Protecting Vancouver's views

View of downtown

The City protects Vancouver's spectacular ocean and mountain views while promoting density in the downtown area.

The backdrop of the mountains behind Vancouver's skyline signifies the city's connection to nature and aligns with its goals around sustainability.

The downtown peninsula has limited land available for development because of its geographic boundaries. In order to reduce urban sprawl, the City considers higher buildings that don't impact the protected view corridors.

Protected view corridors

Vancouver has 27 protected view corridors, established by the City to protect the view of the North Shore mountains, the Downtown skyline, and the surrounding water.

Higher building reviews

Preserving these views ensures that Vancouver maintains its connection to nature while the city expands.

Recently, staff have conducted two major reviews to ensure that urban development is possible while maintaining the view corridors. The two reviews were:

  • The Historic Area Height Review
  • The Higher Building Review

Read about view protection in-depth

Recent developments in view protection

Higher Building policy amended for West End Community Plan

November 20, 2013 – As part of West End Community Plan implementation, Council approved amendments to the General Policy for Higher Buildings. The amendments clarify circumstances when the policy applies to proposals for higher buildings in the West End adjacent to West Georgia Street and Burrard Street.

New protected views and sites for higher buildings

February 1, 2011 – Council passed the final approval on the addition of four new views into the City's View Protection Guidelines and seven sites into the General Policy for Higher Buildings. Read the amended policies:

Historic Area Height Review report released

January 20, 2011 – City Council released the final Historic Area Height Review report and passed resolutions related to the draft rezoning policy for higher buildings in the historic area.

Area of study in downtown Vancouver

Council has approved a view corridor study for this area of downtown. 

Council reports

Historic Area Height Review documents

The public hearing of the Historic Area Height Review items relating to Chinatown was heard over several days. Here are the key documents that came out of the public hearing:

Higher Building Review documents

During the course of developing the Higher Building Review, Council met several times to provide direction. Here are the Council reports:

Background research

Here are some of the key research documents planning staff used when creating the higher building review strategy:

Reviews

Historic Area Height Review

City staff explored opportunities for additional height and density in the Historic Area to support heritage conservation projects, low-income housing, and other public benefits and amenities.

Objectives

The Historic Area Height Review had several objectives guiding the study and its outcomes:

  • To provide direction for growth and development in the historic area
  • To maintain the historic area's character and general building scale
  • To ensure new developments create public benefits and amenities for the area, including affordable housing, heritage conservation, and cultural facilities

Higher Building Review

Staff reviewed existing heights and view corridor policies in the downtown and suggested changes to support job and resident growth as well as public benefits.

The Higher Building Review helped staff determine which views were most important to the public. This information helps the City's work to preserve those views and determine where to strategically add taller buildings.

The City held open houses in June 2009, October 2009, and October 2010 to get the public's feedback on higher buildings outside of the view corridors.

Objectives

  • The objectives of the public consultation were to:
  • Prioritize the importance of 15 individual view corridors (10 "framed" views and 5 "panoramic" views)
  • Determine why these views are important and how they are most often experienced
  • Test whether the view corridors can be modified
  • Determine the importance of new view protection

View corridor details

Every view corridor - also called a view cone - has a set of elements that define it:

View extent

The view extent is how far and wide the view corridor is. The length and width of the view corridor define the view extent. The width of the view varies with the distance from the view point origin.

View sub-sections

Some of the view corridors are divided into sub-sections to work with existing building heights. Each sub-section allows for a different maximum building height.

View origin

The view origin is the view point that the average (5'6" tall) person would have of the corridor.

Diagram of the view corridor elements

View corridor diagram

History of view protection

Public interest

In 1978 and 1979 the City conducted two surveys to capture the public's goals for Vancouver. In the surveys, residents identified their highest priorities including preserving the views of the shoreline, the downtown skyline and the North Shore.

In the late 1980s, the City began plans to develop in the south side of downtown and along the north shore of False Creek. It was possible that - without a structured approach to building height limits and location - views of the downtown, the mountains and the False Creek waters could be blocked by buildings.

In 1988, the City began the Vancouver Views study to better understand the public's perspective. The study resulted in a proposed view protection policy and established the City's protected view corridors.

View protection guidelines

In 1989 the City of Vancouver approved the View Protection Guidelines containing 26 protected view corridors. The policy protects the view of the north shore mountains, the downtown skyline and False Creek from a number of public view points along the south shore of False Creek, arterial roadways, and from the Granville and Cambie bridges.

Since then, a number of new buildings have been added to the downtown skyline. The protected view corridors help determine the site location and design of buildings, resulting in the retention of panoramic and narrow views downtown.

Benefit capacityexample of additional benefit capaciy

Benefit capacity is additional density - approved by Council through a rezoning - that the City also gets public benefits from.

Public benefits are amenities a city needs like day care facilities, affordable housing, parks, cultural facilities, and historic building restoration.

The need to assess benefit capacity was highlighted in July 2007, leading to the Metro Core jobs and economy study and the Heritage Building rehabilitation program and transfer of density bank report. These reports showed a short term supply of benefit capacity in the downtown official development plan area. There was approximately 3 million square feet of benefit capacity available.

Downtown capacity and view corridor study

Based on this information, City Council requested a study to identify longer term development capacity in the downtown.

The study reviewed existing height limits and view corridors looking for places to add new development capacity. View corridors ensure that mountain views are not blocked by buildings.

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Take a video tour of the view corridors

Last modified: Wed, 16 May 2012 12:10:50