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EVEN MORE DENSIFICATION FOR RKH?

February 06, 2018 10:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



We, and other inner-city communities around us, are being told by both the City and developers that the Richmond Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) is woefully out-of-date, and that it is not enough for our community to continue densifying by:

  1. having our old bungalows replaced with 2 skinny single detached infills or semi-detached infill units;
  2. accepting 4-plexes and other slightly higher density residential developments along on our collector roads and in other areas designated for such under the ARP; and
  3. accepting mid-rise residential and mixed-use developments along our Main Streets, being 17 Avenue SW and 33 Avenue SW,

and that developers should be allowed to rezone ANY corner parcel in our community from either R-C1 (only 1 dwelling unit allowed) or R-C2 (only 2 dwelling units allowed) to R-CG so that 4-unit rowhouse developments can be built on them.  The City and developers are also looking at the rules of the R-CG land use district to see if there is a way to tweak them so that developers would also be allowed to use those rules to build 4-unit developments on interior parcels.  As far as the City is concerned, 4-unit rowhouse developments under the R-CG rules are completely compatible with, and appropriate to be built beside, any single family home or semi in our community.

Our sense is that RKH is already doing its fair share to absorb more population density within established communities (eg. RKH's population has increased by 31% over the past 30 years), and we do not see the need to have all of our corner parcels, and possibly also all of our interior parcels, opened up to 4-unit rowhouse developments that have significant potential to be out-of-context with the streetscape (particularly if they are 3-storeys/11m tall and are built next to single-storey bungalows), as well as to create privacy, shadowing, drainage and parking issues for the adjacent properties.

These 4-unit rowhouse developments cannot even be supported on the grounds that they create a new category of lower-cost housing options in our community, as the current asking prices for new 3-storey rowhouse units in our community seem to start at $699,000, which actually makes them LESS affordable than many of our remaining bungalows, even though those bungalows are freehold properties on 50ft wide lots!

We came across an interesting article on this issue on Buildzoom.com, an excerpt from which is reproduced below.  We encourage all RKH residents to read the full article, which can be found at the following web address:

 https://www.buildzoom.com/blog/pockets-of-dense-construction-in-a-dormant-suburban-interior 

As you will have seen in other recent Development Blog posts, we have asked Councillor Woolley and City Administration to hold a community-wide engagement session to revisit the Richmond ARP and determine the extent to which it should be updated to allow higher density developments, if at all, and if so, what forms and where in our community they should be allowed.  We would appreciate your support in this regard by contacting Councillor Woolley’s office and pushing for that engagement to take place.  The residents of RKH were given the opportunity to provide input when the Richmond ARP was originally created back in 1986 — we should be given another opportunity to do so before such a fundamental change is made to the ARP.

See below excerpt from “America’s New Metropolitan Landscape: Pockets Of Dense Construction In A Dormant Suburban Interior”, on Buildzoom.com (annotations in red are ours):

. . .

Pockets of dense construction, or modest densification everywhere?

City planners tend to favor concentrating residential development in dense hubs because they lend themselves to service by public transit, which helps reduce the impact of new residents on emissions and traffic congestion. Yet this rationale for limiting densification to transit hubs and corridors amounts to acquiescing the battle for development elsewhere. The current battleground is in the pockets of dense construction, whereas the dormant suburban interior is conceded territory in which dense housing is never debated because it is never proposed. It is taboo. 

Confining development to dense hubs is a sensible approach, but it has come at a great cost. Over recent decades, America’s expensive coastal cities have slowed down their outward expansion and increasingly come to rely on residential densification within the developed footprint to accommodate the people drawn to them. Yet rather than pick up its pace, densification has become less common. As a result, residential construction in the expensive coastal cities has failed to meet demand and prevent runaway housing price appreciation, resulting in an affordability crisis with profound implications for younger generations’ ability to put down roots, live near family, raise children and prosper. 

This doesn’t mean that the expensive coastal cities can’t deliver much greater amounts of housing. They can. But to meaningfully stem housing price appreciation would require them to regularly produce far more housing than they have for decades. The track record of the current paradigm – minimize metropolitan expansion and concentrate new housing in dense hubs – suggests they will keep under-producing housing in the future as well.

I am not advocating a return to vigorous sprawl. That would be wasteful, unhealthy and unsustainable. Moreover, the rising value of central locations in the eyes of both people and employers suggests that sprawl may offer a less appealing substitute to housing in the metropolitan interior than in the past, especially in the largest metros.

I am suggesting that, while cities continue to fight the battle for development in dense hubs, they also question the de facto exemption granted to low-density suburban areas from the onus to produce more housing. The dormant suburban sea is so vast that if the taboo on densification there were broken, even modest gradual redevelopment – tearing down one single-family home at a time and replacing it with a duplex [RKH has been doing this for years!] or a small apartment building [This as well along our collector roads, Main Streets in and other areas where we consider such developments to be appropriate!] – could grow the housing stock immensely. Distributing the necessary amounts of new housing over vast low-density suburban areas instead of just concentrating them in dense hubs would dilute the local impact on neighborhoods. It would make a large increase in housing more palatable vis-a-vis neighborhood character, and more gradual. Of course, building in these areas could have different implications for congestion than building in dense hubs, but the affordability crisis in America’s expensive coastal cities is so acute that the tradeoff between worsening affordability and congestion should be evaluated with fresh eyes.

In order to nurture new residential development in the dormant suburban interior, local land use policy would need to undergo a revolution. The construction industry and the financial ecosystem would need to evolve as well, and infrastructure would need to be greatly upgraded. The very first step, however, involves grasping America’s new metropolitan landscape and realizing just how much of it has gone dormant. That is where the problem is, as well as the opportunity.

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