The City of Vancouver’s planning department will be hosting two Open Houses on proposed changes in zoning for townhouses, rowhouses and apartments. The changes are proposed for sections of East 12th Avenue, 10th, 8th, 1st, East Hastings, Garden and Nanaimo Street.
These Open Houses will be held at the following times:
Wednesday, March 14, 5:30 – 8:30 pm
Lord Nelson Elementary School Gym, 2235 Kitchener
Saturday, March 17, 12 noon – 3 pm
WISE Hall, 1882 Adanac (at Victoria)
The City has not released the materials for these events yet online, however, the panels from the event will likely be posted after March 15th (on www.vancouver.ca/grandviewplan ). As the City is planning a new 4-storey zone, will staff release the drafts of the actual text of the proposed changes for review and public scrutiny? Are design guidelines planned so that the proposed new zones fit in with the existing character of Grandview-Woodland? Will residents have a chance to have a meaningful review of the proposed text of the new zoning prior to it going to City Council for a vote?
The Grandview Woodland Area Council thinks these Open House meetings and the decisions that will result are very important to the neighbourhood and we recommend residents attend the meetings, examine the information provided and ask the planners questions. As an example, here are 9 questions we think the neighbourhood should have answers to:
1. What will be the maximum density for the assembled sites, in terms of both FSR and unit density?
Density is measured in two ways: Floor Space Ratio (FSR) and Unit Density. FSR is a ratio that compares the useable floor space in a building to the area of the site. An FSR of 1.0 would apply to a single-storey building that completely covers the site, or a 2-storey building that covers half the site, or a 4-storey building that covers one quarter of the site, etc. Unit density is the number of dwelling units that can be built on 1 hectare of land. ( Eg.In Norquay stacked townhouses and traditional rowhouses are allowed a maximum FSR of 1.2 and a maximum unit density of 132 per hectare. Norquay does not have courtyard rowhouses, but in Marpole courtyard rowhouses are allowed the same FSR and unit density. In both Norquay and Marpole. 4-storey apartments are allowed a maximum FSR of 2.0 and a maximum unit density of 240 per hectare. Maximum density is for assembled sites.?
2. How will you encourage the construction of traditional row-houses as opposed to stacked townhouses in this zone?
eg. In Norquay’s RM-7 Rowhouse/Stacked Townhouse zone, we have so far seen 23 applications for stacked townhouses and only 3 for rowhouses. Most developers will favour the building form that produces the largest number of units.
3. What provisions are there for lock-off units?
A lock-off unit is a portion of the main dwelling unit that can be locked off to be used separately or to be rented out. It is not counted as a separate dwelling unit.
In Norquay, each traditional rowhouse unit is allowed to include 1 lock-off unit. Stacked townhouse developments are allowed 2 lock-off units for every 3 stacked townhouse units. Dwellings in 4-storey apartment buildings are allowed 1 lock-off unit for every 3 principal units, with a possible increase of the ratio at the discretion of planning staff.
4. What provisions are there for parking?
Traditional row-houses in Norquay have ground-level parking spaces behind the building, 1 space per unit. Four-storey apartments have underground parking, 1 space per unit. Lock-off units do not require on-site parking spaces. Courtyard row-house developments on the east side of Vancouver (e.g. in Kensington-Cedar Cottage) usually provide parking in individual garages attached to the rear of the unit. This arrangement results in most of the open space on the site (the “courtyard”) being taken up by driveways to access the garages.
5. How will you ensure that a minimum liveable width is maintained for new units, in order to ensure that designs can maximize usable floor space?
Traditional rowhouses in Norquay have a minimum interior width of 12 ft. This results in long, narrow units, especially on deeper lots. These units have fewer windows and they need to allocate considerable space to interior walkways between the front and back of the unit.
6. How will you ensure a minimum liveable size is maintained for living rooms and bedrooms in new developments?
Norquay has seen bedrooms as small as 7 ft. x 8 ft. Living rooms in one 2000 sq. ft. traditional row-house project can comfortably seat only 4 people. The City of Vancouver currently has no guidelines for room sizes, although staff have said that they are working on them.
7. What initiatives will the City and Parks Board undertake to guarantee additional public green spaces and other amenities, including new recreational facilities and programs, new parks, early childhood education programs, and off-leash dog parks, to serve this increased density?
With new development, more and more people and their pets will continue to be crammed into increasingly developed urban spaces, often with significantly smaller living spaces. Additional as opposed to just improved urban green spaces and recreational and educational facilities are essential for people to connect with their communities, their neighbours, and the diminishing amounts of nature in our city, and for their mental health.
8. Will irrigation systems be installed for plantings where ground level open space is semi-private or shared?
In new developments, where open space is shared, ornamental plantings and new lawns are often not being watered unless an irrigation system is installed. In our view, in order to maximize the benefits of green spaces and vegetation, irrigation systems should be required for all new development.
9. Given possible increased costs as a result of increased public amenities, how will the City guarantee the affordability of the proposed units under consideration?
Public amenity requirements add to the cost of an apartment or townhouse in Vancouver and these costs can be passed on to buyers, especially when developers are forced to comply with city by-laws that limit building heights and thus their profits.
The population of Grandview-Woodland grew by 6.85% from 2011 to 2016, faster than the City of Vancouver growth rate of 4.64%. That’s 68% faster than the City’s average rate of population growth.