Rowhouse

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Detailed Comment #1 on Norquay Rezoning Specifications

 
Introduction

A credible upper-range figure for the width of a single wide trailer sitting in a trailer park is 18 feet. The trailer inhabitant enjoys full use of that width, since interior stairway is not required for access to upper storeys. The specification for Rowhouse width under RM-7 should not be allowed to go below the already very narrow 16 foot mimimum specified in the 2010 Norquay Plan.

 
New Open House Panel vs Approved 2010 Norquay Plan

From materials presented on panels at the Norquay open houses of January 23/26, perhaps the most significant concern with regard to new housing types emerges in relation to one particular fuzzy specification for traditional rowhouse.

Panel 6 for RM-7 Rowhouse/Stacked Townhouse Zone says:

        On two or more lots:
        Rowhouses, approximately 4 units on 2 lots, depending on lot size

The Norquay Plan, as approved by Council on 4 November 2010 describes Traditional Rowhouse Zone in section 3.4. Under that heading, subsections 2 and 3 specify assemblages of two or more lots (measurements approximate) and in both instances state that each unit shall be:

        16 feet in width (minimum)

 
Conflation of Rowhouse/Stacked Townhouse

The 2010 Norquay Plan specified four new zones in Section 3.1 New Residential Zones:  Small House/Duplex, Traditional Rowhouse, Stacked Townhouse, Apartment Transition. Focus here is on the conflation of two of those zones.

First of all, the significant expansion of possibility for traditional rowhouse is welcome. As can seen from the single small yellow square area below, allocation in the 2010 Norquay Plan was a mere token.

 
desig

 
The zoning areas mapped above for the 2010 Norquay Plan in Figure 2: Residential Neighbourhood Plan Designations (Appendix A, Page 10 of 40), were imposed on a Norquay Working Group that had expressed a clear and strong preference for the new housing type of fee-simple traditional rowhouse [see Appendix A]. Yet only one tiny area — bounded by East 34th Ave (North), East 37th Ave (South), Nanaimo St (West), Clarendon St (East) — was designated for that favored housing form.

Apart from out-of-the-blue “considerations” dumped onto the Norquay Plan at the last minute, minimization of rowhouse was one of the greatest insults ever visited upon Norquay. To follow up by reducing the minimum specified width could well vitiate the new happy expansion of scope for the rowhouse alternative.

Panel 2 from the January 2013 open houses and the mailed-out announcement for the open houses map out the conflation of the Traditional Rowhouse and the Stacked Townhouse zones. It seems curiously obfuscatory of the City of Vancouver to not provide this image at their current Norquay web site.

In the two-plus years that have elapsed since approval of the Norquay Plan as policy, with specifications of zoning to follow, BC provincial legislation has at last made fee simple tenure legally possible for the rowhouse type, thus eliminating the hobble that seemed to constrain planners [see Appendix B]. It will be interesting to see how nimbly glacial municipal bureaucracy manages to accommodate the realities of the rowhouse option [see Appendix C].

 
The Problem

Acceptable widths of traditional rowhouse units should not be dictated by the happenstance and/or conveniences of minor land assemblage. In other words, for example, the accident of two assembled 33 foot parcels should not mean that 4 units of 14.5 foot gross width should be created.

        Calculation of Width:  66 gross – 8 side setbacks = 58 net ÷ 4 = 14.5 gross per unit

The Norquay Plan specification of minimum width of 16 feet needs to be respected.

It is amusing to point out that Neal Lamontagne, one of the designers of the 2010 Norquay Plan, a planner who subsequently left the City of Vancouver to pursue graduate studies, has agreed that reduction of the specified minimum is not acceptable (if not already too narrow!):

 
nealtweet

 
The damning Lamontagne “bitch+complain — too narrow” tweet, reproduced as graphic above, can also be viewed directly:

        https://twitter.com/nlamontagne/status/142693373675970560

And here is a functional link (image only above) to discussion of the Vancouver planner “creep” proposal of 12.5 feet:

        https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/creep/

As Lamontagne encapsulates the matter within a single tweet, the key problem is the width required by stairs built to current code.

 
The Solution

The evident solution is to continue to require the minimum 16 foot width of the Norquay Plan and then leave it to land-assembler speculators to meet that requirement. It seems evident that, way back in 2010, planners knew that 16 feet was a minimum width — and still less than acceptable. Any subsequent change to that 16 foot specification in the Norquay Plan would appear to reflect pressures of profitization stemming from a politics-infested planning, a politics that is prepared to sacrifice livability and local consistency of form to grabbag platitudes about supposed “affordability” that never relates to any metrics.

Our existing neighborhoods of 33 foot lots should not be downgraded in this way just because the area did not start out as a fancier locality graced by wider lots. To permit substandard rowhouse widths at this stage would amount to saying that a more modest and already denser locality in East Vancouver should become a prime target for further degradation.

 
End Note

There is already incentivization for land assembly in the FSR of 1.2 FSR (rather than 0.9 FSR) granted for sites “over 62 ft wide.” The figure of 62 feet for incentivization needs to be changed to a minimum of 72 feet — [ Calculation of Width:  72 gross – 8 side setbacks = 64 net ÷ 4 = 16 gross per unit ].

Further incentivization for land assembly, and recognition of significant achievement in this task, could be provided by making a separate specification that would apply only to an entire block of land extending from one sidestreet to the next sidestreet, consisting of allowance for decrease in setback from sidewalk to enhance depth of rear yard. Consequent reduction in the overall ratio of end-unit side setback should enhance the premium that could be paid for land in the assembly process.

 
*   *   *   *   *   *
 

Appendix A

Throughout engagement with Vancouver city planners in the exhausting 2009 process, Norquay Working Group expressed strong support for traditional rowhouse as a new housing type.

One especially clear and public evidence of this support can be found in a letter signed by eight Norquay Working Group members and published by the Vancouver Sun (26 Aug 2010 — A10) about 10 weeks prior to city council approval of the Norquay Plan. It deserves emphasis that one entire year after the effective termination of their participation in the Norquay planning, eight dedicated Norquay Working Group members still had the persistence to pursue this particular point.

Traditional row houses would work well in Norquay

Re: Row houses memorialize one man’s passion, Aug. 21

Many thanks for this extensive story on the Art Cowie row houses. The issue is vital.

City planners look toward rezoning two square kilometres of East Vancouver’s Norquay area (between Gladstone and Killarney streets, bounded on the south by the SkyTrain line and on the north by East 41st Avenue) for “new housing types.” These include duplex, triplex (i.e., stacked townhouse), traditional row house and four-storey low-rise.

The row house profile fits best with what is already in the neighbourhood, makes good use of land and preserves green space.

Guess what? Planners disregarded our input. As members of the Norquay Working Group, we say this wrinkle between the city and the province needs to be ironed out now.

Joseph and Jeanette Jones
Rita Achtemichuk
Ron Citynski
Larry and Xin Xin Deschner
Margaret Johnstone
Bert Struik

Vancouver

The issue referred to in the letter was a lack of enabling BC provincial legislation which Vancouver municipal authorities viewed as prohibitive to the permitting of fee-simple traditional rowhouse.

 
Appendix B

A bit less than two years after the writing of the letter, the legal difficulties of fee simple traditional rowhouse were resolved. The only noticeable media coverage at the time of that significant change to BC legislation appeared in a piece by Allen Garr. He provided some of the specifics regarding the clarification of party wall status in the Land Titles Act, citing the legislation as Bill 41, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (no. 2) 2012, which can be traced to

http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th4th/3rd_read/gov41-3.htm

whose main substance carries to Division 4.1 — Party Wall Agreements in the Land Title Act:

http://www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/LOC/freeside/–%20L%20–/Land%20Title%20Act%20RSBC%201996%20c.%20250/00_Act/96250_15.xml#part14_division4.1

 
Allan Garr.  Thirst for affordable housing remains unquenched. Vancouver Courier (3 July 2012)
http://www.vancourier.com/Thirst+affordable+housing+remains+unquenched/6877587/story.html

 
Appendix C

Looking toward 2013, Vancouver developer Michael Geller made ten forecasts, including this one:

Fee-simple row houses: As a result of a May 2012 legislative change, it will now be easier to get approval in Vancouver for individually-owned row houses that are not part of a condominium. Consequently, some new fee-simple projects will get underway in 2013 with a high level of market acceptance. Eventually, this will become the preferred tenure arrangement, and some condo owners who hate dealing with their strata council will investigate whether they can convert their development to fee-simple ownership.

 
Michael Geller.  Housing, transportation will be hot topics. Vancouver Sun (29 Dec 2012)
http://www.vancouversun.com/Housing+transportation+will+topics/7756627/story.html
 

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Written by eyeonnorquay

28 January 2013 at 3:56 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same outcome.

    Zachery Hayes

    13 February 2013 at 10:40 pm

  2. Sorry for your problems. Still looks OK at this end. Try Firefox.

    eyeonnorquay

    15 February 2013 at 12:02 pm


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