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Vancouver city council rejects proposal for four downtown towers

Blog by The Schacter Team | January 29th, 2010

'We are not opposed to height. We are opposed to intrusions to these corridors'

A staff proposal to allow four towers downtown was vetoed by Vancouver City Council.
A staff proposal to allow four towers downtown was vetoed by Vancouver City Council.

Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG

There's room for more density in Vancouver — but it won't come at the expense of existing view corridors that give residents glimpses of the mountains and sea that make the city so spectacular.

Vancouver council voted to preserve existing view corridors and to add two more, both in northeast False Creek.

The decisions essentially vetoed a staff proposal to allow four towering buildings downtown, on Burrard, near Georgia Street and Seymour Street, near Georgia and Beatty Street and at the foot of Georgia.

Those buildings would have ranged in height from 400 feet to 700 feet.

Council decided there was plenty of other space available downtown for development that wouldn't infringe on the views.

Vision Coun. Raymond Louie authored the amendments to preserve the view corridors based on overwhelming public support for views, he said.

"We are not opposed to height," Louie said. "We are opposed to intrusions to these view corridors."

NPA Coun. Suzanne Anton argued unsuccessfully for more height in northeast False Creek in order to obtain more park or public space in return.

Anton also wanted to grant St. Paul's Hospital more height even though it's in a protected view corridor.

"I think they shut the door to development," Anton said.

While the big views downtown aren't being changed, council did decide to allow some taller buildings in historic Chinatown.

But instead of three buildings suggested by staff, council opted for only two, eliminating one at Keefer Square because of potential impacts on the nearby Sun Yat Sen Garden.

Unlike the massive buildings proposed for downtown, the Chinatown buildings will be restricted to 150 feet — roughly 12 to 15 stories. The current maximum height is 90 feet.

Council also decided to consider up to five taller buildings in the lower-density southern Chinatown area. The initiative's aim is to help revitalize the neighbourhood while saving its heritage component, Louie said.

"For too long, Chinatown has been in decline. We decided to take decisive action," he said.

COPE councillors David Cadman and Ellen Woodsworth pushed unsuccessfully for more affordable housing to be incorporated into the increased density.

"My biggest fear here is that we are going to see a process where development is going to render more people homeless," said Cadman.

One example of such displacement took place Monday, when the Burns Building redevelopment in the Downtown Eastside was announced.

The 100-year-old building, which had been condemned and closed, will offer 30 self-contained "micro lofts" of 270 square feet.

But rents will start at $675 a month, well beyond what people on income assistance can afford.