We’d like to share a few of our thoughts on the City’s draft land use plan for the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood. The City released a draft map in June of 2013; we’ve overlaid this plan with an aerial photo of the neighbourhood and its surroundings. It’s worth noting that the land use plan also impacts surrounding neighbourhoods as it also extends into Kensington-Cedar Cottage (south of Broadway) and into Hastings-Sunrise (east of Nanaimo).
Please click on any of the maps above to enlarge; the 2011 airphoto is from the City’s Open Data website (scale is 1 pixel = 1 metre).
One of the most important comparative pieces of information is the current land use map for Grandview-Woodland. What is the present zoning? How much height and density is currently allowed? By looking at a present baseline, one can determine how much extra height and density is being proposed by the city. For convenience, we’ve cut out the relevant part of the City’s zoning map and the descriptions of the various zones below:
The really technical details of what can be currently built on a property are available on the City’s website in the zoning bylaws section and in various design guidelines. In general, the mixed commercial zones along East Hastings and Commercial Drive allow for buildings up to 4-storeys in height with a maximum density of 2.5 – 3.0 FSR (red C-2 zones). Residential is allowed in multiple family zones (orange RM-3 or RM-4) with generally a maximum height of 10.7 m and density of up to 1.0 FSR (depending on zone). The various RT-5 zones (two family dwelling / yellow) allow a height up to a 2.5 storeys (or 10.7 metres) and a FSR up to 0.75. The one family dwelling zones (grey, RS-1, RS-4, RS-7) allow a maximum 2.5 storey height (10.7m) and 0.70 FSR. Various other details in terms of setback and site coverage also affect built form, as well as heritage retention which further complicates the zoning. This is only a quick and broad summary, please check the specific applicable schedules for full details.
It’s also possible to estimate how much extra density could be achieved under current conditions. This information would be in the existing zoned capacity numbers, data that the city has not yet released for Grandview-Woodland (attempts were made with motions in the last Council by Ellen Woodsworth and in this present Council by Adriane Carr).
The biggest hotspot identified by residents in the City’s land use plan was the proposal to put towers in the range of 22-storeys to 36-storeys in around East Broadway. No absolute heights or density targets were provided by the City. We would suggest that the best way to illustrate the heights that are proposed would be through 3D computer massing models. Computer rendered ground level view of streets would provide a fresh perspective of what City planners are proposing. However, for the record, here is a portion of the land use plan along with the corresponding part of the legend:
The proposed changes extend into Kensington-Cedar Cottage (south of Broadway) until the south side of East 12th Avenue.
Another large scale change is proposed for Nanaimo Street. This street is currently zoned mostly as single family residential (RS zoning); townhouses and apartments are proposed (map rotated 90 degrees clockwise):
Similarly, extra height and density is proposed along First Avenue:
Upzoning is also proposed for East Hastings. The western section of the street has a few sites in the vicinity of the Waldorf hotel that are targeted for highrises of 10 to 15 storeys in height. The remainder of the street has proposed 6-8 storey building heights:
The northeast part of Grandview-Woodland would have an additional upzoning. This is between Hastings (south) and Wall Street to the north (Nanaimo Street to Semlin Drive):
There are also a few anomalies in the plan, such as what appears to be a 15-storey tower at Venables and Commercial Drive:
The industrial zones for the most part will not change, mostly with the exception of East Hastings. A portion of the Industrial Lands are protected under the Regional Growth Strategy (please see the full parcel based map here). We’ll note that the City should subtract the industrial land areas from the land base of each neighbourhood if they make comparisons for population densities across the city.
It’s very important to have community buy-in for a land use plan. This includes specifics about height and density. Projecting possible population growth is done by a zoned capacity – how much can the neighbourhood accommodate growth? Where and why do we need to upzone, and by how much? It’s time to have a realistic conversation between the planning department and the residents. A top-down approach to land use planning will not yield satisfactory results. The first step is to clearly provide the facts and then to find out what the community wants in a new plan.