City approves policy for taller buildings in downtown Vancouver

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      Vancouver city council voted to pass a report Tuesday that could lead to taller buildings at seven downtown sites.

      The general policy for higher buildings, which passed with opposition from COPE councillors Ellen Woodsworth and David Cadman, allows for future consideration of taller buildings at certain sites in the downtown core, including the Granville and Burrard Street bridgeheads.

      The policy allow for a building of up to 700 feet in the central business district, up from the current restriction of 600 feet for the tallest building, and a maximum height of 550 feet for other nearby sites.

      The decision is being criticized by some residents, who say they're concerned the policy could open the door to more widespread tower development.

      Stephen Bohus called the vote a “terrible decision”.

      “In effect, you can’t add extremely tall buildings to the skyline without impacting tons of public views,” he said.

      At a meeting organized by the citizens action group City Hall Watch in January, Bohus made a presentation in which he argued that the view corridors portrayed in the city’s planning report didn’t accurately display the potential impact of higher buildings on the city's skyline.

      City staff say higher buildings at the seven sites wouldn’t impact any of the city’s protected view corridors, except for a view from Queen Elizabeth Park.

      According to Brent Toderian, the city’s director of planning, the recommendations passed are to enable public policy. Individual rezoning applications for the seven sites will have to go through separate public hearings, he told council.

      Mayor Gregor Robertson spoke in support of the increased density downtown, noting there will need to be “rigorous process and public hearings" on development applications.

      Robertson said the potential new towers could create up to 1,300 job spaces in the downtown area.

      Randy Helten, organizer of the City Hall Watch initiative, said the approval of the report is another “case study” for the group in what they say is an inadequate planning process.

      Helten said the new height restrictions at the seven downtown sites could lead to more applications for tower development in the future.

      “The city works on precedent,” he said. “The current council is only in place until November this year, and decisions of future councils will be based on what’s in the policy. Of course developers see what has happened, and I expect we’ll be seeing more applications for tall buildings downtown.”

      Helten said higher buildings in the downtown will impact “the very character” of the city. His group’s concerns around taller building construction include questions about the seismic safety and environmental performance of tall buildings, and potential impacts on infrastructure, such as transportation, schools and community centres.

      “We just have not seen any kind of comprehensive planning from city hall on the big picture of all these things,” he said.

      Coun. Cadman called for community plans to be completed in the proposed development areas before council votes on any rezoning applications.



      Downtown luving

      Feb 2, 2011 at 1:11pm

      I for one, as a resident downtown, am very happy with the increase in height restrictions. Compared to other cities our size our downtown is VERY quiet. I want us to be more cosmopolitan, more people living and working in the heart of the city.... besides, it will greatly reduce the transit burden if more people could live closer to where they work.

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      Self Immolation Party

      Feb 2, 2011 at 3:10pm

      I think since people the crí¨me de la crí¨me of Vancouver already have the million dollar houses, they can afford to lose the view. Build it tall.

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      Feb 2, 2011 at 4:17pm

      The Shangri-La, Vancouver's tallest tower, is the 13th. tallest building in Canada. Wall Centre, our next tallest building, it is in 31st. place. Grow UP Vancouver.

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      Feb 2, 2011 at 6:46pm

      This decision doesn’t really matter, because the planning department and Vision Vancouver don't follow any guidelines or zoning anyway. Granville and 57th isn't zoned for towers but that clearly isn't stopping anyone.

      Once the backroom deals on all these buildings is done they will be rushed through with the usual embarrassing pretence of public input.

      I guess that's nothing that can be done. If only we were lived in a democracy and there was a civic election in November ....

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      Feb 3, 2011 at 1:27am

      We don't to have try and impress others with stupidly tall buildings. let Vancouver be Vancouver and don't attempt to compete with Shang hai or Singapore. Not surprisingly as buildings are built taller physics cause them to go from effecient high density space savers to, too tall extravagances that requires a lot more energy per inhabitant. If we're not attempting to compete with architectural freakshows elsewhere; what's the point? If your point is higher density to help the environment; check the physics. If the point is let's throw out the prudent and highly praised decisions of the past and start a collection of architectural freakshows then; ask the citizens if that's what we want not just the eager developers and architectural dreamers.

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      Feb 3, 2011 at 10:50am

      A number of renderings showing the impact of the taller buildings on the Vancouver skyline are up on and these renderings confirm that existing views of the mountains will be blocked from many parts of the city. Not that long ago, 450' tall buildings were the maximum in the CBD as this was considered to be the balance between protecting mountain views while allowing highrises. We've gone too far with 700' buildings now.

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      Tall buildings = end of world?

      Feb 3, 2011 at 7:52pm

      I don't get what's the big deal. This isn't farmland; this isn't Surrey; this isn't village Vancouver; it's Vancouver... what do you expect.

      Extremely tall buildings may not be too environmentally. But none of the proposed buildings are extremely tall. And besides, do you want to push people to sprawling surrey instead?

      I've been to before. Their stuff is completely biased and filled with misinformation. It doesn't take much to realize that.

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      Feb 3, 2011 at 9:33pm

      "Mayor Gregor Robertson spoke in support of the increased density downtown, noting there will need to be “rigorous process and public hearings" on development applications"

      .... translation ....

      A poorly advertised public meeting will be held in an unmarked backroom at city hall on a rainy Tuesday afternoon (with one day advance notice) after which the projects will be rubber stamped by our planning department (having apparently received unanimous public support).

      For further reference on this particular public consultation technique, please google "Kim Il Jong"

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      Taxpayers R Us

      Feb 3, 2011 at 10:00pm

      Any chance we can impeach this anti-democratic mayor and his yes-people?

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      monty (that's me)

      Feb 4, 2011 at 1:50pm

      Ready, set, into the streets. The folks in Egypt are way ahead of us in demanding democracy, free speech, etc. Councillor Cadman, ready to be the leader?...and perhaps the next this bought and paid for group belong in a trash can. Cheers.

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