Protecting Vancouver’s Heritage

Vancouver city council is the oversight group for a heritage protection, restoration, and rehabilitation program with the goal to cover as many sites as possible.
There are three parts to this management program:

Heritage management plan

Through the Vancouver charter the city council is given the authority to defend precious heritage sited. The council can also encourage owners though programs and allowances to restore their heritage properties.

Heritage register

The City of Vancouver has developed a comprehensive system called the Vancouver Heritage Register to collect a detailed inventory of the City’s heritage sites. This register contains, buildings, trees, streets, parks, monuments and neighborhoods that are of cultural, historic, scientific, educational, and heritage historic significance.

Public education efforts

The City has developed a number of programs and education systems like the heritage awards and heritage plaque program. These programs purpose is to increase public visibility and awareness of these sites and our heritage that exists within them.

How we protect heritage properties

Owners have several incentives to encourage them to restore and maintain heritage buildings. Some of these are:

  • Subdivision bylaw, and parking bylaw allowances, and zoning by allowances.
  • Density bonuses and transfers
  • Permit fast-tracking

The city also has several heritage designations we will discuss below, and revitalization agreements. The city looks to preserve and restore these sites for future generations.

Heritage awards

A Heritage Awards program has been developed as discussed above to increase preservation of heritage across the city.

There is awards given every second year.

Classifications

Currently the city presents four types of awards:

  • Lifetime Achievement
  • Honour: Demonstrates an outstanding contribution to heritage conservation
  • Merit: Projects that make an important contribution in whole or in part to heritage conservation
  • Recognition: Acknowledge an accomplishment, project, or effort which contributes to heritage conservation

The award winners are judged by five jury members. Nominations for these award winners are made based on efforts to: restore using innovative techniques, preservation of landscape features, creating public programs or awareness, and neighborhood revitalization among other criteria.

There are roughly 2,150 registered heritage buildings in Vancouver, plus 131 trees and parks, archaeological sites and monuments.
These sites can be found in the Vancouver Heritage Register at the link below.

View the Register

How to read the Register

For each listed site, the Vancouver Heritage Register lists:

  • The street address of the site
  • The name of the site, if applicable
  • The evaluation group the site belongs to (read more about evaluation groups in the table, below)
Heritage Register Evaluation Groups Meaning
A (Primary) The site represents the best examples of a style or type of building. It may be associated with a person or event of significance, or early pattern of development.
B (Significant) The site represents a good example of a particular style or type, either individually or collectively. It may have some documented historical or cultural significance in a neighbourhood.
C (Contextual or character) The site represents a building that contributes to the historic character of an area or streetscape, usually found in groupings of more than one building, but may also be of individual importance.
H Buildings or sites are the subject of a Heritage Revitalization Agreement.
HC The building, or some portion of it, is protected by a Heritage Conservation Covenant registered on title at the Land Title Office.
I A portion of the interior is protected by heritage designation.
L Specific landscape features are also protected by heritage designation.
M Buildings or sites that are protected by a legal heritage designation by the City of Vancouver.
P Buildings or sites that are protected by a legal heritage designation by the Province of British Columbia.

Learn more about the sites listed on the Register

Note: Sites on the Heritage Register are not protected unless they also have heritage designation, an HRA or covenant.

Heritage designation is a legal way to protect heritage buildings. When a building has heritage designation, the City can regulate its demolition, relocation, and alteration. We can also protect the building’s interior features if they are specifically noted on the bylaw.

Changes to a site that has a heritage designation require a Heritage Alteration Permit, while changes to the exterior of a building on the Heritage Register do not.

Heritage designations are noted on the property’s title, while a Heritage Register listing is not.

Can buildings on the Register be altered?

The exterior of a building listed on the VHR can be altered. However, the heritage value of each building on the VHR is formally recognized, and the elements that define the building’s character should be respected.

If you require a permit to alter a building on the VHR, heritage staff will be consulted as part of the permit process.

Can buildings on the Register be demolished?

Before we issue a permit to demolish a building on the VHR, we require development and building permits.

During the permit application process, staff will discuss potential incentives for retaining the building. These incentives can include floor area bonuses and relaxations in height, setbacks, parking, and so on.

In certain areas, there are also “disincentives” written into the zoning which may discourage someone from demolishing a building on the VHR. These disincentives include making the property less eligible for density.

In addition, if you apply to demolish an “A” category building, we require an independent consultant’s report on the condition of the building, and the viability of keeping it. This report will be done at your expense, and will be reviewed by the Director of Planning.

Planning gets advice from Council for all requests to demolish “A” listed buildings. For all other buildings on the VHR, if the owner (or prospective owner) has no interest in saving the building, the heritage hold is removed, and the demolition application process proceeds.

The Vancouver Charter also allows Council to delay approving the demolition of a building either on the Heritage Register or a building that may be heritage property, through temporary protection for a period of 120 days.

During this time, a heritage inspection may be ordered to assess the value of the site.

Nominating Heritage

Nominate a property, site, or tree for the Heritage Register

If you are a Vancouver resident, you can nominate a building, park, tree, monument, or structure for addition to the Heritage Register. You do not have to be the owner of the property.

However, if you nominate a property, and you are not the owner, the City will consult the owner to find out if they support the nomination.

 

How the nomination process works

Getting a new site included on the Vancouver Heritage Register is a six-step process:

  • Submit your nomination to the City.
  • Your nomination is reviewed by the City’s heritage planners, who evaluate the building or other feature, and determine if it complies with the criteria for inclusion.
  • City planners submit their evaluation to the Vancouver Heritage Commission.
  • The Vancouver Heritage Commission reviews the heritage planner’s evaluation and provides comments to the planner.
  • If it is agreed that the building or other feature has sufficient heritage value or character, the planner will include this in a report to Council for its consideration.
  • If Council approves, the Heritage Register is amended to include the building or feature and the owner and Province are both notified.

What you need to know before nominating a site

When you nominate a site to include on the Vancouver Heritage Register, you will be asked to complete a nomination form.

As part of the nomination form, you will need to document the building’s construction history, and the history of its ownership and occupation.

If available, you can choose to submit information about any significant people or events connected to the site. This could include biographical information and archival photographs.

Getting started with your nomination

To make the nomination process as easy for you as possible, City staff have compiled a number of research guidelines, tips, and resources that you can use to complete your nomination.

First Shaughnessy Advisory Design Panel

In addition to the heritage guidelines the city of Vancouver also has a First Shaughnessy Advisory Design Panel.

The First Shaughnessy Advisory Design Panel advises City Council, the Development Permit Board, and the Director of Planning on development and design issues in First Shaughnessy, with a focus on preserving the area’s special character.

The advisory design panel also advises the City’s Director of Planning concerning the implementation and effectiveness of the approved planning policies, regulations, and design guidelines for the First Shaughnessy District.

Meeting frequency

Meetings generally take place every three weeks. Additional meetings may be scheduled if needed, based on:

  • Increased volume of development applications
  • Orientation of new members
  • General business
  • Preparation of recommendations

Meetings are generally held in the Town Hall Meeting Room, Main floor, City Hall.

Membership

The panel consists of 14 members

Members are appointed by City Council for one-year and two-year terms. A newly-elected Council may reappoint members in a one-year term for one additional year. No member may serve more than four years.

Vancouver Heritage Foundation

The Vancouver Heritage Foundation is a registered charity dedicated to supporting the conservation of Vancouver’s heritage buildings through public awareness and granting activities

Interested in your home’s history?

Search the City of Vancouver Archives online for records and other materials related to your home.