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Larry Beasley weighs in on view corridors’ debate

April 2nd, 2009 · 21 Comments

For those of you who have missed it, there’s an incredibly lively and wide-ranging debate about view corridors that’s been going on here under my earlier post.

Former city planning director Larry Beasley posted his views on views this morning. Here they are:

Frankly, the essence of our city is at stake. One of the fundamental and unique amenities of our city is at stake: our tangible moment-to-moment experience of our glorious mountain and water setting from an array of locations both at the edges, across and within the dense urban core.

I see our view corridors, now so clear and obvious after years of careful management, as a part of the very commonwealth of our city. I say “our” corridors because they belong to everyone, regardless of wealth or status – they’re there for peoples’ enjoyment in their own time, in their own way. Trading them away for the expediency of the moment would be trading away our patrimony – and I think that would be a shame.

I’m skeptical of the intent of some of our politicians on this matter, but I think our Chief Planner, Brent Toderian, is right: we can tweak the corridors after 20 good years of experience (in fact, I hope we even add some new views). No one can argue that some have proven to be more vital than others and, in any event, it is good from time to time to refresh our public support for such a vulnerable amenity. But let’s make this a “no net loss” exercise.

To put this successful policy up for grabs, in principle, or to diminish much of the public equity that it represents would be a travesty for the public and an insult to those hundreds of developers who abided by the corridors over the years and still found ample profitability in their projects.

More to the point, to trade any of the very few now protected views away for more development potential of any kind – private or public – is shortsighted. There are many ways to accommodate development potential in our core without giving away our quality of life. What should our citizens think about deleting their public equity for private gain?

In fact, I propose an opposite strategy to what is now underway. Why can’t the City Council sponsor a program for people to nominate new views for protection? Instead of potentially less, let’s shoot for more protected views out of this review. Let’s turn this moment into an investment in our commonwealth, rather than a diminishment of it.

But no matter what happens, I hope the process fosters a wide and extensive public debate. Unfortunately many people take for granted the wonderful setting that they enjoy every day, assuming that it will always be there. Let’s make sure everyone knows the implications of less protected views: the closing in of our inner city, disconnection from the mountains and water and a sense of claustrophobia that is the day-to-day reality in most big cities in the world. I think most people would conclude that we don’t need that here in Vancouver.

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