Design & Development
February 19, 2018

When the Mountain View Needs To be Trimmed~City Says Three Overheight Towers ARE the View

Mike Howell at the Vancouver Courier has written an an evocative column on why the City says it is  “ok”to build three over height towers (one 18 storeys above the established view corridors) and erase out the natural views of the north shore mountains from Cambie and Broadway. Price Tags Vancouver has quotations from  Mike’s article here.
Well you may or may not have heard the view will change sometime within the next 20 years—likely a lot sooner once and if council approves rezoning applications from provincial Crown corporation PavCo and private developer Concord Pacific.
The developers want to build three really tall residential towers—Concord two and PavCo one—that will partially obstruct your view of the mountains from that spot at 10th and Cambie, which is what the city refers to as a view corridor.”
“If you followed the debate around the Northeast False Creek plan, you heard that one of city staff’s recommendations was to amend the “general policy for higher buildings” to allow for the consideration of three towers at what will be the new Georgia Street and Pacific Boulevard intersection.
That’s, of course, once the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts are demolished and a new sloping grade is built to connect Georgia to Pacific. That intersection will be known as the “Georgia Gateway.”
“Green Party Councillor.Adriane Carr told me the other day that she and the rest of council received “hundreds” of emails in opposition to having tall towers at that intersection.
Carr voted against staff’s recommendation. So did NPA councillors George Affleck and Hector Bremner. What was Carr’s rationale?
It’s a real move down a slippery slope,” she said. “If you allow amendments to the higher buildings policy and the intrusion in to the view corridors once, it sets the ground for other exceptions —and there goes your view corridors.”
“Then, as the decades past, a forest of bland highrises grew up and around it, giving us the skyline we have today. Some would say that’s just the inevitable evolution of a city at work—that buildings get built, views get taken away.”
“We felt this was the best way and the place to achieve the density needed to achieve the financial objectives of the [Northeast False Creek] plan,” ( Chief Planner Gil)Kelley told council. “That is to say the cost of the infrastructure and amenities, parks and affordable housing that are being delivered as part of the plan.”He said “bunching the extra height at one point” delivers on three urban design objectives. One, he said, is it limits the incursion of the height to the least intrusive area of Northeast False Creek; second, is it creates “a more interesting skyline from that view, frankly, than a straight-line haircut would do.”
So there you go—no boring straight-line haircuts, we’re going to create magic celebratory moments in the sky and we continue to just say no to big bulky buildings.
Before I conclude, I should emphasize that council approving the plan Feb. 13 does not guarantee rezoning applications from PavCo and Concord will get the green light for increased height for the towers…But it was made clear the Northeast False Creek plan “is a guiding policy framework, but council always has to review rezoning applications with an open mind at public hearing.”
Until then, enjoy the view.
You can read Mike Howell’s full text here

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The Duke of Data Andy Yan, Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University has been reviewing the 2016 census data looking at who is renting accommodations in Vancouver. Andy Yan found some surprises that challenge the stereotype of what has been termed as “large single family home” neighbourhoods.  Originally expecting that maybe 10 per cent of  units were rental in these areas,  Andy found that “West Point Grey with its big, expensive detached houses, is 38 per cent renter households. Kerrisdale is 36.8 per cent renters. Shaughnessy, with its stock of old and new mansions, is made up of 30 per cent renters.” 

The Globe and Mail’s Kerry Gold observes that Andy Yan has found  that  “24 per cent of all renter households are living in the so-called “single family home” areas that provide an invisible affordability often ignored by development pundits.That means that in terms of planning, we should be sensitive to how people are actually using housing types.  Zoning changes can be the ruin of an established community. It’s not enough to rezone without examining how that housing is being used, and by whom – not if the goal is to create affordable housing while keeping people within the community.”
While 53 per cent of Vancouverites rent their homes, the findings challenge what has been viewed as “single family” homes. The term “single family dwelling unit” is a hangover from the 1950’s zoning terminology and should perhaps be changed to reflect its form, not so much its function. Families today are rarely “nuclear” (another hangover from the atomic age) but may house multiple families or unrelated people.

Andy Yan’s takeaway is that the so called “single family” zoning does not adequately project who is living there, and the importance of exploring data. While purpose-built rental housing is necessary ““We need to get over our zoning and form fetishes and go back to creating communities for people. You just can’t spray density around and pray that affordability will follow. ” The CEO of Landlord BC David Hutniak observes that secondary rental suites in large houses make up to 54 per cent of the rental market. He notes that Vancouver has a “very incestuous development community” that can make good returns preselling and flipping condo developments and has had no reason to build rental housing.  “After 40 years of no purpose built rental construction, and a lot of condos, there is a prevalence of the secondary market for rental housing. Thank God we have it, but in terms of security of tenure it’s never been to the same degree as purpose-built rentals.”

There is also a fulsome discussion from writer Melody Ma who has written a compelling article on the importance of the Vancouver Special housing form and the opportunity these large freestanding houses had to shelter multi-generational and extended families. Ms. Ma  notes that these “are densely populated homes that encourages multiple generations to support each other within close quarters. It is an affordable way of living and arguably even a model way of living for the future”. Her article is well worth reading.

Source: Andy Yan


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If anyone ever doubted that farmland was being usurped and transferred into private gated estate cash cows, this story in the Richmond News outlines exactly why we need to be concerned and why we need to address this right now.
Imagine a “shell company”~that is a group of people who do not need to disclose their identities~purchasing a 26.6 acre piece of Richmond farmland. They then build a home on the property getting their development permit in early 2017 when Richmond City Council nixed the idea of limiting the size of  houses built on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)  properties to 7,500 square feet, allowing much larger mansions of 11,000 square feet to be built. The house and land  located at 11400 No. 2 Road  had an assessed value of $88,000. This year with the mansion not yet completed the same property has an assessed value of 8.3 million dollars. You can be sure that this property will never be returned to farm use. As Richmond Farm Watch  and Richmond resident Laura Gillanders observes  “One by one each of these farms is being taken out of production and making sure it is never farmed by a farmer who can live on that land. It goes to show these mansions are not being built for farming.” You can take a look on the Farm Watch site at the “Visuals” section documenting the before and after photos and films of these properties taken out of agricultural production and made into mansioned estates.
Two Richmond councillors, Carol Day and Harold Steves voted against the larger square foot size for these properties. Mr. Steves has stated that agricultural land in Metro Vancouver is under “the worse threat it has ever been due to speculation, since the Agricultural Land Reserve was created in 1973.”  Mr. Steves is also one of the people who was involved in the initial  set up the Agricultural Land Reserve.
“Transparency International, a non-government organization, has reported how Metro Vancouver real estate is a prime target for speculation due to Canada’s weak laws surrounding beneficial ownership via numbered companies. The home at 11400 No. 2 Road is still under construction. According to BC Assessment, once it is complete, it will be among the top-10 most-expensive properties in Richmond. BC Assessment also delisted the property from farm class.”
So while the new owners will now pay for the land as if it is non agricultural, their property lift from $88,000 to $8.3 million dollars will soften that blow. And here is one more example of how the lax response of a city council and the  lack of Provincial regulation eats away at one of the most important things we can pass onto future generations~the most arable lands in Canada for food security.
The YouTube video below shows MLA Andrew Weaver introducing a Farm Watch Richmond petition in the  Provincial Legislature asking for stricter regulation of farmland.

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The Retail Council of Canada has released its   annual  report  on how Canada’s shopping malls are doing. Canada’s top malls continue to thrive, but “disruption and re-invention” has been key while “e-commerce” (the Amazoning of retail space) continues to grow. With Sears Canada declaring bankruptcy there’s going to be over 15 million square feet of space available in malls across Canada. That’s the size of fifteen Tsawwassen Mills mega malls.
The report notes that shopping centres are now featuring “food halls” and full-sized restaurants, and are creating “experiences” that are entertaining and enjoyable. Pop up retail is continuing in popularity, and some of the top mall developers are reviewing options to add housing and other institutions to their shopping mall locations.

 Of the top thirty malls in Canada, eight of them have sales of over $1,000 a square foot with Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre ranked first with the highest annual sales per square foot. Eleven of the top 30 malls are in the Greater Toronto Area, and seven are in the Greater Vancouver area “making it the top region per capita for the most productive malls in the country.”  Newcomer Tsawwassen Mills owned by Ivanhoe Cambridge is not included in this stable, as Ivanhoe Cambridge is not releasing statistics on the mall’s performance. Oakridge, Pacific Centre, Metropolis, Richmond,Guilford, Park Royal and Coquitlam shopping centres are in the top thirty for sales by square foot.
What is interesting is that most of these high achieving locations are not suburban malls, but are in urban locations close by density and good transit accessibility to shops and services. Four of the busiest malls nationally are in urban cores-Toronto Eaton’s Centre, Vancouver’s Pacific Centre, the Rideau Centre and the CORE shopping centre in Calgary.  As the report notes “In the United States, none of the country’s top 10 malls are downtown. This can be attributed to factors including stronger urban cores in Canada as well as a combination of history, culture, downtown population concentration and mix, investment priorities, and transit access when compared to most cities south of the border.” 
While Oakridge makes the most of B.C. malls at $1,579.00 per square foot, the lowest performing  B.C. mall in the top thirty, Coquitlam reaps $879.00 per square foot. Compare that with the early indicators from Tsawwassen Mills which used to be available on the Ivanhoe Cambridge site, showing a meagre $279.00 per square foot on retail space. 
You can take a look at the report available here on pedestrian traffic to shopping malls and other details. The Metro Vancouver region continues to have the highest average total sales productivity in Canada with $1,051 per square foot. It will be interesting to see how Tsawwassen Mills built on the most arable floodplain farmland in Canada, away from density and good transit will stack up next to Vancouver’s high performance more urban malls once the developer releases the sales per square foot statistics.
Without any official stats on Tsawwassen Mills Price Tags Vancouver is sharing a  youtube video by Ivanhoe Cambridge. The video features a bunch of similar looking men, no women, no diversity as talking heads describing the developer’s philosophy and how this 1.2 million square foot mall was designed and built. It’s worth noting that in this video the talking heads state that the mall will be the centre of the community which “will build around it”. Here’s hoping they will share  Tsawwassen Mills’ retail statistics soon. Read more »

Vicki Huntington needs no introduction to the people living in Delta. Ms. Huntington was the former MLA for Delta South and has an outstanding  background of public service.  Among her many accomplishments she has been a band manager for the Gitanmaax First Nation in Hazelton, worked with the RCMP in their security services, and consulted with  ministers of the Crown in Ottawa. She also served five terms as a Councillor in the City of Delta and two terms as the MLA.  She believes strongly in maintaining farmland for future generations and has been recognized for her strong commitment to farming and nature.
Vicki did not run in the last Provincial election for her independent seat~had she run as an independent, she would have been part of the balance of power in the Provincial government coalition. Instead, Delta Councillor Ian Paton of the Liberals won that seat, and currently double dips between sitting on Delta Council (he is paid $62,000 a year plus his expenses) as well as sitting as an MLA where he makes an additional $106,000 plus. Mr. Paton was named newsmaker of the year  by the Delta Optimist, not for double dipping and denying Delta of a more independent voice on Council, but  because he became  a member of the Provincial legislature.  Mr. Paton claims to want the farmer’s best interest but has been unwavering in the support of a multi-billion dollar ten lane bridge which will industrialize the Fraser River, create congestion on either side of the bridge, and purportedly bring more industry to Delta.
What a shame that the Delta Optimist did not recognize Ms Huntington who was the first independent MLA in over sixty years, and the first to be re-elected. However Ms. Huntington has been appointed to the new committee reviewing the Agricultural Land Commission and Agricultural Land Reserve along with eight other members. Their mission is to provide  “strategic advice, policy guidance and recommendations on how to help revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission to ensure the provincial goals of preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming and ranching continue to be a priority.”
There is no doubt that the Agricultural Land Reserve is essential to the health and food security of British Columbia and must be maintained for future generations. Price Tags Vancouver has already written about the City of Delta carving out ten acres of farmland for a “truck staging area” for port bound trucks, and how the Port of Vancouver has another  81 acres of farmland in Richmond to add to their 1,457 hectares currently in “industrial use”. It’s a huge problem~should the Port be allowed to take the most arable farmland in Canada to use for truck and container parking and portage? How can farmers be compensated and continue farming when they can garner economic windfalls from development through port expansion or pseudo “farm estates” to well-heeled buyers?
This new Agricultural Land Commission review  committee will seek opinions and feedback and hold meetings with  farming and ranching communities. Recommendations could include changes to the way the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission is set up, regulated and administered. This review is badly needed to ensure that agricultural land is reserved for future populations, and to stop speculators buying up farmland for other purposes. The current MLA for Delta South Mr. Paton is already naysaying the committee appointments,  suggesting that maintaining land in agricultural use restrains the rights of farmers to get extra income from their land. But farmers and speculators did buy that agricultural land  ostensibly for agricultural purposes, and for the future of the region, we must ensure that this agricultural land, the very best in Canada, remains for future generations.

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In the category of the Gordie Award for  Work with Biggest Planning Impact, Price Tags Vancouver unanimously chose the ambitious New Ten Year Housing Strategy as announced by the City of Vancouver.
In a city where the meteoric rise of the price of housing has completely outstripped the salary ability  of Vancouver workers,  Chief Planner Gil Kelley has brought forward a plan to build 72,000 new homes with housing going to families making 80,000 dollars or less and single person households making less than 50,000 dollars. Forty per cent of housing will be for families and 65 per cent of all housing will be for renters.
This ambitious housing plan was created after 14 months of dialogue and research. Development processes will also be streamlined to expedite the housing work. In a city where the gap between what people make and what they can rent or buy is so proportionately inequitable, this is a much-needed intervention to provide housing for everyone.



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Tom Durning of the Daily Durning sends this article from the Washington Post which quotes our very own City of Vancouver Planner, Gil Kelley.  The article is about the millennial age group, the eldest now in their mid thirties. This population cohort stayed in cities, lived in apartments, eschewed vehicle ownership in favour of walking, cycling, car share and transit, and led the way to how we look at cities today, as urban fabrics of connectivity based upon walkable proximity to work, shops and services. It is no surprise that city planners and thinkers want to keep this population of people in cities instead of suburbs as they begin having families and buying houses.
As many are now priced out of buying single family housing in cities, the “missing middle” form of density is coming back into vogue.  ” Urban planners, developers and architects are reviving the kinds of homes that might be more familiar to millennials’ great-grandparents: duplexes, triplexes, bungalows, rowhouses with multiple units, and small buildings with four to six apartments or condos. It’s the kind of housing that fell out of fashion after World War II, when young families and others fled cities for the houses, driveways and ample yards of the burgeoning suburbs… It hits the middle in scale — larger than a typical detached single-family home but smaller than a mid- or high-rise — and typically serves people with middle-class incomes.”
The City of Vancouver is now looking at new housing forms in duplexes and townhouses, which will provide more of the ‘missing middle” of housing density. “I think it’s very significant that we’re understanding people want to live in the core of urban areas again,” Kelley said. “We’re reversing a 60- to 70-year trend of people moving out to suburbs . . . This is not just a fad for a decade. This is a multi-decade shift.”
There is evidence that millennials do not want to “drive until you qualify” for home ownership, and in the United States this population outnumbers the baby boom generation in population. In the words of Gil Kelley ““It’s a huge wave. They’re demanding a place in the cities and housing that’s affordable to them.”
This ten minute video with University of British Columbia’s  Patrick Condon and Scot Hein filmed in early 2017 discusses the “missing middle” housing form, and how it would fit into the Vancouver context.


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Christopher Cheung has written an evocative piece in Metro News  that really resonates with the remarkable changes Vancouver has experienced in the past year. Noting that it is not only  housing affordability at stake, Chris states that “inequality, segregation and displacement are destroying what makes Vancouver special”.
On the heels of Dr. David Hulchanski’s Warren Gill lecture on the hollowing out of Vancouver reported here in Price Tags Vancouver Christopher observes that the City is changing in fundamental ways. Once welcoming to all socio-economic groups, the city is now giving a ‘slow goodbye to diversity and inclusivity as segregation rises”.  Christopher also keenly describes the disappearance of the blue-collar working class out of the city as described by Dr. Hulchanski’s talk.

“Rich Vancouverites settling or spending money in lower-income neighbourhoods are causing displacement, something local activists and academics have sounded alarm on.
The Downtown Eastside and Chinatown are losing businesses catered to its low-income residents as high-end retailers and restaurants move in. Around Metrotown, condo developers are destroying rental housing that single-parents and newcomers have depended on for affordability and transit-access to get to work.
In addition to segregation of the rich and poor, Hulchanski’s analysis of census data shows how extreme Metro Vancouver’s divide is. There are more rich and poor neighbourhoods, but less middle-income neighbourhoods. (A middle-income neighbourhood is a census tract of about 5,000 people with an average individual income 20 per cent above or below the local average.)
In 1980, middle-income neighbourhoods made up two-thirds of the region. In 2015, they make up half the region.”
Christopher Cheung is also absolutely right in describing that the “idea” of Vancouver’s working class neighbourhoods might still exist, but only in “the form of condo ads, businesses, products and neighbourhood rebranding efforts that commodify and glamourize their grittiness“. Even Andy Yan, the Duke of Data and Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program perceives that a “homogeneous, dull, hostile” Vancouver without the ability to be welcoming and open could develop. As both Christopher Cheung and Andy Yan state the issues in Vancouver are not just about accessibility and affordability to housing and jobs, but also looking at  how to enhance social inclusion and accentuate economic resilience and opportunity. It was those factors that made Vancouver attractive as a city to live in the latter part of the 20th century. How can policy be shaped to ensure Vancouver is a place  that not only can adequately houses its workers, but provides economic diversity and potential? Is it too late to hold onto the Vancouver we used to know?


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From CBC’s Stephen Quinn in the Globe and Mail~ a Vancouverized twist of an old Classic:

T’was the night before Christmas, and in the West End,

Santa had just met a brand new best friend.

“Are you following me?” Santa asked, taking flight.

“We keep crossing paths on this Christmas Eve night.

“We seem in lockstep, what’s your name my new chum?”

“I am the ghost of Christmas to come.”

“Do you also stuff stockings, leave gifts ’neath the tree?”

“No,” said the spirit, “Come, follow, you’ll see.”

Intrigued, Santa followed the unholy ghost.

“My first stop is here, this guy needs it the most.

“I rattle my chains – I do quite a number,

I steal from the comfortable the comfort of slumber.

“I show them the future that they have created,

And a public that’s more than a little bit jaded.

“And so here we are – Watch out for the bike!

There’s something about this guy people don’t like.

“Wake up, Mr. Mayor, the future is beckoning!

It’s time for some hubris, time for your reckoning.”

The mayor awoke, rubbed the sleep from his eyes,

“Who are you hacks, man?” he asked with surprise.

“I’m Santa,” said Santa, “You don’t see the red suit?

And this guy’s a ghost. Now put on your boots.”

“Where are we going?” the mayor asked, confused.

“To visit the future,” said the ghost, unamused.

And over the city the trio took flight,

Already the mayor knew all was not right.

“But where are the people, where are the lights?

Where are the lusty young cyclists in tights?”

“This is Vancouver, more than two decades hence,

They just can’t afford the city’s high rents.

“Now it’s only the rich and the people they hire,

To water their lawns and pick up the flyers.”

“But my protections for renters, my empty-homes tax,

My Airbnb regs, there was nothing they lacked!”

“There were too many loopholes, it all came too late,

The real estate frenzy just would not abate.

“And then Amazon came and the tech bros all followed,

The rest of the city was totally swallowed.”

“And where are the children?” Santa asked with a sigh.

“They’ve gone to the suburbs where the rents aren’t so high.”

The mayor took stock of just what lay in store,

“I don’t want it like this, make it stop, please, no more!”

He vowed to do better, he swore that he would,

He’d wake up tomorrow and begin to do good.

And after the mayor was put back to bed,

Santa bid future ghost farewell, and said,

“We make a good team, we should do this next year,

We might even make things better ’round here.

“Oh gosh! See the time? I’m an hour behind,

This present-delivery thing is a grind.”

He headed south, his next stop would be Oregon,

While the ghost travelled east to wake Derek Corrigan.

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