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In the City of Vancouver, council is trying to get as much done as they can before the October 20th election.

That includes rushing two Council reports — the Northeast False Creek (NEFC) rezoning plans for 750-772 Pacific Boulevard (the Plaza of Nations site, or Sub-area B), and the 777 Pacific Boulevard site (1 Robson Street, or Sub-area 10c).

The reports for these two sites can be found here and here. By approving these two reports to go to public hearing this summer, the Vision party dominated council can be assured that at least part of their housing mandate is pressed forward. But at what price?
While affordable housing will be built, the City has made some precedent-setting choices in their intent to cram overbuilt, bulky buildings directly into three view corridors in these two rezonings.

Remember those three-bedroom “affordable housing” family units that Council said would be built? Guess what — the City has caved into the developers’ idea that the third bedroom can borrow light from another room, and not need to  have a bedroom that has an actual exterior window. This means that these “inboard” bedrooms can save 200 square feet, and also means that developers don’t need to use highly valued corners for three-bedroom apartments.

Studies on light access suggest that locating children’s rooms away from natural light can lead to psychological effects during low-light Vancouver winters.  But as one housing expert suggested, in a “crisis” anything goes, even bedrooms without windows to the outside.

Even more surprising is the City’s continuing push not just for higher square footage than originally approved for this plan, but also for their insistence of three towers to form the ‘Georgia Gateway’ and pierce directly into the Cambie View cones 9.1 and 9.22. Even the Queen Elizabeth Park View cone 3.2.3  will be corrupted by these proposed towers.

This means that if you’re walking or viewing the downtown area from Cambie Street anywhere from 10th to 12th Avenue, you aren’t going to see the mountains, just a concrete mass. Thanks to this council, at Queen Elizabeth Park you’ll get a massive view of a tower too.

If you’re talking with the lead planners in the world cities, you’ll hear whispers that they’ve heard about how difficult it is to work for this current Council, and about their intransigence. This is a partly a result of the politicization of the City Manager appointment by the current administration. Previously City Managers were promoted from within the City staff and carried on the stewardship and enactment of established policies beyond the election of each Mayor and Council.

For some reason, this Council has determined that Vision’s legacy of three piercing pinnacles of towerdom is more important than free and accessible  mountain views.

Price Tags has already written extensively on why these view corridors, a public benefit accessible to every Vancouverite, are so important to maintain. Even former co-director of planning Larry Beasley, a globally-recognized planning leader, has been quoted as thoughtfully saying:

If Vancouverites were to weigh in on what public amenities matter to them, the view cones will be right up there with the seawall and beaches as a treasured public asset. Instead of cramming more housing in where it is crowded and blocks views, lets open up some new communities.

While tower heights of 300 feet (30 storeys) were approved in the plan for this area, the City is still insisting on two tall towers of 425 feet (42 storeys)  “stepping down” to one tower of 400 feet (40 storeys). The rationale? For a “gateway”.

But a gateway for whom? Anyone approaching the city on foot, or by bike, public transit or a vehicle, is going to be looking at the mountains and the ground plane not an aerial photo of an urban design concept. Is overbuilding these sites and producing buildings of over 40 storeys really needed? Is this worth giving up the ability to have views to and through to the sea  and mountains?

Why is so much being given up to the developer? Why is the developer allowed to privatize the public’s right to mountain views?

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Comments

  1. I would rather that administrators of all stripes and levels work on creating a city worth viewing from within than sanctifying mountain views over the city itself. Urbanism is so much deeper and wider than view cones. The view corridors of Paris, Barcelona and other great cities were molded and shaped by the city and human-made landscape forms, not by long distant views of nature. Of course views in Vancouver are important, but that is no excuse to continue to ignore our otherwise mediocre at best streetscapes.

  2. I think you are using the internal bedroom issue to conjure up images of small children trapped in dungeons. The reality is not so. Internal bedrooms can be the key to making small spaces work better, improve affordability and make better use of living space. The views are more of an issue but still feels a bit like someone is fanning the flames on this one instead of really discussing issues in a well considered argument. Unusual on this forum.

  3. While I don’t think that the intrusions in the view cones are all that invasive (the mountain peaks are still much taller), I would rather see taller towers (i.e. “piercing” the view cones) at rapid transit stations – like Holborn’s Bay Parkade site (which will be limited to about 300ft) or near Waterfront Station.

    I agree that Council’s / planners'(?) obsession with “gateways” is a bit odd.

    I personally don’t find it very “inviting” having to squeeze through a couple of tall obstacles when entering an area. I picture gateways as being open and inviting rather than “looming” (as Vancouver House is described on Price Tags). You can build up to the tall buildings rather than putting them on the periphery. But the view cones prevent building tall where tall would make more sense.

    Regarding 3rd bedrooms without direct light, that’s like the bedrooms in Yaletown historic conversions (where buildings span an alley-free block). It’s probably also like having a basement bedroom in a house, so I don’t think it’s all that bad.

  4. My bachleor has a big internal closet, thus my bachleor becomes a 1 bedroom for the price of a bachleor. Nice and dark and I sleep great. I think the lack of a window in a bedroom is a non issue as long as you have access to other parts of the home with windows.

    I actually like the gateway idea in this case. I think it’s fantastic that Vancouver has done so much to conserve view cones but in this case I can see what they’re getting at.and can accept an exception was made for visual interest (just like when they revisited allowing taller buildings in select downtown spots to stop Vancouver having a flat downtown skyline when viewed from a distance).

  5. Looking at this now. If you swing your eyes 5 degrees to the right you see lots of mountains. I wonder if buffering children from noise from windows would be a net positive. Also there is no sun when they are sleeping in their beds…

  6. Vision’s ghettoization of Vancouver continues. Next thing you know , railway tenements will be sold to the public as a creative way of solving our housing crisis. October 20 can;t come too soon.

  7. Looks like decent buildings. What’s not to like ?

    View corridors ?

    That terminology should be dropped in Vancouver as the view changes with the angle.

    If we want lower density along a certain street then presumably that creates a view corridor but also reduces housing options.

    if you want views build low (or not at all). If you want housing build high. What is more important ?

  8. There are other studies that have proven that because units on higher floors are not obstructed by other buildings & trees, excessive light (particularly in early morning hours) can cause early awakenings and sleep deprivation.

    Which is why people put up black-out curtains and/or sleep with eye masks.

  9. I think you need to present a more accurate picture of inboard bedrooms. They’re presented as if they don’t have light, views or ventilation which is not the case.

    I DO think that an inboard design can be employed for an affordable compact 3 bed … in an age where apartments now cost in excess of $800/sf.

    Can you please post a picture of an attractive, well designed in-board bedroom to give a more balanced perspective?

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