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.
Here is Gregor Robertson, getting a little bit snarky at people who are against the PavCo tower at False Creek because it intrudes on a viewcone on Cambie Street pic.twitter.com/zL31iHYBjs
— Justin McElroy (@j_mcelroy) July 25, 2018
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?