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Vancouver City Council Considers Reducing Visibility Cones on Mountains and Skyline – BC News

Vancouver City Council Considers Reducing Visibility Cones on Mountains and Skyline – BC News

A report presented to city council on Wednesday recommends reducing to 24 the 38 areas previously established in Vancouver to protect public views of the North Shore mountains, the downtown skyline and certain landmark buildings.

The 38 viewing cones currently come from 18 different lookout points, including Queen Elizabeth Park and several of the city’s bridges and main streets, such as Granville, Cambie, Main and Commercial Drive.

Views of the mountains and skyline from Choklit Park and the Laurel Land Bridge in Fairview Slopes, now blocked by trees and vegetation, are among the areas that will no longer be protected if the council approves the recommendations.

This would reduce the number of viewpoints in the city to 16.

According to the editorial board’s report, which lists the 38 viewpoints, the Cambie Bridge viewpoints, which looked north toward the mountains and south toward City Hall at 12th Avenue and Cambie Street, would also be wiped out.

At the same time, staff recommended modifying 11 public viewpoints, either changing the lookout point or splitting the viewpoint in two to allow development in the middle of the existing viewpoint.

For example, the current view of the mountains from the middle of Cambie Street, near City Hall, would be moved to the pedestrian area behind the Broadway-City Hall Canada Line station.

It is also recommended that the Olympic Village pier viewing cone be redrawn and split to allow for potential development in certain areas of Downtown Eastside. Other viewing cones are recommended to be reduced in width or height.

“If potential new views or changes to existing views are identified by staff or residents during future site planning activities, they will be brought to council for consideration,” the staff report said. “In addition, staff will continue to monitor the impact of views and bring proposed changes to council as appropriate.”

The motivation for reducing public viewpoints and modifying the viewpoints is related to motions passed by the ABC Vancouver-led council in October 2023, including one titled “Modernizing the City’s View Protection Guidelines to Accommodate New Housing.”

‘Exceptional locations’

The staff’s analysis of the 38 viewpoints focused on how to “balance development and growth with the preservation of a livable city that celebrates its unique connection to the surrounding landscape.”

Staff also considered how the provision of housing, workspace and hotel rooms could be increased when making the recommendations, which could also allow for taller buildings in four to six “exceptional locations” in the city centre.

Staff estimate that 15 to 25 million square meters of “development capacity” could be at stake if the council adopts the report’s recommendations. Staff estimate that five to 25 percent of the land parcels could be developed within the next 30 years.

The report comes as the Broadway Plan continues to unfold, with towers replacing low-rise buildings along the corridor. The provincial government has also urged municipalities such as Vancouver to build high-rise buildings in transit areas.

Protecting the view in Vancouver has long been a concern of citizens, forcing city government to designate a number of viewpoints in the 1970s.

However, it was not until 1989 that the council adopted guidelines to protect 26 public viewpoints. Subsequent amendments in 1990 and 1997 removed, reshaped and added viewpoint cones in response to development.

In 2007, demand for growth in the city centre prompted further reconsideration, leading to the last comprehensive update approved by the council in 2011.

Shadow influences

The report also looks at how the construction of tall buildings can create shadows.

The city currently has 15 different “adopted shadow impact strategies” across the city, six in the city centre and nine in the outlying areas, plus several other unofficial approaches established through site-specific approvals.

“Testing has shown that a solar access strategy, evaluated between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. PDT from the vernal through autumnal equinoxes, provides a balance between open space use and development potential,” the report said.

The report added that recent analysis of the Broadway Plan area confirmed that the shadow impact strategy supports the delivery of housing. Staff noted that heights for approximately 95 percent of the residential area are unaffected, with the remaining five percent still able to accommodate six to 12 storeys.

The proposed densities and heights in transit zones are also compatible.