Council approves planning principles; defers process until progress is reached on leases negotiations

In the 1970s, Vancouverites established key planning principles for the area we now know as False Creek South. A diversity of incomes and tenure types, a desire to minimize cars and maximize pedestrian mobility, and a continuous waterfront walkway are but a few of the key principles that informed the development of one of our city’s most famous beloved neighbourhoods.

Excerpt from original False Creek South urban design principles document

On May 16th 2018, as part of the False Creek South neighbourhood planning process, Vancouver City Council approved a preliminary vision statement and neighbourhood-wide planning principles that will guide change in the community over the coming decades.

City Planner Gil Kelley kicked off the staff presentation to Council with a reflection on the success and values inherent to the original False Creek South “experiment”:

“I want to note a marker in time that should guide our planning principles today. We have been working on a robust engagement over the past nine months with the community on the principles and vision for long term redevelopment of the False Creek South area … As a personal reflection, going back in time thinking about when this was conceived as an urban experiment, a very remarkable one that was started in the mid-70s. Rather than look at this through the lens of Real Estate development, the effort was to create a strong enduring sense of community with a strong environmental, or what we now call a sustainable, ethos. Even more significant was reclaiming a piece of shoreline for families and mixed-incomes right in the centre of the city. That’s the bedrock that we want to see continued and that is key to bringing forward those principles to guide us in long term phased redevelopment … Forty years on, we are continuing the strong interest in these principles with options for additional development. We will densify to some degree, not to the degree across the water, but to continue the experiment that this whole development represents.”

– General Manager of Planning, Sustainability and Urban Design, Gil Kelley

*RePlan representatives expressed general support for the vision statement and planning principles in their comments to City Council. While the staff report to Council focused on the neighbourhood planning process, *RePlan emphasized the crucial importance of concluding the protracted lease renewal process with community residents:

“For more than a decade, residents have asked that you find a way to address their leases. This is the issue that is impacting their lives and ability to plan for their futures and their homes.”

– *RePlan Project Manager, Nathan Edelson

In response to a request from *RePlan, planning staff also recommended that, “detailed planning work in False Creek South generally be deferred until greater clarity is reached on lease negotiations with leaseholders on City lands in the community,” in recognition of the urgent efforts needed to resolve leasehold-related challenges.

Preliminary Vision Statement and Planning Principles

Between June 2017 and February 2018, the City—in collaboration with members of the *RePlan Committee and our Community Planning Working Group—held a series of events to gather input from residents and other stakeholders to inform the development of the draft planning principles. (You can learn more about these events here:

City staff developed a “preliminary vision statement” based on this engagement process, which Council has now approved:

A renewed False Creek South enhances the living legacy of the community in realizing incremental growth in an equitable, innovative manner.

It is a place where a diversity of people live, work, interact, shop and play, and where strong social and physical connections exist.

It is a resilient and sustainable neighbourhood in the city core.

The planning principles provide more detail on specific objectives and form the foundation upon which an updated False Creek South community plan will be created. They include:

Strive to maintain housing that is affordable to a diversity of people, and provide affordable options for residents to remain, albeit potentially in different housing forms. Maintain income diversity through a mix of tenure types, and promote demographic mix by planning for families and aging in place. Recognize the role of well-planned community amenities, parks and facilities.

Introduce additional housing capacity and diverse building typologies in the city core, including delivery of affordable housing options in line with the broad range of incomes in Vancouver.

Uphold the unique character-defining elements, drawing inspiration from the historic neighbourhood character, while acknowledging its central location.

Improve the ecological function of neighbourhood environmental systems, and ensure public spaces and development are designed to be sustainable and resilient to climate change. Capture, clean, and reuse rainwater within the watershed, use an integrated systems approach, and employ green infrastructure.

Enhance connections within the community and provide direct access to local services, adjacent neighbourhoods and transit.

Create a resilient, complete street network that provides people of all ages and abilities with high quality walking, cycling and transit options. Integrate reliable and accessible transit within the community, and maintain critical access needs for all users.

Add mixed use and create areas for focused activity. Look for public places where neighbourhood shops, services and amenities could enhance the public realm, walkability and convenience while promoting human health.

Complement the natural setting and existing parks and open spaces with a diverse public realm network, including access to/engaging with water.

Undertake a process inclusive of the community, adjacent communities, and city-wide stakeholder perspectives. Work within the City of Reconciliation framework and its foundational components.

Plan with a fiscally responsible approach for the long-term health and sustainability of the City’s Property Endowment Fund (PEF).

*“Incremental growth” means a gradual increase in housing capacity that will occur in the community as part of a long-term phased redevelopment. “Equitable” means enabling a diversity of people (e.g., with different incomes, ages, household types) to live in False Creek South, in consideration of the original planning aspirations and the public ownership of the land, and in recognition of the community’s unique location in the city core, close to jobs and transit. “Innovative” means creative, experimental, and bold. “Resilient” refers to both social resilience and environmental resilience to disaster and climate change events.
For more information on the City’s Neighbourhood Planning Program, visit

Summary of *RePlan’s response to council

On May 17th, the day after City staff presented their planning report on False Creek South, several members of *RePlan addressed council. Here’s a few highlights:

Richard Evans, Chair of the *RePlan Committee

On May 17, 2018, *RePlan Chair Richard Evans addressed council for the seventh time in two years on issues relating to False Creek South. He expressed *RePlan’s support for the planning principles, which emerged from an engagement process that took place between June 2017 and March 2018. He noted the similarities between *RePlan’s long-established Principles and the City’s planning principles, as you can see in this table:

*RePlan Principles

City-approved FCS Planning Principles

1. Provide residents with an affordable option to remain in the community beyond lease expiry dates …

1. Strive to maintain housing that is affordable to a diversity of people, and provide affordable options for residents to remain …

2. Achieve a demographic mix that is similar to that of the region, but with an increased proportion of housing for low and middle income workers and households with children

1. Maintain income diversity through a mix of tenure types and promote demographic mix by planning for families and aging in place

3. Seek opportunities for increased density while respecting the historic urban design pattern of buildings and open space.

3. Uphold the unique character-defining elements, drawing inspiration from the historic neighbourhood character while acknowledging its central location.

5. Model a process for dialogue, decision-making, partnership and change that is inclusive of all stakeholders.

9. Undertake a process inclusive of the community, adjacent communities, and city-wide stakeholder perspectives.

The alignment between the City’s planning principles and *RePlan’s principles demonstrate the City’s recognition that the False Creek South model has strong foundations, with valuable elements to retain and complement moving forward. All of this success, Richard emphasized, is contingent on resolving uncertainty relating to leases.

Nancy Hannum, Chair if the *RePlan Co-op Authorized Working Group (AWG)

Nancy illustrated the success of the False Creek South community and diversity of residents it supports, highlighting the eclectic mix of working people, from “researchers, to musicians, lab technicians, bus drivers and health care workers.”

She said False Creek South is “a model for what more of Vancouver could look like,” in reference to the mixed-tenure, mix-income and human-scaled neighbourhood. While speaking in support of additional density in the community, Nancy emphasized that False Creek South is the “missing middle”—that sweet spot between taller multistorey buildings and single family houses that city planners are clamouring to produce more of—and we need to be careful to preserve this defining quality of character.

Overall, Nancy noted co-ops’ general support for the planning principles but underscored the importance of holding the social purpose of the City’s Property Endowment Fund at par with the agency’s financial imperatives.

Richard Marchant, Chair of the *RePlan Strata Leaseholder Subcommittee 

Richard Marchant stressed the urgent need for action on leases. He noted that leases are “the main driver of stress for all residents,” and redirected council’s attention from the planning report to outstanding lease issues. Richard agreed with the recommendations in the City’s May 16 planning report to defer the community planning process until greater clarity is reached on leases.

He also reviewed some of the work strata delegates have undertaken over the last few months, and reiterated the SLS position that there is, “no basis for, nor need to, tie lease extension to assumptions regarding building life.”
Richard argued that leaseholders should play a role in any prospective redevelopment of a strata building, “with rights to return and to have lease value portability to a strata redevelopment or other development in False Creek South.”

*RePlan Strata Leaseholder Subcommittee (SLS) Chair, Richard Marchant, outlining aspects of renewal options the SLS has put forward to the City

These ideas and others were shared with more than 300 strata leaseholders at three community meetings held in February 2018 (you can hear the presentation here).

Richard closed by emphasizing the need to work together to “create an efficient and cooperative methodology for resolving these issues.”

Panos Grames, SLS delegate to Spruce Village and member of the Community Planning Working Group

Panos asked council and staff to consider the idea of “full cost accounting” in their research and option development for planning and lease renewal decisions in False Creek South.

Full cost accounting (aka triple-bottom-line accounting) is a method of accounting that brings to the foreground the social, environmental and non-market costs often hidden from traditional forms of analysis. A full cost approach, Panos argued, “would assist in providing a more accurate picture of the social, environmental and economic viability of the neighbourhood plan.”

Nathan Edelson, *RePlan Project Manager

Nathan Edelson capped off *RePlan’s presentations with four requests to council:

1. Adopt the planning principles.
2. Commend planning staff for their outstanding work on the community planning process thus far.
3. Instruct staff to work with the community so Council can approve lease modifications and extensions within this Council term.
4. Support the community in working with staff, the Co-op Housing Federation of BC and others to see if a Housing Trust, or another form of alternative governance, could be structured to take into account the social, environmental and economic sustainability challenges of our time and beyond.

Nathan, a former City Senior Planner and current adjunct Professor at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning, told council this was the path to an A+ in his books and a crucial path to securing the long term sustainability of False Creek South.