View corridors are protected, not threatened, in downtown height review

The snow-capped Lions looked magnificent to me and my neighbours last weekend as we admired them from Charleson Park, the busy seawall location that marks the apex of one of the city’s most dramatic view cones. Thanks to the foresight of long-ago councils, the view has been protected during 30 years of intensive development on the north shore of False Creek.

“I guess it will be filled with a building soon,” one dog-walker said to me. “That’s the plan, right?”

In fact, council’s direction, established last year, is the exact opposite. In a series of decisions that followed long study, the Vision Vancouver council entrenched the view corridors over the protests of some architects and planners who believe they are bad for the city.

The review now coming before council, perhaps as early as the Jan. 20 Planning and Environment meeting, simply asks whether or not there are opportunities to build taller buildings outside the view corridors. (An enormous amount of information, including the upcoming report, can be found here.)

The answer is a qualified “yes.” How council responds, of course, remains to be seen.

This report was first tabled publicly shortly before the Dec. 15 council meeting, provoking concern among some community activists that there was insufficient time to respond. Council agreed, received a summary report, and then put the entire matter off for a full month.

Despite the delay, West End Neighbours is still demanding “meaningful public consultation” before any council decision. Apart from a general concern about density, especially a possible new tower at the Downtown Toyota site that is not in a view corridor, WEN worries that taller buildings may enter the Queen Elizabeth Park view.

But this view, uniquely, is as much about the downtown skyline as it is about the mountains. Here, the rising trees, not buildings, are the major issue and long-standing council policy has allowed buildings to enter the bottom of this view. (This may be the basis for WEN’s claim — which is false — that the city may “eliminate an important view corridor.”)

The Queen Elizabeth viewpoint is panoramic, at one of the highest points in the city and a long way from the downtown core.

As someone who worked hard to protect the view corridors, I welcome the public interest in this debate. But the upcoming report reflects the reality that the views are protected, not a target location for taller buildings.