February 5, 2018

Northeast False Creek Plan and View Corridors~The View From Larry Beasley & Neal LaMontagne

The Northeast False Creek Plan is currently before City Council and city staff are recommending three tall towers that will pierce the 300 foot height limit established for the site under the Vancouver View Corridor Policy. The rationale for the two 425 foot, 48 storey towers at the intersection of Georgia and Pacific (and these are the words of the Council report) are to provide a “counterpoint”and a “gateway”. Just to balance things out another over height 400 foot tower is also proposed, as if to make the two 48 storey towers less obtrusive. You can view the plan here.
There are a lot of finer ways to make a focal point or gateway without building through the view corridor policy that has been so carefully defined and adhered to by previous city planners and councils. The whole point of the View Corridor Policy and the establishment of view cones was to ensure views of the mountains, sea, and adjoining areas from different vantage points in the city. To suggest this is negotiable is just the same as telling developers they can build roof top gardens instead of providing contributions to park acquisition. Look at Sydney Australia where wayfinding is challenging due to tall buildings and the lack of any view policy protecting harbour views and corridors. Is this Vancouver’s future?

IMG_5385“While checking in on Twitter yesterday, I caught an interesting tweet by Larry Beasley on view cones and corridors. I thought it was worth a post:

If Vancouverites were to weigh in on what public amenities matter to them, the view cones will be right up there with the seawall and beaches as a treasured public asset. Instead of cramming more housing in where it is crowded and blocks views, lets open up some new communities.

As always, Larry provides a insightful and thoughtful perspective (filtered, as always, through his own distinctive point-of-view). My own take is similar as I’ve come to truly appreciate the value of the view corridors. Although I am less enthusiastic about their value in maintaining specific views (the views you see when you stand in just the right spot), they have a hugely valuable role in creating a dynamic quality to our downtown towerscape. View corridors are part of a wonderful Vancouver tradition of maintaining a sequence of views, from the intimate (outside the window) to the neighbourhood, to the broader (city and nature) and they create variation in the towerscape that would be difficult to achieve otherwise.
I am sensitive to arguments to rethink the view corridors. Many people I speak with are surprised that they are as intensely enforced as they are, but in a City with a great tradition of discretionary planning and where the spirit of the law is more important the specifics of the letters, view corridors are often absolute. Speaking from the perspective of a member of Vancouver’s Urban Design Panel, there are often projects where we are frustrated by the specific application of the corridors. But on the whole, they serve the city well and must be vigorously defended.”

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  1. Isn’t every street a view corridor, regardless of building heights ?
    The whole idea makes no sense in a city with a grid based street pattern.

  2. Wise words from my former colleagues.
    And, no, not every street is a view corridor, especially in the NEFC plan, where the long-standing policy of a straight alignment of Abbott Street to False Creek is intentionally curved away from False Creek and, further, blocked with one of those overheight and bulky buildings the Larry rails against.

    1. It is effectively unfortunate,
      do you the rationale for that?
      the only reason I see is to facilitate car circulation in the huge “block haus”
      but seen from science world vantage point, it looks like separating the city of its water front.

      1. Voony – the planners say it is to force people using Abbott Street toward the new waterfront park, rather than directly to the False Creek Seawall, which is clearly my preference. Oh, and also to create an opportunity from a very large building footprint in the alignment.

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  4. As much as all my previous comments said infringing on view cones was just lazy design I can kind of see how this one might be useful.
    It almost becomes like public art.
    It’s like when they revisited downtown building heights and allowed sporadic taller towers to ensure we didn’t end up with a ‘flat’ downtown.
    If it’s something the city wants for aesthetic reasons vs what a developer wants to make more money then I’m more inclined to like it (not that my opinion is going to hold much sway 🙂

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