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View corridor open houses coming up

May 29th, 2009 · 24 Comments

It could be just my imagination, but it seems to me that people who read this blog are very interested in the discussion about changes to view corridors. Given that, here’s the city’s official announcement about open houses on same — perhaps people could come wearing nametags with their blog pseudonyms?

Downtown Capacity and View Corridors E-newsletter
May 28, 2009

E-newsletters will keep you up to date on major study milestones and opportunities for public involvement.

Study Objectives

    1. achieve additional development capacity in the downtown to support more public benefits
    2. identify possible modifications while still achieving the intent of the current height and view corridor policies

As a part of the Study, the City is hosting a series of public open houses to hear how protected public views matter you.

Public open houses are being held at the following times and locations:

    • Tuesday, June 2: 3 – 7 pm
      Roundhouse Community Centre
      181 Roundhouse Mews
      Thursday, June 4: 3 – 7 pm
      City Square Shopping Centre
      555 West 12th Avenue

Sunday, June 7: 12 – 5 pm
Vancouver Public Library
Central Branch
350 West Georgia Street
Tuesday, June 9: 3 – 7 pm
Sunset Community Centre
6810 Main Street

Open houses are an informal opportunity to learn more about the study and to have your say on the value of public views.  All open houses are “drop-in” format.

Come and provide your feedback about the protected views. Input will be used to contribute to proposed options for modifying, if appropriate, protected public views and height limits.  These options will be presented to the public later this year for further public evaluation and discussion.

More information about the study can be found online at

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Frances,

    I no longer respect the Vancouver planning process; all talk and no do.

    We had a view corridor debate back in 1992+/- Clr Puil deferred the debate until Concord sited their towers . . . sort of ass backwards.

    Now we have an impenetrable wall blocking views from all but the highest elevations on Fairview slopes. There is view to the NE but not as dramatic.

    As for the street ends. Ald Kennedy did not fulfil the promise looking N on Granville.

    I was in town the other day. Only Burrard now has an unobstructed view.

    Call me when integrity is part of the process . . . .

  • Mary

    Unfortuneately Urbanismo’s comments are true about most City of Vancouver planning processes. Specious, meaningless, dot-mocracy exercises with choices that often are known to be impossible to implement or are not actually choices at all. Occassionally a genuine set of questions is posed, even rarer does the public have any say in what the questions actually are. This is sad for a number of resons: it weakens the democratic process for starters. It’s also an unforgiveable waste of money given the bloated size of the Planning Department who plan and conduct the processes. Neighbourhood participation was a cornerstone of the Vision platform, but there seems to have been little change in way business is done. Sad really.

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    I have a question about the bonus density program I hope someone might be able to answer:

    Has anyone ever done an audit to compare the total value of density bonuses granted by the city to the real cost of the amenities that developers actually delivered? Is there a list of amenities delivered?

    For a Council rightly concerned about City finances, wouldn’t it be prudent at this particular point in time (that is, now that the density piggy bank has been cleaned out by developers) to request an independent analysis of the Density Bonus program, before launching us into these costly by-law reviews?

    To put it another way: Is this program achieving the goals it was set up to acclomplish? Is it working, or does it need an overhaul?

    Hope someone can provide some insight or data. Thanks.

  • Joe Just Joe

    Density bonusing is done on a case by case basis, you can read the documents they are readily available online. Wether you beleive the density is deserving of the amentity will be another matter. W/O it though we’d have much less restoration work and daycares around.

  • Colton Kirsop

    Hi GJG,
    There are some examples of the “density bonuses” and the corresponding public benefits on information board #6 entitled “Why consider modifying view corridors?” from the Capacity and View Corridors. Council ultimately decides if the negotiation is worthy of approval. The open house boards can be found here:

  • foo

    Well Gassy, the developers are so rich they can buy hockey teams to play with in their spare time. Some might suggest political parties too, but let’s leave that one for another day.

    The city, on the other hand, has deteriorating community infrastructure, a hiring freeze, tax increases and ginormous debt load.

    That says something about the balance achieved by the density bonus plan….

  • Another reason I don’t respect the PD Colton! Bonus amenities, daycare etc.

    “public benefits” for whom?

    Sometime last year Price Tags displayed a group of nice kids trooping to Dorothy Lam: good PR for the PD’s FCN but those kids don’t live anywhere near. FCN is geared to very high-end empty nesters. There are few if any families, as recent blogs have succinctly pointed out.

    Clearly Hallistas themselves are high end and can only see the city thru their own lens.

    Similarly in FCN, on the northern quadrant there is a very pretty multi-coloured children’s’ play set. Last time I looked it was still in mint condition, brand new: it hasn’t been used. There are no kids within blocks to enjoy it. But I’ll bet VP gave away millions in bonuses for the privilege.

    Kids play soccer on the central green: of course they do. They come from far away: such amenities are scarce near home.

    Clearly there is a small group of people who seem hell bent on extending the myth of social responsibility at the VP. Their time has long gone . . .

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    Thanks for the replies to my inquiry. My apologies for the long post to follow…

    I did a little searching myself and came up with a few items that may be of interest. As a layman, I welcome any experts to set me straight on any of these facts, I’m just putting them out there as a possible reason why the Density Bonus system doesn’t seem to be fulfilling its potential as Foo and Urbanismo and others suggest.

    – The Heritage Advisory Committee (HAC) appears to be doing its own review of the H. Density System. The HAC also just struck a committee Apr 27 to look at the Historic Area Height Review. (Strange timing given that the HAHR workshops and open houses were in April and May… wasn’t the HAC even consulted on this!?)

    There was an independent report done in 2002 on the heritage density system (you can link to it from the city’s bonus density page). It doesn’t provide a system audit (the info wasn’t/isn’t kept apparently), but the review does compare NY, San Fran, Seattle versions to ours. There are key differences that ensure US cities get full value (ie. maximum amenities) for these transfers, and that the program remains active and integral to the local development market.

    – The one that sticks out for me is that the US cities have DOWNZONED their core districts to create a greater demand and much higher value for the transferable density program. View Cone/Capacity Review and HAHR are proposing Vancouver do the opposite.

    – In some cases, developers are REQUIRED to buy transferable density when they apply for additional density or zoning changes (ie. to build skyscrapers), forcing them to use the system.

    – US cities have created and administer actual density banks (we just have an inventory) that create minimum values for density and always ensure an active market. It’s an added source of City revenue.

    – US cities have much higher allowable density increases when transferred. Vancouver’s max increase is only 10% (in 2002), whereas in the US the threshold is much higher. Ie. NY allows a 24% FSR increase for density transferred from Historic Theatres (ie. the Pantages’ density would be worth almost 150% more than its current valuation). Now that’s an enlightened policy! This is, of course, also very developer-friendly, and so it is introduced only to offset downzoning.

    – Of the 3 million feet of transferable density approved by Council since inception, only about half has been used up to date, despite just going through an historic building boom.

    – In terms of value for the City, there is an estimate that our density in 2002 was selling at about 1/2 of market value per square foot, whereas in the US it is often sold at a premium because of the way their systems are set up. Currently, high restoration costs + low value on density means that Vancouver’s heritage owners (esp. speculators) have very little incentive to do anything other than wait until the building collapses and demo it.

    – One of the 2002 report’s recommendations for Vancouver is: “For any future area-wide rezonings, require land owners to purchase transferable density to obtain approval for increased density.” We’ve just embarked on multiple area-wide rezoning processes, so why aren’t we even considering any of this?

    I think it would be utterly foolish to rush ahead and chew up our view cones and raise Historic Area heights without AT LEAST ensuring we realize a premium value on the density that is gained. If City council is strapped for cash, they might want to ask why one of their cash cows hasn’t been delivering on its promises? View Cones and Historic Heights are by-laws based on vision and recognized as important milestones for Vancouver. I’m not sure I’d want to go down in history as being part of the Council that reversed these seminal by-laws and gave away the new density for a song.

  • Joe Just Joe

    GJG I’ll speak to part of your questions.

    “- The one that sticks out for me is that the US cities have DOWNZONED their core districts to create a greater demand and much higher value for the transferable density program. View Cone/Capacity Review and HAHR are proposing Vancouver do the opposite”

    By increasing the height allowed but allowing the FSR to remain the same, this will give incentive to developers to purchase from the bank otherwise they could not build the new higher maxs. Elimanitaing the 10% transferable limit will also go a long way so long as the project remains under the new height limits.

    The reason that some of that density has gone for under market value is because no one was buying as they didn’t need to, the city was just approving ever higher FSRs. If they limit the FSR side of things there will be no choice but to buy density at market rates.

    Another issue that needs to be touched on is a fair amount of the density in the bank is head by developers on purpose to retain for their own future projects. The problem with this is it skews the market for the smaller developers that need to sell.

    I don’t have a solution to fix the density bank, but I think it needs to be retained, and reworked a bit.

  • GJG JJJ . . .

    Gentlemen your in-depth research knowledge belies your naivé on-line construct.

    GJG writes, “I’m not sure I’d want to go down in history as being part of the Council that reversed these seminal by-laws and gave away the new density for a song,” and tells me he is in the loop.

    You describe a very complex and familiar planning process: statistical, data prone, technique, and numbers: a creeping labyrinth that demonstrably does not produce intended results: 20th century Vancouver planning at it’s worst.

    Twenty-first planning, and admittedly there is little, replaces statistical with conceptual: interactive building relationships within spatial interstices. The most effective tools for this concept are the building envelope and build-to line.

    The building envelope (no not moisture penetration) describes height limits as amenity (not distant profile), Sun, over looks, building inter relationships, volume.

    The build-to line describes the manner in which buildings form spaces between, wrap around and define urban spaces and places: and street presence.

    Use becomes a matter of compatiblity: mix is the key with an eye to noise transmission, air quality and economic viability . . .

    Of course this requires a mind set quite different to one accustomed to statistics and rules: spatial imagination is the key . . .

    As you infer, we need change. Then let’s get on with it!

    Ojala y paz . . .

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    Thanks again for the insights.

    JJJ, I’m concerned that the proposal to raise heights and keep FSR the same might sound good in theory, but who knows if it will really work? Why not do it the other way around and downzone (or just keep heights the same, which, due to the capacity shortage, is virtually the same in our case). This has worked in US for decades, and is tested and proven to maximize value.

    By blanket raising the heights/capacity within the zones, we are only ensuring there is no added value put on the density infringing on a view cone or an historic area. The value to the City (the public trust) is much higher in these cases than with regular density (or, at least, it damn well should be!).

    The stated goal of the reviews is to leverage new density for amenities. Without ensuring an efficient system is in place to maximize value for the City, that goal is destined to continue to fail us miserably. That we plan to sacrifice view cones and historical values makes it utterly shameful. If the system is failing us and not delivering anywhere close to maximum potential — and it’s pretty hard to argue against that view – then pushing through these by-law changes will only compound the problem and make the amenities-for-density program even less viable going forward.

    Urbanismo, there’s no question that our bonusing system is, in addition to its other shortcomings, overly complex and onerous (esp. compared to US versions). The 2002 report points to that as a deterrent to participation.

    As for shifting the whole mindset, well, for my part I’m trying hard to restrain my construct’s cynical nature on this issue because, as a taxpayer who was born and raised in Vancouver and who cares deeply about our history, I think these particular reviews will have a major impact on our legacy.

    It’s easy to dismiss the reviews as a sham, but my concern is that there aren’t enough voices questioning this rigorously enough to be taken seriously. Even our Urban Planning academia is run by developers…

  • i would like to get back to the matter at hand…the view corridor study…or, as it is known, the view and CAPACITY study! I went to the first open house and strongly support the review, but have some serious concerns with the process.

    If you haven’t been, you are invited to comment on the value of certain view corridors…but unfortunately, from STATIC viewpoints. This may have been understandable 20 years ago, but it is far too simplistic today. We should be assessing the value of views from a more DYNAMIC perspective.

    I am willing to bet that even people who think all views must be cherished will agree that some of the view cones under consideration should be eliminated…while other view cones, especially at street ends, should be added or enhanced.

  • Gentlemen,

    The cone of vision debate goes back nearly three decades. In my opinion with results questionable . . .

    On a scale of 1 ➙10: affordability being 9+ cone of vision is 4 . . .

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    Sorry to keep straying on this tangent, Michael, but I think both you and Planning are falling for the absurd myth that Vancouver’s core has no building capacity left just because we have certain restrictions. Does San Francisco lack skyscraper developments in its down-zoned core? I don’t think so. And neither would we if we simply took a new approach.

    The over-height Wall Centre got built didn’t it? Furthermore, about 40% of the transferable density approved by Council pre-2002 was used on that one project alone. Over 70% of the total was taken up by two big projects requiring zoning changes: Wall + Bentall. The system appears to work well in the US so it should work here, especially now that we’ve built out the capacity (we don’t even need to downzone).

    But the window of opportunity won’t last much longer if we push ahead and change the by-laws without considering any other approach. Unless you can argue that San Fran is not developer-friendly and no skyscrapers get built in their downzoned core, maybe it’s worth a second thought? These aren’t my ideas (ie. easily dismissible), they are tried and true programs in world-class cities, and the research I cite was done by one of your professional peers.

    The public will have its say on a case-by-case basis during the rezoning process if someone wants to infringe on the view cones or the heritage district heights. But forcing the public to consider everything all at once, and on multi-fronts in multi-zones, is expecting way too much, that is, if you really truly want to inform the public and value their input. Most commentators above seem to think this is all just a sham and so likely won’t even show up to have their say – maybe they are right not to bother?

  • Gassy,

    You certainly have command of the subject . . . problem is, if I (Michael too) may respectfully point out, it is the wrong subject.

    Oh dear here we go again “world class.”

    Wall over height eh! Does it really matter? It’s street level that counts:

    . . . “without considering any other approach.” May I suggest, again respectfully, you use your urban erudition, and evident entré, to make the big change from statistical to conceptual, or Michael’s preferred “Dynamic” zoning. It’ll be along haul but the current zoning by numbers just isn’t producing desired results, according, that is, to your own views!

    Comparing Vancouver to San Fran, or indeed any city, is pointless. There are so many differences; politics economics to say the least.

    Didn’t some one try that with Seattle last week? Pointless . . .

    . . . in the mean time . . .

    . . . enjoy one great things the come out of Vancouver . . . turn up your speakers and dig . . .

  • PlanningData

    To add a statistical note to the comment about there being no children living in False Creek North, the 2006 Census data for Census Tract 59.03 (which is effectively False Creek North) can be downloaded from the Statistics Canada website. It shows 1,060 children under 15 living there, 525 of them aged under 5. This is a 63% increase from 2001, when there were 300 children. The total population increased by 47% (from 7,200 to 10,570) so the percentage of children grew by more than the overall population increase. There were 180 children aged 5-9 in 2001, and 235 aged 10-14 in 2006. These numbers suggest that not only are families having children and staying in the neighbourhood, but families with young children are also moving into the area.

  • With respect PlanningData how do you know? Even CMHC stats have come under severe crit on a related blog.

    Even at 10% kids of pop it is hardly kid friendly. Likely, too, when they become huge teens they’ll move on.

    FCN is not a place for families QED

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    Oh, PlanningData, I pity all those poor kids who have to sleep on the couch in their parents’ shoebox! They must be ghosts like me, or else very well behaved, since they are so seldom seen or heard.

    But just because a kid is claimed as a dependent by a parent who has a mailing address in Yaletown doesn’t necessarily mean that the little tyke actually lives there. As a divorced parent, I find that both Stats and Rev Can have serious gaps in accounting for amicable joint custodies, weekender arrangements, second marriages, non-traditional families, etc. that are often the case these days (and maybe more so in Yaletown than other places?). Only one parent can claim a dependent, so tax time expedience may skew these numbers quite a bit. It’s damn hard to imagine a neighbourhood of 1000 kids that never go out and play on the nearest playground. How do the stats explain this?

    Hmmn, I guess that reinforces Urbanismo’s point about the shortcomings of statistical absolutism.

    And thanks for the link, Urbanismo, hadn’t heard that in a while. I took a long weekend away rather than “end up drunk on Robson Street” acting even more foolish than usual in public. I still think you are missing my point – If there’s a good way to leverage more amenities like affordable housing (9.5 on your scale of importance), then why ignore it? – but I don’t disagree with yours or MG’s main points, despite my caterwauling. In fact, none of what any of us is saying excludes or disproves the others’ points; they can all coexist for the good of better planning.

    On another side note: the city of Austin, Texas got so sick of the recent condo tower boom and its homogenizing effect on architecture and commerce in their downtown that they developed a campaign to “Keep Austin Weird”. Maybe Vancouver needs to adopt a similar mindset?

  • Downtown Dad

    I concur with Planning Data. I live in Yaletown and often take my daughter to the two playgrounds at David Lam Park. Usually, the number of kids there means that we have to wait our turn for the swings and slide. So we often go to Cooper’s Park (both the playground under the bridge and the one beside the dog park) or George Wainborn Park to escape the crowds. While these playgrounds are less busy than David Lam, we are seldom alone. So while statistics don’t tell the whole story as some have pointed out, they sure do a great job of backing up my real life experience of a father in Yaletown (or does my experience back up the stats?). Qualitative and Quantitative data – a combination that can’t be beat. QED.

  • There is far too much uncorroborated self-serving dissembling and cheerleading coming out of the planning department. Given evidence on the ground it is a luxury the city can no longer afford.

    Time to disband the Vancouver Planning department.

    Are you listening Mr. Mayor and Council?

  • Mr. Clarity

    Umm, with all respect, Urbanismo, you can’t have it both ways. First you complain that:

    “in FCN, on the northern quadrant there is a very pretty multi-coloured children’s’ play set. Last time I looked it was still in mint condition, brand new: it hasn’t been used. There are no kids within blocks to enjoy it. ”

    and then, when you find out there is a significant number of families in the area, you huff that the area is “hardly kid friendly”.

    And remember that taking an angry tone in response does not constitute cogency.

  • Indeed Mr. Clarity,

    That is my point. There is not ” a significant number of families in the area”

    Why the pretence?

  • Urbanismo

    PS . . . oh and by the way Mr. Clarity . . .

    There are no “identifiable neighbourhoods” either!

    FCN demonstrates thoughtless planning and bad architecture, a deficiency replete throughout the city . . .

  • Urbanismo

    PPS . . . I acknowledge planners don’t have clout to match that of Vancouver’s developers: developers call the shots.

    All the more reason to face reality. VPD is a luxury the city can no longer afford . . . QED