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Urban Law, Cultural Policy, Historic Urban Landscape, Vancouver, Equity, Sustainability, Heritage Management


The public and private spaces of cities, their design, and the urban law and policy that shapes the lived spaces within cities provides a potent example of overlapping and often contested heritage(s) and heritage spaces that may have built heritage merit, may carry a high intangible value as gathering spaces for art, culture, and performance, or may be both characterized by their tangible and intangible heritage merit. The layers of diverging, contested, or interwoven heritage within the same urban spaces can diverge in what they mean to a group, community, or individual. They may represent significant moments of architectural grandeur, cultural capital, celebration, significant moments of horror that teeter within desires to forget their existence, or they may also represent a space for future cultural flourishing and community growth. Heritage space within a city may be less conventional than existing legal frameworks for assessing cultural heritage, value, or merit permit, and heritage assets can take numerous shapes involving sight, sound, smell, movement, and so on. This expanded and more inclusive manner of understanding the many iterations of what heritage can be in a city and what heritage spaces can signify for the many urban denizens and stakeholders who find meaning and community within the “third places” of a city, creates a complex web within which urban law and policy must navigate.

In addition to the mechanics of heritage preservation assessments and processes (and the laws and legislation surrounding cultural heritage protection) cities are increasingly developing neighbourhood plans and strategic cultural plans that engage with and shape how cultural heritage is understood, protected (or not protected), encouraged, or even strategically commodified in a city and neighbourhood. Whether or not these plans ultimately accomplish their purported goals is still unclear. Focusing on the case of Vancouver, Canada, this Article will explore the role of local cultural policy documents and cultural plans in localizing international frameworks and calls to action for the inclusive management, sustainable (re)development, and navigation of dissonant and overlapping cultural heritage spaces at the local city and neighbourhood level.3 After a general description of Vancouver, this Article will first give a brief overview of applicable international frameworks for inclusive heritage management and preservation. It will then describe a number of neighbourhoods within Vancouver’s Eastside and examine Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Plan. Finally, it will turn to Vancouver’s newly adopted cultural plan for 2020–2029, Culture|Shift: Blanketing the City in Arts & Culture, its associated documents, and how these documents navigate urban cultural heritage matters and some of the “third places” of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. This analysis aims to identify the particular policies that take strides towards localizing the international frameworks for inclusive heritage management and preservation introduced earlier in the Article.