Vancouver public forum addresses downtown building heights

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      A West End neighbourhood activist is calling on the public to attend what he calls “an urgent public forum” on Tuesday (January 11) at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch. Randy Helten, creator of the www.cityhallwatch.ca website, told the Georgia Straight by phone that the forum will focus on building heights, as well as on broader issues around city planning.

      “It’s to engage the public in an open, fair, and transparent consultation of all of the key issues and decisions in our city,” Helten said.

      On January 20, city council’s planning and environment committee is scheduled to vote on a staff report recommending that allowances be made for taller buildings downtown. Helten said he hopes council will postpone a decision pending further consultation. He also mentioned that he created his website to provoke public discussion about city land-use policies.

      “We’ll exist as long as necessary to change the flawed land-use planning and consultation system in Vancouver,” Helten remarked.

      The city’s director of planning, Brent Toderian, told the Straight that his staff looks forward to receiving commentary from all stakeholders on how to improve. “[We] have always believed strongly in the value of engagement and consultation,” he said.

      Toderian added that there have been misconceptions about the staff’s recommendations regarding higher buildings. He noted that council instructed staff in January 2010 not to allow taller buildings that penetrate view corridors. He also said that the discussion now is about seven specific sites—not seven areas—in the downtown.

      On only one of the seven sites will a building be permitted to reach 700 feet, according to Toderian. The current maximum height is 600 feet.

      Other sites have varying height increases. Toderian said that some will change from 300 feet to 425 feet.

      "All seven are different because they're in existing different zones," he emphasized.

      The next highest increase is to 500 feet, he added.

      “There is the misconception that we were talking about the whole CBD [central business district] going to 700 feet from 600, or the whole downtown area going to 700,” Toderian said.

      Meanwhile, Helten also pointed out that council will vote on January 20 on separate staff recommendations regarding higher buildings in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside. “It’s extremely significant,” he noted.

      Toderian said that these recommendations, which hadn’t been made public by the Straight’s deadline, would implement a policy approved by council in January 2010. At that time, council chose not to change building heights in Gastown, but allowed “special sites” in Chinatown where building heights could reach up to 150 feet.

      In addition, Toderian said, council asked staff to recommend additional special sites in Chinatown South to be considered “for purposes of economic revitalization”.

      Comments

      16 Comments

      Nelson100

      Jan 6, 2011 at 10:52am

      With this city council and planning department every decision is "by exception." Existing planning and zoning are completely meaningless.

      The citizens of Vancouver continue to face an endless onslaught of attempted variances, monstrous buildings slammed into neighbourhoods that don't want them. Hasn't the public repeated over and over that we don't want changes to the view corridors? Only an astonishing level of disrespect for public opinion would lead the city council to even request a study on this.

      Urban planning means making a plan and following it. Unless our planning group actually starts generating some comprehensive plans, it is reasonable to wonder why we even bother keeping them on the payroll. Really, we could hire summer students, give them each a CD-1 stamp and turn them lose on a map of the city for a lot less money. That would still keep the developers happy, which seems to be the only guiding principle.

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      John Simpson

      Jan 6, 2011 at 5:20pm

      Keep building up, and not out. People's scenic views are not as important as building a dense city that minimizes automobile use and shortens distances to and from work. Building up also lowers housing costs as well.

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      Ziggles

      Jan 6, 2011 at 5:24pm

      I find it odd that people who live in a city don't want any tall buildings near them. The solution is simple: move to the suburbs if you don't like tall buildings!

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      martin roch

      Jan 6, 2011 at 7:14pm

      Build them tall , create a beautiful skyline... I love tall buildings !

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      Kerrisdale

      Jan 6, 2011 at 9:20pm

      John and Ziggles, thanks for confirming that developers can use the internet. So sorry these all these noisy people keep getting in the way of the profits you so richly deserve. To think that there's actually people who don't want a 70 story tower in their back yard, imagine that.

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      Rachelpainter

      Jan 6, 2011 at 9:32pm

      The city has to build up, otherwise this will be only a city for the rich. Downtown is a peninsula. There's no room to grow unless they build up. People want to live here and keep moving here. I say increase density and height downtown and along major routes in Mount Pleasant, Kits and along high traffic corridors.
      A city growing as fast as ours has changed and will keep changing rapidly. There's no point being all nimby and sticking your head in the sand, the city will continue to grow whether you like it or not. Best to accept this reality and plan accordingly.

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      james green

      Jan 7, 2011 at 12:26am

      Tall buildings mean more people and the need for more services.
      This city is behind in services and amenities and until we catch up and have a balance between density and services we need to slow the developers need to make cash with these tall buildings.
      Before we move towards the planner's and this councils plan to feed their developer contributors needs we need a city plan and a total engagement of the public before we move forward.
      And sadly for Toderain, we are ready for a new director of planning as Brent is played now. We need new blood, and a new planner who is plugged into community values not developer needs.
      We also need a means and for communities to veto those things they do not want in their communities

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      Taxpayers R Us

      Jan 7, 2011 at 4:48pm

      “[We] have always believed strongly in the value of engagement and consultation”--Brent Toderian

      I think Toderian meant to say something different here. Instead of "We", "Others" would make more sense given how anti-democratic this city's government is.

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      AnnaSerkova

      Jan 7, 2011 at 5:00pm

      What confuses me is that you could visit one hundred Starbucks in Vancouver and not find a single person who wants a bunch of ugly high rises blocking the view corridors. But on a blog like this you suddenly find people who just LOVE LOVE LOVE (I mean could just run up and give a big wet sloppy kiss to) high rise buildings. To hell with the view corridors we LOVE tall buildings, they are just so great, they are so green, so beautiful, we just need them so bad, the bigger the better, blah blah.

      Very strange and a bit suspicious. I would say that Kerrisdale is bang on.

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      MrNogatco

      Jan 8, 2011 at 4:23am

      @ John Simpson et al

      Claiming that tall buildings magically "lower housing costs" is a red herring. ALL tall buildings? Like, for example, Shangri-La perhaps?

      Are these proposed new skyscrapers going to offer affordable suites or (hahaha) rental units, or just the usual mix of overpriced shoebox condos and high-end six and seven figure luxury apartments...

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