From Ray Spaxman, Director of Planning in Vancouver (1973-89):

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Yesterday I visited a professional office on Seymour Street and one of the partners took me to an office on the east side of his building and said something like,

“You used to be the Director of Planning and Chair of the Development Permit Board so you can probably answer this questions. How is it that the new Telus building is projecting out over the street so that it seems that an enormous lump of it is now just a few feet from  our windows? “
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Telus
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Of course I had seen the projection occurring from the street and as it grew bigger and bigger I got more and more concerned about it, wondering what the rationale could be. What had happened to the numerous urban design guidelines that we had prepared over all those years that have contributed to the overall quality of urban design on Vancouver; where the public realm was valued and the private sector contributed its share of the public good? Is anyone else concerned? 
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van-house-07Then there is the Gesamt Kunst Werk. Fascinating architecture BUT what happened to the public realm? Did you buy the argument that the set back for the street could be interpreted vertically as well as horizontally? Perhaps I did not spend long enough in the exhibition to find out what they had done about lower views, noise attenuation below the “curve out”, privacy concerns, wind tunnel effects, and what the environments will be like for the lower level rental apartments, (even water dripping off?) and even the inpact on the drivers negotiating the ramps. I wondered what new precedents were being set here?   
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I keep thinking that surely with all those sensitive public realm guidelines, an expert Urban Design Panel, a diverse Development Permit Board and highly paid urban designers, they must have it all under control, looking after the public interest. Am I the only one concerned? 
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But I had already watched densities in the Downtown rise to 23 FSR in a 6 FSR zoned area through the money- generating technique of spot rezoning. Spot rezoning has also become a norm. Is anyone else concerned? 
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ExchangeWhen the new Exchange Building was proposed (over 21 FSR) on West Pender, it sat 20 feet from the south facing apartments of the recently approved Jameson House (23 FSR). It took the apartment owners months of worry and expenditure to scrape out a small triangular section of a corner of the proposed tower to preserve a modicom of sunlight, some slot views into downtown and some consideration for their privacy.
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As some of you already know I am still appalled that the “rigorous” approvals process we devised to ensure our DT skyline would become one with memorable buildings has failed us. Our highest building, the ShangriLa, is the “best” example, so far. It is not memorable for the special design quality of its highest landmark status. (See the Empire State or Chrysler buildings) It is perhaps memorable as the only high rise that exhibits its landmark status with the profile of its window cleaning crane.
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I could go on with other examples but I have noted enough here, I think, to make the point? I see the emergence of a development process where the private sector seeks competitive design advantages and profit (understandably) and the guardians of the public realm, the city, seems to have lost track of its responsibility for the public realm, which is what real Vancouverism is about. The desire for making money seems to have displaced the desire for the highest quality of the built environment.
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Is anyone else concerned? 

Comments

  1. EXTREMELY CONCERNED. How about a spot rezoning at the corner of Emery Barnes Park, taking a tiny 125′ x 125’site from FSR3 to FSR17 and a building over 300 feet tall with a 10,000 sq ft floorplate? Zero urban design analysis was done for 508 Helmcken, AND the City is refusing to release the contract it made with the developer under FOI. Outrageous doesn’t begin to describe the asylum [pardon to the actual insane] that is City Hall. The fall election can’t come soon enough….

  2. I am very glad to see Mr. Spaxman call out some of the atrocious planning decisions coming out of the Vision Vancouver administration. It has become like the wild,wild west. Apparently anything goes under the guise of improving affordability, which of course has not happened at all. It is more of a free for all than in the days of Tom Terrific Campbell.

  3. So whats the alternative? Do you really think a Right wing government in power is going to be less favourable to developers? Vote them in and they will rip out the bike lanes. Talk about loss of public realm.

    1. a) Vision *is* a right-wing pig with a bit of green lipstick on
      b) The alternatives to Vision are on the left, not on the right
      c) All useful bikeways were in place *before* Vision
      What Vision added was ill-conceived, dangerous, traffic-congesting, painted-on bike lanes = garbage that needs to be removed ASAP.

      1. Vision is right wing ?

        Vancouver is full ? Hardly !

        Imagine downtown with 50-100% more people in 20-30 years ! The entire west end has capacity to build 50+ highrises and ubc peninsula 100 more once a subway is in ..

        think Hongkong or Singapore .. that is how Vancouver will look like ..

    2. Scot B, that’s exactly the attitude the development industry loves. Vision throws you a little bone with a few bike lanes, and you roll over when it comes to the destruction of Vancouver’s greatest asset, its natural setting. There are plenty of alternatives if you don’t want to vote for the NPA.

        1. Unions to the rescue. Woohoo !
          Let’s live off the “environment” while unemployment soars to 30%+. Woohoo !

  4. Did someone say “view corridors”?
    https://twitter.com/lavrys/status/458430284749230080

    View corridors were what they used to sell the high-rises.
    Now that they’re all finished, they will simply fill all the “gaps” with more high-rises, blaming it on “affordability”.

    Blah blah… Vision spin has become cliché.
    The real question is: “is more than 50% of Vancouverites become corrupted by the carrot of rising real estate valuations as an endless line of credit?” Like a blight, a cancer, this is spreading..

  5. Good for you, Ray! It was the sensitive and carefully implemented public realm guidelines that made our downtown different from any other city. This is not about governance, this is about guardianship of our views, shapes and spaces for all citizens. Hopefully we can learn from the bad examples of public realm stewardship illustrated here, get off the starchitect thing and start thinking about urban design, at grade spaces and places again from the perspective of a walkable city. Once it is gone, it is gone. Period.

    1. Here here! There is too much attention being paid to buildings and not enough to the street. The street is our living room and primary organizing principle. Open space is the next important urban organizing element.

      1. Well said. And on the street too much space is allotted to cars. Not really enjoyable for pedestrians. Downtown Vancouver is getting uglier, except on the waterfront.

        Shopping along a 1.5m sidewalk with4-6 lanes of cars is not good for commerce. We need more street closures, more pedestrian zones and far wider sidewalks.

      2. MB, you, I’m sure, are aware that Ray has always been very much concerned about the relationship between the street and buildings. That is what he’s concerned about here, as well as, the negative impact it is already having on Ray’s friend, the tenant across the street (bet they’re looking for new space…).

  6. Project 200 (the developer’s dream of the late ’60’s) now all over Vancouver. With bike lanes instead of freeways. $25K to have lunch with the mayor and that’s OK.

    But all but a relative few in Vancouver seem to be completely indifferent.

    Without hundreds (preferably carrying torches and pitchforks) showing up and rudely interrupting the bogus public hearings (the way the freeways were defeated by an enraged population), the horrors will continue.

    And the party of “The Greenwashiest City” will have another four years to sack and pillage.

    I have little hope that anything will change. The opposition is horribly fractioned. Unless these parties can meet, agree and pare down their candidacies, the heavily financed juggernaut will roll into office again simply by having a name-recognition plurality.

  7. What is the alternative ? Less development ? Higher buildings ? More density elsewhere ? More distance ? More pedestrian zones ? Higher property taxes ? Lower commercial taxes ? Lower staff wages ? More expropriation of land that is not for sale ? More highrises in the west end along Davie or Denman ?

    Downtown Vancouver is indeed ugly. The beauty is along the waterfront. The rest is quite dark, narrow and square, ugly really. No wonder Surrey is growing faster.

    1. How about electoral finance reform? That’s a great place to start and move away from the propaganda that justifies all of this cheap and fast density.

        1. So tired of this meaningless, emotional “argument”..
          same as the Visionistas knee-jerk “you are a NIMBY!” nonsense.

          YES. Thomas, that is the problem. WE ARE FULL.

          Do you argue with the hostess in restaurants as well? The captain on the ferries? The check-in agent on airplanes?
          There is such a mathematical concept as capacity and it is physically possible (usually inevitable) that it eventually is reached.

          Do you have a problem with this?
          If someone comes over and asks to move in with you and share your bedroom, will you think to yourself “oh no, can’t be raising the drawbridge and filling the moat now, let the poor fellow come in, I can sleep on the floor”? I don’t think so…

        2. Lavrys, we await your definition of Vancouver’s carrying capacity.

          Full up? Are you kidding? There are over 35 square km of land zoned in 33, 50, 60 and 66-foot private lots in Vancouver, each with at least 60% of its land area in open space (i.e not occupied by a building.

          There is plenty of room for everyone.

          1. Judging by the number of responses and the passionate debate, it seems clear that development/density/change is one of Vancouver’s hot buttons. I recently had a discussion with a couple of City of Vancouver planning bigwigs, and the main message they are getting from the public is that there is too much change, too quickly, and I would agree. Not all the change is bad, but it’s just too much to handle for most people. What is the consensus out there?

  8. “publicly held to account” can only mean court case, I think. It’s the only place where accountability for a certain decision can be meaningfully established.

    1. No, Karin, publicly held to account means to start a debate, and have the participants responsible for this development design, approval and execution defend themselves and their decisions, and then see how it plays out in the political realm – civic elections, mostly.

      As an example, there was quite a bit of upset about the dark reflective glass on the Wall Centre Tower (Sheraton) at Burard and Nelson, including threats of lawsuits, but it did not stop the tower from being completed.

      As it turns out, due to political machinations, I suspect, the glass WAS replaced with a lighter colour, perhaps 15 years later.

      1. How cliché, right out of the Vision Narrative playbook
        Paving parks = #green ~ Questioning it = #NIMBY.
        Highrises = #affordability ~ Gardens = #sprawl.
        Blah..

        1. Lavrys, maybe you were Sam Sullivan’s chief van hubcap washer back in the day?

          Oh no, waitaminute … he was the godfather of EcoDensity.

          Maybe Adriane Carr can use you on her campaign. All you have to do is issue one word until election day (and perhaps beyond): NO!

          1. There are a lot of voices saying NO! unfortunately the ones with the power and influence at City Hall are not among them.

  9. Vancouver has always been a frontier town “mentality” from creation to present. Build it up then tear it down. There was a moment in the 70’s and 80’s where governance cared about the quality of life over the quantity. Art Phillips is a prime example of that. That was lost when Gordon Campbell became mayor. Ever since, it has been a developers paradise.

    Our current council of Robertson, et al, are nothing more that corporate purveyors who couldn’t care less about affordability, livability, and the public interest. Vancouver is on life support at this time. All the nonsense about the best city in the world, and the greenest, as the only green that seems to matter is the dollar.

    1. Enter your comment here…How soon they forget…
      Gordon Campbell was Art Phillips’ hand-picked protégé, and came directly from his camp.

  10. We should wait until the Telus building is complete before we start passing judgement on it. My understanding was that the protrusion was not allowed to be used as office space. If it becomes something visually interesting like an atrium, I welcome it. It isn’t uncommon for buildings to have extensions over the public right of way. Calgary has it’s downtown network of +15 walkways, and I seriously doubt there is anybody out there complaining about the loss of views or shadows they create. I would understand privacy concerns if these were two residential units placed closely together, but that isn’t the case here.

    The development at the base of the Granville bridge is in my neighborhood, and I am looking forward to it. I think Ray raised a valid concern regarding a potential wind tunnel effect, but I didn’t understand his other points. On aggregate this development will be a lot better than what is currently at this site, particularly the area under the bridge.

    I’ll give him one thing though, the window cleaning crane on top of ShangriLa is unfortunate.

    1. A walkway benefits the public, does it not? In winter I would think a walkway would be a boon in Calgary. What has happened in Vancouver seems to benefit a very small number of people and has created a culture where land is now too valuable to waste on public parks, families can’t afford to live here, and the voice of the public is ridiculed for not wanting their neighborhoods to change beyond recognition..And out of their price range. Look at the extent of the problems caused by commuters who can no longer afford to live where they work. Billions in freeway expansion, smaller suburban hospitals packed to the gills (where it is now normal for patients to be staying in the hallway and they were treating people in an adjacent Tim Hortons!!), crowded skytrains, and of course, sprawl. And people want to ridicule them for not paying ridiculous amounts for an ever shrinking, cheaply built condo! Honestly, I have to wonder about people who are so bloody quick to flush their quality of life away.. this was an excellent article, thank you Ray.

    2. Exactly as jenables says.
      Calgary skywalks (and the one at Pacific Centre for that matter) are actually narrower, positioned higher and public. They are basically weatherproof sidewalks. Not part of some private building. Whereas the Telus extension is a private, interiour space, part of the building’s own “footage”.

      How do you mean ” It isn’t uncommon for buildings to have extensions over the public right of way”? Examples?

      Think of it this way: “Can every D/T building have one of these now?”

      1. Again, this is based on my understanding that there are restricted usages in this space. If this is going to be filled with cubicles or board rooms then yes, I am opposed to it. If this is going to be an atrium or sky garden then I support it. And continuing on this assumption of restricted usage, I don’t think we are going to see many downtown proposals including this sort of feature, due to a small ROI.

        If the proposal were for something like this:
        https://www.google.ca/maps/@49.284686,-123.110896,3a,75y,231.26h,93.21t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sK1BJrUcDJXWHTySDUNy1lg!2e0 I would be opposed to it.

    3. Sometimes we humans can predict outcomes Phil. That’s what Ray is doing here. And, that’s what a viable planning process is all about.

      1. Well, Bill, just because we have always done it that way, does not mean that there are not other good ways too. I am guessing that there was a compromise struck for the protrusion approval. I believe that the Telus project will have a public plaza at ground level, and a connection to the subway too.

        1. I’m not quite making the connection between “public plazas” and subway connections” to “protrusions”, especially with respect to tradeoffs. Are you saying that it is good planning practice to achieve what should be done anyway (and has historically) so that you can trade those, what should be givens, for something that is bad urban design, that compromises privacy, puts itself in its neighbours face as well as those on the street below and destroys street mountain views? My goodness! You do seem to be in line with the current values, or lack thereof, of Vision Vancouver’s Planning Department.

          Speaking of which, I understand that two more principled top planners, Matt Shillito and Scot Hein have left. It seems to me that speaks volumes with respect to this discussion. Obviously they “care”.

        2. A public plaza? Sheltered from the rain, no doubt, given the overhang.

          But, dark. Dark.

          Doubly so in the drippy months.

          And, dangerous. Being, as it will be, out into the middle of Seymour St.

    4. Gawd … Now we’ree using Calgary as an urban design mentor for Vancouver.

      The Plus 15 system is essentially private property and their treatment is no better than the same treatment as for indoor malls. In building this system they have turned their back on the streets below which are desolate at best. The only streets that don’t follow through with this unfortunate lack of quality human urbanism is the Stephens Ave pedestrian mall and, to an extent, the 3rd Ave greenway.

      Calgary, in part though its +15 system and corporate architecture (orders of magnityude worse than Vancouver’s) is an exceelent demonstration project in building cities brimming with mediocrity.

  11. Can I just add to my first post, that the problem isn’t all about highrises. What is being done to the Shannon Estate at 57th & Granville is a desecration. While Arthur Erickson’s original multi-unit complex blended into the landscape and didn’t dominate the historic mansion, the Vision-appoved monstrosity doesn’t just dominate the house, it pummels it about the head, kicks it in the groin and then stomps it into insignificance. A true travesty.

  12. Hi Ray
    I and virtually everyone I know is extremely concerned. I lived in Calgary for a number of years and there is no comparison to that at all to the elevated walkways that were built there and serve as a public benefit when it is -30 outside.

    Thank you for taking a stand. Thank you for expressing your professional views publicly. Too often, those that could help the most are silent. Nobody can claim to be without faults but our current municipal government does not follow or respect the rules and it is time that we all stood up to face them straight in the eyes – together.

    Furthermore, I doubt the onslaught of advertising from developer financed parties like Vision can do them much good in the next election against continued efforts from people like you, (CityHall Watch, Niko, ParkBoard Facts, Jonathan Baker, West End Neighbours, Coalition Van, Hadden Park Defence, Bill McCreery, Randy Helten, Ned Jacobs, Save Marpole, the list would take pages ) as the current administration is exposed. Keep up the good work everyone and we might get our city back. We are concerned! Thank You. Glen Chernen

    1. Well said Glen! It’s time for those who do care to step forward. The solution is a political one. Please join Glen, myself and other politically active concerned citizens to help forge a renewed City government dedicated to making Vancouver a vibrant liveable, and economically and environmentally healthy place to live, work and recreate.

      1. Which community group do you belong to? I ask as I am fed up with the corruption, and the suppression of the citizen’s viewpoints. I want to become involved. I have attended and spoke at city hall on development plans, and the total disregard to speakers is unjust.

        1. You’re quite right Steve, the NPA is no different from Vision.

          I am part of TEAM, The Electors’ Action Movement. We’ve revived TEAM, which was the political party of Art Phillips, Walter Hardwick and others. I was a TEAM Park Commissioner in the 70’s. We hired Ray because he had the values and skills he has so eloquently articulated above. We listened to and worked in partnership with communities. The present TEAM has the same values and objectives. We offer voters a real choice on November 15th.

          Please check us out at:

          http://www.vanteam.ca/

  13. We have to stop expecting politicians and political parties to do things differently. I don’t think much of revolution and torches and pitchforks, but I think equally little of sitting around moaning that if only another party got elected, or if the election financing rules were different, or if a different population segment would vote, or if city council would just listen, things would be different. They won’t be different – if Vision isn’t different, no one will be. The forces for empire-building are universal and present the same way to every council, and the growth pressures the city faces are immutable.

    The only people whose behaviour we can change is our own, and what we are as a population is passive and entitled. Every problem that shows up we think, “someone should do something about this!” Even when we “do” something, what we do is to muster outrage or media coverage, neither of which changes the set of forces that are acting on city council.

    We have two things that the people of, say, Burma or North Korea do not. First, we can certainly “throw the bums out.” But to change the behaviour of the next group is a different challenge, and something we can only do through the courts. By holding one set of politicians accountable legally for breaking the laws they are supposed to administer, we remind the next set to colour more consistently within the lines. This has to be done at least once a decade or so though, because memory is short. Not only is it short, but it is malleable.

    For example, who remembers Cornelius Wynja? Wynja, a Richmond elector, took two of his local school trustees to court for conflict of interest in 1991 AND WON, and it was upheld on appeal in 1993: http://www.canlii.org/en/bc/bcca/doc/1993/1993canlii593/1993canlii593.html. You may wonder why, in a world where now up to 50% of trustees on some boards in BC are teachers, no one (except me, it seems: http://edrogue.blogspot.ca/2013/05/a-tribute-to-cornelius-wynja-and-where.html) is keeping Mr. Wynja’s memory alive? That’s because it doesn’t serve the elites to do so. Institutional memory wants to forget that what Mr. Wynja did is possible.

    The public has the power, however, to manage its own memory. I like to call May 3rd “Cornelius Wynja Day” because that is the anniversary of the Court of Appeal decision. Maybe that would be a good day for citizens everywhere to read the statutes under which they are governed, and to read the Charter of Rights, and take action, something I’ve started to do myself and that – three cheers! – Glen Chernen of the Cedar party is currently doing with his conflict of interest lawsuit v. Gregor Robertson.

    Note: I drafted this before seeing Chernen’s post, and don’t know him, but maybe there is some serendipity at work here.

    1. If vision isn’t different no one will be? Vision was created specifically to do what they are doing while attracting the “progressive” vote. Imo they are much worse than the npa, but there are more attractive offerings than either of these parties.

  14. So where was everyone when the Telus Garden protruding boxes were proposed? It’s no surprise as they have always been in the plans.

    As for Jameson House – what did they expect at a downtown site? Further, the south side was specifically deisgned with small windows because there would be an adjacent building.

    Here’s a pic of Jameson House’s south side windows:

    http://sothebysrealty.ca/images/listings/952676.jpg
    http://sothebysrealty.ca/en/property/british-columbia/greater-vancouver-real-estate/vancouver/22877/

    Look at what Toronto approves (although the north side is all spndrel, no windows):

    http://urbantoronto.ca/forum/showthread.php/3997-Residences-at-the-RCMI-(426-University-Tribute-42s-Zeidler)/page64

    1. Jameson House is right in the middle of my former view from my office, but actually I think it is an attractive building. I was under the impression that the smaller south facing windows and the north facing balconies were to restrict solar gain. I actually think that the architects were overly fussed with solar gain – really isn’t that much of a problem if the windows and balcony doors are big enough – but the net result still works and doesn’t seem as bulky as it really is.

  15. I agree with a lot of what’s said, but what’s our political alternative? The NPA is identical to Vision but without any of the progressive trappings. COPE is broken. Greens are irrelvant. Glen “Vroom! Vroom!” Chernen and the like are jokes at best. None of them appear to have any well articulated and/or realistic plans beyond “Not Vision! Will listen! Totally different!”

    If I’m going to get screwed regardless, I guess I’d rather get screwed by the party that at least pretends to care about the environment, improving transit and the bike network, housing the homeless and all that usual jazz.

    1. I agree that there is no viable alternative at the moment Mark, but that is not an endorsement of Vision’s rape and pillage approach to development, it is more a sad commentary on Vancouver’s current political landscape. With its political opponents in such disarray it is no wonder that Vision has become so arrogant. We need a “Citizen’s party” that holds as its core value the preservation of Vancouver’s beauty (like view corridors) and unique character. Unlike you, I can find no solace in Vision’s pretense of concern for the environment.

      1. Downtown Vancouver needs indeed a new vision. It is far too car oriented, too wide a road surface with too narrow sidewalks, too ugly, not enough pedestrian zones and mainly ugly boxes going up. The beauty of Vancouver is on the waterfront, but a block or two in IT SUCKS !!!

        We still have alleyways with wires from the 1930’s .. I think we can do better than that !

      2. I think it is both unfair and defeatist to dismiss someone starting a new party as “jokes at best.” TEAM was a new party once; so was Vision for that matter. In any event, to have a good city council, we don’t need to vote in “a party.” We need 10 (plus a mayor) who are ethical, conscientious individuals. It is a shame that people don’t vote all that carefully… as the last election’s results were rolling in, the bottom three spots swung from Affleck, Ball, and Carr, to Woodsworth, Yuen, and one other from that end of the alphabet. Which is why I don’t put a lot of faith in increasing voter turnout. It’s not an easy task, and I have a lot of respect for people who are launching new vessels – especially when they aren’t supported by the kind of big money that buys a lot of billboards.

        1. It is too late now to wish for a truly independent, non-partisan council and mayor in Vancouver. That ship has sailed. The best that you can hope for is a party that represents your point of view.

          Partisan electoral politics is an inevitability as cities grow larger and more complex, I think. I do not think that the era of independent, non-partisan electoral politics will come back to Vancouver.

          Although, they do have it in the City of Toronto, apparently.

    2. Except that Vision didn’t care about transit during their first term and said and did nothing during most of their second term. The only positive thing that can be said about them is the Pt. Grey Rd./York bike route isn’t going to interfere with the #2/22/32 much. Wow, their big claim to fame is they didn’t do much harm.

      I’m inclined toward TEAM even though a bunch of people who once ran under the NPA banner wouldn’t normally be my first choice. But who else is there? Like Mark said, COPE is broken and Cedar is super-NIMBY & pro-car. The Greens are usually idealists with no idea how to actually implement anything. The smart ones all end up with Vision proving they actually have very few ideals they’re willing to stand up for. Last I heard NSV was talking about running a mayoral candidate so maybe they’re an option.

      1. TEAM is much more than two people who ran for the NPA last time. We have members and supporters from the original TEAM, neighbourhood groups, community centres and others who are fed up with what’s being done by the City.

        I ran and was elected with TEAM in the 70’s. Because of what I saw happening I ran again in 2011 with the NPA. That was a mistake. The NPA is as beholden to developers as are Vision. Please look at their voting record.

        During the last campaign Suzanne Anton announced she would disregard the view cones in Chinatown and at St. Paul’s, and multitude of other poorly conceived ideas without consulting other candidates. In addition, they ran a disasterous campaign costing more than $2.5M and elected two candidates.

    3. The Greens are not irrelevant. Indeed, I would say they have a good chance of 2-3 seats on council. The best outcome one can hope for is that though Vision Vancouver might retain the mayor’s chair, they lose the voting majority that enables them to force through the poorly thought out projects Ray Spaxman refers to.

    4. Ray, thank you so much for these thoughtful comments. We in Mount Pleasant and Cedar Cottage have been trying to alert the public for years of this rape of the environment by Vision. Vision stole the west half of the Main Street view cone with no public consolation.

      Mark, Vision is not green, unless of course you mean painted green bike lanes and Astroturf boulevards. They are the first City Council to allow green Astroturf on the City boulevards. They have done this in Coal Harbour and Mount Pleasant.

      Vision allows building so tall that they block the sun to the extent that even grass won’t grow. Vision must go!

    5. Mark, I always wonder why the Green Party does not do better in Vancouver. It is a green city, is it not? Adrienne Carr is pretty competent.

      Has Vision completely hoodwinked the populous and achieved permanent possession of the green vote?

      1. Being green is great. Reducing one’s footprint is great. Using less oil is great. Using the car less and walk/bike more is great.

        Much of that party’s platform is socialist though and anti-everything, i.e. job destroying. Not a great platform for more than maybe 10% of folks i.e. folks on the left fringe.

  16. I’m with you, Ray. So when will Urbanarium get organized already, and become a positive counterforce for better planning and design?

  17. It seems to me that a number of you on this site have the passion, knowledge and clear-sightedness to comprise a formidable new party. Why look outside yourself if you have what it takes. I wish a number of you would run for office. Please give it some thought.

    1. They have considered running for office, some have even served, but well funded political machines trump knowledge, passion and clear-sightedness every time. It takes one slick ad campaign to sway thousands of voters, while a really good idea spoken to a small group of citizens does little. It is the world we live in.

      1. Please don’t throw in the towel. Based on my very extensive work across the City over the past 5 years I know that the majority of voters are looking for an alternative to Vision and the NPA. They’ve been done with the NPA since 2002. They elected COPE. Unfortunately that spawned Vision. Voters have now realized that Vision is the NPA in another costume.

        There are other new parties. You may want to support them. However, it would be better for those who want real change to focus their efforts.

        I and my TEAMmates are working to create a broad community based movement that concerned citizens can work within to form a City administration that reflects the values and priorities of the diverse communities across the City. Vancouver has a great deal of unrealized potential. Working together we can further the good work Ray and many others have been doing over the past 42 years, and we can deal creatively with the challenges of today and tomorrow.

        TEAM created positive change in 1972. We can do the same today with your help.

  18. In the meantime, be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater; until there is a viable alternative party with comparable or better insight, intelligence, care, willingness and determination to keep Vancouver progressive, Vision is the best we’ve got by far.

    1. Are you joking?
      Vision is the worst we could possibly imagine. A greenwashing NPA, both selling out & destroying the city, while also alienating the population from “green” issues by misusing them and abusing them constantly.

      1. “Lavrys,” no, I am not joking. Vision is the best alternative we have right now; it is working toward moving Vancouver forward into the future through developments, improvements in infrastructure, reconfigurations of streets for alternative forms of transportation, and greenspace maintenance and expansion. This is a balance of growth with environmental awareness. Establishing that balance is no easy task, and Vision doesn’t always get it right. But, doing nothing is not the answer either. I give Vision a lot of credit for making bold decisions that may not always be popular but are necessary. Vancouver must advance, not stagnate. “Lavrys” — your comment that Vision and the NPA are “selling out & destroying the city”: to whom is it being sold out, and how is it destroyed? I own my property in the city, and I think Vancouver is beautiful, hardly destroyed. Are you hyperbolizing for some reason?

        1. Some people just like to complain, and show no proposals what should be done instead given market realities.

          Vision in my opinion is not moving fast enough with pedestrian zones or measures to reduce car use, such as higher parking fees, reduced road width, more pedestrian zones, more rental housing per new building built, road tolls.

          It also caters to unions and excessive civil servants wages with excessive benefits i.e. is wasteful with the money collected.

          Some suggestions:

          Less diesel buses, please !
          Wider sidewalk, please !
          More residential road traffic calming (like Point Grey Road) please !
          Robson Street a walkable shopping and green oasis from Stadium to Stanley park, please.
          Far higher taxes on residential properties please with rebates for folks with no cars, please.
          Densification of the West-End please, not catering to the lower class in one of the most expensive real estate locations in Canada please !
          Market wages for civil servants when counting hours, risks of layoffs and cushy benefits, i.e. 30% lower, please !
          Subway along Broadway to UBC with two stations at UBC (busloop and S-campus), and then a whole loop to 41st please !
          No concentration of drug users and homeless people along E-Hastings please and more market housing there, please.

        2. Vancouver is being sold out to developers, mostly from offshore, who see condominium space here as a safe place to park huge sums of money. That is because Canada is politically stable and Vancouver is a beautiful place. These developers are backing Vision financially because they are willing to go against the wishes of the vast majority of residents and up-zone to create those spaces. The result of all this is density created quickly with hi-rise towers to satiate this appetite. The public views, the sense of community that make Vancouver the gem it is are being sacrificed at the alter of big money. Vision Vancouver, if nothing else, are politically savvy. They understand that they have enough people convinced that what they are doing is all for the best. Those who are paying attention can see through the ruse, that “green” and “affordability” are cynical buzzwords being used to dupe a naive and mostly disinterested electorate.

        3. You own your house on point grey rd and are therefore unaffected and disconnected from the actual problems in this city. There are other people who live here who aren’t quite so privileged who actually suffer the consequences of these campaign donation influenced decisions. Though you may, like Thomas Beyer, believe in a social caste system, some of us believe in equality and opportunity, two things that are disappearing rapidly…

        1. leechap, my point was that in throwing out the bathwater (Vision), you may also inadvertently throw out the baby (Vancouver); in other words, if you elect a party other than Vision right now (with no viable other alternatives), you will likely harm Vancouver rather than help it.

          1. I do not believe that our current Mayor and council possess any special abilities. What I know is that they have misled, lied to, ignored and disrespected the citizens of this fair city long enough. Have you attended a public hearing about one of their pet projects? They act like a pack of jackals. It will take years to stem the tide of damage they have done to the City, and the sooner the job is begun the better.

        2. I presented to the Citizen’s Panel on Electoral Reform, which was a group of citizens selected at random with no affiliation to each other. I told them, and I still feel, that I would rather be governed by that group than by any political party I’ve yet encountered. I don’t see what harm a group of unaffiliated individual candidates or even a selection from several parties could do to the business of the city. Maybe, from time to time they’d disagree with each other? Or with staff? Or have new ideas or perspectives? Maybe, without a set of election promises that have been bought and paid for, they could chart a course that just makes sense as events unfold.

        3. Yes, leechap, I have been actively involved in a City project for years and have been only encouraged by the current Council to be involved; they have responded to my calls, letters, e-mail, meeting requests, and questions. They invited me to stakeholder workshops (which I did attend) and provided me with questionnaires and surveys to express my views on the project. They encouraged my participation in public forums, Open Houses and formal presentations at City Hall. I was addressed directly and in person by numerous Council members, and my work with the City ultimately achieved my goal. I am still working with the City on fine-tuning it. So, although I would agree that Vision is not perfect, I have been satisfied with their approachability, communications and sincere desire to make the right decisions for Vancouver moving forward.

          1. @susan: City Staff listen attentively but they are not paying attention to anything but the voices that agree with them. I know for a fact that if you expressed dissatisfaction with any aspect of a development proposal that those concerns were not acted on. In Open House after Open House 80% of respondents are dead set against proposals and it makes no difference. I don’t care about patronizing smiles, I want things done differently.

    1. Fiscal responsibilities, revenue challenges and being green all in one is hard to do.

      We need a fiscally responsible party that lowers cost of services deliver (and as such, since 80%+ of the city’s money is people, lowers civil servants’ wages + cushy benefits), develops a broad vision of less cars and more urban living for Vancouver while still attracting investment on a global scale. Not an easy task.

  19. Residential property taxes in Vancouver are far too low, and car use downtown is far too cheap still .. and if these two revenue tools do not change much any party has fiscal constraints.

    Also Vancouver’s west end needs development and more highrises, not some catering to well below middle class entrenched population living in rent controlled apartments a block from the water on one of the most real estate in the world. That has to change too to free up some cash so new 45 story buildings where one with 5 is standing now can have 5 floors of subsidized rental housing and 40 more market condos with ample more city revenue !

      1. I do actually, down from one after having moved back after many years in Alberta. But I have lived in Europe for many years and can appreciate what higher density looks like, or gasoline costs of 2x here, or tolls on roads. It does reduce traffic.

        If governments want less car use, the very simple solution is to make it more expensive, in many case far more expensive, sat $500/month to park your car on the streets of Point Grey, or $20 to enter downtown by car. That will change behaviour, and support for a subway to UBC (for example) in a hurry.

    1. Thomas – It costs $10/hr or more to park on many streets in downtown Vancouver – an exponential increase over the rates charged not long ago, that used to be free after 6pm. If this is “far too cheap”, I’d like to know what you consider reasonable.

      Property taxes are a percentage of assessed value – which you may be aware has gone through the roof in recent years, and continues to increase. Tell the average homeowner in this city their taxes should go up. Right. See where that gets you.

      Your implied contempt for the “well below middle class entrenched population” of the West End is noted. Apparently they should be forced out of their “rent controlled apartments” and make way for “45 storey buildings” . . . WTF are you talking about?? What “rent controlled apartments”?

      No wonder this city is run in the way it is. People like this bozo get to vote.

      1. BC has rent control. So if you happen to be a widow in a 3BR apartment that served your husband and two kids well you now will pay far below market rent. As such this 3BR is not available for a young family wishing to move there. Widow wins. Young family loses.

        We cannot allow low density housing in the best location in Vancouver, a block or 2 from English Bay. That has to be high density, the highest in the city, to provide affordable housing. Only more development, not less, will provide more needed housing. Ample of room here in the West End, say 100,000 new condos & rental units.

        Somehow people think they are entitled to live whereever they want, on someone else’s dime. I do have a problem with that. If you wish to live in the best location in town you have to pay for it, a lot of it.

        $10/h is only for on street parking. Most parkades charge far less than that. There isn’t even a fee to enter the city by car, say $20. That would reduce car use downtown.

        Residential taxes in Vancouver are very low, too low one could easily argue, per $100,000 value. The lowest in the country actually. It is called “vote buying” by parties like “Vision”. Vision taxes commercial properties 4-5 times as much, hence jobs are leaving Vancouver and moving to Burnaby or Richmond or especially Surrey. Since many properties are foreign owned, and since the city needs more money to subsidize/fund social programs (for affordable rental housing or homelessness, for example) raising residential property taxes is the way to go to create more city revenue.

        Please don’t call me a bozo because I disagree with your socialist world view.

        1. ” I disagree with your socialist world view.”

          Do you? I suppose that your obvious distaste for rent controls is that it is an example of government interference in the free market, artificially skewing the free market value of property. Therefore I assume you also object to government engaging in wholesale up-zoning, creating large fortunes with strokes of a pen. Just what is your skin in this game Thomas? Tell the truth.

    1. That was before folks lived there. Yaletown did not really exist then not many of teh other nearby new residential high-rises.

      Robson Street ought to be a pedestrian, mingle and shopping zone, with no cars allowed, all the way from Stadium to Stanley Park.

      1. Rubbish, at that time the West End was one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the world. Everything is within easy walk or bike range.

        1. Yea, that was 40+ years ago. Things have changed, in New York, Singapore, Hongkong, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Vancouver’s West-End is not so dense anymore compared to Yaletown, Coal Harbor or those other cities mentioned.

          Downtown is very small and surrounded by water ie space. As such density does not feel as dense. it makes no sense to restrict development here as only more supply brings down rents and prices, not less supply.

          yes, the current renter in a $800 rent controlled apartment wins, but the person(s) wishing to move in is faced with a $2000 rent next door due to lack of supply. With more supply that would drop to perhaps $1500.

          Leaving Denman and Davie one or 2 storey commercial makes no sense whatsoever to me.

          There ought to be a one or 2 storey front to make the street live livable .. then a setback of perhaps 4-5 meters, then a 15 – 40 storey tower on top of it. That creates more housing, more senior’s homes, more shelters for the homeless, more daycare centers, more schools, more commercial space and especially more housing, both market and below market, bot to rent and to buy.

          Then we could close Denman, Davie and Robson for cars and make them pedestrian zones / long urban parks with bike lanes, playgrounds, green space .. a very livable community, close to the water. Every new building built would have mandated 10-25% rental housing, from heavily subsidized to modestly subsidized.

          That is what makes sense to me for Vancouver’s West End, not a “no more construction here” attitude which artificially constrains supply and keeps prices elevated.

          1. “Downtown is very small and surrounded by water ie space. As such density does not feel as dense.”

            Where do you come up with such nonsense?

    2. A pedestrian zone was created in Copenhagen after liberating 100,000 m2 from the car. The result was the Stroget, a 6 km long linked series of highly successful pedestrian shopping and residential streets.

      Your glib prognostication, leechap, that urban spaces designed for pedestrians leads to a drug market is not the product of even a modicum of intelligent discourse.

      1. Further, the Granville Mall had the life sucked out of it by draining all the pedestrian traffic into the subterranian realm of Pacific Centre. The street level shops didn’t have a chance to recover until the downtown population doubled.

      2. “Your glib prognostication,…is not the product of even a modicum of intelligent discourse.”

        Unlike your remarks about changing wheel nuts..blah blah It is the product of experience.

        Vancouver is not Copenhagen.

  20. “Is anyone else concerned?” Yes, absolutely. A great many citizens have been very concerned about zoning and development trends in this city for a long time. Most of the people I know, at any rate. Our concern has availed us nothing.

    Perhaps a better question to ask is: “Where is the political force (be it a leader, a candidate or a coalition) that will put citizens back in the driver’s seat?”

    There is much more to be worried about in this city than loss of view corridors downtown or high-rise projects that have been allowed to overhang or intrude into public space in ways that were formerly not allowed. These events demonstrate the extent to which city planners have capitulated to developers – but they are really just the tip of the Vision iceberg.

    What of the densification of neighbourhoods across the city with only the most trivial attention paid to local concerns, to a degree that consistently pushes against or exceeds what most citizens consider to be liveable or desirable?

    What of the closing off of vehicle traffic lanes on arterial streets downtown and elsewhere in the city (by means of extended sidewalks at corners, underused bike lanes and restriction of turns) that amounts to a policy of induced, planned traffic gridlock?

    What of the city’s failure to protect the rights of tenants, who are being evicted in enormous numbers as apartment buildings are sold, flipped and redeveloped in the headlong rush to densify Vancouver? There are provincial laws in place that require developers to inform tenants of development proposals, and to have development permits and building permits in place before evictions can take place. These laws, and the rights of tenants, are now routinely sidestepped by developers. The city, which is supposed to enforce the rules, doesn’t care (I speak from experience – the building I lived in for 17 years was cleared out by a developer, without any permits in place, by means of a modest “bonus” and some fairly ruthless pressure tactics. The planning department was well aware of what was going on, and did absolutely nothing.).

    And a larger question: what is being done to the fabric of this city, as the development boom that has been in place almost without respite for 30 years accelerates and as zoning rules are arbitrarily made over in favour of ever-greater density? The nature of the boom has recently changed in a fundamental way. The old industrial and rail lands where most high-density condo construction once took place has now been built out. High-density development has now shifted to existing neighbourhoods. The fabric of the city is now being altered in a more intrusive and more disruptive manner than ever before. This is being facilitated by a very shrewd, nominally progressive civic party that blatantly serves the interests of developers.

    Where will this process end? Can Vancouver continue to be liveable, human-scaled city even as large tracts of its limited lands are turned into forests of towers? Will Vancouver still be Vancouver if it is turned into Manhattan on the Pacific? Is this what the real Vision of this city will be?

    1. Yes, Vancouver will be 100% denser in 30-40 years, more highrises in downtown, on UBC peninsula or along train corridors all the way to Langley, Surrey & Maple Ridge.

      Looking down at the lack of development wets of Georgia all the way to English Bay, say North of Burrard there is PLENTY of room to build 100,000 new condos here if the political will were there, with rental apartments to boot. But the local subsidized, rent controlled folks oppose it and since Vision is a left-wing catering NDP like party their wishes get granted. The West End is ripe for development, and almost nothing gets built there.

      And then we complain about high rents. Gee.

      Unless we create more land to build on, which we EASILY could, up Seymour, up Grouse, up Cypress, bridge to Bowen Island and Sunshine Coast, 20-30 sq km of new land west of Delta, Richmond and UBC Spanish Banks .. but I somehow do not see that happening anytime soon

      Or: Let’s all move to the Island. That will help those coming here !

      Today Vancouver and area is 2M people. There will be 3M in 20-30 years and 4M in 40-50 years. All very doable, sensibly, on existing or new land. Those that prefer small town impoverished Vancouver Island or Okanagan are always free to leave and move there !

      1. “Those that prefer small town impoverished Vancouver Island or Okanagan are always free to leave and move there !”

        There’s no need to be a dick about it.

        1. Back in the early 1990’s, when then Mayor Gordon Campbell was asked on CKNW what local residents were supposed to do when the offshore investment and development that he encouraged in Vancouver out-priced the locals’ ability to continue to afford homes in the city, he replied, “The locals will have to move to Revelstoke.” That was the beginning of the loss of any political will to value loyalty to the locals; you will have to bring much more to the bargaining table than merely the desire, wish, hope to live in the city.

          1. We were discussing rent controlled apartments. If you wish to subject yourself to the tyranny of a strata council then more power to you. Its not my cup of tea.

      2. Up Seymour, up grouse, up cypress. There is no way you have any background in building if you really think building more than a thousand feet above sea level is a great idea, never mind the bears, destruction of forests (and with it, all those carbon and methane absorbing trees) and wait a minute why exactly would anyone want to do that? If you could at least explain who would benefit I’d be most grateful, because it’s just gibberish otherwise. Why not fill in burrard inlet and false creek too? With cement! Erect a huge condo wall 60 stories high along the former waterfront? If there have to be poor people, line the first two floors with standing room only sleeping pods. They would be grateful for that. They should feel glad you let them breathe the expensive, too good for them Vancouver air!

        1. What is wrong with going higher up. Plenty of mountains behind it.

          Land is expensive in Vancouver, and will get more and more expensive every year as more and more folks move here.

          Not doing that, as is the current situation will result in more highrises on the water front as we see now in West Van, and all along Lonsdale. Is that better ?

          Methane & carbon absorbing trees. Give me a break. Cut down a thousand or 10,000 and plant 1,000 or 10,000 nearby. Big deal. The next 3000 km north behind N-Van or W-Van is trees trees trees btw. millions of them. Canada has very few people and a large land mass / trees per capita. Probably the most in the world. Would be interesting to find out.

    2. Apathy on the part of citizens is the problem, and utter defiance with threats of lawsuits against the City. Neither of these methods will bring about cooperative resolutions in working with the City toward accomplishing necessary goals. It is far from enough for citizens to simply complain to each other; they must take the time and effort to educate themselves about projects during the design phase and become involved in contributing responsibly to the end result. Complaining about it after the fact, often with wrong information or no information, is ignorant, lazy and unfair.

      1. “Perhaps a better question to ask is: “Where is the political force (be it a leader, a candidate or a coalition) that will put citizens back in the driver’s seat?”

        Driver’s seat? I’d settle for being a passenger instead of being left on the side of the road.

        1. leechap, I absolutely agree with you that leadership is key, and if citizens feel unrepresented by their leader, the leader should be doing more to achieve inclusion.

      2. Susan, you are partially correct. There is a lot of apathy on the part of citizens, but the many citizens who are active and outspoken right from the start of processes get no more consideration than the apathetic ones. The problem is City Hall and developers are calling ALL the shots and they do not listen to citizens. And you underestimate the power of a lawsuit, it is currently the ONLY thing that causes City Hall to change course in any way. You obviously have not been taking part in these community processes like many of us because you sound very naive, and your insulting tone was uncalled-for.

        1. There’s this book called “The Hidden Brain” that talks about how if you are swimming with the current, you don’t notice that there is a current at all; or I guess a more appropriate metaphor in Vancouver is cycling with vs. against the wind 🙂 I find you really only know an organization or group when you seek to oppose it. Everyone seems nice and encouraging when you agree with them. I find the real test of character in a governing body is how they deal with different ideas and needs from their own.

        2. leechap, the threat of lawsuits only causes anger and frustration such that the City will allocate the resources that were targetted for a specific area to elsewhere. That is exactly what happened when a few residents of Kits Point opposed a bike path through Hadden Park; the area lost out on the funds and efforts to upgrade a depressed, unmaintained, ugly and underutilized area. With all the cyclist traffic now on and headed from closed Point Grey Road, for example, to Kits and Hadden Parks, with no separate bike path, bikes and pedestrians in the parks are going to be fighting for passage. The City will have to address this traffic for safety, but the beautiful design and planning that they had invested time and energy in creating for the area won’t happen since the funds have been allocated elsewhere. Kits Point residents won’t receive the best solution for them since they received to cooperate with the City on the project. You are incorrect to believe that they City was not willing and determined to work with the residents toward an acceptable solution; they were, but when threatened with a lawsuit, the City decided that the area and residents did not warrant the City’s time, money and efforts. I agree with the City on this decision.

      3. Well said Susan. Much information is out there at early stages, and only when the digger shows up do they say “no”, or “Not in my backyard” or “wow, I didn’t know about it”.

        Many folks also just say “no” without stating what alternatives they would prefer actually.

  21. I’m actually far more concerned with the bland mediocrity of the majority of the buildings downtown, rather than the occasional bit of eccentric design. Try this: name 5, or even 2, really memorable buildings in the downtown core. Considering how many buildings there are, it’s a tough challenge.

    1. Well said. The GesamtKunstWerk will be iconic, like the ShangriLa and the Ericsson building. So there, 3.

      Are there more remarkable buildings in Vancouver ? Maybe Harbour White, Red, Green in Coal Harbour ?

        1. Yes the library is iconic and interesting. First Baptist Church is a 100+ year old church which I happen to attend actually and it is fine, albeit nothing spectacular when you have lived in Europe where there 100’s such churches.

  22. @Susan Smith, your comments are obviously ones from someone living in an area that has not been subjected to Vision Vancouver’s spot rezonings and urban planning on the fly. Perhaps that is why Gregor Robertson chose to move into your neighbourhood, rather than face the wrath of his former neighbours in Douglas Park as Vision Vancouver allowed free reign to developers in their backyards.

  23. If it cannot be shown that liveability is compromised by design proposals then we are only discussing style about which there are many opinions.

  24. Ray Spaxman is talking radical shifts in urban form and design that are transpiring in Vancouver. The romance with one-off, gigantic, strange and unique objects – rather than community-building – seems to be deeply engrained at city hall these days, both among senior management and the Urban Design Panel. So much so that it appears to many long- time observers and residents that there aren’t any clear rules in place anymore at all, and that everything is fair game.

    Something he touches on in passing is the ramping up of density with these developments. During his tenure as director of planning the highest floor space ratios available anywhere downtown was in the single digit level. Now in recent years we are routinely seeing FSRs in the double digit level. This escalation in density has significant impacts on scale, height, bulk, livability and the general look and feel of our communities.

    We should all be deeply concerned.

    1. Downtown Vancouver’s building, due to its very limited land mass with ocean on 3 sides are still far FAR too low, and its West End is completely underdeveloped to cater to the (well below middle class) entrenched locals, living in one of the world’s most expensive real estate a block or two from the ocean and walking distance to commercial hubs and subways.

      We need far more ShangriLa type buildings, not as high end, but mixed use, where the top floor luxury condos pay for the middle and lower class affordable rental units, commercial, subsidized housing, cheaper condos incl. seniors’ homes and those for the disabled. Segregating them into the West End or East End is bad urban planning, a waste of land use, a waste of tax dollars and frees up far too little private capital that is available for such developments in the billions.

      Planning is indeed sub-par in Vancouver.

      If social or below market housing is envisioned a block from the beach, then those units ought to be on the lower floors of tall tall towers, and not protected in current 50+ year old 5 story buildings with rent and development control. That is win/win to me for downtown Vancouver.

      1. Your assumption that boundless density is good or even that existing infrastructure can support it, is fallacious. We CAN live like rats, we just don’t want to. There’s only reason to support this “vision” and it is “green” (not the kind you pretend)

        1. not boundless density, only where it makes sense, such as downtown Vancouver which includes the old and grossly underdeveloped West-End.

          With water on three sides, and a huge park nearby (Stanley Park + Lost Lagoon area) it will not feel all that congested as it would inland, say Surrey or Burnaby.

          Many people, both rich and poor, young and old, gay or straight, handicapped or able, employed or unemployed want to live close to the water, and the only way to make this affordable for all those groups is higher density on limited land.

      2. Thomas, i assume most of what you post is trolling, and I’m pretty sure that is why most ignore what you are saying as well. But i will say this; your vision of the city is so ugly, destructive, money driven and meaningless that i have to wonder why you live here at all when you’d clearly be more impressed with New York or Hong Kong. I find your attitude towards the seniors and other residents of the west end repugnant and you have really summed up the attitude of this green steaming pile of crap new urbanism that i fear the most -tacky, tacky, materialistic people making selfish decisions that negatively impact others to suit their own purposes. (usually under a guise of faux environmentalism or spirituality) One day you will die, and you can’t take it with you.

        1. I don’t know what trolling means.

          I am just showing you that the socialist way of asking others to fund one’s own lifestyle does not work.

          The vision for both East-Hastings and West End is poor, catering to the poor by asking others to fund their lifestyle. I have a problem with that.

    2. Are Senior Management at City Hall and members of the Design Panel responsible for community building? I think not. They are responsible for regulating development but they are not responsible for eliminating the “one off, gigantic, strange and unique objects”. They are not censors of creative actions and we should be thankful for that.

      “the highest floor space ratios anywhere in the downtown” is always a question of a compelling story, a good resentation, a well managed roll out. Vancouver is a City under construction and it has been that way since the forest was first cut down. The few remaining heritage houses in the West End represent entire neighbourhoods now transformed to walk-ups and high rise buildings.

    3. Well said, Frank.

      However, to me tall buildings are not automatically “good” or “bad.” They are inanimate. What remains the most ignored elements in all these discussions is the street, then next the neighbourhood. So many planners talk about neighbourhood character without getting off the cult of the view wagon (view cones often lead to vertical architecture; Paris does not have mountains and oceans, but IS the view) and proposing viable consultation methods that will help neighbourhoods absorb growth while maintaining character. Where is our updated City Plan process? Where are our boulevards, Ramblas’ and Strogets? Where is that third layer that is vital to the success of great cities, the Public Realm beyond engineered public streets and shining private towers?

      Too many planners also do not have any experience designing and building stuff and have little understanding of development financing. I would hope that the city could eventually learn to be a helluva lot more proactive and go first into the neighbourhoods and form citizen’s assemblies and work within a deep consultation process and then come up with a plan – so much more than the largely inadequate Neighbourhood Plans or charrettes that are subject to being taken over by single-minded groups – that will give neighbours and developers alike the predictability of long-term stable zoning? Developers will have the assurance of pre-authorized neighbourhood height and density with solid rules about density bonuses, and therein their financing deadlines won’t light a fire under their feet.

      Even a 5-second glance at the Vancouver zoning map will tell a story about how to relieve a large part the development pressure from arterials and singular development sites: to incrementally convert the detached freehold homes on over 30 km2 of land to attached freehold homes and low rises. Start within two blocks of arterials, preserve or relocate heritage buildings, and call for increased transit quality and significant numbers of outright subsidized housing (cut the term “affordable” when all but subsidized housing is unaffordable) with a very loud voice. The result will be comfortable, transit-based development to help counter the energy currently put into high rises and to offer decent housing alternatives and all the attendant services and economic activity.

  25. Why is protecting moderately priced rental accommodations for Canadians socialism (as if that is bad) and handing out vast fortunes to offshore investors like Halloween candy through rezoning an example of free enterprise? What’s your game Tom? I know what I want. What’s in it for you?

    1. Leechap, you are assuming the majority of people buying condos in the latest developments are “offshore investors”. Perhaps that includes the 150 Telus employees who registered with Telus Garden to purchase a condo? Or the over 70% of buyers in the Marine Gateway who are local?

      Do you shop at Safeway or IGA, drive a car or operate a laptop? Most of them are owned by “foreign” interests, but are operated with Canadian subsidiaries, and all, bar none, have definable effects on the economy, but who are all subject to the laws of supply and demand. How are developers with Canadian subsidiaries any different?

      You would have a point about political campaign donations by … well, name your corporate or union or activist structure. In all these cases the donors influence policy and projects to one degree or another. But you are not mentioning them in your zeal to harp on “foreign investors”, as though cross border shopping Canadians aren’t doing the same thing down south when buying a brick of cheese.

      1. “you are assuming the majority of people buying condos in the latest developments are “offshore investors”.”

        That has been widely reported to be the case. Can you refute it?

        “Perhaps that includes the 150 Telus employees who registered with Telus Garden to purchase a condo? Or the over 70% of buyers in the Marine Gateway who are local?”

        That would not, but if an exception does not prove the rule.

        “Do you shop at Safeway or IGA, drive a car or operate a laptop? Most of them are owned by “foreign” interests, but are operated with Canadian subsidiaries, and all, bar none, have definable effects on the economy, but who are all subject to the laws of supply and demand. How are developers with Canadian subsidiaries any different?”

        Importing foreign made products is a completely different issue, with its own seedy underbelly. I’d be careful about comparing real estate speculation with that. Rampant up-zoning is an example of politicians selling out Vancouver’s views and general quality of life on the open market

        I have no problem with foreign investment per se, but I think a vacancy tax might discourage the kind of money dump that is driving up property values, taxes, and rents, and would help get Vision out of some of the fiscal jackpots they have gotten the City into.

    2. Leechap, you have just answered your own question by providing the definition of “free enterprise.”

  26. Tom, you have a problem with rent subsidies for the poor but don’t have a problem with government created huge windfalls for developers. I don’t get it, you have some explaining to do.

    1. wealth creation and wealth redistribution have to BOTH be carefully balanced .. and in many circles wealth creation is looked up upon suspiciously and with disgust .. but it is vital for tax revenues and for progress of the human race !

      I have no problem with rent subsidies for the truly needy, perhaps bottom 10% of society, but not for the bottom 50%, and also not in superior beach locations on expensive land like the West End !

      1. I don’t know where you get 50% of renters being subsidized, I rented in the West End for many years and I never heard of a subsidy.

        And your disdain for the less wealthy is apparent. Why else would you care where needy people live? If that has been their home for many years, what is served by evicting them? So a richer person can live there? Is there some kind of free capital justice principle involved? How does that help the human race? What is your agenda really? Why are you bothered by the idea of less wealthy Canadians living in nice places and not by Chinese billionaires and tin pot politicians hitting the jackpot by crowding and shadowing this City beyond recognition?

        You admitted that creating density has to end sometime. How and how fast we get from here to there is what we want to talk about. It does NOT have to happen overnight, it can happen gracefully, preserving some of the character of neighborhoods, but that will never happen with developers pulling City Council’s puppet strings .

        1. I have no problem with people living where they want, of course. But I do have a problem with people expecting restrictions and development control and density controls, for example along Denman or Davie Street, to protect their 80+ year old rental accommodation where a new 40 storey highrise could be built with the same # of rental units and huge much needed taxes & CACs for the city. Essentially that is the equivalent of a subsidy for those already in their rent controlled apartments.

          Ie NIMBYism at its finest.

          To provide more affordable housing we need more supply, ie more development, not less, ie restrictions !

        2. Leechap, what one may or may not be bothered by has nothing to do with the reality of what is allowed or even encouraged to happen in a society. Thomas is right about balance; governments have to mitigate the poor and the wealthy, not over-indulge either.

          1. “Thomas is right about balance; governments have to mitigate the poor and the wealthy, not over-indulge either.”

            If you and Thomas are so sold on balance then what about the interests and concerns of all the citizens, taxpayers who see this headlong rush to put hi-rises everywhere as coming from greed, not common sense or good urban development? Why don’t we get a place at the table? When did the people who pay the bills become irrelevant?

      2. They say a measure of society and men is how they treat the less privileged. You want to put them on the street. What does that say about you? Occupying space that could generate more tax than it currently does is now somehow being subsidized? Wonder how you feel about concord Pacific and their huge parcel of land assessed at $0, then.

        1. Ps – the supply/demand argument is old, tired and incorrect. Maybe you can answer this question. If more supply means prices will go down, then who in their right mind would take on a mortgage and buy one of these condos knowing their investment will significantly drop in value?

        2. Enlighten us please which parcel you are referring to. CP built a large number of highrises in Yaletown starting in the late 80’s, and the city of Vancouver today is collecting millions in annual taxes from it. That is bad ?

          Are you suggesting we should have rather left the old lumber yards and derelict warehouses there instead .. Much like you are now suggesting to not touch the West End ?

          More supply brings about more accommodation and housing units. Not restrictions. So every person demanding development controls lowers supply and thus, raises prices of the existing stock. It is simple economics.

    2. are developers, be they onshore or offshore , who invest $100-$200 M to build a high rise entitled to some profits on this investment ? it creates needed housing and huge CACs ( community amenity charges ) for the city and additional annual taxes for the city worth millions so they have the revenue tools to support homelessness , drug addictions , social services and parks ?

      what is so disdainful about that ?

      1. We don’t need anymore luxury one bedroom condos, Thomas. They are occupying space that could be used to house people. Saves money in the long run, but you think it only goes one way. Like I said before, if you don’t like it here, you are free to go. Ps – NIMBYs are people who don’t want social housing in their neighborhoods, not people who don’t want to lose the only home they can afford for no other reason than greed.

        1. Jenables, are you advocating, then, a cap on housing prices in the city? Good luck with that one. “A cap” is not short for “capitalism.”

          1. How about a vacancy tax to raise much needed capital and discourage the dumping of capital into this City? I’d like some relief from ballooning taxes on my single family home. I’ll tell you why, because the politicians are getting their cut. Its bad enough to create a ghost town in Coal Harbour, I just don’t want one in my nice residential neighbourhood. At least make them pay everyone for the mess, not just Vision.

  27. So the person living here has more rights than the person who wishes to move here ? Don’t they both have equal or at least similar rights ?

    Does the right to live a block from English Bay on the cheap exist , constitutionally, democratically or even morally ?

    1. “So the person living here has more rights than the person who wishes to move here ? Don’t they both have equal or at least similar rights ?”

      No, the person living there has more rights to their home. Not even Vision Vancouver has sunk to the level of permitting people to bid to take over other people’s homes, although they have probably thought about it.

      This unworkable level of density (crowding) that you admit exists in theory is already being approached in my view. Be careful what you wish for, the golden goose can’t lay any more eggs once it’s dead.

      1. Based on your logic, leechap, I assume you’ll be the first to advocate returning the land to First Nations who have been subjected to more injustice you will experience in 100 lifetimes, especially with your primary concern being about hte effects of development.

          1. Susan, are you agreeing that all Canadians of European descent are condemned to sit silently when they perceive injustice or wrong political decisions because some white Europeans abused some indians? What kind of reality check is that? Should we sit and stew in our collective guilt and do nothing?

        1. “Based on your logic, leechap, I assume you’ll be the first to advocate returning the land to First Nations who have been subjected to more injustice you will experience in 100 lifetimes, especially with your primary concern being about hte effects of development.”

          Let me get this straight, because our nation subjected native peoples to injustice therefore citizens today are prohibited from pointing out present day injustices ever? Talk about poor logic.

  28. If someone thinks senior management and the URBAN (not “building”) Design Panel don’t have an effect on and responsibility for community building they are seriously misguided. What other responsibility do they have? Of course they do, even if only by one (very large) development at a time. Senior management, now more than ever, is even directing outcomes in community plans (cf: Broadway and Commercial), thus trying to direct community-building in a major way, regardless of the planning process. (By senior management I mean the City Manager’s office and the head planner. Recent high-level defections in the Planning Department suggest this top-down management style may have reached its limits, at least among willing foot soldiers. One can only hope.)

    Much of the time I don’t have serious objections to new developments, knowing that we are a very young city with a lot of maturation yet to come. (Using a forest analogy, we’re moving from first growth to second growth.) I can also get quite excited by new ideas coming forward, like BIG’s project. But I don’t think great cities are built only by harshly contrasting and unique standalone projects; no, they are built with a lot of “fabric”, not objects.

    I stand by my contention that the density game has been significantly ratcheted up in recent years, and not in a good way. Land values, for one, have escalated to new highs because of this process. For another, the resulting outcomes in many situations is something that is not seen by many as a good fit, even in very urban contexts, like the West End and Mt. Pleasant.

    1. Not sure whether you’re aware Frank, but I have it on good authority that the design team no longer has the pre-disign meeting with Planning, they go to the Mayor’s Office. Rather than the team presenting their approach the Mayor’s staff tell the team and developer for their site what uses they’ll be allowed, how high, what the FSR will be and what the “voluntary CAC contribution” will be. Is it any wonder good, provided staff are leaving? In such an environment Planning is irrelevant.

  29. leechap: “No, the person living there has more rights to their home” — you are obviously unfamiliar with strata living, which comprises 2/3 of homes in the city. In stratas, one’s rights to one’s home are dependent on a 75% vote of all the owners in a strata complex. Despite owning one’s home, one can also be voted out of the complex, evicted though an owner. One’s rights to one’s home are entirely dependent on one’s ability to fight financially and legally to stay there. They are no longer inherent, God-given, or protected under the law.

  30. leechap, regarding Europeans and the historical injustices toward First Nations people, MB offered this example to you of how your view that “the person living there has more rights to their home” is flawed logic. Similarly, I offered you the example of communal living in strata properties as limiting home-owner rights to show you that your logic is flawed. No, you are not “condemned to sit silently” as a Canadian of European descent when you feel your rights are being threatened, but you are simply wrong to say that just because a person lives somewhere, that person has more right to that home; as much as we might like it to be true, it is not. One’s right to one’s home is mitigated by many factors — legal, social, financial, educational, cultural, etc.

    1. That metaphor implies that aboriginal peoples had no rights to their ancestral lands. bizarre.. I think there are Supreme Courts that might disagree.

      So let me see, I like your apartment and I am willing to pay the owner more than you are paying, you think you should have to pay more or move. Pretty harsh.

      1. It’s called capitalism, leechap.

        In the past, aboriginal peoples were treated as having no rights to the land they occupied.

        1. Leechap, colonization and imperialism stripped First Nations people of the right to occupy the land of their choice. European colonizers had the power over aboriginals to lay claim to the land; social, political, educational and cultural capital comprises power (ie. expropriating land is capitalism). I’m not necessarily advocating it, just defining it.

          1. @susan
            Just because one has the might to do something does not mean you have the right. Courts have ruled that the aboriginal peoples held inalienable rights to their lands, and that those rights were not extinguished, they were violated. Since someone brought up this metaphor I will apply it to the current situation. The current regime at Vancouver City Hall have violated the rights of citizens to take a role in shaping the future of their neighbourhoods. They do this because they can, because they have to power to do so, and because well, they have drunk the intoxicating developer Kool-aid, as you and Thomas seem to have done. They aren’t arguing that those citizens’ rights don’t exist, they continue to pay lip service to them as they infringe on them.

  31. I’ll summarize by saying this; manufacturing density through rezoning = printing money, that is why politicians become addicted to doing it.

  32. Many worthwhile topics, slightly off this debate thread though:

    Many “natives” are also not native, as they came here from elsewhere. So, how far back do we wish to go ? To Adam and Eve ?

    Many people came here with noting and built a decent life. Others also had their land expropriated, here or elsewhere. Many atrocities happened before WWII, WWI or much much earlier. How far back do we want to go and rehash those old wounds of injustice by many towards many ?

    Maybe we should not have any racism in Canada and treat everybody the same ?

    Rezoning = creating affordable and market housing. Yes some rezoning is too sense, but others are sensible.

    To what degree can the state interfere with the rights of a property owner ?

    Are commercial property taxes too high in Vancouver and residential property taxes too low ?

    Should land transfer taxes be higher for non-residents or investors ? If so, by how much ? If not, how else can we monetize foreign money will to come here but that drive folks out of affordable areas they used to live in for 20+ years ?

      1. Who benefits: BC residents. Why ? Investors, be the onshore or offshore, provide jobs for construction, they pay land transfer taxes on purchase, the (local) seller makes money and recycles this money elsewhere, they pay GST, PST and income taxes on employed people. They provide housing and employment. They pay huge property taxes without using much of the services the city or province provides (schools, parks, roads, swimming pools, libraries, hospitals ..)

        1. Right. Temporary labour ready jobs that people cannot earn a decent living from? Wealth concentrated in very small populations does not have much of an overall effect on the local economy… ESPECIALLY when most of the locals disposable income has disappeared due to cost of living skyrocketing. Shall we talk about the TWENTY TWO BILLION dollars to widen the number one to accommodate the commuters who cannot afford to live in Vancouver anymore? The three billion dollar subway for the people transiting in from more affordable areas? The sad and sorry state of Vancouver schools with their declining enrollment resulting in less provincial dollars for education? I’m going to presume the local seller making all that money either buys more real estate or gets the hell out of dodge…so much for recycling that dough here. You do not pay gst or pst on employees. You deduct from their earnings federal and provincial taxes, which you remit to the receiver General as well as cpp, which you must pay an additional employer portion equal to their amount. You must also remit the ei deducted from their wages with an employer portion that is 1.4x the amount deducted. this all goes to the receiver General. Providing housing and employment..? For property managers? I’m not sure how foreign investors are employing people unless you are rehashing your first point in a roundabout way. as for those “huge property taxes” (which you previously said were low) how do you think that stacks up to the increased demand on infrastructure, and everything else I’m pointing out? Moreover, if there is all this extra cash then where the hell is it because all I have seen is horrible cuts to education, massive, stupid cuts to healthcare, legal aid, increased utilities, ferry routes becoming more and more expensive, public works being sold off while capital projects go ridiculously over budget.. it is my understanding most property tax $$$ goes to the province, while quality of life for most in bc has been on the decline for more than a dozen years. I haven’t even gotten into the effects and costs of displacement and homelessness OR the millions in CAC and DCL breaks the city passes up and sweetheart assessments like the aforementioned cp parcel which you did not address. Seems like you are just fine with corporate welfare though? Susan, take note as this response applies to you as well. Offshore people don’t live here, they don’t spend money locally unless you really think that thousand dollars a year (condo property tax, not house) is worth billions in what it costs us financially and socially to drive the people and businesses out to the burbs. Most people are not willing to pay for an expensive shoebox any more than you would be… despite what you think they should do, you live in a house, why shouldn’t they?

  33. Jenables, did you really need Thomas to explain that to you? Come on! Do you think offshore people live here for free?

    1. Without foreign investors and Asian moving here (and buying condos & houses) BC would be is far far worse shape financially. There is no alternative, besides perhaps adding slightly more taxes on properties owned or transferred.

      One core issue is overspending by governments, i.e. excessive wages & benefits for municipal and provincial employees compared to similar jobs in the private sector.

      1. You are confusing BC with yourself. You seriously think the deficit which has doubled during the liberal reign is from wages of regular public servants? It’s called corruption, buddy, and it never serves the public interest.

        1. With 80% of provincial expenditures paid on wages wage&benefit constraint is critical, and I do not see that. Private sector employees, adjusted for risk of layoffs, benefits and pensions, have far lower wages than public servants.

          It used to be you get job serving the public with lower wages but a steady paycheque, a modest pension and low risk of layoff. Today you get a far higher salary, far more benefits and a far higher, often guaranteed, pension, and the job is still low risk. That has to be adjusted fundamentally. Not just here in BC, obviously.

          Corruption ? Yes, every political party puts their friends into nice positions, in exchange for campaign donations. That is not corruption to me. It is called tit-for-tat, or “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” and has been done for hundreds of years.

          The Lower Mainland has 25+ jurisdictions, 25+ Mayors & councils and associated fire departments, police departments, parks departments, road departments, planning departments .. and that is were a lot of inefficiencies lie.

          MetroVan ought to consider fewer such councils & associated departments, perhaps 3 or even 1. 3 for North-Shore, Core and South of Fraser, or better one large council. The City of London does that for a city 5 times the size, or Paris, or New York, or Berlin, or Hongkong, why not MetroVan ?

          But I guess this blog is not about that so I will shut up.

        2. What it amounts to is theft, plain and simple. And it is not ok. Your sense of entitlement must have made you forget whose money it is.

  34. Eric, I can’t find your Comment:

    “Enter your comment here…How soon they forget…
    Gordon Campbell was Art Phillips’ hand-picked protégé, and came directly from his camp.”

    Gordon was Art’s Executive Assistant when he was Mayor in the 70’s. Art retired and so did the TEAM of that day by the early 80’s. Then Gordon took over the NPA and ran for Mayor. What Art and his TEAMmate did for Vancouver is acknowledged. My understanding of those two is that although Gordon worked and learned under Art, he was a very different person with different values and operational style. He, Volrich and Harcourt before him, and then Owen basically left the TEAM planning methodology in place. In fact Anne MacAfee at our TEAM fundraiser last November credited Gordon as being the father of the idea of CityPlan. So, although I think he also may have helped Ray out the door in 89 he, working with staff, did improve on the neighbourhood planning process.

  35. Just thinking back to this debate as I hear that the province has just extended municipal terms of office to 4 years. Whatever your feelings about Vision, imagine we were now facing another year of them and the polarized feelings they induce instead of being within hailing distance of an election.

    1. You’re right Karin. Four more years of Vision will effectively destroy Vancouver’s much vaunted “liveability”. One more thing that might actually wake up more voters by the fall will be the spot rezoned, out of scale towers now going up. To see one that’e complete please go to Hornby and Drake. It’s 12.47 FSR, 31 storeys on a 100×130′ site. I can’t bend my neck enough to see the top.

      Four year terms are also not a positive development because they will result in only professional politicians running for office. This is particularly inappropriate at the civic level. If you’d like to read a very entertaining and poignant book in this subject area try ‘The Best Laid Plans’.

  36. Ray you mention an expert urban design panel. Well, they used to be independent, however now the GM of Planning Brian Jackson shows up to tell them how to vote! This occurred last year , after the UDP rightly voted down the Rezoning of the microscopic 508 Helmcken site, to CD-1. When the development came back before the UDP a second time, with almost no modifications, Lord Brian makes his appearance to let them know that the “social benefits” attained as part of the development meet city-wide objectives….so better support it this time! They did, narrowly. This sickening display is just one of the miscarriages that the City is being sued in BC Supreme Court over. Check out one of those lawsuits here http://www.newyaletown.ca

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