It is shaping up to be an interesting municipal election year with the main hot topics being polarizing, and forming camps “for” or “against”.

Here’s an example. There appears to be a grittiness that is translating to people being either “for” affordable accessible housing, or “against”. And Vancouver City Council contributes to this polarization in their recent last-minute decision to approve a 400 foot tower containing 40 storeys~but only if it contains rental housing.

Otherwise the developer can build the same amount, but in a lower building size. The height would be capped at 300 feet and does not pierce the view cones that provide mountain views from various points on Cambie Street and from Queen Elizabeth Park. The developer can also build market condo apartments with no fettering rental implications from Council by respecting the view corridor height limit.

Frances Bula in the Globe and Mail describes Council’s decision to “jut 100 feet into one of the city’s 27 designated “view cones” – provided the tower was rentals only – was a clear illustration of the pressure civic politicians are facing as an election looms and the housing crisis continues.”

The Mayor called the piercing of the view cones “a reasonable trade-off” and chided citizens who rallied against the tall towers as the same people who cut trees down for views, or complain about traffic lights blocking views. That seems to be a reference to a few residents living in expensive condos or single family housing forms that participated in a few distasteful one-off events a decade ago.

Journalist Justin McElroy’s tweet below contains the audio clip of the Mayor’s remark.

Why are we concentrating on building high density towers on the downtown peninsula which is less than 5 per cent of Vancouver’s total land area? This city has extraordinary mountain and ocean views that tie this place into nature, and has policy in place that has tried to protect these views for decades.

Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr called the decision the beginning of “death by a thousand cuts” for Vancouver views. Others scoffed at the mayor for making it sound as though the city had no other choice. “This was pure political posturing, with Vision Vancouver trying to make it seem like it was affordable housing versus views,” said Melody Ma, an activist who started a  group called Save Our Skyline that ended up getting more than 1,000 supporters for its petition, including previous city planners.

Vancouver is known as one of the first cities globally to establish a view corridor policy to ensure that the stunning vista views were protected for citizens in perpetuity. Vancouver City Council has expressed a willingness to trade that view in exchange for rental housing. Further public hearings will consider whether two more 400 foot towers adjacent to the current site can also proceed. While the overall density being suggested for this area are approximately 20 per cent over the suggested density in the guidelines, the intent is to cram this into the area to provide housing affordability and to pay “the heavy cost to the city of taking down the viaducts in the area~another trade-off”

While one city official released a list of ten buildings that had violated the view cones in the past decades, view corridor advocates noted that those towers penetrated view cones because of technical error or had different criteria having met another policy of higher architectural design performance. Others state that there are optics that the privatization of public views for condos is for sale at the city at a certain price.

The polarization of having rental housing (there’s no indication of what the rental costs would be) versus mountain views will also be issues in the next phase of this area’s development. Is there a way to have both in Vancouver?


  1. Change needs to be allowed in Vancouver.

    Change benefits the young at the expensive of the old.

    Opposition to these towers is pure Nimby.

      1. Because rents won’t increase any further if demand keeps increasing and supply doesn’t. (/sarcasm)

        1. Because affordable walkups wont keep being demolished to provide luxury condos with un”affordable” rentals occasionally thrown in to salve people’s consciences. (./truth)

          1. Because demovictions are completely the fault of rezoning plans. Never greedy owners, or lack of supply preventing a relocation.

            I’ll agree that City Hall’s responsible for the latter. They’ve been scared of challenging SFH owners, so instead they stick to rezoning ex-industrial; too little, too late.
            So instead of protesting a few tall towers in a place where tall towers belong, let’s pressure whoever wins in October to exercise the new “rentals-only” zoning powers across the entire city, especially around SkyTrain stations.

  2. It should also be noted that a shorter squatter tower will result in the blockage of a different view that many value as adding life to the City – the Northern Lights Display at BC Place – which is already largely blocked from view on the west side of the stadium by the viewcone-conforming heights of the Parq hotel and casino complex.

  3. This is yet another giveaway to developers, in a long history of such from Vision Vancouver. Vision has a great track record of churning out unaffordable rental units, but then as their Councillor Kerry Jang famously said “Well, you know, affordable housing is something that somebody can afford.”

    And judging by their packed summer agenda, Vision is looking to ram through as much as they can before getting turfed this Fall. It is enough to make one vote COPE, just so they can blow up the developer/real estate cabal that has driven this city into the ditch.

    1. I would think the “developer/real estate cabal” (and include labour unions) that has supported both big parties at city hall was already blown up by the province’s ruling this spring that eliminated big political donations in all municipalities. That opens the field wide and level for all politicos to run primarily on their ideas, and could even encourage some of them to develop half a spine.

      Departing Visionistas seemed to have found a modicum of courage to bring forth the Making Room strategy for more housing on all low density residential lots, land not attractive to the biggie developers. That policy actually pre-empted all other parties, including Yes’s Bremner, who will be confined to the position of reacting to something he’s been campaigning on for a year.

      Here’s to electing a new mixed and diverse slate of councillors and mayor where consensus-building amongst ideas becomes the standard over the tyranny of the majority. What the composition of individuals would have to be to achieve that is a complete and utter mystery at this point!

  4. “Why are we concentrating on building high density towers on the downtown peninsula which is less than 5 per cent of Vancouver’s total land area?” This is an odd question. “We” are not concentrating on building anything. It is simply allowed for those with the means to do so. The market further incentivizes tall towers in and near downtown. Land is expensive and you have to build big to recoup your costs.

    Readers of this forum are familiar with the ‘why not somewhere else?!’ nimby whinging whenever the most modest structures are proposed too far from downtown. This is downtown now. We have to be flexible, because nobody’s going to build significant rental housing in Point Grey or Kerrisdale anytime soon.

  5. Maybe the “ultimatum” should instead be: View cone here with rental towers elsewhere in the city or No view cone and rental towers only here.

  6. The privatization of public views …

    That doesn’t make sense. ALL views from 10 million individual viewpoints, platforms and vantage points throughout the city are public. The only difference is that the city has invested an egregious amount of time and energy placing only 27 of them in a registry.

    We need to concentrate on building a more beautiful and socially, culturally and architecturally meaningful city, not on protecting viewsheds that soar right over everything a the expense of the city itself.

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