Dunbar Re-Vision

There Goes the Neighbourhood!

January 18, 2013
Leave a Comment

Norquay The Norquay Village Plan is intended to be a model Neighbourhood Centre that may become the successor to the Interim Zoning Policy. When complete, the model will be used throughout Vancouver, including Dunbar. This is an important opportunity for you to give input into select aspects of this model, by attending Open Houses in the week ahead.

Given the seniors’ independent living proposal for Dunbar, we might be interested to know how well the model deals with aging in place  lifestyles (townhomes/stacked homes typically have a lot of stairs). Does this model think of seniors appropriately? How well does the model serve people with special needs? How appropriate is accessibility to services? These questions and others, can help the planning process.

The strength of the turnout and the volume of queries is important for this community. Volunteering your time will aid Norquay.  We as a neighborhood have to get into the mindset of helping, if we, in our hour of need, call for help. Neighbourhoods helping neighbourhoods is the new modus operandi for gaining City Hall’s attention.

Here is an email from Norquay residents Jeanette and Joseph Jones guiding you on how they see it:

“Re: New Vancouver Housing Types Will Be Unveiled in Norquay
Norquay Village Plan Open Houses

Wednesday, January 23, 4pm – 8pm
Cunningham Elementary School (gymnnasium)
2330 E. 37th Avenue

Saturday, January 26, 11am – 3pm
Norquay Elementary School (gymnasium)
4710 Slocan Street

* * * * * * *

Dear Norquay Resident,
The Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan [ http://vancouver.ca/docs/planning/norquay-community-plan-2010.pdf ] that was approved by Council in November 2010 included provision for four new housing types: small house/duplex, rowhouse, stacked townhouse, and four-storey apartment. More than two years later, planners have scheduled the two Norquay Open Houses listed above to inform residents about details for two of the new housing types. The first, designated as RT-11, is a small house/duplex zoning. The second, designated as RM-7, is a stacked townhouse/rowhouse zoning. It appears that two of the new housing types approved in 2010 are being conflated into a single zoning. A second component of the Open House will be information about future public benefits that Norquay can expect to receive from increased density. The Norquay Plan calls for a “Public Benefits Financial Strategy” that explains how these benefits will be paid for.

We are concerned that city planners are making the provisions of the 2010 Norquay Plan less stringent. For example, drawings at the last Open House in April 2011 showed rowhouse units as narrow as 12 1/2 feet, although the Norquay Plan specified that rowhouse units must be at least 16 feet wide. Stacked townhouses built on two or more lots were shown with 3.5 storeys, rather than the 2 full storeys and partial third storey described in the 2010 Norquay Plan. Although Norquay residents will see no details until the day of the Open House, we fear that this kind of “creep” already experienced may go even farther. At this point there is very little detail available about the public benefits we might expect, or how they would be paid for.”

Planners have told us that what is specified in the Norquay Plan is no longer negotiable by residents. The Plan should be written in stone for the City as well. At this time, it is important for us to hold the City to the Plan and to protest loudly if they try to go away from what the Plan clearly specifies. It appears that the planners are conflating the rowhouse zone and the stacked townhouse zone, described as two separate zones in the Norquay Plan. We need to speak out if the new combined zone is described in terms of the lowest common denominator.
Specific Things to Look For on the Planners’ Boards at the Open House
A. Housing Types

1. Width of the units: 2010 Norquay Plan specifies a minimum width of 16 feet for rowhouses.

2. Height: Plan specifies a maximum of 2 storeys plus basement for small house duplex and rowhouses, 2 storeys plus a partial third for stacked townhouses, all to a maximum height of 35 feet.

3. Floor Space Ratio (FSR): Plan specifies a maximum of .825 FSR for small house/duplex and .825-1.1 FSR for rowhouse, depending on lot size and shape. Stacked townhouses are a maximum of .9 FSR on a single lot (3 units) and 1.1 FSR on 2 or more lots (9 units possible on 2 lots).

4. Unit Density: Plan specifies 22-30 units per acre for small house/duplex, 27 units per acre for rowhouses, and 49 units per acre for stacked townhouses built on 2 or more lots. These are approximate (depending on site size, assembly and frontage) and do not include lock-off units.

5. Lock Off Units: Plan specifies 1 lock off unit per dwelling for small house/duplex, 1 for each 3 dwellings for rowhouses and stacked townhouses.

6. Front Yard Setbacks: Plan specifies 16-24 feet for small house/duplex, 8-12 feet for rowhouses, and 18-24 feet for stacked townhouses.

7. Back Yards: Plan specifies that there must be garden space in the middle and/or on the edges of units in the small house/duplex zone. It specifies a back yard in the rowhouse and stacked townhouse zones that measures a minimum 16 feet from the house wall to the garage or the parking spot.

8. Building Design Guidelines: Plan specifies that rowhouses or stacked townhouses built on a single lot should be designed to appear as a large house, and two or multi-lot developments should appear as a small multi-family townhouse building while respecting neighbouring properties. Roof lines are not specified in the Plan, but Norquay residents expressed a strong preference for sloping roofs over flat roofs.

9. Retention of Character Houses: The Plan says that there should be incentives to retain character houses in small house/duplex, rowhouse and stacked townhouse zones.

10. Parking: Unspecified in the Plan.

11. Legal Title: The Plan specifies strata title for all new housing types. Norquay residents expressed a desire for a fee simple title option (i.e. individual ownership of both the building and the land).

12. Retention of RS-1 Development Option: The Plan specifies that the development rights enabled by the current RS-1 District Schedule (including the ability to develop a one-family dwelling, with the option of a secondary suite and a laneway house) should be retained.
B. Public Benefits

1. What specific benefits can Norquay expect to see from increased density?

2. The beginning point for public realm improvement is cleanliness. How many garbage cans can we expect? (An allocation of fifty garbage cans for the two miles of Norquay sidewalk along Kingsway would provide one for every 200 feet.)

3. How will these benefits be paid for?

4. Are these benefits above and beyond what Norquay would have received as routine maintenance even without increased density (such as repaving of sidewalks on Kingsway)?

5. Do the benefits match those given priority by Norquay residents and specified in the Norquay Plan (a flexible neighbourhood gathering space on the 2400 Motel site, completion of the Renfrew Ravine Linear Park, expansion of green space)? So far, all CACs from new zonings (2300 Kingsway and 2699 Kingsway) have been assigned to daycare.

6. How much is the City receiving in CACs and DCLs from the development of 2220 Kingsway (the Canadian Tire site), and how is it being allocated?
Please fill out the comment form provided by the City, or write your own observations and ask to have them included with the comment forms. Comments can be submitted online for some period of time after the Open House. If you can’t attend in person, the information should become available after January 26 on the City of Vancouver website somewhere at http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/norquay-village-neighbourhood-centre-plan.aspx. A detailed analysis of city proposals will be provided at Eye on Norquay [ http://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com ] as soon as possible after the Open House.

All Vancouver residents will be affected by what happens in Norquay. The City of Vancouver intends to permit the building of new medium density housing types within 1.5 blocks of every street designated as an “arterial” under the provisions of the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordability [ http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/Final_task_force_report_brochure.pdf ] The report mentions Norquay as prototype for these new housing types (p. 10). We ask you to attend one of these Open Houses. Bring your friends and neighbours. Put questions to the planners and make your opinions known. This is your only real chance to affect regulations governing these new housing types. By the time these zoning specifications go to Council, it will be very difficult to change anything.”