Viaducts removal proposal: Big potential impacts on public/private views

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Views of the North Shore mountains from False Creek and Olympic Village will likely be impacted by the plan to remove the viaducts. (Update: City Council approved it by just 5 votes versus 4 late last night in a special council meeting. Staff have 18 months to come up with a plan for demolition. Realtors and prospective buyers in the area should read carefully below.)

The proposal to take down the viaducts includes a complex land swap deal. Included above are slides from one of the speakers at the October 27, 2015 meeting on the viaducts.The text below covers some of the slide content.

The slides identify several of the most spectacular views from the eastern part of False Creek. These are crucial views that define the character and enjoyment of this area — for both residents and visitors. Are officials at the City of Vancouver using accurate information? Are they giving adequate attention to the protection of these views from eastern False Creek? Also, part of the viaducts removal plan includes changing property boundaries (see images), which would shift the “built out” area (in this case, that’s code for “towers”) further to the east. This action would take away more of the [effective] mountain view.

People also need to understand clearly that there’s a big difference between views and view cones. Views are what real people experience. View cones are visual constructs used by planners. The latter don’t necessarily protect complete views, but they are still important tools still for urban planning. If used correctly and truthfully.

In that respect, “issues” (some people might call them “discrepancies”) have been discovered with City staff work done in 2010 and 2011 on the view cones related to the viaducts. (Some staff photos do NOT match the view cone description or the view cone geometry in VanMap. Are the discrepancies due to sloppy work? Or some other explanation?) This kind of situation is exactly why the City should have an independent expert to do this kind of view analysis. A lot is at stake. People enjoy huge fulfillment from Vancouver’s cherished views. People pay top prices for homes with these views. Realtors sell views. They need to be properly informed and be truthful with prospective buyers. Current and prospective residents of Olympic Village have the right to know in advance the potential view impacts of viaducts removal and view blockage. The thousands of regular users of the seawall should also have the opportunity to know about potential view impacts. A full visual impact assessment of proposed changes in the land assemblies should be done prior to any land swap agreement. And it should be made public.

Also, the entire viaducts removal proposal should be fully costed out. That has not been done yet. Many more crucial issues should be resolved before any respectable policymaker should be able to make a decision on the viaducts removal. What about the changes that could result from the proposed “Malkin Connector” (a possible new viaduct over the railway lands west of Clark Drive)? The impacts on the very popular Cottonwood Garden? Issues related to the Skytrain track that will still dip to grade (and impede movement)? Traffic impacts? The long-promised and long-awaited delivery of Creekside Park? The public might also want to know how much more profit certain select developers will make by moving the property lines to the east.

View of North Shore from False Creek. Slides used with permission.


Vancouver city council votes to tear down viaducts: The Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts are coming down. By Mike Howell, Business in Vancouver, 28-Oct-2015

5 thoughts on “Viaducts removal proposal: Big potential impacts on public/private views

  1. I think it probably has been fully costed out. The equation, let’s face it, involves values such as “property tax dollars in” vs “votes out” and likely also includes, let’s face it, “campaign contributions in.” That is the nature of our political system – such things matter to people who want to remain in office. Views have no value to the decision-makers. Nor does sunlight on the ground, already a scarce commodity in downtown. Nor do congestion, traffic noise and speed, pedestrian fatalities, or impeded travel have any cost to the decision-makers (other than to the extent that more problems are a force for bureaucratic growth).

    As citizens, we have to do our own costing. We will put different values and prices on different things, and then we decide whether it is worth it to us or not to override our decision-makers. There are better and worse ways of doing this, of course, from street protests to lawsuits.

    To me, the plan that is being put forward – the plan that says “let’s tear them down and see where the traffic goes” – is a thumb of the nose to the city’s east side. I mean, think about it. The west side experiences through-traffic pressure due to UBC, so all levels of government start jumping all over a Broadway subway. But the east side experiences traffic pressures due to people going downtown, and so government REMOVEs the major artery along which they do so. If this were the west side, the replacement arterial would be built BEFORE the old one was demolished. Surrey got treated with that level of respect concerning the Port Mann – new bridge up, THEN old one down.

    The real sore point that must be resolved, regarding views, is the ACTUAL NECESSITY of blocking those views. How many towers worth of empty suites are there in Vancouver already? Until that information is gathered and publicized, we can’t tell how many more towers worth we need. And if the new ones built are, as per usual, aimed at “luxury” buyers, then they too will attract investment buyers rather than residents, and will predominantly stand empty, providing perhaps 6 stories worth of housing while blocking 40 storeys worth of views.

    The words “basic,” “practical,” and “affordable” should supersede the word “luxury” in both development permit applications and condo marketing, especially for whatever is built where the viaducts now are. That would at least ensure that our views are blocked by full towers rather than empty ones. Speaking of vacant housing, here’s a thought: why not buy up all the properties in Point Grey where no one lives, and build towers there if we need them so badly? There they wouldn’t block views for nearly as many people, wouldn’t create any new traffic or transport problems and actually relieve some, would revitalize the West 10th neighbourhood, and it would cost the city a tiny portion of what viaduct removal will cost.

    The more I hear of viaduct removal (and much of it is thanks to your excellent analysis, but plenty is direct from the city), the more I think the east side is getting the royal finger from city hall with this project.

  2. These 4 dysfunctional developers want the land they pushing city hall, this vision council are just their puppets, if viaducts come down I want all properties involved going out to public bid, not to these developers, all they want to do is sell to these corrupted, tax evading individuals from China, who let them in?

  3. Somewhat overlooked in this entire discussion is that if both the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts there will still remain a single “viaduct” spanning from Beatty at Dunsmuir to Main at Quebec – yes, the “Skytrain viaduct”.

    It has been completely overlooked in the NEFC Transportation study how it is possible to remove the viaducts when Skytrain runs continuously for almost the the entire day. You can’t reroute Skytrain during the construction and I find it hard to believe people would tolerate a bus bridge for an extended period of time. I suspect a lot of those commuters would resort to … automobiles !

    Notwithstanding you can’t reroute Skytrain, eventually the discussion to reroute Skytrain permanently will come up, in one of at least 2 forms. While it may look OK in the very sketchy, road-centric overhead plan views, no doubt because of either the preferred routing of roadway, dedication/consolidation of parkland, playing field arrangements or just some developer complaining it either runs too close to his towers or wants to plonk a tower were it not for where the guideway lies, some entity will want it moved.

    In fact Translink/Skytrain themselves may want to insist the guideway be rerouted. In profile, the guideway takes a significant dip essentially running at grade across from Union and Expo Blvd. Without the viaducts there to obscure this, it will look utterly ridiculous! It will also significantly break the “visions” of continuity between Chinatown and False Creek.But most critical to the effective operation of the Skytrain system, the trains must slow significantly while traversing the dip and curve. There is also a significant screeching / grinding of wheels on track through that section. Had it not been for the viaducts the guideway would never have been run along the chosen route

    Whomever raises this “viaduct” issue will certainly provide an amazing entertainment value determining who is going to foot the bill for it. I would be aghast if infrastructure money from Ottawa were used to subsidize big developers of CoV. And we know Translink will never find the money for this.

    There greater problems than this with the decision but this is a good one.

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