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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Vancouver’s residential design guideline process : a case study Bernstein, Richard Charles


This study examines the application of design guidelines within the City of Vancouver's Development Permit Approval process. The guidelines are a phenomenon of the '70's, having emerged because of a failure of many projects to meet various user needs and expectations concerning residential lifestyle, particularly in higher density projects. The Planning Department of the City of Vancouver has embraced the use of design guidelines as a means to provide architects and developers with direction and encouragement for producing designs which will meet user needs and make positive contributions to surrounding neighbourhoods. It was hypothesized that although the majority of design guidelines are intended to be generative, their use for evaluative purposes in terms of the planning departments review of projects has created an impression amongst members of the above mentioned professions that the guidelines are being applied in a regulatory manner. It was further hypothesized that the current discretionary zoning system may in practice be as inflexible as the highly regulatory traditional zoning system it was intended to replace. The hypotheses were tested through a case study of the use of design guidelines in Vancouver's Development Approval process. A verbal and graphic comparative analysis between traditional and discretionary zoning systems was made. In addition these two development control procedures were examined in relation to the relevant literature concerning administrative discretionary authority. The hypotheses were further tested through personal interviews with several architects in private practice and members of the City of Vancouver's Planning Department. The study revealed that by and large, the majority of architects did not feel that the design guidelines were used in a regulatory manner. In this sense the hypothesis was disproved. Nevertheless, it is essential to note that several architects pointed to isolated cases whereby the guidelines were applied in a regulatory fashion. The problem; lay not so much with the guidelines themselves, but rather with their application by what was perceived as incompetent, inflexible administrators. In this regard the first hypothesis was given minor support. The second hypothesis was disproved through all of the research methods mentioned above. Again, however, isolated examples of inflexible attitudes on the part of poorly trained administrators were cited by some architects as being detrimental to the flexibility of the discretionary zoning system. The study showed that the continued use of both design guidelines and the discretionary zoning system was supported by the representative sampling of architects and planners.

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