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More Waldorf: Former senior planner notes that there is strong protection already to prevent rampant condo development on Waldorf site

January 15th, 2013 · 38 Comments

Hard to keep up with this story, I know, what with new revelations every day that the Waldorf Productions partners weren’t the flushest, or perhaps savviest, of business people (as per Charlie Smith’s story that I tweeted yesterday).

Then there’s the whole “Hastings is being turned over to condo developers” meme to contend with.

Helping bring some clarity, former senior planner Trish French outlines for council (and us) the zoning situation in the area. She sent her letter off yesterday:

January 14, 2013


Dear Mayor and Council:

Re: Waldorf Situation: A Simpler Solution

Much has been said in the media about saving the Waldorf as a cultural space and/or a heritage asset.   There has been a bit of a “Chicken Little” quality to the whole situation.  I am puzzled that nothing has said by you, or anyone else, about the City’s zoning and land use policy on the site, which provides a simple direction on the issue of the site’s purchase by a condo developer.

The existing MC-2 mixed use zoning on the Waldorf site, and along the north side of Hastings from Clark to Semlin,  does not permit development of condos.   This is in contrast to the MC-1 zoning on the south side of Hastings in the same strip, which does permit residential, and where some developments are going forward.

The MC-2 zoning was adopted after a thorough study.   I was the planner in charge when the zoning was adopted in 2002, so I am familiar with the background.  Why no market residential on the north side of Hastings?  Because immediately adjacent is a long term, heavy industrial M-2 zone which is an important location for fairly noxious processing and port-related businesses.  Chicken-processing plant, anyone?  The City already had unhappy experience of market housing being built in and next to similar industrial areas, and new residents moaning about trains, trucks, fumes, etc.  As important as cultural spaces like the Waldorf are to Vancouver’s vibrancy, the viability of the Port of Vancouver is even more critical, I would think.  And while Council overturned a similar policy of no residential in the industrial area at Marine and Cambie, the rational there was the new Canada Line Station.

The only exception to the no residential policy in the MC-2 area is for social housing—no “affordable”, “market rental”, or market/non market combinations: the policy specifies social, i.e. non-market, housing.  This has to be done via a rezoning and it is not intended to be automatically supported, as social housing is elsewhere in the City.

So my question is, why don’t the Mayor and Council publicly and strongly reiterate the City’s  land use policy, and let Solterra (and other speculators) know that condominiums are not in the cards?

While under the MC-2 zoning mixed commercial/industrial development may occur on the Waldorf site, it will likely be a fair way off in the future. If Solterra has finalized the land purchase, they may be reasonable landlords for the Waldorf folks.  And if they have not, then they have an opportunity to back out of it.

In the absence of such public statements from the Mayor and Council, it appears that the developer has already had encouragement for condominiums from the City, either from politicians or staff.

Saving the Waldorf as cultural/heritage asset using CAC’s, bonussing (heritage or cultural) etc., will be very costly in terms of foregone opportunities to save other, frankly more important, assets.  Standing behind the City’s own logically-conceived long-term land use policy is easier, cheaper, and the right thing to do.

I hope you will respond to this letter, and to my suggestion.

Best regards,


Trish French

Retired Assistant Director of Planning, City of Vancouver


P.S.  Here is the link to the Council Report about the MC-2 zoning; and to the rezoning policy for social housing  I also note that the Hastings strip west of Clark to Heatley , where a major rezoning  at 955 E Hastings has recently been approved with a combination of market and affordable housing, was not included in the policy because it was part of the DTES Housing Plan area and was supposed to be deal with as a follow up to that.  It never was, more’s the pity.

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