Supporters of the Hollywood Theatre were among the dozens of heritage advocates and community members signed up to address city council Wednesday (December 4) on an action plan proposed by Vancouver staff.
Council unanimously approved the recommendations to update the city’s Heritage Conservation Program, including “quick start actions”, such as updates to the Heritage Register.
Vision Vancouver councillor Heather Deal added an amendment calling for increased flexibility for the director of planning to consider additional measures in the case of the Hollywood Theatre building.
“This is not the Hollywood Theatre report, but we know that we did accelerate this report coming forward based on those concerns, and we’ve heard a great deal about it,” said Deal.
“What this does is it gives that flexibility to the director of planning to look at other measures beyond conditional zoning for buildings which are of particular community or cultural significance, including and specific to the Hollywood.”
Mel Lehan, a member of the Save the Hollywood Theatre coalition, told council that letters of support for the venue have been “pouring in” from arts, cultural and community organizations.
“I have never in any of my previous community activities encountered such a strong feeling of support as I have for our goal of saving the Hollywood Theatre for its heritage value, its historic value, and its community and cultural gathering space value,” he said.
The coalition has collected more than 6,000 signatures in support of a petition to save the Kitsilano landmark, which the owner has applied to redevelop into a fitness centre.
“In the last two years, I’ve seen too many cultural spaces and heritage buildings destroyed in this city in favour of soulless condos and commercial buildings,” filmmaker Michèle Smolkin, who launched the petition, told council.
“Building condos without preserving heritage buildings, without protecting spaces for entertainment, arts and culture and community gatherings is a bad recipe if we want a vibrant, fun and interesting city.”
Mayor Gregor Robertson acknowledged that loss of heritage has been “a huge concern for many in our city in recent years”.
“Vancouver has lost a lot of its heritage and history over recent decades, as the city builds out and densifies and develops, and I know it is a challenge that many, many cities face, particularly in North America,” he said.
He added that there’s “a fine line to walk” in many circumstances between protecting heritage and balancing private property rights.
“I think we’re seeing that in particular with the Hollywood Theatre,” he said.
The Heritage Action Plan recommended by staff was in response to a motion approved by city council earlier this year requesting information on existing heritage retention programs, the role of the city in retaining or protecting privately-owned heritage buildings, and potential improvements to the programs.