February 12, 2018

Urbanist Melody Ma, the Vancouver View Corridors, & Why They Are Important

The Northeast False Creek Plan goes to Council this week and Price Tags Vancouver has been looking for any rationale behind the city’s deliberate piercing of the City’s long-established view corridors. City staff are  recommending three tall towers that will be way, way over the 300 foot height limit-The rationale for the two 425 foot, 48 storey towers at the intersection of Georgia and Pacific (and these are the words of the Council report) are to provide a “counterpoint”and a “gateway”. Just to balance things out another over height 400 foot tower is also proposed, as if to make the two 48 storey towers less obtrusive. You can view the plan here. 

The whole point of the View Corridor Policy and the establishment of view cones was to ensure views of the mountains, sea, and adjoining areas from different vantage points in the city.. You can see what former planning Director Larry Beasley said about the view corridors here. Why congest up space and block views when density can be spread over the site or in other locations?

Here is what urbanist Melody Ma wrote out on twitter. It is a longer post, but contains salient information and is presented in its full form below.

Dear Vancouverites, City Council’s making a significant decision on Feb13 to allow towers by Concord & Pavco pierce thru a key public view (Cambie) of our skyline & iconic mountain backdrop for the Northeast False Creek plan. This decision has irreversible consequences. Here’s why.

  1. When people think about what’s iconic about Vancouver, they think about our mountains & water. But the fact that our mountains are visible & not blocked by towers today didn’t happen by accident. They’re protected by view cone policies established in 1989 & fiercely protected since.

  2.  The view cones policy is possibly one of the most visionary planning policies in Vancouver. We’re one of the 1st cities in the world to have  such a policy. But most people today aren’t aware of view cones & have misconceptions.
  3.  Misconception #1: View cones were created for the wealthy b/c they’re concentrated in wealthy neighbourhoods. Clarification: View cones were created for the public for public enjoyment. All of them are publicly accessible with vantage points in parks, bridges, plazas & streets  

    4. Misconception #2: View cones are car-centric. Clarification: Majority of view cone optimal vantage points are located in pedestrian-friendly areas like parks, plazas, seawalls & bridges. Ones with optimal viewing points on streets are still enjoyable & photo-worthy on sidewalks.


    5. Misconception #3: Cambie view cone is irrelevant because can only be viewed optimally from car . Clarification: The mountainous backdrop is most iconic on Cambie & one of the most photographed public views. Losing it will translate to character of city being irreversibly lost.


    6.Misconception #4: Vancouverites will get social housing & amenities in exchange for view cone penetration & thus a worthy trade. Correction: Damage to these free public views are permanent & irreversible. It sets bad precedent for developers to pressure City for same treatment.


    7.Misconception #5: The additional density offered by these tall towers will bring more affordable housing supply to millennials & families. Clarification: The density proposed will be some of the most expensive multimillion dollar condos in Vancouver unattainable by most.


    8. Misconception #6: If low density zones are upzoned, then no need to pile density on towers that pierce view cones. Clarification: Upzoning low density zones =/= No view cone piercings. Concord and all  don’t usually build in low density areas, so 3 towers are site-specific asks.

      9.  Misconception #7: Housing for people or view cones. You can only pick one. Clarification: The two can co-exist as they have been since 1989 & before.   10. Misconception #8: Public views are an extravagance in an affordability crisis. Clarification: Public views are free public assets & amenities all Vancouverites can enjoy, especially if they don’t have access to private views of mountains in our unaffordable city.  


Read more »