British Columbia

Warning sounded on Vancouver gentrification

The City of Vancouver is getting some high-profile criticism for plans that could dramatically change the look of several downtown neighbourhoods.
The City of Vancouver is getting some high-profile criticism for plans that could dramatically change the look of several downtown neighbourhoods.

City council will consider a staff recommendation Thursday calling for taller buildings in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside.

Former Vancouver mayor and B.C. premier Mike Harcourt, along with former city planners Larry Beasly and Ray Spaxman, say that would lead to further gentrification of those areas of the community.

They have written Mayor Gregor Robertson a letter telling him the neighbourhoods need a clear area plan, Harcourt said.

"Our position is crystal clear — engage the various citizen and community groups in those communities, the six communities that make up the Downtown Eastside, in a proper long term vision of what we want the Downtown Eastside is to become," he said. "We don't want it to become a slum or Manhattan-by-the-Sea."

More than 100 people have signed up to speak to the issue at the council meeting.

Building height bylaws

"The whole point is to assure the people in the Downtown Eastside are not going to be chased out," said Harcourt. "That they're not going to be turned into freaks in their own neighbourhood."

Those concerns are exaggerated, according to City Councillor Geoff Meggs.

"This, in my view, is a pretty modest intervention to provide a little bit of economic development in the Downtown Eastside, both commercial and residential," said Meggs.

City council will also consider raising the maximum building height in the downtown core to just under 215 metres from the current limit of 195 metres, the height of the city's tallest building, the Shangri-La Hotel.

Critics worry that will block view corridors, but Meggs said that's not the case.

"Where there's an opportunity for a tall building, it will not be in a view corridor," said Meggs. "And it would only happen if there was a further re-zoning and a public hearing."

With files from the CBC's Robert Zimmerman

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