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”. It is located on largely city owned land between the Cambie and Burrard Bridges and north of 6th Avenue. 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.
Leases for housing in this neighbourhood will be expiring soon and there is uncertainty around future leases and the nature of possible development on the site.
Around 80% of False Creek South is on City-owned land. To build more housing in the area and generate revenue, the City is considering increased density. There is great uncertainty as to the nature of possible development, whether the urban design principles, values and spirit that created False Creek South -which live on today- can stay strong. Council instructed City staff to begin lease renewal discussions[i] with residents in 2012. These discussions stalled in 2018, making borrowing for existing residents to finance repairs and improvements and working families to purchase strata leases increasingly difficult.
The urban design, housing tenure mix, housing affordability, architecture, access to the views and waterfront and the community identity of social responsibility, belonging and friendship all together make up value of False Creek South. Thoughtful attention is necessary to ensure changes will enhance these characteristics.
Prior to colonization, the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations lived on the land and water of what is now False Creek South. False Creek South Neighbourhood Association[ii] is reaching out to First Nations to get a better understanding of the area’s history.[iii]
In the early 1970’s, the City of Vancouver under the TEAM led City Council (The Elector’s Action Movement) started a transformation of then industrial land on the south side of False Creek into a pioneering pedestrian friendly residential enclave designed for visitors and community, inclusive of all ages and incomes.[iv] TEAM championed 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.
Christopher Alexander’s human-centred principles heavily influenced urban design[v] to foster social interaction through collective spaces outdoors (e.g. courtyards, plazas and even parkades) and indoors (common rooms, 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 townhouses near to the water, to 8-to-12-storey apartment clusters around 6th Avenue, Cambie Street, and Granville Street.
The False Creek South community also displays strong community values and interest and engagement with local concerns: being caring and supportive neighbours to each other, taking in refugees, supporting temporary modular housing for the homeless, and most recently releasing its own plan to increase the affordable housing stock by more than 1 million square feet.[vi]
Heritage Vancouver supports the efforts and initiative of the False Creek South Neighbourhood Association and its RePlan Committee to continue planning[vii] the future of False Creek South after The City of Vancouver agreed to pause its neighbourhood planning program in 2018 to focus on lease renewal. We urge the City of Vancouver to resume dialogue in order to finalize lease negotiations and develop a formalized community plan for False Creek South.
We encourage the City to initiate the renewal of leases with owners of co-ops[viii], non profit housing societies 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 value False Creek South as a significant landscape representing a political, social and environmental legacy for Vancouver. It is a living community characterized by socially conscious community members deeply connected with each other and with the wider context of the city. A new plan should respect its past and present and enable this pro-social legacy to continue on.
What you can do
- Contact your local MLA or MP and express your support for expanding supportive provincial and federal housing policies and funding.
- Stay informed about the RePlan community planning for False Creek South. http://www.falsecreeksouth.org/replan/
- Express your concerns to the City of Vancouver about the pause in the lease negotiations and neighbourhood planning process between False Creek South and the City of Vancouver
- Express your concerns to the City of Vancouver about the need for new long term leases in this area to provide security for existing residents and financing for major repairs and new development.
- Let the City of Vancouver know you would like it to explore how successes in community building and sustainable affordable housing can be applied to other areas of the city through the Vancouver Plan.
Pablo, Carlito. “A million square feet for new housing, commerce eyed in draft plan for Vancouver’s False Creek South.” The Vancouver Courier, 29 January 2020.
Geller, Michael. “Vancouver’s once controversial False Creek South community now a model of innovation.” The Vancouver Courier, 10 February 2020.
Fumano, Dan. “’Watershed year’ for future of False Creek, thousands of city co-ops.” The Vancouver Sun, 27 January 2020
Fumano, Dan. “Uncertainty looms for thousands of co-op home households in Vancouver.” The Vancouver Sun, 6 September 2019
CHF BC- City of Vancouver releases Co-op Lease Discussion Paper
City of Vancouver- False Creek South
[i] Most of the original lease agreements were 60 years. Some were as short as 40 years to help meet senior government funding formulas and expire as soon as 2022; some expire in 2036, and others in 2042.
[ii] The False Creek South Neighbourhood Association created *RePlan in 2010 to work with the City of Vancouver on developing new lease options to preserve the community beyond lease expiry. Most *RePlan volunteers live in the community..
[iii] RePlan is also reaching out to First Nations to seek ways in which the design and naming of new buildings, public spaces and public art might best respectfully reflect this history. They are also hoping to encourage development of a significant amount of housing and other services for indigenous people in the spirit of reconciliation and respect for the area’s historic significance.
[iv] 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), 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.
[v] Christopher Alexander is notable for his work on “A Pattern Language”, a series of design patterns with the philosophy that people can design for themselves in ways that are human-centred and community focused. This pattern language was a big influence on the design of False Creek South.
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.
[vi] The False Creek South Neighbourhood Association released a draft plan for False Creek South on January 9, 2020. It aims to increase the affordable housing stock through an expansion of non market housing and care for seniors and adults with disabilities as well as housing for workers and their families near rapid transit, the downtown core and central Broadway.
[vii] RePlan continued neighbourhood planning initiatives with the city’s housing and social issues in mind. They have proposed more than one million square feet of additional housing and commercial space.
[viii] The City of Vancouver issued a Discussion Paper in January 2020, has engaged with co-op members and the Coop Housing Federation of BC and will be releasing a report for Council consideration that is scheduled for November 2020.