Archive for September 2017

Two Major Deficiencies

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… Likely to Carry Over into Current Citywide Planning

 
The following open letter is sent to the following named City of Vancouver officials and simultaneously posted to the Eye on Norquay web site at https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/two-major-deficiencies/.

 

To:  Gil Kelley — Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability
     Kaye Krishna — Manager of Development, Buildings and Licensing
     Anita Molaro — Assistant Director: Urban Design
     Dan Garrison — Assistant Director: Housing Policy
     Kent Munro — Assistant Director: Vancouver Midtown
CC:  Sadhu Johnston — City Manager

From:  Jeanette and Joseph Jones

Subject: Two Major Deficiencies Evident in Norquay RT-11

Date:  4 September 2017

 

The Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre is the second large area of Vancouver to have all RS parcels rezoned to allow for new forms of low-density housing. Between 2013 and 2015 the City of Vancouver rezoned 1,912 parcels of land in the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre from RS-1 to three new specifications: RT-11 (small house/duplex), RM-7 (rowhouse/stacked townhouse), and RM-9A (4-storey apartment). As of 30 August 2017, fifty development applications have been posted on the City of Vancouver’s Development Applications web page. Eleven projects have been completed so far in the RT-11 zoned areas and two in the RM-7 zoned areas. The first RM-9A project on assembled parcels has recently begun construction.

In this way, our entire neighbourhood has become a demonstration project for the City of Vancouver designated “missing middle” housing forms that seem destined for other RS-1 zoned areas across the city. Problems associated with these new housing types are showing up first in Norquay.

At this point, two major deficiencies are clearly evident in many of the completed projects.

 
1.  Living rooms and bedrooms are often too small.

A large number of units, especially in the RT-11 zoned area, are 3–bedroom units expected to house families. In small house, duplex and townhouse units of less than 1500 sq. ft., the kitchen area and the living/dining area usually occupy a single room. After space has been allocated to the kitchen and dining functions, the remaining space can often only hold a 3-seater sofa. This amount of living room is inadequate for families.

Bedrooms in these units tend to be extremely small. A recent RT-11 application shows bedrooms that are 8 x 6 ft. or 8 x 7 ft. This space is barely large enough to accommodate a single bed. Many 3-bedroom units have at least one bedroom smaller than the 92 sq. ft. specified in the BC Housing Design Guidelines as a minimum bedroom size for social housing units.

It seems that no guidelines govern room sizes in Norquay’s RT-11 zone or in the proposed RT-5/5A and RT-6 zones for Grandview-Woodland and Mount Pleasant. The city’s Housing Design and Technical Guidelines apply only to social housing units. The High-Density Housing for Families with Children Guidelines apply only to “residential development, both market and non-market, of 75 and more units per hectare in density.” (p. 1) Units in the RT-11 zone and in the proposed RT-5/5N and RT-6 zones have a maximum unit density of 74 per hectare. The City of Vancouver urgently needs a new set of guidelines for low-density housing forms.

 
2.  Landscaping is not being maintained.

For the most part, landscaped areas are being planted with drought-tolerant plants. But these new plantings are not being properly watered. In some cases, the developer fails to water and the landscaping shows signs of severe stress even before the units are ever occupied [photos 1 and 2]. In other cases, the new residents fail to water the plantings, either through ignorance or lack of interest [photo 3]. In a worst-case scenario, both the developer and residents have failed to water. Irrigation systems usually have not been required. Failure to water and otherwise care for the landscaping is especially evident where there is shared “semi-private” open space. No one appears to feel responsible for these, or for city boulevards [photos 4 and 5].

Much of the sod that has been laid down does not look as if it will survive [photo 6]. Many trees have dead branches, and some entire trees have died but have not been replaced [photos 7 and 8]. While established plantings may recover to a large extent after a hot summer like this one, new plantings are much more vulnerable.

These problems can be anticipated to be even more acute in the RM zones, where units are likely to be smaller and virtually all ground-level open space will be semi-private shared space.

RT-11 zoning is referenced in the report “Increasing Housing Choice and Character Retention Incentives in the Mount Pleasant and Grandview-Woodland Communities – Proposed Amendments to the Zoning and Development By-law,” as presented to Council on 13 July 2017 and referred to Public Hearing of September 19. What is happening in the RT-11 and RM-7 zones will also be relevant when the final Housing Reset strategy is presented to Council later this year.

Solutions need to be found to the two serious problems outlined above before these new housing forms are allowed in other areas of Vancouver. Staff have assured us that these problems are “on the radar,” but they need to become more than a blip. They need to be given urgent priority. We understand that cooperative effort between staff working in different areas may be required, and workable solutions may take some time to find. In the meantime, substandard projects proliferate in Norquay, exacerbated by failed plantings that are never remediated. Failure to address these issues in a timely fashion could spread similar degradation across Vancouver.

Please keep us updated on what is being done to ensure that living rooms and bedrooms are adequately sized and that landscaping is maintained in low-density housing developments.

Note: Photos are provided only on the web site version of the letter and may be viewed at https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/two-major-deficiencies/.
 

 
Photos

 

 
     Photo 1 — 22 Aug 2017 — 2297 East 37th Avenue
 

 

 
     Photo 2 — 22 Aug 2017 — 5197 Clarendon Street
 

 

 
     Photo 3 — 22 Aug 2017 — 4573 Slocan Street
 

 

 
     Photo 4 — 22 Aug 2017 — 2297 East 37th Avenue
 

 

 
     Photo 5 — 22 Aug 2017 — 2273/2275/2277 Slocan Street
 

 

 
     Photo 6 — 16 May 2016 — 4521 Nanaimo Street
 

 

 
     Photo 7 — 16 May 2016 — Killarney Street at East 41st Avenue
 

 

 
     Photo 8 — 16 May 2016 — 5689 Killarney Street
 
 

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Written by eyeonnorquay

4 September 2017 at 10:11 pm