False Creek South has been on our Top10 list three times in the past 5 years. Those entries reflected the immediacy of the expiration of the leases, uncertainty around future negotiations as well as the nature of future development on the site. You can read the background in our entries in 2020, 2017, and 2016.
2021 was a major year for False Creek South. In July, the Methodology for Co-op Housing Lease Renewals for all the co-ops on City owned land went to Council. A method of lease calculation was ultimately arrived at and Council showed tremendous support for co-op housing. This was a path forward for many co-ops on City owned land. However, because False Creek South is considered a redevelopment site by the City, the uncertainty around lease negotiations with residents in False Creek South remains. In late October, the City’s Real Estate department presented Council with a plan that predicated on unlocking the economic potential of waterfront land as the starting frame for the redevelopment of False Creek South. There were around 170 speakers to this and Council decided to take this report for information only. A community-based planning process is to start next year. Councillors Pete Fry and Colleen Hardwick will be liaisons with RePlan – a committee of the False Creek South Neighbourhood Association working on lease negotiations and planning beyond the original leases. The leases remain unresolved but with negotiations planned.
“We are ready to restart a transparent and fulsome community planning process that won’t be predetermined by the City’s Real Estate Department, but will instead benefit from the City owning the land, creating an incredibly unique opportunity to do something really significant for truly affordable housing.”
Richard Evans, Chair of RePlan
False Creek South is a distinct living community that is an innovative model for sustainable communities, reflecting the early 1970s values of an inclusive “livable city”. On largely City-owned land, social diversity was central to the planned community, welcoming residents ranging in age and income to housing that is affordable with access to views, the waterfront and nature. The housing mix of one-third co-op, one-third non-market rental, and one-third strata is a major defining feature of the neighbourhood.
The October report by the City’s Real Estate department proposed to leverage this waterfront land in favour of market rental and strata, increasing the non-market ratio to two-thirds. The current integration of the co-ops both physically and socially throughout the neighbourhood would end with their demolition and relocation to make space for higher revenue generating buildings.
The number of speakers and correspondences making a case against a real estate driven vision and for a direction that focuses on growth of lower income housing were critical in determining Council’s decision and framing the departure point for the upcoming community planning process.*
While many reinforced the fact that False Creek South is an internationally renowned planning model that other cities look to, another aspect of its importance became evident.
The public proceedings in July and October have spotlighted the significance of False Creek South as a living community. It is a community with a distinct culture characterized by very strong social norms that animate life in the neighbourhood. This comes from the design and layout of the buildings and space, the demographic makeup, the operation of the neighbourhood association and the integrity of the ideas that created the foundations of this community back in the early 1970s. One of the richest forms of heritage is a place where the relationship between culture and place is strong. This is the definition of a cultural landscape, a fusion of culture and place and is what is called a Historic Urban Landscape under the City of Vancouver’s updated Heritage Program. The City’s culture plan – Culture Shift- and the 2020 Heritage Program now intersect, both predicating heritage on culture.
As planning work begins for False Creek South, it would be an opportune time to position heritage and culture here at the forefront so that a plan:
· sustains the social infrastructure keeping the community strong
· informs development and changes to the physical environment based on the values that have made this an important and distinct culture in the city including:
o the Campus of Care and Intergenerational Hub that community members have conceptualized through a draft plan
o the affordable housing that is envisioned by the neighbourhood
*the Real Estate proposal is unusual in that a community planning process was not part of it, which would normally be standard practice. In the case of False Creek South, the City of Vancouver is both the landowner and the regulator of land use.
Photo by Ben Geisberg
We acknowledge the financial assistance of the Province of British Columbia