Vancouver's most prestigious neighbourhood, First Shaughnessy, is even more exclusive after being designated the city's first-ever Heritage Conservation Area in a unanimous vote by city council.

The large lots and homes in the leafy enclave between Oak Street and West Boulevard to the east and west, and 16th Avenue and King Edward to the north and south, have been at the centre of an ongoing debate pitting a pro-development lobby against those in favour of historical preservation.

The brand new designation is a win for the latter, giving the city the power to prevent First Shaughnessy homes built before 1940 from being demolished. 

"I think this will be a neighbourhood that we will look back on decades from now and say thank goodness we preserved it when we did," said councillor Heather Deal. 

Councillor Geoff Meggs sad the new zoning strikes a balance in allowing for development while preserving the essence of the area.   

"It won't cast the neighbourhood in amber...because there are measures for people who have significant heritage value in their homes to do certain types of densification, said Meggs. "And where people have no heritage value...then that would be acknowledged and owners can go forward."

Architect Loy Leyland, whose company is currently working on a number of First Shaughnessy projects, isn't happy with today's decision. 

"I don't know what's going to happen now," said Leyland, who's working on two pre-1940 houses that will now be subjected to new zoning bylaws. "Hopefully get this appealed or unhappily, we'll have to start all over."

First Shaughnessy was a planned neighbourhood designed and built in 1907 by the Canadian Pacific Railway for wealthy families wanting to escape the increasingly crowded West End of Vancouver.

With files from Farrah Merali