UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Public policy and central business district housing Lindell, Susan D.


This study explores the formulation, application and transformation of CBD planning policy in Vancouver, British Columbia; and its effects on the physical urban landscape. The "homogeneous-use district" principle in city planning, predicated on the view that an efficient urban structure is one with zones delineated on the basis of identifiable single use districts, was adopted by the City in 1929. The quest to reserve Vancouver's downtown for commercial uses only dominated CBD planning policy until 1967. Through certain years of aggressive development activity however, the heterogeneity of the district remained, though its uses tended to cluster in identifiable sub-districts. A major obstacle to the homogeneous commercial development of the entire district was the persistence of its residential sector. This was not due, however, to the vitality or strength of that use itself; but rather to the weakness of the market for commercial development in the areas that housing occupied. Contemporary policy perspectives challenge the goal of homogeneous commercial use in the CBD. This rejection of conventional planning principles was born out of changing social trends and perceptions of growth embraced by the public. The process of change,though, is carried out by both planners and members of the development community. It is they who must harness that desire for change and bring it about on the physical urban landscape. The planner's expression of change is in the form of public policy which controls building trends. In the case of downtown Vancouver, these controls encourage the development of housing in mixed-use projects. The developer, on the other hand, expresses his desire for change through the creation and modification of the built environment. In the present study, the developer's actions are understood through both an analysis of housing development in the downtown, and through a questionnaire aimed at determining views regarding its viability. The interaction between public policy and private development has created a number of sub-districts in the downtown where heterogeneity does exists. However, housing in some areas provides a means of increasing commercial space; and in other areas is developed as a lucrative use itself with only marginal integration of commercial space. The survey questionnaire of developers reveals that there are marketing, institutional and financial problems which put into question the viability of future mixed-use residential projects in the core. Finally, the principles which govern homogeneous-use growth remain active in the contemporary development market. While policymakers aim to increase the heterogeneity of the entire Downtown District, their policy is used by developers and housing consumers to strengthen the market for particular uses in specialized sub-districts.

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