City of Vancouver rules out new towers in Chinatown

After two marathon public hearings, city council has decided to approve a proposed rezoning of the southern half of Chinatown that will stop any new towers from being constructed.

Rules cap future buildings at 90 feet; reverses 2012 plan that allowed higher amounts in certain cases

Council passed a rezoning policy in 2011 allowing new towers over 90 feet in the southern part of Chinatown 'when public benefits are offered' — but heated protests have caused council to reconsider what can be built there. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

After two marathon public hearings, city council has decided to approve a proposed rezoning of the southern half of Chinatown that will stop any new towers from being constructed. 

The new rules cap any future building at 90 feet (27 metres) in height and are intended to "address community concerns about the changing character and the pace of development in Chinatown," according to a staff report.  

It was 2011 when council passed a rezoning policy allowing new towers over 90 feet "when public benefits are offered."

But heated protests by many in the Chinatown community, most notably around a new condo at 105 Keefer Pl. that has since been rejected, caused staff to reconsider what can be built in the area south of Pender Street.

"I certainly supported the previous plan. I was a strong champion of it," said Coun. Raymond Louie, acknowledging the tenor of conversation around the future of Chinatown had changed in recent years.  

"[But] the appropriate place when we don't believe the civic developments meet the test of council is to change the policies of council."

"We did pass a plan in 2012, it had some unintended consequences that the community it didn't like, so we went back and changed it. That's the nature of the beast. Nothing is in stasis," added Coun. Kerry Jang.

Bringing business back

Jang said it was important moving forward to focus on revitalizing and promoting the local business scene instead of density battles.

"There's not much left. We need to actually bring in businesses from the city ... the current plan will still allow enough density, enough residential, enough people to live down there, but at the same time, we need the other leg of the chair," he said.  

In June, council heard from nearly 100 speakers about the proposal, with many from the business community opposed to the change and many younger residents for it. 

"We didn't just hear a polarized debate between two sides, a pro-growth side and a heritage, social housing side. There were a lot of different facets to the debate. It's a difficult challenge," said Robertson.

"We all agree … about how fantastic Chinatown is, how great it was, and lots of promise and optimistic for what it can be. I think staff has done a great job of balancing all that." 

The motions passed 7-3 and 9-1, with all Vision Vancouver councillors and Green Coun. Adrianne Carr voting in favour,

Councillors Hector Bremner and George Affleck supported amendments to the motion that dealt with heritage but not the amendments surrounding height. 

Coun.Melissa De Genova voted against all amendments. 

"Some of these businesses will shut down because they can't sustain themselves. They're going to have to move to Richmond," she said.  ​

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Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Coun. Raymond Jang. Jang's first name is, in fact, Kerry.
    Jul 11, 2018 10:55 AM PT