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SHOULD RKH BE EXPECTED TO FURTHER DENSIFY? IF SO, TO WHAT EXTENT, AND IN WHAT MANNER?

December 06, 2017 8:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
For many years now there has been significant redevelopment activity in our community.  Most of this redevelopment activity has involved older bungalows on our 50ft wide R-C2 lots being demolished and replaced with two 2-storey or 3-storey single detached or semi-detached infills on subdivided 25ft wide lots.  We have also had older bungalows on our few 50ft wide M-C1 and M-CG lots, such as those backing onto the west side of Crowchild Trail, demolished and replaced with 4-plexes.  We have also seen higher density residential, commercial and mixed-use (main floor retail with residential above) developments go in along our two Main Streets, 17 Avenue SW and 33 Avenue SW.

This redevelopment and densification has generally been good for Richmond/Knob Hill, as it has rejuvenated our housing stock and has helped to revitalize our community by reversing its population decline. The population of RKH peaked at 5,080 back in 1968 and then began to decline as the community matured and children grew into adults and moved out of their parents’ homes, dropping as low as 3,700 by the mid-1980s.  To reverse this negative trend, in 1986 the City and the residents of RKH got together and created the Richmond Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP), the purpose of which was to set out, among other things, where new higher-density residential developments would be allowed and how much denser those developments could be.  The Richmond ARP included a map that divided RKH’s residential areas up into the following designations:

1)  Conservation and Infill — This designation contemplated that existing wide-lot single family homes in good condition would be preserved and that those in poor condition could be replaced with up to 2 new narrow-lot infills.  This designation covered essentially all of the R-C1, R-C2 and DC (based on R-2) areas of RKH.

2)  Low Density — This designation provided for low profile family-oriented housing including single and two family dwellings and multi-dwelling infill projects comprised of townhouses or stacked townhouses.  Maximum density was not to exceed 75 units per hectare, which would typically mean no more than 4 units on a standard 50ft wide lot.  This designation was only applied to 2 blocks of 24A Street SW backing onto Crowchild Trail and the east end of the 2100 block of 27 Avenue SW.

3)  Medium Density — This designation was intended to encourage a variety of housing types attractive to single adults, childless couples, and families including apartments, townhouses and stacked townhouses.  Maximum density could be as high as 210 units per hectare, which would mean up to 11 units on a standard 50ft wide lot.  This designation was applied to several blocks immediately south of 17 Avenue SW, 2 blocks of 24A Street SW backing onto Crowchild Trail, 2 blocks of 33 Avenue SW, a couple of spots along 26 Avenue SW and the portion of 28 Street south of the Benjamin Moore paint store.

4)  HIgh Density — This designation was intended to provide for high-density apartment developments which did not exceed 321 units per hectare and was only applied to 1 parcel, being the parcel on the SE corner of 17 Avenue SW and 25A Street SW.

The Richmond ARP has been quite successful in both encouraging and managing redevelopment in RKH, as since 1986 our total number of residential units has increased by 33% and our population has increased by 31%, and is expected to surpass its previous peak of 5,080 within the next year or two.  Most of this redevelopment has been in accordance with the designations that were applied when the Richmond ARP was created over 31 years ago, although in recent years there have been a few amendments to the ARP map to accommodate new developments with higher densities than were originally contemplated, which have been on parcels located along our collector roads such as 26 Avenue SW and Richmond Road SW.  Within the last 3 years more significant amendments have been made to the map to allow for higher densities on parcels along and within a block or so of the portion of 17 Avenue SW west of Crowchild Trail, as part of the City’s Main Streets initiative, and to create a brand new ARP for the Marda Loop business district that includes the portion of 33 Avenue SW east of Crowchild Trail.  To date the RKHCA has generally been supportive of these amendments as we understand that the City has changed significantly since the Richmond ARP was created over 31 years ago and, through our own community engagement activities, that our residents tend not to see a problem with slightly higher density developments along our collector roads and even more substantial developments along our Main Streets.

However, we have recently received applications to upzone non-collector R-C1 and R-C2 corner parcels in our community to allow higher density developments, such as 4-unit rowhouse developments (potentially each with a secondary suite for a total of 8 households).  These applications are not consistent with the Richmond ARP, and would therefore require amendments to the ARP map, and if even one such application/amendment is approved, then there would seem to be nothing to prevent all other non-collector corner parcels in our community from being similarly upzoned.  Although corner parcels are most attractive for these types of higher density developments, once the available supply of those begins to dwindle it is likely that developers would then turn their attention to upzoning our non-collector interior lots.

The RKHCA is currently opposing these applications to amend the Richmond ARP and upzone non-collector corner parcels, as we are not convinced that further densification of our community beyond that which is:

1)  already allowed under the Richmond ARP as its currently reads;

2) likely to soon be allowed once the Richmond ARP is amended to reflect the results of the City’s upcoming Main Streets reviews of both the portion of 17 Avenue SW east of Crowchild Trail and the portion of 33 Avenue SW east of Crowchild Trail;

3)  already supported by the community along our collector roads; and

4)  likely to take place at some point on the Viscount Bennett lands when the CBE no longer has need for it and makes it available for redevelopment,

is either necessary or desirable.  We also feel strongly that, if the City feels otherwise, then rather than approving these “one off” applications, they should undertake a comprehensive community engagement process to both demonstrate the need for such further densification and give RKH residents a say as to how we would like to see our community absorb this greater share of the City’s future population growth. Would we like to see it spread evenly throughout the community, or concentrated along our Main Streets and collector roads, or a combination of the two?  What forms of higher density developments would we like to see?

We encourage all RKH residents to check out RKHCA’s detailed submission on an application to upzone the non-collector corner parcel at 2403 28 Avenue SW, which we consider to be a “watershed” application that will have implications throughout our community, a copy of which can be found here.  We also want to hear your thoughts on this issue, and for you to share those thoughts with our Ward 8 City Councillor, Evan Woolley.  Let your voice be heard!
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