False Creek South – neighbourhood planning process launched
False Creek South stretches roughly from Cambie Street to Burrard, and is home to approximately 5,500 people. A 55 hectare neighbourhood, it was planned and built in the 1960s and 1970s on the site of former industrial lands, and conceived as a model community that would demonstrate a form of higher density (for its time) midtown development, a ‘social mix’ that matched the region’s demography, and a network of pedestrian streets and public spaces.
Visit it today, and you’ll find an intriguing place, filled with intriguing townhomes and apartments (about 60% of which are on City-owned lands), generous greenspaces and walkways – along with one of the city’s best designed and most sadly underutilized plazas – Leg-in-Boot Square. Most people probably know it best from the 3 km of serpentine Seawall that sits at its northern edge, but if you step off the ‘main’ path, you’ll discover the neighbourhood is actually a honeycomb of pedestrian walkways and small streets.
For the last several decades, planning in the area has been guided by the False Creek South Official Development Plan, but both the age of that plan, and the fact that the leases on the existing residential properties are due to expire in the next 1-2 decades, has prompted calls for a new neighbourhood plan to guide growth and change. At the same time, the False Creek South Neighbourhood Association has done an admirable job of mobilizing a conversation around what they call their RePlan initiative.
Today, City Council discussed the proposed Terms of Reference and schedule for a new neighbourhood planning process for the area. The T-O-R focussed on three key themes: Housing, Neighbourhood Character, and Transportation & Connectivity.
We were pleased to write in support of the proposed planning work, but also took the opportunity to raise the need for a more clearly defined public space focus that we felt would strengthen the resulting efforts. The following is an excerpt of our letter to Mayor and Council:
[False Creek South] is home to some of the city’s most intriguing public spaces:
- The False Creek South seawall and False Creek waterway
- Leg-in-boot Square
- Charleson and Sutcliffe Parks
- and a variety of other smaller greens, open spaces, pathways, etc.
In addition, there are numerous other spaces and places immediately outside (or surrounded by) the planning area (including several small neighbourhood parks in Fairview, and Granville Island). Together, these public spaces comprise a significant asset around which to anchor both a response to present day neighbourhood issues and opportunities, and a strategy for future neighbourhood growth and change.
To that end, we feel that the Terms of Reference would be greatly strengthened by having “public space” – (or better: “public space and public life”) identified as a separate area of focus (alongside Housing, Neighbourhood Character, and Transportation & Connectivity).
The aforementioned public spaces are more than just opportunities for connectivity, or aspects of character – they are important gathering areas, neighbourhood “hearts,” and sites of culture, recreation, leisure and economy. They, like the three proposed areas of focus, also require planning attention as part of this broader process.
We were pleased that Council spent sometime acknowledging the importance of these spaces. We are hopeful that this will result in a stronger process moving forward.