Vancouver city council to vote on downtown heights study February 1

City council will vote on a proposal to allow higher buildings in seven sites of the downtown core on February 1.

About 40 speakers addressed Vancouver’s planning and environment committee meeting on Thursday (January 20) evening on the Vancouver Views study, including residents opposed to the proposed towers and some representatives of downtown business organizations that support the development.

West End neighbourhood activist Randy Helten argued more time is needed for discussion before council makes a decision on the report.

“There’s a very short time frame for a deeper discussion about the key issues here,” Helten told the Straight by phone today (January 21). “There’s no rush to push this through, in my opinion.”

“This discussion comes down to the very fundamental questions about the nature of cities and the character of Vancouver,” he added.

Helten said some of the concerns conveyed to city council from speakers yesterday included questions about the environmental performance of tall buildings, potential safety risks of condo towers and broader issues around the role of higher buildings in urban design.

Helten held a community forum on the issue January 11.

Under the Vancouver Views study, a building of up to 700 feet tall would be permitted at one site, while some other sites would allow buildings of up to 550 feet.

The discussion came the same day another study of taller buildings in downtown Vancouver was put on hold.

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Jan 21, 2011 at 5:54pm

Why do these people live in a city if they don't like tall buildings? Especially in the Downtown area where most cities put their tall buildings? They make no sense at all. If it were up to them, Vancouver would be full of thatched-roof houses with no electricity or running water. Ridiculous.

Informed Citizen

Jan 21, 2011 at 11:06pm

This is not a case of NIMBYism. This is a case of many informed Vancouver residents (not just from DT) concerned with the changes proposed to existing building policy.

What makes Vancouver one of the top-5 cities to live in in the world? It's not architecture. It is our balanced neighbourhoods and livability that makes Vancouver a very desirable place to live.

Currently there are sections of Yaletown that, due to poor proportional urban planning, receive very little sunlight, face high noise pollution and are dominated by the tall buildings that wall in the area. This has created a "dead zone" where residents and visitors pass through the area but do not spend time in them due to the negative environment. The result is under performing local service businesses that rely on traffic that lingers and doesn't just pass through on its way to someplace better.

The largest dead zone is the area contained by Robson, Seymour, Richards & Nelson. In the busiest season for the area for business this "dead zone" is relatively empty. Visitors and residents choose to recreate and spend in areas that are appealing visually and emotionally.

The Yaletown area bordered by Pacific, Helmcken & Granville is a perfect example of urban balance. There is a healthy mix of "high", medium & low rise construction mixed in with parks space that allow for acceptable sharing of sunlight views and sky. The result is a vibrant and economically prosperous area.

The existing city height limits are, for the most part, representative of a balanced and sustainable neighbourhood. This is what makes DT Vancouver special. It's balance not domination.

There were 41 speakers at City Hall on Thursday. Council was in session until 10:30pm hearing the comments of residents and representatives of developers. There were less than 10 speakers who were for the proposed height changes. All but one of them were representing a developer or closely related interest. The remaining 30+ were against the changes for a variety of valid reasons that I hope others who were in attendance will help to elaborate on. This latter group of concerned citizens included former members of Vancouver's planning department (now retired) and other professionals in the field.

Continued development in the DT core is not a bad thing. In fact, many residents openly encourage it. It just needs to be in balance with the existing structures and community in the area. The current height limits were set to achieve this important goal. The proposed height changes currently before council will upset this delicate balance to the detriment to the DT core and to Vancouver at large.


Jan 22, 2011 at 8:57am

Ziggles; How many of us poor people that live in the DTES, will end up living in those condo towers?


Jan 22, 2011 at 10:58am

Ziggles, thanks for demonstrating that for some people concepts like zoning and planning view corridors and preservation of heritage buildings make no sense at all.

If the city wants to have people living in high density zones, there must be recognition that such areas become neighborhoods. People in areas such as the West End have as much right to have a say in changes to their neighborhood those who live in neighborhoods with single family homes.

Opposition to high rises isn’t as much as a response to all high buildings as a desire to understand where the schools and services will come from to support the additional people if we build them. If we added 5,000 people to the edge of Abbotsford, wouldn’t a new school at least be discussed?

Proposals to add height that make no effort to address any of the relevant issues as is happening in recent weeks will always be met with opposition. And no one much cares whether it bewilders you or not.


Jan 22, 2011 at 11:09am

Ziggles has a right to say what Ziggles wrote here. And other many other people will have a lot of different opinions about the complex issues relating to building height and form, and the design, shape, and very character of our city. When big buildings go up, they likely have a life of 60 to 100 years. But our City Planning Department released it's error-filled report (ignoring many valid public comments) recommending 700-foot-plus buildings only 3 business days before the Council would surely have adopted it on Dec 16. The public outcry granted a reprieve til Jan 20, and now to Feb 1. We are a world-class city. Let's have a world-class public discussion.


Jan 22, 2011 at 11:26am

Miguel - vancouver's biggest issue is the ghettoization of our urban poor in the DTES. This needs to change and the solution is subsidized housing spreadout through out the downtown core and beyond. While not losing site of the fact that many in the DTES do genuinely require help, we also need to discourage the sense of entitlement among many who enjoy the privledge of living in or close to downtown while demanding housing at lessor rates than thy neighbour. Not acceptable. It would be a shame if council were to back down in the regard. The solution is assisted housing in a variety of areas.


Jan 22, 2011 at 3:01pm

well said rr


Jan 22, 2011 at 3:55pm

Delicate balance? Upset the "community" in the DTES? Oh give me break! It's a ghetto, for crisakes! All empty, pointless arguments to a real and worsening problem in the DTES.

This has already been studied to death for years now. How many more years of study and debate are required before anything at all is done to improve the squalid conditions of the DTES? It's not like Council was proposing to put 10 Shargri-La buildings in the DTES.

And Miguel, how many poor people will end up living in those condos towers depends on how many units of social housing this Council will force the developers to include. A mix of market and social housing is what is needed, not ONLY social housing, unless you prefer it remain a ghetto, which it will if the only thing the DTES gets is low-income housing and homeless shelters, the only thing that has been done here in the past.

Meanwhile, those living on the streets in the DTES will continue to do so while the rest of you debate/hem/haw whether a few tall buildings should be allowed for the next 12, 24, or 36 months, costing taxpayers more and more money to essentially do nothing.

Let's face it, NO ONE in this city has the balls to do what's truly needed to clean up and make the DTES whole again. Instead, you let idiots like Wendy Pederson, who has been advocated for NOTHING to be done for too long, to continue to dominate the debate on this issue.

Yes, let's debate this some more, and then after that, maybe some more. That's how you get things done!


Jan 23, 2011 at 8:46am

those damn entitled people, wanting to live in a single room apartment with no washroom and bedbugs. the nerve of them to want more.
rr: they only pay less cause their suites are 6 x 6 feet.


Jan 23, 2011 at 9:51pm

Droog - i'm afraid i can't comprehend your logic. Are you suggesting additional 6 X 6 foot flats with no washroom and bedbugs? Seems absurd, if not perverse. GHETTO'S DO NOT WORK..that is this point young grasshopper