Vancouver is not "thinking big" in Northeast False Creek

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


If Vancouver's planning department controlled Manhattan's development, would there have been any tall towers constructed?

I have been listening intently over the last few days as local residents in the City Gate area of Vancouver, such as the tenacious Patsy McMillan, have doggedly weighed in on the future plan for Northeast False Creek (NEFC). They are furious with Mayor Robertson and the Vision council for pushing forward on a plan to place up to 7,200 new residents in NEFC without the requisite public amenities needed to support them. In particular, they are upset about how few parks are going to be placed within the community. As for Gregor Robertson's reaction, he tells local residents to chill out, dude:

It’s great to have bigger park spaces and we have a couple in Stanley Park and Pacific Spirit Park and the beaches, but downtown we have to shoot for greener objectives that are more realistic.

City policy states that 2.75 acres of parkland should be set aside for every 1000 residents. Council decided to turf that objective and move forward with a watered down 1.8 acres per thousand instead. This is not sitting well with local residents who continue to watch their Vision council cozy up to the development industry in ways no previous NPA administration could ever dream of.

In fact, Vision seems to be going completely against a key principle of EcoDensity, that with more people should come more amenities like parks, community centres and daycares. That message from the public was clearly expressed in countless public hearings, community workshops and feedback that led to the development of the award winning EcoDensity framework.

When it comes to NEFC, Vancouver's Director of Planning admitted on CBC Early Edition this morning that the City could have put in more green space, but they decided not to. He told host Rick Cluff that more parks would have meant taller towers which would have impacted view corridors:

With all due respect to Brent Toderian (one of the few remaining non-partisan public servants left in the senior ranks), I think he's been stuck defending bad policy. Why can't we have more height in NEFC if it means this will leave enough room below for more parks? It's hard to believe that local residents will be living in a park deficient neighbourhood in order that someone standing at Broadway and Cambie can preserve their view of Mount Seymour.

Had council directed the Planning Dept. to ask Vancouverites if they would support taller towers if it meant more public amenities in this community, I suspect they would overwhelmingly say "yes". The City's aversion to tall towers in the downtown core is absolutely perplexing. If it weren't for the efforts of the previous COPE council – in particular Jim Green and Larry Campbell – Vancouver wouldn't even have the sixty-story Shangri-La tower in downtown Vancouver. A building that is now considered a model of downtown mixed-use development.

Just imagine if Manhattan had set a height limit in order to protect view simply wouldn't have Manhattan. As everyone knows, Manhattan is one of the most desirable locations to live in the world. If it's good enough for Manhattan, surely Vancouver can go a bit taller if it means we can use the land at the base of the towers for better public amenities.

When it comes to NEFC, I think Vision Vancouver had the option of setting aside all the planning manuals and find a creative solution in order to get the park space residents so desperately need. If that means a few taller towers, is that really too high a price to pay in order to create liveable and sustainable neighhourhoods? I for one don't think so.

Check out our new online poll on this subject and let us know what you think.


yeah, I think Manhattan would actually need to have views for there to be a plausible comparisons.

1) I object strongly to more tall towers --- I have seen no comments in the media on the Shangri-La's mountain challenging height as seen from Jericho etc but for me its height is completely out of scale with the Vancouver I loved.

2) I suspect this Council is a pro-development council with a green veneer -- the STIR program is basically a developer give away under the guise of providing more rental housing -- as I suggested in a comment the other day if Council was really interested in encouraging the expansion of the rental housing stock they would be acting to:
a) prohibit any rules in strata developments that restrict rentals
b) change the eviction rules to make it easy for owners to evict tenants in strata buildings. (Some owners of unoccupied condos don't rent not because of strata rules but because of understandable fears of potential tenant problems).

"but downtown we have to shoot for greener objectives that are more realistic."

Has Green Gregor gone right bonkers ??

What can be "greener" than a park.

Janette Sadik-Khan was just in our town from NYC. What are they doing there? Why, trying their damndest to take back some streets and green the city. Times Square is closed to cars, "insta plazas" are popping up everywhere and people are crying for more. They need some relief from the crap glass wind tunnels that are springing up all over town.

The last time I looked, as wonderful as NYC is, noone wanted Vancouver to replicate that kind of build out.


If Vancouver wants to become the greenest city in North America, the downtown core is going to need to go higher. I would encourage you to read Margaret Wente's article on the subject to give you an interesting perspective.

Here is an excerpt:

“The greenest community in North America is New York City,” points out David Owen, an environmental thinker with a contrarian turn of mind. His new book, Green Metropolis, argues that urban density, more than any other factor, is the key to sustainability. Never mind your recycling, your solar panels or your righteous compost heaps. If you want to cut your carbon footprint, move downtown and throw your garbage down the chute.

If Vancouver wants to be the greenest city in NA, it needs to start making the areas OUTSIDE of the "Metro Core" more dense, liveable and walkable.

The best thing the city could do to "get greener" would be to tell developers they couldn't build any more condo's downtown or in NFC until the Fraserlands is built out, and the Norquay mess is sorted out, etc, etc.

It might be nice for the planners and other yuppies who live in the core to have even more amenities, but until there's a way for people in the burbs (ie the Vancouver burbs) to go about their daily business without having to jump into a car, the city isn't going to get greener.

There's more bang for the buck in CO2 emissions to get people to move from an SUV to a Camry than to go from a Corolla to a Prius. Same thing applies to Vancouver now.

Foo, that is absolutely not the case. It is much better to enable more people to live near downtown where they can get by just fine without a car at all. In the West End, over 40% of people walk to work. In Yaletown, it is almost 30% (I think).

Currently, the GHG emissions per person are 1.5 tonnes per year for people who live near downtown as opposed to 5.0 tonne average for the whole city. With development of walkable nodes in other parts of the city and other measures to reduce emissions, the per person emissions in the walkable nodes would be 2.0 tonnes verses 1.0 tonnes for people living near downtown.

Oh, and by the way, they merely decided to let the outcome of the view corridor process guide the decision on higher buildings. Not exactly wimping out.

I appreciate that you are giving the future of northeast false creek attention because with this development we will be completing the redevelopment of the false creek basin. It is important that we get it right.

This afternoon I got on the phone and called a number of the citizens who have contributed their time to working with us on this on the NEFC Consultative Committee. Staff and Council need their and others' advice.

The questions of height, use and amenity are important ones. The rezoning applications we anticipate need attention and comment from all interested in the future of this corner of false creek. Staff and all members of Council believe this is an opportunity to have a unique area that is lively, hosts many events indoors and outdoors and a home for residents. This is a unique challenge.

The question of height will be further considered when Council receives the conclusion of the view corridor study in January.

Meanwhile, I am sure all would agree that when this area is developed northeast false creek must be an area we will want to visit and enjoy and also a great place to live for folks who like vibrancy as a key ingredient of livability. I suggest that it should be as lively as Granville Island, but with a different scale and livable for those who enjoy activity and vibrancy. By the way, I live in Yaletown near Nelson and Richards and I really like the mix and activity just outside my door.

Lastly, I look forward to working with Patsy and the other residents, organizers of events and the business community engaged in planning this area. I very much respect their concerns and the time and focus they are giving the future of this area.

@ Richard

What happens if the view corridors study recommends they must all be protected?...which means the environment will be negatively impacted.

Do you really want to save view corridors for commuters coming in from Delta to work downtown...if that negatively impacts the environment? The polar ice caps are melting...view corridors are nice, but they won't mean much when we're all four feet under water.

Richard, I know you are an environmentalist...I expected more from you.


You demonstrate the blinkers of people who live and work in the downtown core. The overwhelming majority of people in Vancouver alone do NOT live OR work in downtown. Never mind the ~2m people who live outside of Vancouver.

Since I have no reason to dispute your numbers, let's use them. Is it better to reduce GHG from say 7t/year to 1.5t/year for 7000 people, or from 7t/year to say 5t/year for 100000 people?

One is sexy, the other actually makes a difference.

Let's be perfectly clear about our opposition to the NEFC decision by council last week. It negates the possibility of a large destination public site that could have been a spectacular landmark park on the waterfront in False Creek. NEFC is the last large parcel of land that could provide this green space. And now, city council has effectively dropped the ball on this possibility by possibly allowing the developer to build along Pacific Blvd all the way to Quebec St. cutting the park size/shape in half and running it along the future seawall walkway. Not the usuable space that has been promised to the community for 20 years. One of the developer's real estate agents even suggested that the towers should be built on the water and the park in behind so that more people could get views. This was a completely stupid comment but bears notice here because the developer, Concord Pacific, most likely already has plans for that very scenario as they have for the park re-shaping for several years. Sometime in the future I'll write here again "I told you so ". Remember it is up to the people of Vancouver to let your city "elected " representatives know what you think about giving away our last chance at an iconic waterfront park. With the latest budget crunch you might like to look up the BC Assessed Value for 50 Pacific Blvd. It is shocking.
By the way, Mayor Robertson perhaps doesn't know that Pacific Spirit Park is not in Vancouver. Sounded a lot like Marie Antionette when she said "let them eat cake ". Elitist then; elitist now.

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