History

The Vancouver City Planning Commission is the City’s oldest citizens’ body. Established in 1926 as the Vancouver Town Planning Commission, its first task was to develop a master plan for growing City of Vancouver. The Commission contracted Harland Bartholomew and Associates to create the plan. The resulting Bartholomew Plan, completed in 1929, established the basic layout for the city that we have today. The Commission’s name mandate has changed over the years, with the creation of the Planning Department in the 1950s and new regulatory boards to direct development in the city.

Vancouver in 1926
Vancouver in 1926

The Commission’s current advisory role was established in 1977 under By-law 5064. Under this mandate, the Commission has addressed many significant urban issues and opportunities in areas including housing, governance, public consultation, transportation, land use and public realm. Its activities have included original research, conferences, pubic consultations, competitions, study groups and speaker presentations.

Highlights from the history of the Vancouver City Planning Commission:

2007-2008Under the theme A City Built for Change, the Commission explored the theme of adaptability in buildings and public realm.

2017 In June, the Commission co-hosted Rethinking the Region V with SFU’s Urban Studies Program. Rethinking the Region is an annual conference that provides an opportunity for dialogue, reflection and learning about the past, present and future of the Metro Vancouver region. The 2017 topic was the role of citizen advisory bodies in shaping urban policy in Metro Vancouver and the Seattle region.
2016 In October, two Planning Commissioners attended Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, in Quito Ecuador as part of the Canadian delegation. They were able to share ideas with the world’s leading urban thinkers and bring back best practices in planning and development to Vancouver.

In January, the Commission launched an online chronology of significant decisions, actions and events in the planning and development history of Vancouver.

2015 The Commission co-presented, with SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement, a panel discussion on the underlying issues and impacts of the growing social inequality in Vancouver. The Commission also was part of a collaboration with community partner organizations to produce three events exploring urban planning in Vancouver under the theme Vancouver’s Planning Principles and Culture
2014 In 2014, the Commission’s work included four events that looked both back to the planning legacy that has shaped Vancouver, and forward into the planning challenges of the future.
2013 The Commission continued its exploration of the potential benefits of a city-wide plan for Vancouver, and the disadvantages of not having one. Although there was no directive to initiate a new city-wide planning process within the City, Commissioners continued to examine the planning tensions and explored aspects of the issue in committee work.

The Commission submitted a statement to Council at the public hearing on the Vancouver’s Regional Context Statement, encouraging “the exploration of an updated city-wide planning framework, one that is accessible and transparent, retaining the best of our existing policies while exploring new ideas and best practices in other cities.”

2012 The Commission and SFU’s Vancity Office for Public Engagement co-hosted a round table with Miloon Kothari, the former Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The round-table discussion included an overview of Canada’s record in meeting its human rights obligations in the area of adequate housing, the upcoming review of Canada’s human rights record at the United Nations in 2013, and perspectives on local and regional housing issues.

2011 When a new city-wide physical plan was proposed to Council by Planning Director Brent Toderian, the Commission invited some of our leading urban thinkers to offer early thoughts on the idea.

Their comments were posted on this website, along with a statement from the Planning Department and background information gathered by the Commission.

2009 The Commission explored the existing web of city-wide sustainability policies. The process led to an examination of the relationship between city-wide initiatives and neighbourhood needs in achieving urban sustainability goals, and led to the Sustainable City of Sustainable Neighbourhoods initiative.
2008 In the YouMAP Vancouver pilot project, the Commission organized a community engagement asset-mapping process to map intangible community amenities.
2008 The Commission’s bylaw was changed to make appointment terms coincide with the election cycle.
2006 With partners SFU and Smart Growth BC, the Commission organized the Affordability by Design Housing Forum. The conference report included recommendations on infill lane-way housing and transit-oriented development.
2005 The Commission organized the Ideas Competition: 21 Places for the 21st Century to increase awareness of the importance of the public realm, and the Strategic Sustainable Planning workshop on impacts of peak oil and climate change.
2004 Following a widely attended public forum on housing in 2003, the Commission engaged a diverse group of talented individuals in the development of an online set of resources to stimulate and support a dialogue about alternative futures for housing in the city.
2003 The Commission recommended consideration of green roofs for civic buildings and adopting increasing “green” building standards.
2000 The Commission started a process to consider public realm issues as a priority for Vancouver. Workshops and guest speakers were highlighted to support continued Public Realm Planning for Vancouver.
1997 The Commission hosted a workshop initiating the consideration of sustainability as the guiding principle for the City’s land holdings in Southeast False Creek.
1993 Responding to limited resources, Vancouver City Council adopted changes to the authorizing bylaw of the Commission to focus the Commission’s activities on the future of the city.
1988-1989 The Commission produced the report called Vancouver’s Future: Toward the Next Million, which examined issues critical to the future of the region.
1979-1980 Following a major program of public involvement, the Commission produced the Goals for Vancouver report  , later updated in 1987. This report became a reference point for future discussions of Vancouver’s future, including the extensive consultations that created CityPlan, the framework that continues to guide decision-making on City programs, priorities and actions on a wide range of topics including transportation, arts, housing and community services.
1977 With the passing of by-law 5064, the Commission made the transition to an advisory body to Council on matters of civic planning policy as seen from an overall, city-wide context, with a mandate to engage in long-range planning issues, and to prepare a set of goals for the city. Reference was made to the advice given in the Hartland Bartholomew Report:

“…only such a Commission can give continuing attention to long-range problems; only through use of such a Commission can the long-range view-point take precedence over political and departmental expediency.”

1967-1968 A review of the planning and development process resulted in a redefinition of responsibilities. The Planning Commission became responsible for reviewing all rezoning and major development applications; a new Development Permit Board and Advisory Panel were created, along with neighbourhood citizens’ advisory planning committees. Council undertook direct responsibility for public participation in hearings on planning and development issues.
1948-1950 The Commission recommended that an in-house department be instituted to handle the increasingly complex details of urban planning and plan implementation; the Planning Department was created in 1952.
1928 The Bartholomew Plan was completed and an amalgamated City of Vancouver was created. The Commission continued to be the principal planning body for the City.
1926 Vancouver City Council and Point Grey Municipal Council established town planning commissions to initiate formal planning and zoning.
1925 The Town Planning Act passed by the BC Legislature empowered municipalities to create planning commissions.