send to a friend
Send us your feedback



Creating a Vision for SEFC

Players, Policy + Process

How do you find meaning from a brownfield? What is the shared vision for SEFC? How do you build an authentic community? These questions and others charted the course for an incredible learning journey for the enormous team of citizens, community groups and professionals involved in the visioning and decision-making process for the future of SEFC.

“It takes a village to raise a village” – Scot Hein, Architect and Senior Urban Designer, City of Vancouver.

Following the removal of SEFC from the industrial land base in 1990, discussion arose about how the 80-acre site should be redeveloped. A variety of ideas were proposed, ranging from a large urban park to a high-tech office district to a residential community. From this diversity of views there arose a consensus that this unique piece of property should become a model of sustainability.

Clouds of Change: A policy-Making Milestone

A significant policy move toward adopting sustainability as a guiding principle at the city scale was the “Clouds of Change” report, passed by council in 1990. “Clouds of Change” outlined a series of initiatives aimed at improving air quality in Vancouver. The report addressed emissions, transportation and energy and land use issues and recommended that the city commit to a 20 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 1988 levels by 2005.

In 1995, city council determined that SEFC should be redeveloped into a residential neighbourhood that would be a model sustainable community. The city commissioned studies that would determine the most economically feasible and socially and environmentally sustainable use of the land. What type of neighbourhood would best express the commitment to sustainability?

Searching for Sustainable Solutions

A number of issues influenced the approach to redevelopment. These included heritage considerations, a desire for parkland, the economics of various densities of housing and social mixes and the cost associated with remediating the contaminated land. The City of Vancouver’s Property Endowment Fund (PEF) had a mandate to accomplish the city’s goal of developing a model of sustainability. The PEF commissioned local development consultant Stanley Kwok to develop and test concepts for the physical plan of the site based on the economics of redeveloping the site. Baker McGarva Hart/VIA Architecture were retained by the PEF as design consultants, tasked with proposing an approach to planning that would integrate the sustainability aspirations of the project.

In 1997, Stanley Kwok submitted a proposal for the site titled “Creekside Landing.” The proposed built form in Creekside Landing echoed to a large extent the development at North False Creek, which is characterized by tall residential towers built on a base of street-level retail amenities and townhouses. Opponents of Creekside Landing favoured a model more akin to the dense low-rise model of South False Creek. They preferred to develop smaller sites with individual character as an explicit contrast to the consolidated towers of North False Creek.

Policy Guidelines

In 1998, as the design debate continued to unfold, the city commissioned a report from the Sheltair Group called “Visions, Tools and Targets.” The goal of the report was to generate a set of performance targets and precedents that would influence the next phase of design proposals. This report talked about the concept of complete communities, where people live, work and have access to basic goods and services within a close radius of their homes. A notable outcome of the SEFC visioning process was a growing recognition that high-density housing and mixed-use communities are key ingredients to urban sustainability.

During the period of policy development, an advisory group was formed, representing many interest groups and professional associations. This multidisciplinary group worked with city staff to integrate the findings of “Visions, Tools and Targets” together with recommendations from the 1998 SEFC design charrette into what would become the SEFC Policy Statement. The policy statement would serve as a guide to the sustainable development of the site.

“The praise needs to go to the councils of the day to have stepped up to do the Clouds of Change Report and then supported SEFC through its steps … It was a combination of strong leadership, commitment, clear vision, excellent technology knowledge and community buy-in.” – Mark Holland, former Planner, City of Vancouver, Principal, HB Lanarc

The SEFC Policy Statement

Raising the Bar: From Plan…

Years of studies, consultation and community involvement culminated in the production of a milestone document: The SEFC Policy Statement. Normally, policy statements are created to provide general planning principles to guide a site’s development. The policy statement for SEFC, however, pushed the boundaries by describing a vision for the development of a sustainable community.

The policy statement included 15 principles of sustainable development to guide the creation of a sustainable community. These principles would carry on throughout the course of development, helping to inform decision-making throughout the design process.

…to Action!

Following the adoption of the policy statement by city council in 1999, it came time to turn the plans into achievable actions. The city engaged a suite of consultants to develop action plans describing how to achieve sustainability targets.

Principles of Sustainable Development for SEFC

1) Implementing Sustainability
Promote the implementation of sustainable development principles in an urban setting.

2) Stewardship of Ecosystem Health
Ensure that the development improves the ecological health of the False Creek basin.

3) Economic Viability and Vitality
Aim to achieve economic viability with opportunities for employment and investment to ensure long-term prosperity.

4) Priorities
Set social and environmental performance targets that can be met in an economically viable fashion.

5) Cultural Vitality
Encourage vitality, diversity and cultural richness, respecting the history and context of the site.

6) Livability
Enhance the social and natural environment by creating a walkable, safe and green neighbourhood.

7) Housing Diversity and Equity
Create housing opportunities for a range of income groups and social and physical infrastructure for people of all ages.

8) Education
Encourage awareness of the principles of sustainability and how these are implemented on the site.

9) Participation
Encourage public involvement in decision-making processes.

10) Accountability
Promote accountability by monitoring impacts using post-occupancy studies and community consultation.

11) Adaptability
Ensure that the community can adapt to new social and economic conditions, policies, programs, legislation and technology.

12) Integration
Promote integration with the city through planning, design, community involvement and public amenities.

13) Spirit of the Place
Promote planning and development guidelines that celebrate the unique natural, social and historical context of SEFC.

14) Complete Community
Develop a complete community where residents live, work, play and learn within a convenient walking, cycling or transit-riding distance.

Community players in early SEFC visioning. Mizu Creative, 2009.