Comment on Development Application DE420070 under RM-7 Zoning
16 May 2016
This project, consisting of 16 units in 2 buildings, would set precedent in the RM-7 zone. Therefore the application deserves careful consideration.
1. Each unit is a corner unit, allowing good access to natural light and ventilation. This design also makes it easier to achieve wider living spaces.
2. The enhanced side yard between the buildings is well designed and encourages interaction between the residents.
3. Bike and storage lockers are located under the decks, making good use of that space. It looks as if this is possible because the decks project into the front yard for a full 6 ft., in line with the new guidelines passed in March 2016.
1. The entries of the eight back units do not front on the street. Four of these units have entries on the centrally located enhanced sideyard, which is a good alternative. But entries to the four units near the back corners of the site are tucked away close to the rear of the building, next to the fence. Residents of these units will tend to feel peripheral to the community life of the development.
2. The eight back units face the back lane. The living room windows of the lower units would look out on bare fences, on the parking spaces for this development and on the neighbours’ garages. The lower back unit in the northeast corner of the site would have a direct view of the concrete block wall that partially obscures the garbage area. The evergreen clematis on the trellises over the parking spaces could improve the view somewhat, but not enough.
3. A new RM-7 guideline passed in March 2016 specifies that a majority of units should be 1200 sq. ft. in area. All units in this development are smaller than 1200 sq. ft., although a majority of them have 3 bedrooms.
4. The upper units appear to have an adequate amount of private open space in the form of balconies and decks. The lower back units have additional private ground level open space. But deck areas for the lower front units are much more restricted, especially considering that they function in part as entries to the units.
5. Too much of the site is covered by concrete. Especially objectionable is the 6.5 ft. wide concrete walkway along the inside of the fence across the front of the property. Impermeable material covers 82% of the site, considerably more than the 70-75% allowed.
6. The location of the access walkways to the bike and storage lockers makes the front and back yards useless for any other purpose. Stepping stones set into grass are a poor choice for walkways in multi-family developments because they are far too difficult to maintain and pose a tripping hazard. Where they are used to access lockers, as they are in this instance, the grass surrounding them will soon be worn away by residents moving bikes and other items in and out of the lockers.
7. Several areas of lawn, especially along the outer walkways and in the enhanced sideyard, are too small. They are not functional and would be hard to take care of. It is not clear what material covers the space under the stairways. Grass would not be appropriate in
1. Many of these concerns could be addressed if the open space in the front and back yards were designed differently. Tiny areas of lawn are difficult to maintain and not very functional. They become even less desirable when one considers the presence of chafer beetles across Vancouver. Several RM-7 projects have eliminated the use of grass altogether (see landscape plans for 5005 Clarendon St. and 2679 Horley Street), or at least in the back yards (see landscape plans for 2115 E. 33rd Avenue, 4740 Duchess St., and 5055/69 Earles St.) In these projects, on-site open space is covered with a combination of paving stones and planting beds, and the use of grass is mostly confined to boulevards. We favour this approach.
If paving stones are used in the front and back yards, they should be different from those used in the enhanced sideyard so that each area is clearly defined. The configuration of the paved areas should allow access to the entry stairways and the lockers and still leave as much space as possible for plantings, especially along the inside of the front and back fences. If there is not room for a planting area at least 2.5 ft. wide inside the front fence, consider eliminating the fence.
2. If pavers are considered to be impermeable, using them in the front and back yards would result in an even higher percentage of the site being covered by impermeable material. Changing the surface of the parking spaces from asphalt to a permeable material would help to meet the permeability requirement.
We do not have specific suggestions for addressing the other concerns we have raised, but we believe that they are equally important.
Jeanette and Joseph Jones