Protect Chinatown from real estate speculation. Demand zoning changes now!

Issue Overview

The new Chinatown policies have been sent to public hearing set for Wednesday, July 4th at 9:30am. The real estate industry is mobilizing to stop these policies from going through. We must not let them win, but we also need to advocate for even stronger protection policies for Chinatown at the same time. 

Sign up to speak at the public hearing here

If you cannot speak at the public hearing, write a letter to

Why are the new zoning policies important?

The new Chinatown zoning policies contains new policies that will potentially help alleviate the intense real estate pressures and protect the historic built character of the neighbourhood. If some of these measures to do not get put in place as soon as possible, the door is wide open for more proposals similar to the 105 Keefer rezoning and make it impossible for us to move forward with the City Council-directed UNESCO bid to designate Chinatown as a World Heritage Site. The policies aren't perfect, so we've suggested some ammendments below here.

Major policy improvements include: 

  • Rescinding of rezoning policy that allowed for higher heights (so we don't get another 105 Keefer proposal) 
  • Restoration of the historic heights of the neighbourhood 
  • Addition of density, site width, and retail width limits that were never in place before


What we need to advocate for

Although the City's policies are heading in the right direction (see here) and we should support it in principle, they aren't perfect. There are two key amendments we need City Council to make. Without these amendments, Chinatown will still be very vulnerable to real estate redevelopment pressures.

1. Stronger protections to prevent lot assemblies
Amendment to request: Limit outright development lot widths to 25ft or existing lot size

Reasoning: The median lot size across all of Chinatown is 25ft, but the City is allowing outright development site widths of 50ft in HA-1 (Pender) and 75ft in HA-1A (everywhere else minus Pender).

Allowing outright development site widths larger than the majority of the lots in Chinatown will drive lot assemblies and continue speculation. This will encourage developers to wipe out existing buildings and destroy the existing fine-grain character of Chinatown. 

The reason for the 75ft widths in HA-1A is to allow car parkades underground for buildings as 75ft is the minimum width required. Designing a neighbourhood around cars first is never a good idea.

Supporting data from City of Vancouver VanMaps, click here.

HA-1 (59 lots)
25ft: 63% (37 lots)
50ft: 24% (14 lots) - Proposed lot width for HA-1 in new policy (50ft)
Above 50ft: 14% (8 lots)
HA-1A (82 lots)
25ft: 52% (43 lots)
50ft: 21% (17 lots)
55 to 75: 11% (9 lots) - Proposed lot width for HA-1A in new policy (75ft)
Above 75: 16% (13 lots)
2. Encourage social housing development and retention of existing affordable housing and commercial spaces
Amendment to request: Make dwelling use conditional unless 100% social housing 

Reasoning: Developers will always want to build market condos, which is the most profitable use for them. We need to make sure that social housing, and existing affordable housing and commercial spaces for businesses are prioritized. Dwelling use as "conditional" as opposed to "outright" means developers must work harder to "earn" the right to build condos at the discretion of the Development Permit Board. 

Of 550 dwelling units constructed since 2011, only 22 were seniors housing even though the median family income in Chinatown is less then $20k a year. In the Northeast False Creek neighbourhood plan, there will also be over a thousand new market dwelling units created right next door to Chinatown.

City staff actually recommended dwelling use to be conditional unless 100% social housing in an earlier version of the zoning (see original proposal here) until the real estate industry pushed back (see email from staff dated April 20, after April 19 consultation with property owners and real estate industry).

Please note that the City's current definition of social housing means non-profit or government-owned rental housing where at least 30% of the dwelling units are occupied by households with incomes below housing income limits as set out by BC Housing.


How can you help?

1. Sign up to speak at the July 4th 9:30am public hearing here.

2. Write to Mayor and Council at stating your support in principle but also demanding their commitment for the two amendments. Make sure your letters are unique and customized to your thoughts, because staff and council have indicated that they are tired of seeing the same letters.

3. Share this campaign with your friends and family to sign. The more people, the more pressure. We need to outnumber the real estate industry.

4. Subscribe to our #SaveChinatownYVR mailing list to keep updated on the next steps of this campaign and other news:

We can do this!