Caption: Impact zone of just one of the Task Force recommendations (upzoning within 100 metres along each side of “arterial” roads, up to 3.5 storeys). Click to enlarge or download hi-res version further below. We will soon post an impact map of Task Force-proposed upzoning to 6 storeys within 500 metres of “neighbourhood centres.”
(Updated 9 pm, Oct 2) Mayor Gregor Robertson was originally hoping that Vancouver City Council would unanimously adopt (with no public comment) (when in session, see live web video here) adopt the entire Final Report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability on the morning of October 2, 2012. (During the meeting it was decided to let speakers address council on morning of Oct 3 in a committee meeting — speakers may still sign up and public may still write council. See here.) The report was made public only three full working days earlier (Sept 26), and careful analysis shows that it is long on ideas but short on details — such as a map of the impact zone, critical definitions (e.g., “arterial road,” “neighbourhood centre,” and projection of “affordability” improvements if policies are implemented), and is based on what many consider to have been a politically-appointed, biased Task Force and managed consultation process. The public should be concerned, as the Vision Vancouver-dominated council has already shown how it works — quietly adopting a vaguely-worded policy, then implementing it to the maximum — one example being the Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) program from 2009 to 2011, which resulted in surprise, block-busting tower developments that enriched a few large developers (and political funders).
CityHallWatch has done the work that the Task Force should have done, by creating a map of the impact zone. Above is an image of the potential impact zone of just one of the recommendations — upzoning to 3.5 storeys in a 100 metre buffer along both sides of arterial roads in the city (primary, secondary & connectors). We will soon release a map showing neighbourhood centres, the Task Force recommends should have a 500 metre impact zone for upzoning to six stories. If all impact maps were to be overlaid, much of Vancouver’s land would be covered by the Task Force recommendations.The main arterials map (further below) is included for contrast. If secondary arterials streets are included in the mix then the affected land mass increases. Section 1.2 of the report states: Within approximately 100 metres of an arterial street (i.e. 1.5 blocks), 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.
Fronting on arterials that are well served by transit and within close proximity (i.e. a five minute walk or 500 metres) of identified neighbourhood centres and local shopping areas, mid-rise forms up to a maximum of 6 storeys (p.5-6).
The public needs to see a full list of the neighbourhood centres and local shopping areas to understand the extent of the changes proposed in the report. The Task Force report also makes no distinction between the current zoning along arterial roads; is Industrially Zoned Land, RS & RT (single family & duplex) zoning all lumped into the same category if the parcel falls within 100 metres? Is the 100 metres measured from the centreline of the road, the curb, or the property line? Without accurate definitions it is not even possible to gauge the full impacts of the proposed changes.
During Council question period on October 2, Councillor Adriane Carr asked Deputy City Manager David McClellan (who, Mayor announced just today, retires at the end of 2012) if a map of “arterials” existed. His answer was “yes.” Media and the public should ask why visual images and maps of impact zones were NOT a part of the Task Force Report, and why arterial roads were not even defined for readers who don’t have psychic ability.
Further notes: Existing zoning in certain sections of the city may already permit 3.5 or 6-storey developments along arterials (see CoV zoning map here or in Google Earth here). However, there might be impacts on land use policy even if higher buildings are permitted (i.e. it may permit a purely residential building in areas requiring a mix of commercial and residential units – see C3A and C2 Commercial District Schedules).