Vancouver city council has approved an ambitious 20-year plan to overhaul northeast False Creek, despite criticism about a lack of community consultation and concern about new condo towers that will partially obstruct the city's mountain views.
City staff came to council Tuesday morning with amendments to the plan after hearing from community groups, including two meetings with Chinatown residents in the past two weeks.
Based on the feedback, staff recommended the city work toward creating more rental and affordable housing in the eastern part of the area, in and around Chinatown. It also recommended the city meet regularly with Chinatown community groups.
Coun. Raymond Louie was at the two meetings with Chinatown residents. He put forward an amendment, which passed, that the plan also include $30 million in improvements for the Chinatown Cultural Centre.
"It's not ideal ... to have had two hurried meetings at the end with many of the Chinatown groups," Louie said.
"The consultation, I think, has been exhaustive. But it can always be better."
'There's no turning back'
Fred Mah, the president of the Chinatown Society Heritage Buildings Association, said his group was looking forward to putting together a committee to work with city staff on the plan.
"We're happier now than we were two weeks ago," Mah said. "Certain things we still need to do."
Mah said the group's priorities are to consider the two vacant blocks along Main Street as part of Chinatown and to build housing for seniors on those blocks.
The group also wants to see continued and better street access to Chinatown after the viaducts are removed.
NPA councillors Hector Bremner and Melissa DeGenova said the last-minute meetings were a sign the plan needs more time for community consultation.
"We can do this fast or we can do this right," DeGenova said. "There's no turning back once we approve this plan."
$1.7 billion in public benefits
City staff revealed final plans for the area at council last month.
The city stands to gain $1.7 billion in public benefits from land sales and developer fees. The money would go toward the costs of implementing the plan, including redeveloping transportation infrastructure in the area to replace the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.
Money is also being set aside for new public amenities like a park, ice rink and community centre.
The plan also includes a new community centre that will be designed as a focal point for the city's black community, which was displaced when the city razed what was known as "Hogan's Alley" to make way for the viaducts.
The area will welcome up to 12,000 new residents over the next 20 years — some of them housed in three new towers that will partially block the view of the North Shore Mountains.
Some have criticized the potential partial loss of the city's mountain views as part of the plan. The city has had policies in place since the 1980s that protect 27 view corridors.
Project director Kevin McNaney told council that it would be difficult for Vancouver to achieve its urban design goals while preserving the view corridors. He also said the three new towers will provide more variation to the skyline.
Green Party Coun. Adrienne Carr did put forward an amendment to restrict the height of the buildings so it wouldn't obstruct the view, but it was defeated.
NPA councillors cited concerns about the cost of the plan and where exactly the $1.7 billion would come from.
"This is a very big concern of mine, and I don't think we should take it lightly," said Coun. George Affleck.
One amendment from councillors to the plan that did pass was related to what the area should be known as. Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer suggested the city consult with local First Nations to come up with an Indigenous name.
McNaney said staff will present council with a detailed financial plan for the area in the coming months. Next will be rezoning for all the individual sub-areas of the plan.