May 26, 2014

Tiptoeing past the Tulip Tree: How much do people really value heritage?

In the controversy over the demolition of the Legg House, did it have to be this:




Or this?



Brian Jackson, the City Planner, says it was what the neighbourhood wanted:

It’s frustrating because there was a proposal to save both, and that was turned back because the neighbourhood complained about the height of the resulting building,” Jackson said.

Elizabeth Murphy, in an op-ed in The Sun, suggests not: We’ve saved character homes before.

Currently, the imminent demolition of the Heritage A Legg residence, a grand arts-and-crafts mansion and one of the last three left in the West End, could have been prevented if the city had implemented the existing tower separation design guidelines. Only the zoned six-storey height and density would have applied.

One thing for sure: everyone will blame Council.

I followed the issue enough to know that, well, it’s complicated.  Yes, a deal could have been done – but not one that would have satisfied the most vocal interest: the immediate neighbours whose views would be affected.   Council made the mistake of trying to placate them by choosing the tree over the mansion.  And no doubt if they had chosen the house, they would be blamed for the sacrifice of the tree.

You’ll note, we’re not hearing at all from the people who are satisfied with the demolition of the house.

But in a case like this, critics try to avoid criticizing the self-interest of the community – since ‘the community’ is something rather sacred in local politics.  The presumption is that, with enough process, an amicable resolution can be found that would satisfy everyone.

Not in this case.

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  1. Of course everyone wants beautiful neighborhoods, big trees, character homes, cheap condo pieces, low rents, 2-3 blocks from the beach. Why would a renter in the west end with no savings or money invested want any development ?

    Once you move in, the best motto always is ” no more development, we are full, no more migration here, I love it as it is”. Always has been, always will be.

    Vancouver ought to dedicate certain houses or streets heritage streets/houses, the rest ought to be sensibly developed, and I’d say 50% of the West End can be redeveloped as many three or four storey buildings are quite ugly.

    But yes, old and new will always clash.

  2. Trees grow back. Heritage buildings do not.

    This is another black mark for Vision Vancouver. To let a Grade A listed building get demolished on their watch due to consultation bungling is ridiculous.

  3. Hey Gordon, interested to know your thoughts on the opinion that both could have been saved – I read this opinion / analysis which is intriguing, although not wholly unbiased, about how it seems the city bent over backwards to allow the maximum height. Couldn’t they have negotiated a better outcome? Why the absolute maximum permitted height / density?

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe the original plan put forth by the property owner years ago would have saved the house and the tree. But they wanted extra density which would have resulted in an 18 story tower. Now we get a 17 story tower anyway, the tree is saved but the house is torn down. Something surely doesn’t add up here!

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