistency, so we reviewed the video feed of Council from that day…

Here’s what they said when questioned about the higher building locations that cross into the West End:

Ohhh, imagine that. Parts of the West End are not in the West End… by zoning definition.

St. Paul’s Hospital at Burrard and Comox in the West End… not in the West End. Perhaps someone should let the West End Residents Association know they over-extended their reach with the ‘Save St. Paul’s Coalition’. The hospital is in Downtown Vancouver, according to the Planning Department’s zoning definition.

Columbus Millennium seniors’ home at Davie and Broughton?  Nope, sorry Granny, you are not in the West End according to the planning department’s CD-1 zoning for your building site. And you shouldn’t complain that you don’t get to see other places anymore either.  As soon as you step outside your door, you are practically a tourist to the West End! By zoning definition.

Did you move into the Tudor Manor at Pacific and Jervis because of that gorgeous West End view of English Bay? Tough luck to you, we regret to inform that you reside in the Planning Department’s Comprehensive Development District CD-1 (178); NOT the West End.

Such a cold technical sounding designation for what is a unique area that is not in the West End. Perhaps the residents should give their homeland the proper name it’s due. “Tudormanorton” Perhaps?

Let’s not forget the rezoning at Davie and Bidwell, recently extracted from the West End in December 2009. From the city’s favourite development whipping boys Millennium, Henriquez Partners Architects, & Rennie Marketing Systems, is anticipated soon the frankentower pariah of heritage enthusiasts and tree lovers everywhere: Alexandra at English Bay.

Although, over a month after Millennium Water went into receivership and some assets supposedly seized, it’s still unknown whether the city (ie. us) owns a part of “Alexandraland” on which Maxine’s sits, or if Millennium was allowed to keep it.  In either case, architect Gregory Henriquez may as well go back to the drawing board and design a 1,000 foot tall tower on that spot. It obviously won’t affect the West End, since it’s NOT within it – by zoning definition.

So when those shadows get cast from 550 foot buildings in the March equinox at 10am and 2pm… or was that 1pm?… it’s hard to keep up with where the goal posts keep moving; anyways, rest assured those will only be urban chic shadows which stop at the West End boundary, no matter what time of day of month it is – unlike the low-rent, salt of the earth, unsophisticated kind of shadows you will find in the real West End.  No, we’re talking about the kind of shadows which give the daily car driver from Dunbar, Kitsilano, or Kerrisdale, the ceaselessly exciting daily impression of a grand gateway entrance onto a ceremonial worthy street in Toronto. Or Calgary.

It also appears someone forgot to send the memo to Mayor Gregor Robertson, to let him know where the West End boundaries are, before he sent this letter below to WEN President and Spokesperson, Randy Helten.

The Mayor specifically refers to this website map, which clearly suggests liberties with where the West End actually is – by zoning definition…

…thus making it completely possible for there to be members on the Mayor’s West End Advisory Committee, who are advising the Mayor on West End community priorities, and who may actually live “outside” the West End – by zoning definition.  Even the City’s Vanmap isn’t clearly representing the boundaries of the West End – by zoning definition…

So it seems we’re not the only ones confused here.  Could someone – anyone – let people know definitively where the West End boundaries are?

A neighbourhood can’t be something only part of the time for convenience or political expediency.

Somebody has it wrong – is it the Planning Department and Councillor Tim Stevenson? Or Mayor Gregor Robertson and the City’s websites? We’re pretty sure it’s not the more than 45,000 residents who call the West End “home.”

Council resumes on the Views & Heights issue with members of the public who wish to speak to this on Thursday January 20th, in conjunction with the Historic Area Heights Review.

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