Archive for the ‘News’ Category
Westbank Jet-Engines Again at 2220 Kingsway
The following posting includes an update to the Sleepless posting of a week ago.
On Sunday afternoon 5 March 2017 Westbank at 2220 Kingsway once again operates a large jet-engine-noisy propane heater on the twelfth-floor of the east tower that is now under construction. The noise is audible through closed windows from over 400 feet away. There is an ordinary house right across the lane from the disturbance.
This abuse occurs only two days after the responsible district building inspector telephoned to say that this kind of outside-allowable-hours construction noise should not occur again. She reported that she had conferred with a “certified professional” for the project. Professional what? Apologist who effects no compliance? It now seems obvious that Westbank has no respect for construction noise regulations, or for the neighborhood that it seeks to extract value from.
On a mid-afternoon site inspection to confirm the source of the noise, this stash of about twenty large propane bottles was observed. Is this legitimate storage? Should this quantity of propane be in this location? Could there be a massive explosion? Westbank does not seem to care about that either.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson stirred up local media with a 1 March 2017 annual keynote address to the Urban Land Institute.
If you had coughed up $125 in good time, you could have gone to the Pinnacle Hotel Vancouver Harbourfront to hear Robertson’s latest wild stabs at gaining favor with the perceived voter. But if you weren’t a developer, you probably didn’t show up at that expensive scene.
Ordinary tax-paying residents are left to sift through skimpy news accounts to try to get a handle on this “preview of new directions the city is planning to take to produce housing for people, not investments.” That just-quoted gist comes from the caption to the story in Metro, a news source which has recently zoomed to the top of the heap for content and reliability.
Three points jump out from that Jen St. Denis coverage on the day of the speech:
• Find ways to increase density on lots without land assembly
• Attempt to encourage new housing that people will live in — not hold as
• Encourage duplexes to multiply into four-plexes
What follows is a seasoned Norquay take on these febrile brain waves. In case you forgot, Norquay was mass-rezoned in 2010 to achieve some of these goals. Singled out. “Planned.” And promised alleviating amenity that shows almost no signs of ever being delivered in the lifetime of existing residents.
First and foremost, why would Robertson jump off in so many directions at once without making any attempt to assess the current state of the Norquay experiment? Our ADHD mayor hotfoots from homelessness to civic logos to EcoDensity™ cubed. Confidence wanes that he has any clue about what he is doing, other than scrambling to front for whatever he is advised to front for. A weird style of “leadership.”
Without Land Assembly
The Norquay mass rezoning set off a speculative wave of land assembly that is still reverberating. At one early stage Klein Group was hawking most of the south side of Duke Street between Duchess and Earles. Robertson imagines he can somehow rezone without rezoning?
One especially nasty early experiment at 2298 Galt Street demonstrated that “four-storey apartment” without land assembly was not a good idea. Planners subsequently recognized that fact in the zoning for RM-9A.
New Housing that People Will Live In
Here is a recent photo of 4565/4571/4585 Slocan Street, three sixplexes built under conditional RM-7 zoning as stacked townhouse.
On multiple recent occasions we have observed this new housing being marketed without advertised open house to sizeable groups of what are almost certainly offshore investors. These smaller investors may feel forced to rent the units to cover mortgage, thus sacrificing the purity of newness. But who can tell?
Double Duplex = Fourplex … On One Lot
The duplex form in Norquay has seen considerable take-up by developers. A new duplex, strata-titled on half the land, is not much cheaper than an existing fee simple house (not so new) on a whole lot. So duplex has not brought the promised new level of affordability. Besides that, as expected, rapid redevelopment has rushed the extermination of older more affordable housing, obliterating what would have been a more organic cycle. If the failed experiment at 2298 Galt is what Robertson means by “four-plex,” start to shudder.
Gregor Robertson is proposing to make a bold move on all of Vancouver — okay, probably never Shaughnessy and certain other special areas, because essential inequities must be maintained — a bold move based on an absolute jumble of notions. Perhaps he and his “planners” should start with a good stare at Norquay in the rearview mirror? But that is not where you can imagine a bright future, like you can when doing ninety miles an hour down a dead-end street.
Never forget the bottom line, whatever emits from Robertson’s mouth. The perennial task is to open up vast new tracts of already built-on Vancouver land for ever-increasing developer profits. And to do that in a tricky fashion, so the new lift value accrues mainly to the developer, not to the current property owner.
Frances Bula. The signs of a ‘failing city.’ Globe and mail BC ed (2 Mar 2017) S1-S2
Mike Howell. Housing options coming to single-family neighbourhoods. Vancouver courier (2 Mar 2017)
Matte Robinson. Robertson takes frank tone on housing crisis. Vancouver sun (2 Mar 2017) A3
Jen St. Denis. Emptying neighbourhoods sign of ‘failing city’: Vancouver mayor. Metro (1 Mar 2017)
Jen St. Denis. Can Vancouver avoid empty neighbourhood ‘death’ with gentle density? Metro (2 Mar 2017)
More Abuse from Westbank at 2220 Kingsway
View of Westbank’s 2220 Kingsway: Looking West along East 30th Avenue
On Friday 24 February Eye on Norquay received an email about new overnight construction noise at Westbank’s 2220 Kingsway construction site. Three fourteen-storey towers are being built on top of a podium that covers most of the 2.3 acres. An on-site observation at 9:45 pm, standing in front of the house at 2220 East 30th Avenue, confirmed a continuous, loud, low-pitched noise emanating from the south tower, which now stands at four of fourteen storeys.
Looking East Down East 30th Avenue
According to the email, this noise started on the preceding night of 23/24 February. The writer of the email attributes the noise to a large propane heater, and states: “My whole family cannot sleep at all because of this.”
The City of Vancouver’s Noise Control By-Law No. 6555
addresses such construction noise in sections 15 and 16 and 17. Section 15 limits continuous sound level to 85 decibels. (On occasions during the daytime, the site emits continuous noise that can be heard three blocks away.) Section 16 limits construction noise to weekdays from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm and 10:00 am to 8:00 pm on Saturday, with quiet for Sunday and holidays. Section 17 provides for relaxations.
The Noisiest Spot: Standing at Curbside of 2220 East 30th
This particular noise may exceed the allowed sound level. In any case, the noise is not allowed between 8:00 pm and 7:30 am. It seems unlikely that relaxation has been granted, and if so, this information has not been communicated to adjacent residents.
It would appear that the use of a large noisy propane heater serves only the purpose of reducing construction time. If the temperature is too low to pour, then the developer should wait for acceptable conditions. Speeding up the profits should not justify the continuous overnight impact on local area residents who already are having to put up with an incredible amount of noise, dirt, and traffic to accommodate the construction of these buildings.
The foregoing concern is being forwarded to relevant City of Vancouver authorities by Eye on Norquay. If and when a response is received, it will be appended to this posting.
• • • • • • •
Update Monday Feb 27 AM
Sat 25 Feb AM –
Account of situation posted to Eye on Norquay, together with tweet-out (including @westbankcorp) and four helpful retweets
Sat 25 Feb Evening –
Detailed email of complaint to City of Vancouver Noise By-Law Enforcement with cc to three senior city administrators
Sun 26 Midday –
Affected resident reported end of noise
Mon 27 AM –
Two separate conversations with City of Vancouver staff. Case file established. Confirmation that 2220 Kingsway site had no formal exception to permit emission of continuous loud noise over period extending for 2-3 days. Request that any resumption of this continuous noise during allowed construction hours be checked for permissible decibel level.
The More That Followed
For district building inspector report back of 3 March 2017, followed by repeat offence two days later, see Repeat Offender.
The 2010 Norquay mass rezoning set as an objective for the local area “to evolve incrementally and organically.” Planners revel in such glib fantasies. Build in mechanisms to address plan consequences? Never.
At the start of 2017 a big newish Norquay house is up for … REDEVELOPMENT. This house was built in the year that Norquay planning started — 2006. Ten short years.
In the greenest city, you are now invited to fork over $3.2 million for the privilege of sending a quite serviceable house straight to the landfill. Well, maybe six bedrooms and 2800 square feet are both too much and not enough? Or maybe a greedy developer got whiplashed in the 2016 turnaround, and is getting desperate to flip?
For that $3.2 million, you get an almost-new house to tear down. Besides that you get a Halloween 2016 (check that date) development application to build two new duplexes:
Everybody likes new, right? Ten years. So OLD. Just think how incremental and organic it could be to cram two of these boxes (see below) onto one lot. And set a fine precedent for all those surrounding teardowns.
Here’s hoping that incrementalism is taking hold, and that a #vanre crash is underway that will shut down this nonsense. P.S. This property sold on 17 January 2016 for $2,405,000. The 1 July 2016 assessment was $2,497,000 (land at $1,982,000 and buildings at $515,000).
A memorial service for Keith Jacobson packed a large gym space at Killarney Community Centre on the afternoon of Sunday 3 July 2016.
In a brief and moving message based on Galatians 2:20, Rev. Mark Chiang from Killarney Community Lutheran Church described Keith Jacobson as an “old-school Christian” who gave a great deal to his local community.
Norquay has benefitted from Keith’s involvement and support. Keith spoke to Vancouver City Council on 4 November 2010 before the Norquay Plan was approved. Some of his words on that occasion were incorporated into a 15 February 2011 Eye on Norquay posting:
Keith Jacobson, president of the Killarney Community Centre Society, characterized 15,000 square feet as “woefully inadequate” — Norquay needs a full-size community centre.
His words ring even more true today. Norquay has seen much growth of population through rezoning since 2010, with zero delivery of corresponding amenity. Keith understood this kind of ongoing struggle.
From the archives, the following piece of document shows that Keith did more than just show up once for Norquay:
If you never had the good fortune to cross paths with Keith Jacobson, here is one poor substitute for no longer having that opportunity:
Vancouver Courier (30 June 2016) A9
Bad Message: Density Means Increased Danger
The following letter has been sent to our Norquay mailing list. We believe that it identifies an important issue that has implications not only for Norquay, but for all RM-9 zones across Vancouver.
The City of Vancouver is trying to minimize the number of new zones. Rather than writing an entirely new set of zoning regulations and guidelines for each new zone, planning staff where possible are adding a few tweaks to existing regulations and identifying the new zone by a letter behind the number. Hence, RM-9/9N in Marpole, RM-9A-9AN in Norquay, and the proposed RM-9B/9BN in the Joyce Precinct. Any precedent set in one zone will affect all of these zones, as well as any future RM-9 zones. In the same way, precedent set by Norquay in the RM-7/7N zone would affect the proposed RM-7A/7AN zone in the Joyce Precinct.
Please redistribute this letter to your community networks.
• • • • • • • • • • •
••• Feel free to redistribute this email •••
Dear Friends of Norquay,
Two years ago, a precedent-setting development application proposed to fill a front yard with outside stairways to the second storey of the first stacked townhouse development in Norquay’s RM-7 zone. Thanks to letters of opposition from within Norquay and across the City, this proposal was turned around. All of the 20+ stacked townhouse development proposals that Norquay has seen since that time have interior stairways to the upper storeys. Let’s do it again!
The first application under Norquay’s new RM-9A zoning — for 4 storey apartment in the Kingsway transition zone — has been posted on the City of Vancouver Development Application web site. Implementations of a new housing type require close scrutiny, because damaging precedent can be set. Not all details are specified in zoning schedules. Information about this project for 4894 Slocan Street can be seen at:
We are particularly concerned that the applicant is proposing to lock off the entry courtyard behind a “secured gate.” [Shown in the site plan.] The required wide entry courtyard leading to the building entrance is one of the more attractive features of apartment buildings in RM-9 zones. One stated intent of this building form is “to encourage activation of residential street life.” [RM-9, RM-9A, RM-9N and RM-9AN Guidelines, Section 1.1(a)] To set up a locked barrier between this building and the City sidewalk on Slocan Street would do the opposite. This unfriendly and unneighbourly feature has no precedent in any comparable building project in Norquay.
The zoning regulations and guidelines do not expressly prohibit the “secured gate.” A large public outcry against the proposal is the only way to stop this unwelcome precedent being set not only in Norquay, but in all current and future RM-9 zones across the City. RM-9 type zoning has also been applied to Marpole, is proposed for Joyce Station area, and seems probable for Grandview-Woodland. This is a template zoning, with unspecified details likely to spread to all areas.
Please send your comments as soon as possible to:
Official deadline for comment is June 17, 2016, but comments are accepted and considered until the decision date. We expect that the decision on this first RM-9A application will take some time. Although we see the locked-off entry courtyard as the most urgent issue, we encourage you to include any other feedback you would like to give on this application. Our already submitted comment can be seen at:
Yours for a better Norquay,
Jeanette and Joseph Jones
Monitoring the Norquay Plan — Report No. 2 (May 2016)
RT-11 / RT-11N Zone
A separate posting of 19 photos of new Norquay dwellings taken in spring 2016 accompanies this evaluation.
This second overall review of the 2010-2013 Norquay Plan continues looking at residential areas, and focuses on the new small house/duplex housing type. See note appended below on context for brief description of the Norquay Plan and a listing of aspects yet to be reviewed by Eye on Norquay. The City of Vancouver failed to include in the Norquay Plan any mandate for formal review of the effects and consequences of the mass rezoning.
What Does the Zoning Allow?
The RT-11 (Small House/Duplex) and RT-11N zones cover 937 properties in Norquay (2015 figures from City of Vancouver). See the map at the end of this post for properties included in this zone. The RT-11N portion of the zoning lies next to arterial streets and has special noise mitigation requirements; otherwise, regulations are the same as for RT-11.
If only a single family house is built on one lot, development is outright. A laneway house is permitted, but is subject to a short conditional review. If only a duplex is built on one lot, development is outright.
A developer who wants to build several small houses, more than one duplex, or a combination of the small house and duplex housing forms in the RT-11 zone must submit a conditional (rather than outright) development application to the City of Vancouver (CoV). The developer begins by consulting informally with CoV staff. When a formal application is submitted, a sign is posted on the property and a notification letter is sent to nearby neighbours. The application is posted on CoV’s Development Applications web site so that the public has an opportunity to examine it and submit comments.
After reviewing the application and the comments that have been received, staff set conditions that the developer must meet before final approval is granted for the project. Comments from the public are important because they can influence these conditions.
The number of permitted buildings depends on the size and the location of the site involved.
(1) If a pre-1940 character house is being retained, an infill one-family or two-family dwelling may be possible.
(2) If a site is next to a park or school site, if the site is a corner site, or if the site is a double fronting site, a small one-family dwelling may be built in addition to a new or existing single family house or duplex.
(3) On larger sites, a combination of small house and duplex housing forms is possible.
Secondary suites are permitted on all sites. Lock-off units may be permitted in larger developments.
The floor space ratio (FSR) is .60 for a single family house, .75 for a site with only a duplex, and .85 for larger developments. The parking requirement is one space per unit. Parking is usually at the lane, in covered garages or (on larger sites) in a combination of garages, carports, and/or surface parking. There is no separate storage required, but it can be provided.for bicycles. Under RT-11 zoning, multiple dwellings on a single site may be strata-titled.
The 2013 regulations and guidelines that govern development in RT-11 can be found at:
What Is Being Built?
Since 2013, and as of May 2016, the City of Vancouver has posted on its web site fifteen RT-11 development applications, involving nineteen properties. Eight of these fifteen applications have been submitted by the architecture firm Fuho Design. The first three projects have been completed and are now occupied. Four others are nearing completion. Two have been started recently. Construction has not yet begun on the other six, some of which may still be awaiting approval. Units in all of these developments are strata-titled.
A small house behind a duplex generally takes the form of a laneway house containing a covered garage for two or three cars. On two sites consisting of single long lots, a second small house has been built between the duplex and the laneway house.
The applications can be categorized as follows:
Duplex + one small house 7 Duplex + two small houses 2 Two duplexes 2 Duplex + cluster of small houses * 2 Cluster of small houses * 1 Retention of heritage house + 4 duplexes * 1 [* indicates assembled sites]
The range of unit sizes is:
Form Square Footage Sq Ft Avg Duplexes 1106-2064 1618 Small houses behind a duplex 690-1560 1024 Small houses in cluster 1244-1556 1353
The observed asking-price ranges are:
Duplexes $759,000 - $1,225,000 Small houses behind a duplex (single lot) $558,000 - $998,000 Small houses in clusters $839,000 - $899,000
Photos of seven RT-11 developments newly completed or almost completed as of May 2016 can be viewed in a separate posting, along with prices and square footages where available.
1. The restricted locations for small houses built on standard lots (corner sites, sites that abut a school or park, or double-fronting sites) appear to work well. These locations feel much more “open” than mid-block locations do.
2. The small house/duplex developments at Killarney Street and East 41st Avenue are well located on a fairly isolated corner. They are bordered on three sides by a school, a park, and East 41st Avenue.
3. The palette of colours for building exteriors in several developments (dark green, cherry red, blue, yellow) is a welcome change from the standard neutral shades used in most new construction.
4. Some of the large duplexes appear massive, especially where they are built on upward sloping sites (e.g. those on the east side of Dundee Street). The base grade on these sites is well above the street.
5. The two sites where two small houses have been built on a single large lot behind a duplex appear very crowded. The 8-foot separation between the buildings leaves very little room for open space.
Note: Subsequent monitoring reports are anticipated for RM-7 (Rowhouse/Stacked Townhouse) Zone Transition Zone Kingsway Development Kingsway Public Realm Public Benefits Comprehensive Analysis
In the fall of 2010, Vancouver City Council adopted the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan. The plan lays out a “roadmap forward” that is supposed to guide development in Norquay for the next 30 years.
In the spring of 2013, Vancouver City Council adopted new zoning schedules for Norquay. Most of the residential area was rezoned to RT-11 (small house/duplex) or RM-7 (rowhouse/stacked townhouse). A rezoning policy was put in place for the Transition zone (four storey apartments) immediately behind Kingsway.
Specifications for development along Kingsway are part of the 2010 Norquay Plan.
Council also adopted a Public Benefits Strategy and Apartment Transition Area Rezoning Policy for Norquay in spring 2013. This policy identifies the key amenities and services that Norquay can expect to accompany development, and suggests how they should be funded. To date, nothing has been delivered.
Development has begun. The City of Vancouver has no formal process for monitoring the implementation of the Norquay Plan. This series of postings will examine how the Norquay Plan of 2010, the subsequent new zoning schedules of 2013, and the Public Benefits Strategy are being implemented.
Monitoring the Norquay Plan — Report No. 1 (March 2015)