Have you ever wondered why Vancouver has no skyscrapers like the ones you see in New York or Hong Kong? We mean, the city is continuously thriving and all, so why aren’t there towering structures like in other major cities?
So we asked around, cross-checked the information we collected, and we found out that Vancouver has pretty strict building regulations, which we’re here to share with you.
Why does Vancouver have no tall buildings?
Vancouver doesn’t have any tall buildings because it has protected view corridors that prevent structures that could block the view of the North Shore mountains, the skyline of downtown, English Bay, and the Strait of Georgia.
This policy, called the “View Protection Policy of Vancouver,” was put in place in 1989 to make sure that everyone could see the mountains and ocean without any obstructions.
What is the View Protection Policy of Vancouver?
Vancouver has strict building height restrictions to preserve the city’s stunning natural scenery and prevent overcrowding.
This policy is called The View Protection Policy of Vancouver, and it doesn’t mean any harm. This regulation was put in place in 1989 by the city council so residents and tourists would be able to enjoy the city’s scenic public views.
Basically, if you want to build a building, you must first apply to the city council so they can properly assess if it will block the city’s protected view corridors.
In short, the city wanted to preserve the natural beauty of the city, thus, The View Protection Policy of Vancouver proves to be a successful measure in maintaining the spectacular view of the city’s natural landscapes.
Vancouver’s Protected View Corridors
1. Alder Terrace
First up is Alder Crossing’s viewing platform on the Vancouver seawall. You can spot this just by looking for the large wooden deck that juts out over the water, providing stunning views of False Creek and Mount Seymour.
If you look closely, this view also features Second Peak, Pump Peak, and Brockton Point, which look like three scoops of vanilla ice cream beside the city’s buildings.
2. Charleson Seawall
There are two protected view corridors at the Charleson Seawall. If you look west, you’ll see the magnificent pointed peaks of the Lions.
Speaking of Lions, did you know that many landmarks in Vancouver, including the Lion’s Gate Bridge and the BC Lions football team, are named after this mountain range?
To the east, you’ll see the Camel and Crown Mountain. Camel Mountain is actually a sub-summit of Crown Mountain, and it’s named exactly for what it looks like: a camel.
3. Laurel Landbridge
If you’ve ever hung out at Charleson Park, chances are you got to see the Laurel Street Land Bridge. There are again two protected views here that include The Lions and Crown Mountains, the Camel, and Beauty Peak.
But it’s a bit blocked by trees, so you’d have to find the right angle to fully appreciate the view. However, once you do, the scenery is breathtaking and definitely worth the effort.
4. Heather Bay
Just by the Heather Civic Marina, you’ll see the Heather Bay view. This view is pretty hard to miss as it offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the bay.
Though the Lions dominate the panorama, Brunswick Mountain, the highest peak on the North Shore, is also visible.
5. Cambie Bridge
You’ve probably driven or walked over Cambie Bridge on your way to Yaletown, Chinatown, or downtown Vancouver.
In any case, if you’re out for a stroll, try to make out Crown Mountain, Beauty Peak, the Camel, Dam Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Goat Mountain in the distance somewhere around the bridge’s midpoint.
Alright, now stay where you are and look east. You’ll spot a stunning full view of Mount Seymour. Just wow right? You’ll also see other mountains of the city such as Curate Peak, Presbyter Peak, Mount Bishop-Vicar Peak, and many more.
After you’ve almost reached the end of the bridge, you’ll get another look at Mount Seymour, this time with Rector Peak, Mount Elsay, and Dog Mountain as a backdrop.
6. Choklit Park
Just along W 7th Avenue is Choklit Park, and it’s got some marvelous views of Dam Mountain, and the distinctive roof line of Grace Tower provides a viewpoint to Grouse Mountain.
To see this view, head on over to the upper plaza of the park and you should spot these mountains.
7. Olympic Village Shipyard Pier
Just beside the Lonsdale Quay Market is the Olympic Village Shipyard Pier where not only you’re given scenic views of the water, but also the two sections of the North Shore Mountains.
8. Olympic Plaza
Another protected view corridor that offers an Instagram-worthy panorama of Grouse Mountain, Mount Fromme, Cathedral Mountain, Mount Burwell, and Lynn Peaks is the Olympic Plaza at the intersection of Salt Street and Athlete’s Way.
9. Creekside Park
Creekside Park in Vancouver is a beautiful park located in the False Creek area. This park has two protected view corridors.
Although we had a hard time finding this view because of the trees and play equipment, we still caught a glimpse of the Lions and the peaks of Grouse Mountain.
If you look closely, the peaks of Grouse Mountain, Brunswick Mountain, Enchantment, Wizard and Magic Peaks, Capilano Mountain, Crown Mountain, and Dam Mountain are also visible.
10. Granville Island
If you ride the Aquabus to Granville Island, try to stay on the dock for a few seconds and you’ll spot Hollyburn and Mount Strachan. These mountains serve as a great backdrop to False Creek.
11. Granville Bridge
We now head on over to Granville Bridge, which has three protected view corridors. We spotted this when we were traveling north along Granville Street.
The first one is the southern viewpoint. Seeing as how the city’s buildings are clustered around the Dam and Grouse Mountain, finding this one is a breeze.
The next stop is the central lookout, where we get a fresh perspective on Crown and Dam Mountains as well as the summit of Beauty Peak.
Lastly, Crown Mountain can be seen prominently in the background of a view to the north provided by the roof of the Ellington building. At the same location you can also see Mount Seymour and Mount Elsay with Rector Peak.
12. Queen Elizabeth Park
It’s undeniable that Queen Elizabeth Park has the best and most diverse cityscape vistas, and the park’s three cone-shaped protected view corridors only add to the park’s already impressive array of panoramic views.
First is the downtown skyline, mountain ranges from Mount Strachan to Mount Burwell, and the waters of the Burrard Inlet. Wow, that’s a lot of sights in one area!
13. Cambie Street
Despite being a busy area, Cambie street also boasts scenic views of Vancouver’s natural landscapes. Take the North Shore mountains for example. This view can be seen from Cambie Street, adjacent to the City Hall.
From 10th avenue, the landscape looks like something out of a movie, with Capilano, Crown, and Grouse Mountains in view.
You can also see the mountains of Capilano, Crown, Grouse, and Fromme in the background of the city hall, which is located on the eastern edge.
14. Granville Street
Next up, you can find the Granville Street protected view corridor beside the RBC Royal Bank building.
You can clearly see the view of Capilano Mountain among the peaks of Enchantment, Wizard, and Magic. The Lions can also be seen just to the west.
15. Commercial Drive
Ah, the Commercial Drive view. This protected view corridor is a photographer’s dream as the view of the North Shore mountains frames the street and narrows as you go north through the commercial neighborhood.
I mean look at that! Doesn’t it make you want to stand in the middle of the street and take a photo? (Please don’t do this though).
16. Main Street
We’re almost there; keep reading! Head out to Main Street and there you’ll see scenic views of the Beauty Peak, Crown Mountain, Dam Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Mount Fromme!
You’ll also see Cathedral Mountain, Mount Burwell, Coliseum Mountain, and Lynn Peaks, although they’re a bit obstructed.
17. Trout Lake
And lastly, at the south end of Trout Lake Beach are two protected view corridors that highlight the Lions, Capilano Mountain, Crown, Dam, Grouse, Mount Fromme, and Mount Seymour.
You’ll most likely notice that the edges of Trout Lake mark these landmarks, and the protected corridors offer a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains.
What Is the Building Height Limit in Vancouver?
The building height limit in Vancouver forbids any building from exceeding 200 meters. That’s exactly 656 feet in height, to protect the city’s iconic vista of the Pacific Ranges from being blocked.
Take the One Burrard Place located at 1289 Hornby Street. This building is exactly 168 meters high, making it the tallest residential tower in Vancouver, but it doesn’t block any of the breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding mountains.
Vancouver’s General Policy for Higher Buildings
But you may be wondering, hey, what about the Living Shangri-La? That building measures up to 201 meters tall! Well, the answer to that question lies in the City of Vancouver’s General Policy for Higher Buildings.
If you’re planning on erecting a skyscraper in Vancouver—say, a hotel as tall as the Living Shangri-La on Alberni Street—then you should be aware of the city’s General Policy for Higher Buildings.
You may be thinking, “Hey, aren’t we supposed to follow the 200 meter building height policy? What’s up with this higher building policy then?”.
Well, Vancouver, like many other cities, is growing rapidly, and this policy will allow more people and businesses to exist in the same area while still encouraging environmentally responsible growth.