Tall Buildings

[Updated 24-Apr-2011] The drive for tall buildings (15, to 50, 60 storeys and potentially higher in the future) raises many interesting and critical questions for Vancouver. Tall buildings are being proposed in many parts of the city. CityHallWatch encourages a balanced debate of all the factors, both pro and con, in decisions on building height (and therefore density), which will define the character of our city. As time permits, we will organize our coverage of the topics, but for now, we post items as they come up. Note two important City events, April 19 and 20, below. Note that at the April 20 meeting, the UDP voted “non-acceptance” of the proposed design at 1290 Burrard. We will report further on this.

  • April 19 (Tues) 7:30 to 9:30 pm, “Free Public Lecture on Architectural Excellence in High-Rise Building Design,” The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Pacific Ballroom, 900 Georgia St. Hosted by City of Vancouver.
  • April 20 (Wed) 9 to 11 am, “Special Session of the Urban Design Panel: Technical Review of the Proposed Highrise Development at 1290 Burrard.” At The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver Island Ballroom. Hosted by City of Vancouver [CityHallWatch note: This is the Burrard Gateway project (54 storeys, and more), one of several sites affected by the controversial Vancouver Views policy, covered elsewhere on CityHallWatch (regarding environmental impacts of tall buildings, etc.) and subject of our forum in January.] Official info about this proposal is here.

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The City quietly scheduled an Open House for the 550 foot Burrard Gateway proposal on April 14, for a 550 foot tower. CityHallWatch report of event is here.

Open House
Date: Thursday April 14, 2011
Time: 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm (presentation at 6:30 pm)
Place: Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 515 West Hastings Street
More details: http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/rezoning/applications/1290burrard/index.htm

The city and UDP have organized a lecture for the following week (April 19th), with an Urban Design Panel hearing on April 20th. One of the guests is Toronto based Jack Diamond, a well known champion of tall buildings. Who will stand up for the views? For the community values?

From City website:
The City has received an application to rezone 1290 Burrard and 1281 Hornby Street from DD (Downtown) District to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development) District. The proposal is for a mixed-use development as follows:

  • along Hornby Street, a 54-storey tower and a 36-storey tower, with a 7-storey podium, providing retail, office and residential uses, including rental housing;
  • along Burrard Street, a 13-storey office tower, a 3-storey automotive dealership, and a 2-storey retail building;
  • a proposed floor space ratio (FSR) of 11.96; and
  • a maximum height of 534 ft. (the General Policy for Higher Buildings has identified this site as a location for a higher building).

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On March 16, the WE magazine (Westender) carried a story titled “Tackling the Fear of Heights.” We here is the link, and we will comment in due course.

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[Status update, 24 Jan. 2011] P
otentially one of the most significant policies  this century — affecting the Vancouver skyline, mountain views, the very character of our City, and much, much more — was almost approved by City Council on Dec. 16, almost completely under the radar of most Vancouver citizens. The City’s Planning Department had quietly released its “Vancouver Views” report, dated November 29, on the City website at 4 pm on the Friday, only three business days before Council was to pass it, just before the Christmas break. Odds were seriously stacked AGAINST the public, but CityHallWatch and citizens rang alarm bells, giving Council no option but to defer the vote to Jan. 20, 2011. CityHallWatch.ca held a public forum on these topics on Jan 11. Council heard 40 speakers on this policy on Jan. 20. The majority of them were against the policy and demanding a more careful public discussion of the MANY issues involved (views, skyline, character of Vancouver, civic finances, traffic, public amenities, livability, environmental factors, seismic safety, disaster response, impacts on affordability, and much, much more). The speakers supporting the policy were mostly associated with developers standing to gain from the policy. The discussion and vote in Council is now scheduled for Feb. 1.

Also on Jan. 20 Council was to adopt staff recommendations on the Heritage Area Height Review, which proposes increases in permitted heights to allow 7 buildings 15 storeys in Chinatown and the DownTown East Side. But knowing that about 100 speakers had signed up to speak to council against this policy, the Mayor issued a last-minute “emergency” motion sending three proposals straight to public hearings, and creating a new community consultation process to last until after the next civic election. DTES civic groups criticized the last minute move.

These issues are critical ones for Vancouver and are not over yet. People are encouraged to read up, learn the issues, and get involved. The proponents of these policies have vast resources in their favor and are rushing to get the policies pushed through. But CityHallWatch believes a failure to spend the necessary time to have a proper public discussion, with independent experts weighing in, will work against the public good, and further erode trust in City Hall. There is no reason to rush such important decisions.

In the fullness of time, though, the public will be able to evaluate the actions and words of all the players. In time, there must be a “performance appraisal” of all. Our civic society must learn from this experience and become better for it.

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REPORT OF Jan 11 (Tues) public forum by CityHallWatch at the VPL. “Threats to Vancouver from extreme tall building policies in Downtown, West End, Chinatown, Downtown Eastside.” 6:30 pm. Alma VanDusen Room.
Download main presentation, (CitizensForum, CityHallWatch, SB_11-Jan-2011 (9MB) rev) “View Protection and the Vancouver Experience: Technical Review of City Staff Report and an examination of issues related to views and impacts on livability, 11-Jan-2011, by S. Bohus, BLA).
Video of presentations:
R. Helten, intro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znnggl3XFvY
N. Jacobs, on density and zoning capacity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6kNDQ3mc18
R. Helten, part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyV5QbUp9U8
J Swanson (CCAP) statement: Jean Swanson (CCAP) statement, 11-Jan-2011
S. Bohus presentation:
Part1_StephenBohus_CitizensForumJan11
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvYFJprQwEs
Part2_StephenBohus_CitizensForumJan11
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uMrjEpmq14
Part3_StephenBohus_CitizensForumJan11
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMwfXjN2ZA0
Part4_StephenBohus_CitizensForumJan11
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmcsP9cqCBU
Part5_StephenBohus_CitizensForumJan11
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIY1bQQVaJ0
Part6_StephenBohus_CitizensForumJan11
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA9uzI4YT3k

R. Chatterjee, The ecology of glass towers:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz5bMcShkJA

For video and documents from the Dec 16 Council meeting, see here or our version captured on YouTube here.

City staff had just finished three open houses (Oct 23, 26, 27) on potential changes to the allowable height of buildings downtown (particularly around Thurlow and Georgia Streets), near Hornby/Drake and at the North side of Granville Bridge. The proposed policy will let buildings at certain sites go up to about 700 feet (about 70 storeys), and potentially much higher. There are implications for views, shadows, traffic, infrastructure, services, schools, and much more. Many people would like to know the comprehensive picture. Official city website on the views policy and higher buildings is here. Anyone interested in seeing Council and Director of Planning discussing the topic on January 19, 2010 (a year ago), see this Council video (jump ahead to about 1:15:00 for Councillors Louie and Woodsworth, then Director of Planning; note that Mac users may not be able to jump ahead).

E-mail citizenYVR@gmail.com for more information.

5 thoughts on “Tall Buildings

  1. I thought the mayor I voted for was someone that listened to the voters. I see he listens to money especially offshore money. I hate to see our city turn into a bunch of towers it is out of control. We have a provincial govt that lies and doesn’t listen and now a civic govt doing the same. I am losing all respect for politicians. I always vote have since 1968 but it just seems to be getting really hard to find and honest politician.

  2. Since I’ve moved into Yaletown five years ago there have been four towers built all around me about 100-2oo feet from my windows. Liveable, green city??? I can’t for the life of me figure out why, other than to please developers, that a city-owned property would now be looked at in order to put up yet another huge tower right beside the bottom of the granville bridge. There are already 4-8 new buildings planned in the next block around the granville traffic loop and by the Yale hotel. What about a community garden, some small shops, a childcare centre or a much-needed school to make the neighbourhood more liveable for the young families and PEOPLE in the neighbourhood? Other city areas seem to be able to secure these amenities without having to build dozens of towers. I expect the only way these politicians will listen is if we all call them, write them and make sure our voices are heard. The Westend folks now have their own advisory group over the controversy of building just one new building. It’s time to stop making our neighbourhood the “build as many as you want and build them as high as you want” neighbourhood without any planning for the quality of life of the people in the current buildings.

    • Couldn’t agree with your more. I have lived in the West End for 40 years and have never felt the need to leave until all this nonsense started. The West End should be deemed heritage within the boundaries of its parking permit only area. Montreal has “Old Montreal”, Quebec City has “Old Town” (or something like that). Why can’t be have “Old Vancouver” or “Old West End”. If it weren’t for having to leave to see clients, I have everything within walking/transit distance. It’s a great community and should be enhanced as such. Not and”Investment Community”

  3. I concur with the previous correspondents and fully agree that to have a voice, we must speak up and be counted. The idea that along with the many buildings currently under construction, North False Creek will be the site of four massive, so-called anchor towers, is unacceptable. We currently have a lack of amenities, increased traffic jams, decreased bus service and any view we had when we purchased 15 to 20 years ago, is totally gone. The City now proposes 40+ storey building right across the street, and seemingly is more concerned about shadows falling from the new building on the Granville Street entertainment area than what these proposed building will do the feeling of our neighbourhood, our current lack of green space, amenities,increased noise from recent traffic rerouting, privacy and sense of community. One more building down at Beach and Hornby will not a community make; rather we need some amenities such as schools, community centre, daycare, and small shopping areas and green space to create a sense of community. Neighbours, please speak up and demand that we be consulted on what is clearly our future.

  4. I closely followed the deliberations of City Council regarding the Rezoning Process as applied to the 15-storey building proposed by Westbank Projects and Peterson Investment Group and designed by Henriquez Partners Architects at 1569 West 6th Avenue on the Burrard Slopes. A total of 157 submissions and two petitions, totaling 106 signatures, were received by the Planning Department. Ninety four percent of the submissions were against the rezoning as designed and only 6 percent in favour. Planning discounted the public opposition to Council and the rezoning passed easily.
    The only way to stop this bunch is to vote them out of office. By then the damage done to Vancouver’s livability will be immense.

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