Eye on Norquay

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Archive for November 2017

Housing Vancouver Strategy

with one comment

On 29 November 2017 Vancouver City Council heard from speakers to the 248-page report

Housing Vancouver Strategy (2018 – 2027) and 3-Year Action Plan (2018 – 2020)

Eye on Norquay producers Joseph Jones and Jeanette Jones saw this occasion as a valuable opportunity to mesh Norquay concerns with this new expression of City of Vancouver policy direction. Here is what each of us said to Council as speakers 10 and 11 to the agenda item.

Joseph Jones on Housing Vancouver Strategy

The following comment focuses on two concepts mentioned — but scarcely mentioned — in the new Housing Vancouver Strategy. Those two concepts are amenities and Neighbourhood Centres.

Yesterday Gil Kelley mentioned amenities once. He stated that amenities should be for QUOTE not just a few good neighborhoods UNQUOTE. Thank you for that, Gil Kelley.

Throughout the 248 pages of the report, “amenities” are almost always taken for granted, and they are presented as something that already exists. On only three pages * does the report in any way contemplate the provision of amenity — but even then, always as “other community amenities” subordinated to housing, and always as something vague that might somehow be extracted from new density somewhere at some future time.

I move on to Neighborhood Centres. Five separate pages in the report mention “neighbourhood centres.” **

Over a period of fifteen years, the City of Vancouver put many millions of dollars into a massive city planning program.

Neighbourhood Centres was a core concept. During that undertaking, city planners remade two adjacent local areas along Kingsway in the heart of East Vancouver. Both projects encompassed hundreds of acres. In 2004 the City mass rezoned 1,577 properties, and in 2010 another 1,912.

From what we residents can see so far, that flipping of thousands of properties over to a denser zoning was all that the City of Vancouver ever really cared about.

The planning for the first neighbourhood centre at Kingsway & Knight was never completed. To take that approach could fairly be called hit and run. Then the City of Vancouver web site remake of 2012 mysteriously disappeared Kingsway & Knight from the list of active planning areas.

On page pdf-56/A-34 the new report presents Norquay as a Case Study applicable to the future of much of the rest of Vancouver. Mention is made there of 172 Norquay development applications received as of February 2017. Our own current count is 206, a number that leaves out the megaprojects along Kingsway. That rate of development computes as about 11% of our houses in about 4 years.

The planning for Norquay eventually produced some documents about public realm that specified public benefits. But after seven years we see little delivery on any of the promises made to Norquay. At this stage, we feel ripped off. In terms of amenities, our existing community pretty much started out with nothing — and we still have nothing, except new dwellings for more people who also have nothing.

Look at the single biggest promise made to Norquay. The 2400 Motel site on Kingsway. The City of Vancouver owns those 3.5 acres. In addition to significant new community space, that site is supposed to provide 100 units of non-market housing.

You already have the land. You need to find the will to deliver on what you promised. If you started tomorrow, we residents would be lucky to see payback by the mid-point of the Norquay Plan’s stated lifespan.

*  amenities on:  pdf 109 / B-7 ; pdf 112 / B-10 ; pdf 120 / B-18

**  Neighbourhood Centre on:  pdf 12 / report 12 ; pdf 13 / report 13 ; pdf 53 / A-31 ; pdf 55 / A-33 ; pdf 111 / B-9

Jeanette Jones on Housing Vancouver Strategy

I would like to concentrate on one proposal in this report to address Vancouver’s housing crisis. The Housing Vancouver Strategy sets the construction of 5000 two and three bedroom townhouses as a target to be reached by 2027. I have chosen to focus on this item because I live in Norquay, an area of Vancouver that has traditionally housed a high proportion of families.

The 2010 Norquay Plan rezoned the entire residential part of our neighbourhood for duplexes, townhouses, coach houses and four-storey apartments. Norquay is a demonstration project for this strategy to make family housing more affordable. Here we can already begin to see what is real rather than aspirational.

Our first three projects for rowhouses and stacked townhouses have been completed in 2017, and I have attended open houses for at least one unit in each of them. I have also viewed quite a few duplexes and coach houses. They are more affordable than a new single family house. But they are still not affordable to most Norquay working class families. Even that limited affordability often comes at the cost of livability.

My biggest concern is so many tiny bedrooms and inadequate living rooms. Bedrooms can be as small as 7’1″ x 8’2″, unable to hold much more than a bed. There is often no place for a child to play, or even to do homework. Many units are narrow, and the main floor is usually an open area. By the time space has been made for a kitchen and a dining area, very little remains for a living room. A rowhouse that costs $1.34M for 1974 sq.ft. should be able to seat more than four people in the living room. Where can families work and play together? Or entertain friends?

Surely, I thought, the City of Vancouver has guidelines for room sizes. But the only relevant guidelines I could find — the High Density Housing for Families With Children Guidelines — do not even mention living rooms. The specifications for bedrooms do not include any actual measurements. By way of contrast, BC Housing Design Guidelines for 3 bedroom social housing units require a minimum bedroom size of 92 sq.ft. and a living room that seats at least 6 people on sofas, loveseats, or armchairs.

I am happy to see that Housing Strategy #4 lists as its first action “Review and modernize the High-Density Housing for Families With Children Guidelines,” and that this action is already underway. However, the topics to be considered are stated as “family unit sizes, amenity requirements, and design flexibilities such as interior bedrooms.” There is no mention of room sizes.

Completing the review of these guidelines should be a priority action. Adequate minimum room sizes for bedrooms and living rooms need to be specified, before any of the proposed 5000 townhouses are approved. Unless new family housing is both affordable and livable, families will continue to move out of the City of Vancouver.

Postscript: The comment made by speaker 2 Aaron Leung (Chair of Children, Youth & Families Advisory Committee) stated many of these same concerns.

Written by eyeonnorquay

29 November 2017 at 9:32 pm

4459 Rupert Street

with one comment

The following formal comment has been submitted to City of Vancouver following the 8 November 2017 open house on 4459 Rupert Street. Although this particular rezoning proposal falls outside the boundaries of Norquay, the issues that it raises, and the precedents that it seeks to set, should concern all Vancouver residents, particularly those who live in East Vancouver. Many unhappy local area residents showed up for the open house. We hope that the details provided in this comment will inspire others with less “schooling” in the details of what the City of Vancouver is prepared to take into account. Comments can be made through the online feedback form that is linked to the rezoning and permit development application materials that are posted to the City of Vancouver web site (link below).

Comment on Application to Rezone 4459 Rupert Street from C-1 to CD-1




9 November 2017

The design of the proposed building at 4459 Rupert Street is said to be adapted from the original “Monad-on-Fourth” building at 3351 West Fourth Avenue. Both buildings are 4 storeys high, with 3 storeys of residential units over 1 storey of commercial space. Both buildings are on a single lot (33 x 112 ft. on Fourth Avenue, 38 x 112 ft. on Rupert Street). But while the building on Fourth Avenue provides 4 spacious residential units, the proposal for Rupert Street anticipates 12 cramped residential units.

We oppose the current rezoning application for these reasons:

1.  Excessive Building Height, Density and Massing

This application proposes a building height of 14.9 m. and an FSR of 2.4. Maximum allowable height in C-1 zoned areas is 10.7 m. and allowable FSR is 1.2. Although the project is eligible for increased floor area under the Secured Rental Housing Policy, to increase the zoned density by 100% is excessive and unprecedented for a Rental 100 development. Compare this with the recently approved rezoning of 2153 Kingsway under the same policy: an FSR increase from 2.5 (C-2 zoning) to 3.37, an increase of approximately 35%. The much larger Kingsway project locates 101 units across from a 14-storey development with three towers. This proposed 4-storey development will be conspicuously out of scale in the middle of a block of single-family houses, especially since there is minimal front yard setback and zero setback of the upper storeys at the front of the building. No development proposal should be permitted to apply abstract specifications to a single parcel with such severe disregard shown to the local area context of the site (as has caused great difficulties at 105 Keefer Street).

2.  Substandard Size of Residential Units

The unit density for the three residential storeys in this project works out to more than 300 units per hectare. By way of contrast, the maximum unit density for residential 4-storey apartment buldings in the RM-9A zone of nearby Norquay is 140 units per hectare (and for a single lot, considerably less at 100 per hectare).

The proposed units are tiny, especially the 1-bedroom units. A comparison of average unit sizes with two current Rental 100 projects on Kingsway yields these statistics:

                  Studio           1 Bedroom         2 Bedroom

4459 Rupert St       379 sq.ft.       410 sq.ft.        663 sq.ft.

855 Kingsway         376 sq.ft.       529 sq.ft.        699 sq.ft.

2153 Kingsway        435 sq.ft.       562 sq.ft.        767 sq.ft.                 


Most of the 2-bedroom units are less than 700 sq.ft. with small living areas, and thus are not suitable for families.

3.  Unacceptable Residential Unit Design for 1-Bedroom and 2-Bedroom Units

Studio Units (2)  — The studio units are small but well designed, with two light exposures for each unit.

One Bedroom Units (4)  — These units do not contain an actual bedroom. They have the same basic floor plan as the studio units. Two of the “one-bedroom” units are approximately the same size as the studio units; the other two units are only slightly larger. The main distinguishing feature seems to be that “one-bedroom” units contain a sliding wall that is able to shut off the area where the bed is located. This design cannot accurately be described as “one-bedroom.”

Two Bedroom Units (6)  — These units are inappropriate for families. The second bedroom is often less than 80 sq.ft. (Units 201, 202, 401, 403), too small for children to play or even to do homework. Some units do not have functional balconies (Units 204, 305, 403). There is no common indoor or outdoor play space for children. The drawings show some units without bedroom doors or closets, but this may be an oversight.

4.  Inadequate Parking and Lane Access

The only parking for this development is one car share space. This is grossly insufficient. There are 47 tenant parking spaces in the approved 101-unit Rental 100 development at 2153 Kingsway, even with a 20% transit reduction. The Rupert Street site is much less well served by transit.

Two of the four parcels in the block between East 29th and East 28th Avenues are 119 ft. long, exceeding the characteristic 112 ft. Consequently, the width of the lane is reduced to 13 ft. behind these two parcels. One of the long parcels is immediately to the north of the subject site. It is difficult to see how garbage trucks or emergency vehicles would be able to service a 12-unit building adequately.

5.  Poorly Chosen Location

Although Rupert Street is classified as an arterial street, the existing C-1 zoned area around the intersection of Rupert Street and East 29th Avenue has not yet been built out. Two of the four retail units in the only existing commercial building have been untenanted for a long time. It seems unlikely that a vibrant residential/shopping area can develop at East 29th Avenue and Rupert Street in the foreseeable future.

Considerable commercial/residential development is already underway nearby at East 22nd Avenue and Rupert Street. That location has more existing commercial development, is closer to a range of community amenities (schools, library, park, community centre), and is better served by transit. This area would be a far more suitable location for such an extremely dense housing form.

6.  Failure to Meet Family Housing Guidelines

Six of the proposed twelve units are 2-bedroom units classified by City of Vancouver as family housing. This project fails to meet the following High Density Housing for Families With Children Guidelines:

2.3.2 Neighbourhood Compatibility
Family housing developments should be compatible in scale, character, and materials to their surrounding neighbourhood.

3.2.1 Common Open Space
There should be appropriate open space to meet the on-site needs of children and adults.

3.7.1 Common Indoor Amenity Space
Provide appropriate common indoor amenity space for families with children where individual units are not suited to desired indoor activities.

4.1.1 Unit Size and Interior Layout
The size and layout of units should be appropriate to meet the needs of families with children.

Each bedroom should be large enough to accommodate a single bed, a dresser, a desk or table, and in children’s bedrooms, some floor space for playing.


The applicant has made commendable efforts to compensate for the small size of the units by designing for efficient use of space. The courtyard separating the front and the rear sections of the building on the residential levels lets additional light into the units. The rooftop garden is a welcome addition that provides much-needed open space.

But the project as currently proposed is too high and too dense. The units are too small. This type of housing is not livable for families. If extremely dense housing projects are to be allowed on a single lot, they should contain only studio and 1-bedroom units. They should be confined to areas that already have a considerable amount of commercial and residential redevelopment, and they should be close to neighbourhood amenities and good transit.

We ask that the FSR for this project be reduced to 1.8 (a generous 50% above the zoned FSR of 1.2), that the height be limited to 3 storeys, and that at least 4 parking spaces be included in addition to the car share space. The number of units should be reduced to nine, and they should be limited to studio and genuine one-bedroom apartments. These recommended adjustments should go a long way toward mitigating the impacts of attempting this kind of development on a single parcel — an approach that fails to achieve the land assembly deemed imperative by comparable RM-9A zoning in Norquay. This precedent-setting development should be identified as a demonstration project and made available for public viewing and public comment before being occupied.

Jeanette and Joseph Jones

Written by eyeonnorquay

9 November 2017 at 4:56 pm