Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver

January 18, 2011

Mayor Robertson and Councillors
City of Vancouver
453 West 12 Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors,

Re: Historic Area Height Review: Policy Implementation

The Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver Steering Committee shares the concerns of the Carnegie Community Action Project and other Downtown Eastside community groups, and supports the resolution that calls on City Council to:

“Buy 10 sites for low income social housing within the Downtown Eastside before the next municipal election; and vote against adding any new density for condos within the Downtown Eastside until the assets and tenure of low-income residents are secured and until the Social Impact Study and DTES Strategy are complete.”

We also fully agree with the concerns raised in the Michael Harcourt letter to Council from the Building Community Society of Greater Vancouver, which concludes:

“Because of the major social, economic and environmental issues at stake here, the BCS recommends that no rezoning should be entertained until a local area planning committee has been established and has begun the process of analysis that establishes the priorities of planning and development opportunities for the well being of the Downtown Eastside community as a whole. “

From a land economics perspective it is crucial that the heights in the Historic Areas remain low. Development pressure resulting from the height increases allowed since 2003 have contributed to displacement of low-income residents and flooding of the Heritage Density Bank. Further increases will exacerbate this trend.

In regard to revitalization of Chinatown, if Council stopped upzoning the heritage districts, then there would be some incentive to retain and upgrade the heritage buildings. If property owners continue to expect that by holding out longer they will get more height and density, then there is no incentive to retain, and the result is demolition by neglect. The zoning should make the retention and upgrade of existing heritage buildings the highest and best economic use of the property by putting stricter limits on increased height and density.

We also object, on grounds of urban design, to the building scale envisioned for the Chinatown South sub-area. Heights of 120-150 feet are simply too great a difference in transition and compatibility for a heritage district where the vast majority of buildings are less than half that height. Even with setbacks, buildings of this scale would magnify shadowing of sidewalks on sunny days and darken them when overcast, detracting from the cheery, colourful street scene that is a vital and essential ingredient of the Chinatown experience.

In summary, we do not feel that sufficient consideration has been given to social, cultural and urban design issues. We therefore join other community groups and concerned citizens in opposition to the recommendations of the Historic Area Height Review report.

Ned Jacobs
On behalf of the Steering Committee
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver
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