Mayor Gregor Robertson's directive to city manager Penny Ballem to bring a report to council tomorrow to discuss ways to protect the Waldorf Hotel lacks teeth because of B.C.'s weak Heritage Conservation Act, former Vancouver chief planner Brent Toderian told Business in Vancouver January 11.
Robertson stipulated that the report should include:
- steps to prevent any demolition permit from being issued, in the event the owners were to seek one; and
- a preparation of a statement of significance for the Waldorf Hotel, based on its cultural heritage, followed by a report back to council on retention options.
"Cities don't have the power to prevent demolition even if there are important heritage features," Toderian said. "Because of the weak heritage designation, the most powerful tool the city has to prevent demolition and facilitate reuse is density bonusing."
The public outcry over the decision by the former leaseholders to cease operations likely handed new owner Solterra Group added clout to negotiate bonus density if it keeps the beloved hotel.
Toderian suggested that one strategy the city could employ to keep cultural facilities is to adopt a policy similar to the one that the city adopted to prevent the demolition of rental housing.
"The city does not have a ban on demolishing existing rental housing, but it's close to that," Toderian said. "What I'm hoping is that the city will also begin to develop a proactive policy [to save cultural amenities]."