Archive for the ‘Assessments’ Category

Landscaping Concerns

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On 30 July 2015 the following formal comment was submitted to three City of Vancouver planners having responsibilities for urban landscape, urban design, and development planning.

 
Norquay’s residential zones are being redeveloped with duplexes, small houses, and townhouses. Since the new zoning came into effect in Spring 2013, more than 50 duplexes have been approved outright in Norquay, and more than 15 have been completed and landscaped. A few single family houses have also been built during this time. Construction has not yet begun on any projects in the RM-7 (rowhouse or stacked townhouse) zone. One 8-unit project is nearing completion and has been landscaped in the RT-11 (small house/duplex) zone. One 4-unit project on a single lot has been completed in the apartment transition zone.

These comments are based on observations of the front yard landscaping around these newly completed residences and on inferences from landscape plans of recently approved multi-family projects.

 
I.  Lawns

Most of the new front yard lawns that have been planted in Norquay within the past few months are now dead or dying. Virtually all grass that has been recently planted on boulevards has died. This was already happening when Vancouver’s watering restrictions were at Stage 1, as the picture below (taken on 24 June 2015) shows.

 
IMG_8241-640
 

In one completed project, the areas of grass in the front yards are green, but they have not been cut (possibly because they are too small to be cut with a lawnmower). The grass is now about 10 inches long.

 
Comment and Suggestions:

1.  Climate change increases the possibility of drought. Areas planted with grass should be kept to a minimum, especially in multi-family projects.

2.  Where grass is planted, the grassy area should be a reasonable size (no tiny pockets), be easy to access, and have a shape that facilitates mowing and edging. If the area is shady, a type of grass that grows well in shade should be planted. Grass should not be planted under conifers or under any large existing tree.

3.  Developers should be required to adequately water new landscaping before new residents move in. Perhaps during the hottest months of the year, landscaping should be deferred until cooler weather.

4.  Residents of newly landscaped properties should be given information about the care and maintenance of their landscaping when they move in. Specific instructions should be given about watering requirements and restrictions, and about how to apply for a special watering permit if a new lawn has been planted.

5.  It seems likely that many residents of new housing have no previous experience in gardening with ornamental plants and lawns, especially with newly planted ones {new plantings}. They may expect their brown lawns to recover in the fall. It would be beneficial for the City of Vancouver or the VSB to run a two-hour course in the spring in both English and Mandarin/Cantonese on caring for new lawns.

6.  Residents of new buildings should be made aware that they are responsible for the care and maintenance of the boulevard that borders their property, as well as for picking up any litter that collects on the boulevard or in the gutter. They need to be encouraged to water new boulevard trees.

 
II.  Trees and Shrubs

Few trees have been planted in front of duplexes or single family houses. Where shrubs have been planted, many of them are currently dead or dying. In the almost-completed RT-11 project at Killarney Ridge (East 41st and Killarney), many trees and shrubs on the south and west edges of the property have died even before the new residents have moved in.

In general, the landscaping plants being used in RT-11 and RM-7 projects seem to be appropriately low maintenance and reasonably drought tolerant. But new plantings need to be watered regularly until they are established.

In one completed project, an automatic watering system ensures that plantings are adequately watered.

 
Comment and Suggestions:

1.  If not already required, an automated watering system should be made mandatory for all planted areas in multi-family developments to ensure that they are adequately watered.

2.  It would be beneficial for the City of Vancouver or the VSB to run a night course of several sessions in late winter or early spring in both English and Mandarin/Cantonese on gardening with ornamental plants.

3.  Where the required 4 ft. allowance between buildings and the fence is not a walkway, this low- visibility area should be covered either in gravel placed over an effective weed inhibitor with a hardy ground cover such as periwinkle. Any other type of planting will be difficult to access and care for. There will be times people need to walk in this space, and to set up ladders and other equipment.

 
III.  Walkways

The surface for walkways should not be stepping stones or gravel. A surface of concrete or pavers is easier to maintain, to walk on and to shovel when there is snow.

 
Jeanette Jones
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

10 August 2015 at 10:28 am

Kingsway Public Realm No. 2

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Report Card No. 2 on Delivery of Public Realm Improvements
along Kingsway in the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre

June 2015
 
 
In November 2010 Council approved the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, and the associated Public Realm and Transportation Improvements Plan for the Norquay Shopping Area along Kingsway. This report card is the second evaluation of the degree to which the City of Vancouver has done what it committed to do. It does not assign credit or blame to any individuals or group, nor does it account for factors that have made delivery more or less difficult. Report Card No. 1 can be found at

https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/public-realm-report-card/

 
1.  Pedestrian controlled traffic signals on Kingsway  —   A+   (unchanged)
Signals have been installed at Rhodes (not part of the original plan?) and at Wales, on either side of Norquay Park. A mid-block signal between Gladstone and Nanaimo is scheduled as part of the development at 2220 Kingsway.

 
2.  Landscaped median on Kingsway  —   C+   (up from C-)
The 17 dead and dying trees have been replaced. The “Treegator slow release watering bags” that surround the newly planted trees may help to ensure that this second planting survives.

 
IMG_8239
 

 
3.  Corner bulges  —   C-   (down from C)
The six planned corner bulges have been constructed. However the four bulges that were landscaped continue to deteriorate. Few plantings are still visible.

 
4.  Corner bulge and bike path at 34th and Wales  —   C+   (up from C)
The suggested benches, brick surface, and trees near the street have not materialized. The bike path that connects Norquay Park and Duchess Street and passes through this bulge has now been marked on the asphalt.

 
IMG_8237
 

 
5.  Sidewalks  —   A   (unchanged)
Broken and heaving sidewalks have been replaced and corner ramps installed where needed, with appropriate sidewalk stamps. Sidewalks in new developments are 25 feet wide (except at 2300 Kingsway, approved just ahead of Norquay planning).

 
6.  Boulevards  —   C   (down from B)
Street trees have been planted where needed and appear to be growing well. Unfortunately many of them have been planted directly under the new heavy wires on the north side of Kingsway. The City planted red maple trees in front of the 2400 Motel instead of the ginkgo trees specified in the Norquay Plan, as there were no ginkgo trees in the City nursery ready for planting. Thirty-seven ginkgo trees have been planted so far, mainly in front of new development. The dead and dying ginkgo trees in front of 2300 Kingsway have been replaced. The boulevard trees in front of the construction site at 2220 Kingsway are suffering from advertising scaffolding. Westbank needs to replace any trees that are damaged with equivalents.

 
IMG_8195
 

 
7.  Street furniture  —   C-   (unchanged)
The number of bus shelters has not changed. Neither has the number of benches, except for several added by developers at 2300 Kingsway and at 2239 Kingsway. Seating has also been added in front of the new development at 2671 (etc) Kingsway.

 
IMG_8238
 

Six problematic CityLine litter bins have been replaced by a better design. There are still 5 bus stops without litter bins, and 4 of these do not have a bus shelter. Only 10 of the proposed 37 bike racks have been installed, and most of these predate the plan. Garbage on the boulevard continues to be a problem along Kingsway. More litter bins would help.

 
IMG_8231
 

 
8.  Utility Poles and Light Fixtures  —   A   (unchanged)
Installation of new light fixtures and new poles where needed has now been completed.

 
9.  Plazas

(a)  2699 Kingsway  —   A-   (unchanged)
This development, currently under construction, will contain the plaza that will function as the gateway to the Renfrew Ravine Linear Park. As a result of strong feedback by Norquay residents, the width of the plaza was increased and other improvements made. It seems that the redesigned plaza will work well as gateway to the park.
(b)  2220 Kingsway  —   D   (unchanged)
This development has been approved, but construction has not yet begun. The site, which was to be open and permeable, will now be almost completely covered by a podium, topped by three towers surrounding a raised private courtyard. The “plaza” has been greatly reduced in size and relegated to the northwest corner of the site, where it will mainly function as entrance to the grocery store retail anchor.

 
10.  Pocket Parks and Small Parks

(a)  2300 Kingsway  —   A-   (unchanged)
A small landscaped pocket park with seating has been built on the corner of Nanaimo and 30th Avenue as part of this development. It is well maintained. The proposed litter bin has not been installed.
(b)  2220 Kingsway  —   C-   (unchanged)
A small park is to be built at the corner of Gladstone and 30th Avenue as compensation for reduction of the plaza size [see 9(b) above]. Some of the proposed park space appears to have been separated by plantings to become outdoor seating for a restaurant. Vents from the underground parking intrude into park space. The park will contain landscaping, seating, and some play equipment.

 
* Subject to reevaluation when the project is completed.

 
Prepared by Jeanette Jones
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

25 June 2015 at 7:09 pm

Posted in Assessments

Galt Street Sidewalks

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Absence of sidewalks in the general area of the Rental 100 development proposed for 2312-2328 Galt Street subjects all pedestrians to unsafe conditions and puts children at special risk. Streets are lined in red below where there are no sidewalks.

 
galtsidewalks
 

The site is one block west of Nanaimo Street and one block north of Kingsway. This location is subject to Norquay’s Apartment Transition Area Rezoning Policy. The proposed 28 units are all 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom, appropriate spaces to accommodate families. Units range in size from 630 sq. ft. to 1090 sq. ft.

Key walking distances for the location include one block to General Brock Park, about three blocks to the Terry Taylor Daycare Centre, 800 meters to Norquay Elementary School, and 700 meters to Gladstone Secondary School. The routes for buses 19, 25, and 33 are nearby, and the Nanaimo Skytrain Station lies 700 meters to the north.

Does this sound like a good location for family housing? It is. But lack of sidewalks presents a major problem. Residents of this building would not be able to reach any destination without walking in the street. The only sidewalk in the immediate area fronts nine contiguous recently developed properties just to the west, along the south side of Galt Street. But this small section of recent developer-provided sidewalk connects to nothing — appended Photo 1 of 5.

To permit this development in this location would clearly contravene longstanding City of Vancouver policy:

Families with children should have reasonable and effective access to essential community services and recreational amenities. … Effective access means a walking route which is both safe … and secure (having an environment suitable for elementary school children).
High Density Housing for Families With Children Guidelines  (Section 2.1)

If this development proposal is approved, a condition of that approval must see the City of Vancouver commit to extending existing partial sidewalk eastward along the south side of Galt Street to make connection to Nanaimo Street. The steep grade and the semi-blind corner make this portion of the street an especially hazardous place to be walking. Even now, 100% use of available Galt Street curb parking is common — appended Photo 2 of 5. The reduced on-site underground parking requirement of Rental 100 can only exacerbate this already untenable situation. The great number of routinely parked curbside vehicles reduces available road space, increases traffic in the area, and impairs visibility for both drivers and pedestrians as they access roadway for sidewalk use.

Furthermore, a new connecting sidewalk must be provided along one side of Baldwin Street, for the entire block, to provide safe access to General Brock Park. The curve on Baldwin Street means a driver cannot see from one end of the block to the other — appended Photos 3 of 5 and 4 of 5.

The underground parking that serves the 94 residential units of 2239 Kingsway has already greatly increased traffic flow along Galt Street and Baldwin Street — appended Photo 5 of 5.

The City of Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 planning document states:

        Pedestrians will continue to be the City’s top transportation priority.  (p. 19)

The City of Vancouver must respect its own stated priority for pedestrians.
 

 
Photo Appendix
 

 
IMG_8131
 
     Photo 1 of 5 — Eastern End of Galt Street Sidewalk Section
 

 
IMG_8129
 
     Photo 2 of 5 — Curb Parking Unavailable along Galt Street (Morning of 11 April 2015)
 

 
IMG_8130
 
     Photo 3 of 5 — View to North along Baldwin Street (from Proposed Galt Street Site)
 

 
IMG_8135
 
     Photo 4 of 5 — View to South along Baldwin Street (from Brock Park)
 

 
IMG_8132
 
     Photo 5 of 5 — Lane Connecting 2239 Kingsway Underground Parking to Galt Street
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

12 April 2015 at 11:48 pm

Sad Logo

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Fast replacement of 17 vandalized trees for Vancouver west side
vs
Longstanding neglect of missing, damaged, and sick trees that symbolize Norquay

 
Back in November 2010, when the City of Vancouver rammed its Norquay Plan down the throat of area residents, planners tried to daub a coat of sugar over the bitter pill. One of their ideas — not ours — was that the ginkgo tree could become a Norquay signature. They called for concrete memorials like this one to remind us how they vanquished and rebranded us:

 
IMG_7739
 

and like this one:

 
IMG_7738
 

Developers like concrete. That’s about all they want to pour into the neighborhoods that they extract big profits from.

There were also supposed to be some trees. Here’s a pretty page from the Norquay Plan as it went to Council for approval:

 
trees
 

Let’s extract and highlight the sentence that finishes off that page:

        Planning will be undertaking further design exercises to achieve a high level
        of placemaking design for the Norquay Village public realm.

Undertaking …  Well, when it comes to tree funerals, those planners sure knew what they were talking about. What follows is a photo documentation of Norquay public realm as currently implemented along the Kingsway frontage of the 2300 Kingsway tower and its eastern podium.

(That project blockbusted Norquay just ahead of a “neighbourhood centre” planning process. Hit ’em hard first and maybe they’ll just give up? Naw. We just keep feeling more and more beat up, and we keep on hollering. Now the bully has gone after other neighborhoods that can hit back better. With counterpunch lawsuits.)

Keep thinking “Norquay logo” while you review the February 2015 images of these six fancy ginko trees that the City of Vancouver implemented  in front of 2300 Kingsway. The sequence is west to east.

 
IMG_7722
 
     Tree 1 of 6 — Big Hit, Little Tree
 

 
IMG_7723
 
     Tree 2 of 6 — All-Natural Fibers Inside
 

 
IMG_7724
 
     Tree 3 of 6 — Best Spot for Cigarette Butts
 

 
IMG_7725
 
     Tree 4 of 6 — Off to a Bad Start
 

 
IMG_7726
 
     Tree 5 of 6 — I Came, It Sawed, It Conquered
 

 
IMG_7727
 
     Tree 6 of 6 : View 1 — Not a Lightning Strike
 

 
IMG_7729
 
     Tree 6 of 6 : View 2 — Big Skin Problem & Broken Arm
 

Postscript:  A Norquay resident who occasionally communicates with Eye on Norquay shared a top-level City of Vancouver September 2014 response to complaint on this issue. Four months later, no action. Six trees should be easier than seventeen?
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

5 February 2015 at 12:21 am

Pothole as Icon

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No, Norquay does not have a particular pothole problem. But the pothole serves as a perfect icon to rebut City of Vancouver claims to have delivered “amenity” to Norquay.

 
IMG_0921
 
     Certified Genuine Norquay Pothole
 

Would any reasonable person attempt to make a case that filling a pothole amounts to providing special benefit to a mass-rezoned neighborhood? No. Pothole repair is a simple case of ordinary upkeep. A service that should be taken for granted.

Yet City of Vancouver staff persist in trying to rebrand routine maintenance as special favor shown to Norquay for enduring a widely unwanted mass rezoning — the second in an ever-lengthening series of “planning” assaults that almost always target East Vancouver.

Here stand three hollow icons with feet of clay.

 
One —  Norquay Park Renewal Completed in 2011

The whole story was told two years ago as a case study in misrepresentation. Like so many Vancouver parks, Norquay Park exists today because of boggy land that formed the headwaters of Still Creek. Land that seemed unusable for anything else. Today the built-on land to the west shows severe instability. To keep it brief, Norquay Park was long overdue for upkeep, and would have seen much less improvement without a happenstance federal grant spun out by the 2008 Great Recession.

 
Two —  Improvements to Kingsway Completed in 2012

This detailed story has also been told as the first of a series of accountings. All that needs to be repeated here is that the whole stretch of Kingsway was sadly overdue for ordinary fix-ups, especially replacement of

         Sidewalks like a used minefield lying in wait to take out unwary pedestrians
         Roadway pavement rutted by heavy vehicles into streambeds perfect for
           wet-season hydroplaning

The kicker is that sections of Kingsway where mass rezoning has not occurred received the same upgrade …

 
Three —  Clarendon Connector Completing in 2014

Even as recently as early 2013 it seemed dubious that the Clarendon connector would be anything more than one of those items whose failed delivery will allow City of Vancouver to trot out a new promise for the same old thing.

What is the “Clarendon connector”? In a nutshell, remediation of some ancient planner slip-up when the street grid was laid out for the Norquay area of East Vancouver. Fixing a stupid mistake should never be called a “benefit.”

Even current “completion” of the Clarendon connector has failed to include the plan-identified need for sidewalk on the north side of East 33rd Avenue running westward. It seems City of Vancouver always has to cheap out on some detail just to remind East Vancouver how poor it is.

Bottom line? Norquay residents appreciate these improvements, no question. But they do not appreciate the effrontery that would try to pass off routine (and overdue) maintenance as anything special.

 
Footnote

One — and only one — apparent special “extra” has come Norquay’s way since mass rezoning, and that deserves recognition, if only as footnote to this exercise of demythologizing Norquay’s supposed benefits. A new pedestrian crossing for Kingsway at Wales was not listed in the report for the Skyway Towers development now underway at 2711 Kingsway:

CD-1 Rezoning: 2667-2703 Kingsway — City of Vancouver, Policy Report, Development and Building
http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20110614/documents/p3.pdf

Only this crossing, which has also been delivered:

4 b.  Provision of a pedestrian-actuated signal at the intersection of Kingsway and
Rhodes Street with the developer paying 100% of the cost, to a maximum of
$300,000 (2011 dollars)  (Appendix B, page 6)

It is not clear where the additional crossing came from, or how it was paid for, but it has been noticed and appreciated.

Even more appreciated would be a similar crossing for Nanaimo Street at East 27th Avenue to serve all those Norquay residents who face death every time they walk to Nanaimo SkyTrain station. Back when, we were told our neighborhood would become more walkable. But Nanaimo Street remains a downhill racetrack through Norquay.
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

28 June 2014 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Assessments

Public Realm Report Card

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Report Card on Delivery of Public Realm Improvements
in the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre

 
 
In November 2010 Council approved the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, and the associated Public Realm and Transportation Improvements Plan for the Norquay Shopping Area along Kingsway. This report card is an evaluation of the degree to which the City of Vancouver has done what it committed to do. It does not assign credit or blame to any individual or group, nor does it account for factors that have made delivery more or less difficult.

 
1.  Pedestrian controlled traffic signals on Kingsway  —      A+
Signals have been installed at Rhodes (not part of the original plan?) and at Wales, on either side of Norquay Park. A mid-block signal between Gladstone and Nanaimo is scheduled as part of the development at 2220 Kingsway.

 
2.  Landscaped median on Kingsway  —      C-
The median has been constructed and planted. Perennials growing in the median seem to be doing well. However, of the 25 trees planted, 17 are dead or dying and only 8 look alive and healthy.

 
3.  Corner bulges  —      C
The six planned corner bulges have been constructed. However the four bulges that were landscaped are now completely overgrown with weeds.

 
4.  Corner bulge and bike path at 34th and Wales  —      C
This very large corner bulge has been constructed. There is some landscaping, which appears to be receiving care. But the suggested benches, brick surface, and trees near the street are missing. The bike path that connects Norquay Park and Duchess Street and passes through this bulge amounts to an unmarked strip of asphalt on both sides of Kingsway.

 
5.  Sidewalks  —      A
Broken and heaving sidewalks have been replaced and corner ramps installed where needed, with appropriate sidewalk stamps. Sidewalks in new developments are 25 feet wide (except at 2300 Kingsway, approved just ahead of Norquay planning).

 
6.  Boulevards  —      B
Street trees have been planted where needed and appear to be growing well. The special “Norquay” tree surrounds have not been installed.

 
7.  Street furniture  —      C-
The number of bus shelters has not changed. Neither has the number of benches, except for several added by developers at 2300 Kingsway and at 2239 Kingsway. Six problematic CityLine litter bins have been replaced by a better design. There are also two new plastic litter receptacles attached to poles. Five other litter receptacles that were attached to poles have been removed and not yet replaced. Only 10 of the proposed 37 bike racks have been installed, and most of these predate the plan.

 
8.  Utility Poles and Light Fixtures  —      A
Installation of new light fixtures and new poles where needed is now almost completed.

 
9.  Plazas

(a)  2699 Kingsway  —      A-
This development, currently under construction, will contain the plaza that will function as the gateway to the Renfrew Ravine Linear Park. As a result of strong feedback by Norquay residents, the width of the plaza was increased and other improvements made. It seems that the redesigned plaza will work well as gateway to the park.
(b)  2220 Kingsway  —      D
This development has been approved, but construction has not yet begun. The site, which was to be open and permeable, will now be almost completely covered by a podium, topped by three towers surrounding a raised private courtyard. The “plaza” has been greatly reduced in size and relegated to the northwest corner of the site, where it will mainly function as entrance to the grocery store retail anchor.

 
10.  Pocket Parks and Small Parks

(a)  2300 Kingsway  —      A-
A small landscaped pocket park with seating has been built on the corner of Nanaimo and 30th Avenue as part of this development. It is well maintained. The proposed litter bin has not been installed.
(b)  2220 Kingsway  —      C-
A small park is to be built at the corner of Gladstone and 30th Avenue as compensation for reduction of the plaza size [see 9(b) above]. Some of the proposed park space appears to have been separated by plantings to become outdoor seating for a restaurant. Vents from the underground parking intrude into park space. The park will contain landscaping, seating, and some play equipment.

 
* Subject to reevaluation when the project is completed.

 
Prepared by Jeanette Jones
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

25 June 2014 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Assessments

Lacuna # 2

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The development application signboard that has been erected at 2899 East 41st Avenue provides a second instance of City of Vancouver failure to post relevant documentation to its web site in a timely and coordinated fashion. The first failure is discussed at the preceding posting about 4730 Duchess Street.

Here is all that can be seen of the development application so far, a sign posted on the property:

 
IMG_4819
 

Here is what shows on the City of Vancouver development application website as of 2 February 2014 — nothing.

 
lacuna2
 

According to VanMap, the irregular dimensions of the property are 63.33/69.17 x 130.16/? ft. The development application signboard details

        •  six new one-family dwellings and one new two-family dwelling, and four lock-off suites
        •  a total Floor Space Ratio (FSR) of 0.85 (approximately 11,113 sq ft)
        •  an approximate maximum height of 35 ft
        •  a total of 8 parking spaces having vehicular access from the lane

The applicant, Henry and Glegg Residential Design, deserves compliment for timely posting of the signboard. The City of Vancouver deserves criticism for

        •  failing to timely post the development application information
        •  lack of standards in coordinating on-site and on-web-site posting of information

Finally, here’s the dwelling that the application proposes to send to the landfill:

 
IMG_4820
 

 

Written by eyeonnorquay

2 February 2014 at 10:27 pm