Kingsway-Knight Area Alert

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On Seeking to Rezone RT-10 to RT-11
in Vancouver’s First Neighbourhood Centre

 
 
Context Note

On 18-19 September 2018 a Vancouver City Council held a lamest-duck-ever public hearing just ahead of shutting down business ahead of the quadriennial municipal election. Two controversial mass rezonings stood as the final items on the agenda.

 

 

During the public hearing on Item 5 it was declared that Item 6 would restart as “a new public hearing” after the upcoming 20 October 2018 municipal election.

 

 

Thus for Item 6, all speaker registrations and all submitted comment were tossed into the wastebasket — a far too typical disrespect shown to the involvements of many Vancouver residents. This was Vision Vancouver’s final sneer at “engagement” before the self-deligitimized “party” met with its decimation in the 2018 election.

That suspension of Item 6 provided time for Eye on Norquay to carry out a detailed survey for Kensington-Cedar Cottage. The problems inherent in the hasty redo called “planning” became apparent. Serious defects became apparent in the broad-brush intent to swap out the RT-10 of the Kingsway-Knight “neighbourhood centre” planning for the later RT-11 zoning of Norquay Village.

The report below was sent to appropriate staff in Vancouver city planning on 10 October 2018. The prefatory letter of transmission is appended. Eye on Norquay hopes that the new City Council will look toward planning that takes into account local area specifics (starting with greatly variant lot size and street configuration) within the Kingsway-Knight area, where 1577 properties were already mass rezoned in the past decade.

To so crudely revisit this Kensington-Cedar Cottage area of East Vancouver ahead of any dealing with the many and massive CityPlan Vision areas (1998-2010) that have been subjected to zero planning implementation displays an ongoing, blatant East-West inequity in Vancouver’s “planning” agenda.

 
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Rezoning the RT-10 District to RT-11

We live in the portion of Kensington-Cedar Cottage that is included in Norquay’s RT-11 (Small House/Duplex) zone. Since the zoning regulations came into effect in 2013, we have been monitoring development in Norquay by looking carefully at applications posted on the CoV web site, by walking through the entire neighbourhood once a month, and by attending open houses.


 
Norquay Experience of RT-11 Zoning

To date, by our count, 27 conditional RT-11 development applications have been posted on the City of Vancouver web site.

Conditional development in the RT-11 zone of Norquay usually occurs on large single lots. (Smaller lots in Norquay, especially shallow lots with wider frontage, have been zoned for RM-7 Rowhouse/Stacked Townhouse.)

Only 5 of 27 projects have involved assembly.

Only 5 of 27 projects have been built on lots with 33 feet of frontage. Most RT-11 development occurs on lots that are both wider and deeper.

No applications have involved retention and/or multiple conversion of a character house. There are few character houses in Norquay. The one 2015 application that included retention and multiple conversion of one of Norquay’s two heritage houses appears to have stalled.

Most redevelopment on 33 ft. lots consists of outright duplexes. Since Norquay’s RT-11 zoning came into effect in 2013, at least two-thirds of all projects have been outright duplexes.

Under the too-lax RT-11 Exterior Design Guidelines, many duplexes are new eyesores. Pictures of Norquay duplex development — both successes and failures — can be seen at:
http://www.vcn.bc.ca/norquay/duplex-2018.html

Duplexes on lots 33 x 120 ft. or smaller often result in small units with undesirably small rooms. A disproportionate amount of space is required for stairways.


 
Detailed Description of the RT-10 Zone

The recent planning initiative to rezone the RT-10 zone in Kensington-Cedar Cottage to RT-11 inspired a walk-through of that entire area as well. What we discovered is a very diverse “neighbourhood centre.” Sub-areas of the RT-10 zone vary widely by lot size, by age and character of the housing, and by the amount and type of small house/duplex development that has occurred under RT-10 zoning since 2005. Unlike the RT-11 zone, the area currently zoned RT-10 contains many character houses in good condition.

Here are the sub-areas of the RT-10 zone that we have identified. Map references are to the maps in Appendix A of the Report dated July 6, 2018 and referred to Public Hearing on July 24, 2018. The Report can be found at:

https://council.vancouver.ca/20180724/documents/p3.pdf

 
Sub-Area 1: West of Knight Street and North of Kingsway (map: Appendix A, p. 9)

Almost all lots are 122 feet long. Width varies from 25 feet to 50 feet; most lots are 33 feet or wider. Little redevelopment took place here before 2005. The prevalent built form is well cared for, large pre-1940’s houses with mature landscaping. Most would qualify as character houses.

Under RT-10 zoning, we counted 6 new duplexes and only 1 single-lot small house/duplex development. A number of multiple conversions appear to have taken place, but it is difficult to count them by looking at the houses from the street.

 
Sub-Area 2: West of Clark Drive Between Kingsway and King Edward Avenue (map: Appendix A, pp. 10 and 15)

Lots are generally oriented north/south and are 33 x 122 ft. However, along Glen Drive, Inverness Street, and Clark Drive shorter lots are oriented east/west so that all streets have facing houses. Blocks are short. Little redevelopment took place here before 2005. Most houses are pre-1940, 1 or 1 ½ storey character houses. Mature landscaping often includes planted boulevards. This is one of the most charming areas of the city.

 
Sub-Area 3: West of Knight Street Between King Edward Avenue and East 28th Avenue (map: Appendix A, p. 11)

East of Inverness Street, this sub-area consists of long blocks of 33 x 122 ft. lots. West of Inverness Street blocks are shorter, and most lots are shorter and wider. Redevelopment seems to have proceeded at a fairly steady pace. As a result, the area includes generally well-kept houses from multiple decades.

Redevelopment under RT-10 zoning has been primarily as duplex, with a few multiple conversions. We counted 18 new duplexes, and no redevelopment as small house/duplex.

 
Sub-Area 4: East of Knight Street and North of East 22nd Avenue (map: Appendix A, p. 12)

Most lots measure approximately 33 x 122 ft., except for the southeast sector where lots tend to be shorter and wider. Some blocks are very long. The northern part of this sub-area contains steep hills. Like Sub-Area 3, this sub-area has seen steady redevelopment and now includes well-kept houses from every decade.

Redevelopment under RT-10 zoning includes at least 11 duplexes and 8 small house/duplex developments on 2 or 3 lots. Only 1 project was observed to include retention of a character house.

 
Sub-Area 4: East of Knight Street and North of East 22nd Avenue (map: Appendix A, p. 12)

Most lots measure approximately 33 x 122 ft., except for the southeast sector where lots tend to be shorter and wider. Some blocks are very long. The northern part of this sub-area contains steep hills. Like Sub-Area 4, this sub-area has seen steady redevelopment and now includes well-kept houses from every decade.

Redevelopment under RT-10 zoning includes at least 11 duplexes and 8 small house/duplex developments on 2 or 3 lots. Only 1 project was observed to include retention of a character house.

 
Sub-Area 5: East of Knight Street Between East 22nd Avenue and East 28th Avenue (map: Appendix A, pp. 13 and 14)

Almost all lots are at least 30 feet wide, but many are shorter than 122 feet. Lots on several streets are double-fronted. Quite a few lots lack lane access. Blocks tend to be very long. In the eastern part of this area, boulevards are very narrow or non-existent. Many houses are pre-1940, but most of them would not qualify as character houses.

Redevelopment under RT-10 zoning has primarily been in the form of duplexes. We counted 14 duplexes and 4 small house/duplex developments.


 
Likely Outcomes of Rezoning the RT-10 Zone to RT-11

1 — Most redevelopment will be in the form of outright duplexes. Making duplexes outright and increasing the FSR from .60 to .75 will encourage duplex development. Only Sub-Area 1 contains the large lots that developers prefer for RT-11 small house/duplex development.

2 — Many character houses in good condition, together with much mature landscaping, will be demolished. Outright duplex development does not require retention of character houses.

3 — Much of the new development would be unattractive and would not fit with the existing neighbourhood. Norquay provides numerous examples of new duplexes built outright under RT-11 zoning that are eyesores. Increasing FSR and height of buildings (from 1.5/2.0 storeys to 2.5 storeys with or without basement) will result in more massive buildings and reduced open space.

4 — Small duplexes built on small lots may lack liveability. Rooms will likely be tiny. CoV needs to develop guidelines for room sizes that apply to low density housing forms.


 
Recommendations

Sub-Area 1:  This sub-area is very similar in character to the adjacent area of Mount Pleasant that has recently been rezoned to RT-5. The City of Vancouver should extend RT-5 zoning to this portion of Kensington-Cedar Cottage.

Sub-Areas 2, 3 and 4:  RT-10 zoning appears to have been successful in Sub-Areas 2 and 4. The amount of take-up has been considerable. The height and density specified by RT-10 regulations have ensured that new development fits in well with neighbouring single-family character houses. Any newer zoning needs to build on that success. Section 4.7.3 in the RT-5 District Schedule reads: ” … where a Character House is demolished in order to allow for new development, the floor space ratio shall not exceed 0.50 and the use is limited to a One-Family Dwelling or a One-Family Dwelling with Secondary Suite, and Laneway House.”

If Sub-Areas 2, 3 and 4 are rezoned to RT-11, a regulation like this one needs to be added to the current RT-11 District Schedule to discourage the demolition of character houses and their replacement by large outright duplexes.

Given the very small number of character houses in the current RT-11 zone, this provision would apply almost exclusively in the area currently zoned RT-10.

Sub-Area 5: This area presents many challenges: double-fronted streets, lots without lane access, long blocks, and narrow streets with little or no boulevard allowance. Careful study is needed to determine effective zoning regulations. RT-11 regulations and guidelines are inappropriate here.

General

1 — External Design Guidelines for RT-11 zoning need to be strengthened. Otherwise, new development will continue to bring in eyesores.

2 — City-wide guidelines need to be developed for room sizes in low density housing forms. Otherwise, new development will continue to provide very small bedrooms and inadequate living rooms.


 
Conclusion

A broad brush was used in 2005 to rezone residential areas of the Kingsway-Knight Neighbourhood Centre. Narrow strips on either side of Kingsway and of Knight Street were rezoned to RM-1; everything else was rezoned to RT-10. A wholesale rezoning of the RT-10 zone to RT-11 would amount to using an even broader brush on a very diverse area. The City of Vancouver needs to use the opportunity provided by the postponement of this rezoning for more detailed study. A more nuanced rezoning would result in a better outcome for both area residents and for the city as a whole.

Jeanette and Joseph Jones

 
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Oct 10, 2018, 9:36 AM

Addressed to Appropriate City of Vancouver Planning Staff

We recognize the Planning Department’s desire to simplify and consolidate regulations. But after walking through the entire RT-10 district, we have become convinced that rezoning the district to RT-11 is not a straightforward housekeeping operation. The area currently zoned RT-10 contains very diverse sub-areas. The area as a whole differs greatly from the area zoned RT-11 in Norquay. A wholesale rezoning of RT-10 to RT-11 could create more problems than it solves. We provide a more detailed analysis below.

The overriding concern is that RT-11 zoning provides no incentives to retain character houses in the case of outright single-lot development. This is not a big issue in Norquay, since there are few remaining character houses and many of those are in poor condition. But in the RT-10 zone, there are hundreds of character houses in good condition that deserve stronger retention measures. Many contain secondary suites that provide affordable housing. We urge you to spend more time on the ground in this area.

Developers should not be allowed to demolish these character houses and replace them with much larger outright duplexes, many of them fated to be ugly without adequate design requirements. We ask that you look at this area more closely and add the regulations needed to prevent an unhappy outcome.

Jeanette and Joseph Jones
 

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Written by eyeonnorquay

29 October 2018 at 3:09 pm

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