Archive for the ‘Comments’ Category

Housing Vancouver Strategy

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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)
http://council.vancouver.ca/20171128/documents/rr1.pdf

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.
 

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Written by eyeonnorquay

29 November 2017 at 9:32 pm

Posted in Comments

4459 Rupert Street

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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

http://rezoning.vancouver.ca/applications/4459rupert/index.htm

 

 

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.

4.1.2
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.

 
Conclusion

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

2153-2199 Kingsway

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Comment on 17 October 2016 Open House for 2153-2199 Kingsway

 
eon-161019-2153-2199kingsway-panel8
 

Development Application
http://rezoning.vancouver.ca/applications/2153kingsway/index.htm

 
On the whole, the development proposed for 2153-2199 Kingsway, as presented at the open house on 17 October 2016, will enhance the local area and provide needed rental accomodation.

The corner at Kingsway and Gladstone is a place-making opportunity, and much of the potential has been realized. I favor the alignment of roofline with the side of the building. The orientation of the building toward the path of the sun means that shadow impact will be minimized in any case. Enhanced sidewalk width along Kingsway toward Gladstone is appreciated.

The orientation of the main residential street entrance toward Gladstone Street is a good choice. That feature will encourage passing social acquaintance of renters with other local area residents.

The location of underground parking entrance toward the western end of the building on the lane side is appropriate. That will somewhat mitigate traffic concerns by distributing activity toward both ends of the lane. At present, pedestrians and cyclists suffer considerable hazard from the blinded lane entry onto Gladstone.

The placement of an underground parking exhaust vent on Gladstone, right beside the residential entrance, is the single greatest failure of the proposal. That vent should be relocated to the lane side, perhaps at the intersection of the T lane running northward, to mitigate impact on sites north of the lane. Efficiency of exhaust suggests that a more midpoint location in the length of the building would better serve the physics of venting than would the far end of 231 feet. The mechanics of providing underground parking spaces must take second place to this concern.

Other public realm concerns toward the Gladstone end of the building include: assurance that Bus Stop and Litter Bin are retained on Kingsway; complete redevelopment of the Gladstone sidewalk to eliminate present extensive curb cuts; specification that all Gladstone curbside is designated for short-period loading/unloading only with absolutely no parking; no parking signage is needed for the 24 foot segment of east-side curb opposite the recently installed corner bulge at Gladstone and Kingsway; relocation of the large black electrical box recently dumped onto the corner.

Everything possible should be done to improve articulation along the 231 feet of the Kingway side of the building. There has been improvement from the pre-application open house. More seems achievable. A 231 foot long battleship should not eradicate a streetscape that presently offers the organic variety of five different faces sited on seven parcels. In the block to the east, the relatively recent C-2 development is only at four storeys and extends only for about 175 feet without interruption.

That 2339 Kingsway development has managed to achieve small-retail without consolidating those spaces or presenting a massive dead face to the street, as Royal Bank notoriously has done at 2300 Kingsway. To quote open house panel 1: this development is supposed to “contribute to an inviting and revitalized pedestrian realm on Kingsway through new retail storefronts.” There seems little excuse for this new development to fall short of achieving that goal.

For the most part, the proposed detailing seems acceptable. The extent of brick and its two colors are welcome. I question the orange that is proposed on two grounds. First is the current prevalence of that color, which promises to make it look dated very soon. Think avocado appliances. The second is how close the orange comes to the intrusive local corporate color of VanCity Credit Union. A shift toward reds would solve these problems and play better with the greens to come at 2220 Kingsway. The variegation of the shades among the panels is a good approach.

 
Joseph Jones 19 October 2016
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

19 October 2016 at 3:27 pm

2395-2469 Kingsway

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Comment on Rezoning Application at Public Hearing of 18 October 2016

Rezoning Application
http://rezoning.vancouver.ca/applications/2395-2443kingsway/index.htm

Public Hearing
http://council.vancouver.ca/20161018/phea20161018ag.htm

 
In general, we support this application. We believe that it is consistent with the policy set out in the Norquay Plan for the Kingsway Rezoning Area. We strongly support these added conditions:

Condition (b)1 (Urban Design) requiring design development to widen the proposed mid-block pedestrian mews and to include integrated permanent seating.

Condition (b)4 (Urban Design) requiring design development to use more brick masonry.

We encourage staff to continue to address potential road congestion around the site.

 
We have the following concerns:

1.  Public Benefits. The target CAC for the Kingsway Rezoning Area is currently set at $11.08 per sq.ft. of additional density, by far the lowest rate in the five areas of the City of Vancouver that have target CACs. According to the Norquay Public Benefits Strategy, 50% of CACs generated in Norquay are to be allocated to affordable housing. That has been done in this case.

The other two categories that are eligible to receive CAC funding are “Childcare” and “Other Community Facilities.” For this application, staff has allocated the remaining 50% of CACs to a combined category labeled “Childcare and Other Community Facilities.” These are two separate categories in the Public Benefits Policy, and they should receive separate allocations. To date, none of the CACs generated by the three applications in the Kingsway Rezoning Area has been specifically allocated to “Other Community Facilities.” (See CAC Allocations Under the Norquay Plan below.)

The “Other Community Facility” designated by the Norquay Plan is the 15,000 sq.ft. of new community indoor space and the 20,000 sq.ft. of community outdoor space that will be included in the redevelopment of the 2400 Motel site. The City of Vancouver is the owner of this property. We call on the City to move forward as quickly as possible to develop the 2400 Motel site so that Norquay can begin to enjoy the community facility that residents have rated as their most desired amenity.

2.  Landscaping. Failure to maintain landscaping is presenting one of the greatest problems in the implementation of the Norquay Plan. Conditions need to be included for this application to specify that:

(a) An irrigation system for the landscaping will be provided.

(b) The development is responsible for maintenance of the landscaping, including the mid-block pedestrian mews and the part of the Kingsway sidewalk on private land.

3.  Building Design. We object to the use of a “bridge” to connect the two buildings. The bridge impinges on the pedestrian mews and looms over and shadows what is supposed to be public open space. This concern should outweigh the desire of the applicant to avoid the expense of providing a second elevator for the development.
 

Jeanette and Joseph Jones

15 October 2016

 
 

CAC Allocations under the Norquay Plan


               2300 Kingsway *
              
           0   Affordable Housing
      $2.4 M   Childcare
           0   Other Community Facilities
           0   Other
           0   Unallocated
              
              
               2689 Kingsway
              
           0   Affordable Housing
    $105,846   Childcare
           0   Other Community Facilities
           0   Other
           0   Unallocated
          
          
               2220 Kingsway
            
           0   Affordable Housing
           0   Childcare
  $1,011,720   Other Community Facilities **
           0   Other
        $3 M   Unallocated
          
          
               2395 Kingsway
              
    $439,765   Affordable Housing
    $439,765   Childcare ***
           0   Other Community Facilities
           0   Other
           0   Unallocated



* This development was approved as a site specific rezoning in 2006. Construction was
completed after the adoption of the Norquay Plan in 2010. It is included here because
it is contemporaneous with the Norquay Plan, and because it is a large development
generating a significant amount of CACs.

** This amount was allocated to Transportation Infrastructure and to an on-site pocket
park. (These categories do not relate to the Public Benefits Strategy.)

*** For both Childcare and Other Community Facilities.

 
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

15 October 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in Comments

New RM-9A Zone

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Comment Made to City of Vancouver on the Proposed Zone and Design Guidelines for the Norquay Village Transition Area (RM-9A), Presented at an Open House on 23 September 2015

28 September 2015

 
The proposed new zoning regulations accord with the Norquay Village Apartment Transition Area Rezoning Policy of 2013 in the following ways:

        •  Maximum height is l3.7 m / 45 ft
        •  Minimum frontage is 15.2 m / 50 ft
        •  Front, rear, and side yard setbacks have not changed (although more discretion is allowed
            for variation)
        •  Building setbacks have changed slightly
        •  Courtyard width has been reduced by more than 10% — from 9.1 m / 30 ft to 8 m / 26 ft
        •  FSR remains the same
        •  Unit density remains the same for apartment buildings
        •  Parking is underground [with new clarification: at least one parking space per unit must be provided]
        •  Amenity contribution is $162 per sq m / $15 per sq ft

In these respects the proposed zoning for the most part implements the spirit and intent of the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan of 2010.

However, one major change raises great concern. The proposed zoning regulations would allow multiple stacked townhouses to be built on sites larger than 7212 square feet. This area is equivalent to two 33 x 110 ft. lots. The change would make it possible to build stacked townhouses in most of the RM-9A zone. Under the Transition Area Rezoning Policy, only a single 4-storey apartment building has been possible on any site in this zone.

 
Stacked townhouses should not be permitted in the RM-9A zone for the following reasons:

 
1 —  To allow stacked townhouses in this zone would reduce housing options in Norquay instead of increasing them. The design guidelines for apartments in this zone result in units with desirable features. The “alphabet-shaped” buildings have front or rear courtyards and more than four corners. Consequently the larger units have multiple exposures to encourage natural light and ventilation. They offer a very attractive option to many people.

The RM-9A zone is the only place in Norquay where 4-storey apartments can be built on residential streets. The far larger rowhouse/stacked townhouse zone (RM-7) already allows for enough of the stacked townhouse form. Developers are building many stacked townhouses in the RM-7 zone (14 proposals since 2013), but very few rowhouses (1 proposal since 2013). A similar outcome for the RM-9A zone would seriously compromise the design of the Norquay Plan. It seems likely that developers will be tempted to avoid the cost of an elevator by building stacked townhouses, even though the allowable density is less.

 
2 —  Stacked townhouses will not be accessible to people with mobility issues — seniors, persons with disabilities, young children and others. There is no elevator in stacked townhouses, only multiple flights of stairs. The Norquay Plan (p. 6) claims as a foundation the CityPlan direction

         To increase neighbourhood housing variety, so that people will have more opportunities
         to live in neighbourhoods at various ages and stages in their lives.

In addition, concern for appropriate seniors housing was expressed repeatedly during the 2009 Norquay process. Seniors who downsize from single-family homes are supposed to be able to “age in place.” Many of them would like to continue to live on one of Norquay’s residential streets rather than in a tower on Kingsway. They will not be able to do this in buildings without elevators.

 
3 —  Developers should not need further incentives to initiate new construction in the new RM-9A zone. Most small developers have not been prepared or willing to go through the expensive and time-consuming rezoning process required by the Rezoning Policy. Even so, three proposals for apartment buildings in this zone have already been made public within the past 18 months (one formal application and two pre-application open houses). Taken together, these three projects propose to redevelop 10 properties out of approximately 250 — a rate of 4%. According to developer representatives, Norquay can expect an increase in the number of proposals when the RM-9A District Schedule and Guidelines replace the Rezoning Policy, even if the only building form allowed is 4-storey apartments.

 
Jeanette and Joseph Jones
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

27 September 2015 at 11:35 pm

Posted in Comments

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

Stealthy Redefinition?

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Ground-Oriented Buildings in Vancouver Residential Areas

 
The City of Vancouver appears to be attempting to redefine “ground-oriented building form” under Interim Rezoning Policy (IRP) to include a higher building form located off-arterial with almost no ground-level access. IRP is a city-wide policy introduced in 2012 that has seen little take-up so far, but a policy which is reported to have spurred considerable land-assembly speculation across Vancouver.

An Open House for a proposed development under the IRP at 3365 Commercial Drive / 1695-1775 East 18th Avenue was held on 21 May 2015. The site includes 5 lots of varying sizes (one of them presently owned by City of Vancouver). The developer proposes a secured market rental apartment building complex consisting of a 6-storey wing fronting on Commercial and a 4-storey wing fronting on 18th Avenue. A shared entrance and elevator join the two wings. Five for-sale ground-oriented units at the western edge of the site are offered as transition to adjacent RS-2 zoning.

 
siteplan
 

The IRP states that “mid-rise forms up to a maximum of 6 storeys” may be considered if they front on arterials. In this case, a 6-storey building is proposed to front on Commercial Drive. “Within approximately 100 metres of an arterial street ” (i.e. behind the apartment building), the IRP permits “ground-oriented forms up to a maximum of 3.5 storeys, which is generally sufficient height to include small house/duplexes, traditional row houses, stacked townhouses, and courtyard row houses.”

 
1.  Current Definition of “Ground-Oriented Building Form”

Until now, the phrase “ground-oriented forms” has been understood to mean “small house/duplexes, traditional row houses, stacked townhouses, and courtyard row houses,” as specified in the IRP. The description does not include 4-storey apartment buildings.

 
2.  Apparent New Definition

In the case of this application, we understand that three of the ground-level units in the 4-storey building are to have ground-level entries, although only one such unit shows on the floor plan. The City seems to be implying that the presence of these ground floor units with ground-level entries allows the entire 23-unit wing fronting on 18th Avenue to qualify as a “ground-oriented building form.”

Planners at the Open House referenced examples in other parts of Vancouver – multi-storey apartment buildings where a few of the ground floor units have private, ground-level entries. This weak analogy provides no basis for redefining a clear specification by IRP. An apartment building containing a few units that have private ground-level entries does not magically become a ground-oriented building form.

 
3.  Implications

A 4-storey apartment building has much greater density than other low-rise forms. For example, in Norquay, the maximum allowable FSR is 0.9 for the RT-11 zone (small house/duplex), 1.2 for the RM-7 zone (rowhouse/stacked townhouse) and 2.0 in the transition rezoning policy (for 4-storey apartments). The allowable unit density per hectare is 74 for RT-11, 132 for RM-7, and 240 in the transition rezoning policy for 4-storey apartments. To allow the City of Vancouver to redefine this term through precedent would have huge implications not only for IRP projects, but for all City policies that include the words “ground-oriented building form.”

There is a real shortage of small house/duplexes, traditional row houses, stacked townhouses and courtyard row houses in Vancouver. They are a true transitional form that combines features of both single family houses (private ground-level entries, easily accessible open space) and apartment buildings ( attached side walls, shared parking). The stated intent of the IRP is to encourage the building of these housing forms between the apartment buildings on the arterials and single family residential areas.
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

4 June 2015 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Comments, IRP