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Vancouver updates view and solar access policies with balanced approach to support housing, job growth and livability

Vancouver updates view and solar access policies with balanced approach to support housing, job growth and livability
Vancouver updates view and solar access policies with balanced approach to support housing, job growth and livability

July 10 2024 –

Today, City Council approved, with amendments, balanced updates to Vancouver’s public view and solar access policies to support opportunities for housing, job space and hotels, and accelerate project approvals, while supporting urban livability. These updates follow October 2023 Council directives to review both policies.

Modernizing Public Views

“For residents, visitors and newcomers, Vancouver’s views provide a vital connection to nature and shape our city’s unique identity,” said Mayor Kim Sim. “As our city grows, we’re taking a balanced approach to updating decades-old policies that will allow our iconic views to evolve as we work to deliver the housing and job space Vancouver needs.”

Current updates focus on views that are partially or fully obstructed or have limited access for public enjoyment. This work was informed by the comprehensive public engagement and feedback conducted through the Vancouver Plan, Broadway plan and other recent ongoing planning projects. Actions include:

  • Retaining 24 public views, 11 of which have been updated
  • Removing two public view origin points where the intended views are fully obstructed
  • Removing 14 public views

“These changes will allow important public views to evolve with the city, balancing development with the preservation of natural elements to maintain a healthy and attractive urban environment.” said Josh White, General Manager of Planning, Design and Sustainability.

Unifying solar access policies

City Council also approved unifying solar access requirements across approximately 85 per cent of the city, with a specialized strategy for Downtown to follow next year.

Vancouver’s solar access policies help ensure everyone has access to sunlight in public spaces like parks, schools and commercial retail streets by shaping building massing and placement to minimize shadows. These policies include flexibility for certain types of development, especially affordable housing.

Currently, there are 15 different shadow impact strategies city-wide – six in downtown, nine in outlying areas, plus several other unofficial approaches established through site-specific approvals. As the city grows, a more consistent approach to solar access will help to streamline approvals while maintaining high-quality and usable public spaces. Harmonizing the policies into a single guideline for most of the city will provide improved clarity and certainty for future developments.

Developing a Citywide Development Guideline

Updates to the public views and solar access policies align with early actions to develop a Citywide Development Guideline (CDG), which includes a comprehensive review of over 2,200 pages from 70 different urban design guidelines, simplifying and consolidating them into a single resource. This initiative is a key component of the City’s Permitting Improvement Program, aimed at making the application process easier and faster for residents and businesses by streamlining policies and processes.

As part of next steps in developing the CDG, targeted engagement for more comprehensive next steps is planned for winter 2024/2025.

Additional Resources