False Creek South is a historic urban landscape and widely-admired success story, which demonstrated the startling transformation of inner city industrial lands into a residential enclave designed for pedestrians and community, inclusive of all ages and incomes.
Located north of 6th Avenue between the Cambie and Burrard Bridges, the neighbourhood features low-to-mid-rise housing clustered around gardens, courtyards, plazas, walking and cycling paths and green space, including a large waterfront park. Reflecting the early 1970s values of a ‘livable city’ and ‘quality of life’, the area was developed on City-owned former industrial lands along the south shore of False Creek. The master plan called for a mix of one-third each of non-market rental housing, co-ops and condominiums in a “Garden City” landscaped setting.
The land remains City-owned, and 60-year lease agreements with owners of co-ops and condominiums will begin to expire in 2025. The future of False Creek South as a historic urban landscape depends on the condition and maintenance of the housing stock that is now at risk. As leases expire soon, homeowners have found it difficult to finance their mortgages or repairs and improvements. Heritage Vancouver encourages the City to initiate the lease renewals as soon as possible, to avoid a decline in housing quality, and create a new, stable future for this unique community.
What is the threat to False Creek South?
False Creek South is City-owned land, and 60-year lease agreements with the owners of the co-ops and condominiums will began to expire in 2025. To build more housing in the area, and generate revenue, the City is considering options for increased density including potential redevelopment of vacant City land near to Olympic Village Canada Line Station.
Since last year, the False Creek Community Association’s *RePlan Committee has started a City-led planning process to develop a new community plan to include modest increases in density, and some infill development. The City has committed to planning principles that respect the original urban design pattern, and the original tenure mix of one-third non-market rental housing, one-third co-ops and one-third condominiums.
While this is encouraging, the future of False Creek South as a historic urban landscape will depend on the condition of housing stock that remains at risk. As leases expire soon, homeowners have found it difficult to finance mortgages or repairs and improvements. Heritage Vancouver encourages the City to initiate the lease renewals as soon as possible, to avoid a decline in housing quality, and create a new, stable future for this community.
Another issue is how to ensure development will enhance the special character of False Creek South through shaping the design of appropriate infill and building additions. Beyond the urban design and housing tenure mix, other historic features contribute to the heritage value of the area, such as: diverse, high quality architecture; low-to-mid-rise buildings rising in height from water’s edge; public access to the waterfront; and views to the mountains. It is not yet known if the new community plan will include design guidelines to respond to the area character.
Why is False Creek South significant?
False Creek South is a historic urban landscape that is a widely admired success story of the startling transformation of inner city industrial land into a residential enclave designed for pedestrians, and an inclusive community for all ages and incomes. It is a tangible demonstration of the progressive planning policies that redefined Vancouver as a modern urban metropolis.
In 1972*, in the context of the Federal and Provincial shifts to centre-left politics, Vancouver elected a Mayor and aldermen dominantly from The Electors Action Movement (TEAM), who placed a new focus in planning policy for the inner city on a mix of land uses, social diversity, environmental values and public housing. Reflecting the emerging social values of a ‘livable city’ and ‘quality of life’, TEAM championed reclamation of the City-owned industrial lands along the south shore of False Creek and developed a master plan for a mix of one-third each of non-market rental housing, co-ops and condominiums in a Garden City landscaped setting.
Urban design was arranged to foster social interaction through collective spaces outdoors (e.g. courtyards, plazas) and indoors (False Creek School and False Creek Community Centre), as well as public enjoyment of the waterfront. No matter their tenure, views to mountains were made available to residents through a sloped rise from three- or four-storey townhouses near to the water, to 8-to-12-storey apartment clusters around 6th Avenue, Cambie Street, and Granville Street.
The City also engaged a diverse array of renowned local architects (e.g. Downs Archambault and Thompson, Berwick, Pratt) who together created an aesthetic richness that contributes to the special character and community value of False Creek South.
Heritage Vancouver’s position
Heritage Vancouver supports the commitments of the False Creek Community Association *RePlan Committee and the City of Vancouver to conduct an inclusive and broad public process, to develop a new community plan for False Creek South.
As immediate steps, we encourage the City to initiate the renewal of leases with owners of co-ops and condominiums as soon as possible to avoid decline in housing stock condition, and to begin the process to create a new stable future for the community.
We further wish to emphasize the value of False Creek South as a historic urban landscape and its political, social and environmental legacy for Vancouver. A new plan should respect its past and present as an inclusive community for all ages and incomes through retention of the existing mix of housing tenure and community amenities. The original urban design pattern and other special features should also be respected in land use planning policies, and design guidelines for appropriate infill and building additions that enhance the area’s character.
What you can do
- Contact your local MLA or MP and express your concerns about the inadequacy of supportive provincial and federal housing policies and funding.
- Stay informed about the *RePlan and City of Vancouver dialogue and participate in the public process for a new community plan for False Creek South.
- Contact Mayor and Council to request that the City of Vancouver initiate the renewal of the 60-year leases in this area.
* For details on TEAM and the reframing of inner city planning policy, please see:
Thomas A. Hutton (2004) “Postindustrialism, postmodernism, and the reproduction of Vancouver’s Central Area: retheorising the 21st century city,” Urban Studies, Vol. 41 (10): 1953-1982.