Architecture
October 17, 2018

Survey results: Vancouver council candidates on public city views

This is the first post from our newest contributor, #SaveChinatownYVR community and cultural advocate Melody Ma. Follow her on Twitter @MelodyMa.

The Save Our Skyline YVR advocacy group aiming to protect Vancouver’s public views and view cones issued a survey to Vancouver mayoral and council candidates to understand their positions on public views.

The future of Vancouver view cones and public views were a contentious issue during the PavCo Tower rezoning council vote this past July, and the Northeast False Creek (NEFC) Plan council vote earlier in February. The next Mayor and Council will be voting on upcoming NEFC rezonings for a Concord Pacific development, which includes buildings planned to protrude through the view cones. They can also decide to review and adjust the existing view cone policies, which was a frequently discussed topic during the debate on this topic throughout the year, as the last review was almost a decade ago.

All mayoral and council candidates were asked to participate in the survey. They were provided with all the resources and policy documents needed to answer the questions proposed. If candidates did not provide an answer, their positions based on their past voting records (if incumbent), or known public statements online or at public hearings, were included when applicable.

Any late candidate answers will be added to the website as it is received up until this Saturday’s close of polls at 8pm.

To view the candidates’ full answers to the questionnaire, click here.

SUMMARY

The survey questions aimed to learn about candidates familiarity with and positions on tower development in light of the existing policies on public views.

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The Northeast False Creek Plan is currently before City Council and city staff are recommending three tall towers that will pierce the 300 foot height limit established for the site under the Vancouver View Corridor Policy. 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.
There are a lot of finer ways to make a focal point or gateway without building through the view corridor policy that has been so carefully defined and adhered to by previous city planners and councils. 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. To suggest this is negotiable is just the same as telling developers they can build roof top gardens instead of providing contributions to park acquisition. Look at Sydney Australia where wayfinding is challenging due to tall buildings and the lack of any view policy protecting harbour views and corridors. Is this Vancouver’s future?

Urbanist Melody Ma picked up on this Price Tags Vancouver piece dated April 2016 when Neal LaMontagne posted the following: “While checking in on Twitter yesterday, I caught an interesting tweet by Larry Beasley on view cones and corridors. I thought it was worth a post:

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.

As always, Larry provides a insightful and thoughtful perspective (filtered, as always, through his own distinctive point-of-view). My own take is similar as I’ve come to truly appreciate the value of the view corridors. Although I am less enthusiastic about their value in maintaining specific views (the views you see when you stand in just the right spot), they have a hugely valuable role in creating a dynamic quality to our downtown towerscape. View corridors are part of a wonderful Vancouver tradition of maintaining a sequence of views, from the intimate (outside the window) to the neighbourhood, to the broader (city and nature) and they create variation in the towerscape that would be difficult to achieve otherwise.
I am sensitive to arguments to rethink the view corridors. Many people I speak with are surprised that they are as intensely enforced as they are, but in a City with a great tradition of discretionary planning and where the spirit of the law is more important the specifics of the letters, view corridors are often absolute. Speaking from the perspective of a member of Vancouver’s Urban Design Panel, there are often projects where we are frustrated by the specific application of the corridors. But on the whole, they serve the city well and must be vigorously defended.”

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