Recommendations to City Staff given by concerned Vancouver citizens

City of Vancouver
Meeting with Staff – January 28 2011 – Rev. 2

Introduction

We have asked to meet with city staff to submit a series of recommendations based on our experience to date with the implementation of the Laneway Housing (LWH) program. The first seven recommendations are aligned with the recommendations made to council outlined in the Vancouver Heritage Commission Report dated October 20, 2008. Recommendations 8 through 11 are based on our observation and research. We trust that the following recommendations will be given serious consideration with respect to the scoped review currently been undertaken by city staff.

Specifically we recommend that LWH:

    1 – Should only be permitted for existing single-family houses

Our experience, as anticipated in the Vancouver Heritage Commission’s report, is that older housing stock is being replaced by larger single family houses that increase the ecological footprint without housing more people. We believe that the driving force in the surge of LWH is economical driven without respecting the conservation values inherent in retention of existing buildings.

Our observation is that when an existing family house is demolished and replaced by a much larger single family dwelling the character of the neighbourhood is significantly altered. Retention of neighbourhood character is an important community value.

    2 – Should be tested through pilot projects and implemented in controlled phases…

Our understanding of current city policy is that there is no means of restricting the number of LWH built on a given block. Our observation is that this lack of necessary control has resulted in clustering of LWH with no consideration for the capacity of an individual neighbourhood to absorb an increase in density.

    3 – Should count against the maximum FSR allowed for the property if the existing house is later demolished, or the new house should be restricted to the size of the existing house whichever is lower FSR.

Our observations to date are that old housing stock is been demolished and replaced with much larger homes in addition to large LWH. These large dwellings are significantly altering the character of neighbourhoods

    4 – Should be only non-strata family or rental

These desirable criteria are already in place and add to needed housing stock. Unfortunately based on the current rental rates (approximately $2500/month) LWH is providing choice of housing only to those currently enjoying a high standard of living and is not a source of more affordable housing.

    5 – Should be restricted to the footprint available to a garage and be near in scale to what is currently allowed for accessory buildings. Allow an outright submission for one story and an established consultation process requiring neighbours’ support for any additional allowable height to a maximum of one and one half stories and capped at a maximum unit size to avoid undermining heritage incentives.

It is our observation that most LWH with an upper story will have a negative impact on the two adjacent properties and, in many cases, the property across the lane. Allowing an upper story is likely the most contentious issue and, if not changed, has the greatest probability of eventually creating such a significant public backlash that the LWH program will no longer be viable.

In most cases, the upper story has the potential to impact on the privacy of the two adjacent neighbours as well as the neighbour across the lane.

In addition shadowing can impact on the direct sunlight received in the neighbours’ gardens. This works against the idea that residents should grow their own produce.

Although an outright submission could be allowed for one story structures notification to adjacent property owners should be required prior to construction. This would allow adjacent property owners to ensure adequate measures are taken to protect fences and tree roots. If this process was in place the loss of an 80 year old Douglas fir when the roots were damaged during construction may have been averted.

    6 – Should not require upgrading the existing single-family house or create undue hardship on existing homeowners.

We have no objection to relaxing the city requirements to some homeowners. For example where a LWH is built and the main house retained we agree with allowing the LWH to be tied into the existing sewer service. This is not only more cost effective but also less disruptive to the neighbours.

    7 – Should develop LWH prototypes for existing heritage house based on the National Standards and Guidelines for Conservation of Historic places in Canada

We support this recommendation from the Vancouver Heritage Commission

    8 – Should only be permitted where the owner occupies either the principal dwelling or the LWH as his principal residence

This recommendation is in line with the regulations in Seattle for LWH. The purpose of this recommendation is to limit absentee landlords from building LWH so they can rent out both the main residence and the LWH in order to maximize revenue. It is our observation that this is taking place. Having multiple rental dwellings on a single property greatly increases the chances of conflict with neighbours due to noise, parking and other issues. Resolving these issues is much more difficult for neighbours in situations where the landlord is not present. This situation is certainly is not conducive to neighbourliness.

    9 – Should widen required parking spaces for Laneway housing

 Parking spaces provided with LWH are generally too narrow to realistically allow for everyday parking. The minimum width requirement of 2.7m assumes a smaller car then most people are driving. A typical car (RAV 4) requires 3m to open the doors to the first stop.  Therefore even though a car could park in this space – it would be next to impossible to exit the car. 

Most often a LWH replaces a garage. Therefore the primary homeowner’s cars, typically 2 vehicles, will of necessity be parked on the front street.

Given the impracticality of using a LWH garage, the LWH vehicle will also inevitably be parked on the front street. Therefore, there are likely to be 3 or even 4 or more vehicles parked on the street. Cars that are parallel parked each require approximately 6m. Three cars would require 18m, creating significant parking problems when LWH are built on 10m lots! In many areas where parking is already problematic the additional vehicles on the street associated with LWH simply exacerbates the problem for current residents.

Also, considering the small living space allotted for LWH, it will also become desirable for the occupant, after obtaining city approval, to convert these “parking spaces” into living space in contravention of city regulations. It is obvious that this is intended in many units currently under construction.

    10 – Should ensure access for emergency services

The proliferation of LWH has raised the level of concern regarding access for emergency vehicles. Our observation is that narrow laneways are often obstructed by parked, service, and construction vehicles limiting access. In particular we note that a LWH is currently being constructed on the 4500 block Belmont near the end of a dead end lane. It would appear that emergency access to this LWH would be difficult.

Residents would like to be assured that prior to approval of LWH that due consideration be given to emergency service access.

    11 – Should monitor LWH following construction

Given the problems that we can anticipate with the ongoing construction of LWH, particularly relating to parking and conversion of designated garage space, we recommend that there be regularly scheduled inspections and that there be strict enforcement.

Conclusions

It is the absence of stringent regulation as well as the absence of neighbourhood input that have the potential to impair the success of the LWH program. The City of Toronto embarked on a similar course that resulted in cessation of the program except in certain circumstances. The following is a relevant quote from the Toronto Staff Report, June 20, 2006 by the Executive Director of Technical Services:

“Construction of houses on lanes can be considered only in special circumstances where there are no privacy, overlook, shadowing, and engineering servicing implications.”

In our research on this subject in other cities, such as Seattle, we have found strict regulation such as the following requirement of the owner:

“An owner with at least 50% interest in the property must occupy either the principal dwelling unit or the accessory dwelling unit for 6 or more months of each calendar year as the owner’s permanent residence.”

Under the violation clause the regulation reads:

“If an owner is unable or unwilling to fulfill the requirements (above) the owner shall remove those features of the accessory dwelling unit that make it a dwelling unit.”

Glen Wilson
Phillip Harrison
Robin Barber
Wally Kerchum

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17 Responses to Recommendations to City Staff given by concerned Vancouver citizens

  1. Michael Lyons says:

    Self-centred NIMBY’s

    This blog represents a very small voice in Vancouver, particularly comprised of this small group who live on one single block of W 11th Ave who seem to be upset that the 21st century is not the 19th.

    Whenever something new is implemented by city hall, it is always expected that there be some resistance. When the resistance is significant and the original need is not pressing, programs are augmented to align with the resisting current. In this case, resistance has been much less than even expected (in fact, the support has been greater than expected) and the need to add some density in existing neighbourhoods (not just downtown) while providing for more living space and/or mortgage helpers on single-family dwellings is extremely great.

    This small group of moneyed nimby’s (not in my back yard), would impose their back-dated will on the rest of us. The rest of us want eco-density not estates; we want mortgage helpers not grand garages; we need more space for aging family members!

    Something great has been done here with laneway housing. The changes that this group proposes would make laneway housing much less viable. Just try to design a laneway house for a 33′ lot that incorporates parking and decent living space on a single level! And as if getting neighbourhood consent (alike petitioning for a liquor license) for permission to build 1.5 stories is a realistic alternative to a standing bylaw! The process would make the boldest of us shrink away.

    Some of the points listed are filler, distractions and misleading. For example, they know that #4 is already the case so why write about it; #1 and #3 imply a lie as we know definitively that there is no difference to the rate of houses being replaced than were being replaced long before this bylaw; #10 is ridiculous as it is the same issue for any house construction or renovations, and of course emergency vehicles should have access; #2 would allow just some people on a block to have a laneway house – you mean my property is now less valuable than my neighbours because they beat me to it?

    I want to see neighbourhoods retain character and remain livable. I want eco-density in existing neighbourhoods so that we need less cars on freeways and less urban sprawl out into the Valley where our beautiful food is grown. I want people to be able to live closer to where they work, play, shop, get educated. Laneway housing does that. A watered down version of the conservative program we already have in place would possibly kill the initiative. Homeowners wouldn’t bother with increased admin and work to get a less livable suite. Builders wouldn’t hone their craft at this new niche market… and the vast majority of homeowners would lament that can’t realistically have a suite out where the garage now rots.

    Let’s see these folks in the plain light of day. They want their cake and eat it too. They know the world is changing, and everyone must accept it and do their part… except them.

    • elf says:

      Michael, you are a bozo! Get out of here and move to China!

      • Michael Lyons says:

        Elf,
        I am a born and raised Vancouverite – straight from St Paul’s Hospital to P. Grey Rd. I have loved this city, warts and all, my whole life and want to see it thrive all through this 21st century and beyond. Difficult decisions need to be made, costs must be incurred, change will happen and some must necessarily be disappointed so that we can move forward… or just keep our footing sometimes. No individual, or even any group, put us in the frustrating situation where laneway housing is part of the best response to this city’s problems, but it is… and now we must employ it and use it for the good that it creates. Most do, but I really wish that everybody likes it. At very least it has a silver lining that more people (because of the increased revenue potential or family space on a given lot) can justify buying such astronomically expensive properties such as, I presume, yours. Your buyer market just got bigger, therefore selling price too. I wish that was enough for you to be happy about it, and I am sorry that you are not. I’ve taken my own ‘local’ lumps: losing hard earned savings on local resource stocks, was pushed out to where rental rates coincided with my early career income, then owned in a building with a horribly mismanaged strata corporation and couldn’t sell, watched a big-box store enter and kill my first business, watched free parking disappear to pay meters in front of my own home, even owned a leaky condo with no warranty to save me!! I have trouble sympathizing with you Elf, if that is your name (lol), because I don’t know what you want. It seems you want something for nothing or time to stand still or someone to undo urban sprawl or climate change. IF what you want is laneway housing to go away without offering a real alternative solution, then why don’t you call it a bozo and tell it to go to China?
        (Hey Nan, any remarks about Elf’s tact?)

  2. Webmaster says:

    Thank you, Mr. Lyons, for your thoughts and opinions. Where to start, where to start… So few detractors of our pleas for City Hall sanity have been blunt, inarticulate and reactionary. Your considered response is a refreshing change.

    First of all, I’ll have to object to being called a NIMBY. Most of us are okay with laneway houses as other cities have implemented them. But fine, call us names if it makes you feel better.

    And moneyed? My neighbours and I bought our homes decades ago at a small fraction of their current market value, and most of us still work just to afford the bloated taxes. We’re not rich. The City led us to believe that our quiet, beautiful neighbourhood would be preserved by our taxes, not destroyed. Mr. Lyons, have you considered how you would feel if you were in our shoes, if you put your life savings into a retirement that was snatched away from you by money-grabbers?

    Mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson made public statements promising a controlled, scaled back version of this current runaway train. City Hall promised neighbourhood input. Original laneway plans were represented as much more neighbourhood-friendly, to which few of us had any objections. But okay, if you can live with supporting a liar’s approach, so be it.

    You say most people want eco-density, not estates. Mr. Lyons, a 3-bedroom Vancouver Special on a 33′ wide lot is NOT and estate! Plopping a second full-sized house on that same lot is just plain over-crowding, not “eco-density.”

    Mortgage helpers? Building a laneway house for $250,000 adds an expense. It certainly does NOT help pay the mortgage.

    More space for aging family members? Not a single laneway house built in Vancouver has been identified as housing an aging family member. They are built by real estate developers and speculators, and they are advertised by real estate agents as income-producing property. Please stop repeating this City Hall lie.

    And please stop calling a 2-story house “1.5 stories.” How lame. Some of the new laneway houses are only 1-story and they are beautiful and unobtrusive. They are cheaper to build and can certainly be used for aging family members. Neighbours have no privacy issues. Your claim that these existing laneway houses are much less viable is simply wrong. What do you have against moderation?

    In the order you brought them up…

    The wording may not be the clearest, but Item #4 refers to the City’s claim that laneway houses would be “affordable.” They are not affordable. We would like to see the City enforce its original promise of affordable housing.

    Item #1 refers to something you yourself, Mr. Lyons, said: “I want to see neighbourhoods retain character and remain livable.” Those of us who are suffering the City’s plan of razing of our beautiful houses to be replaced by three or four times as many houses – some of them in startling garish and out-of-character “modern” styles – know what we’re talking about. You obviously do not.

    Item #3 refers to properties such as the one on the corner of 11th Avenue and Blanca, where two beautiful old houses were demolished and are being replaced by six densely-packed houses. 2 destroyed. 6 built. Neighbourhood character drastically altered.

    You seem to agree with Item #10 while still calling it ridiculous. Are you just being contrary?

    I think you have misinterpreted Item #2. It addresses practicality and feasibility. The City has no guideline in place to determine what constitutes too many laneway houses on any given block. We can see that some blocks could easily host a dozen LWH. Some can not. The City doesn’t care what kind of mess they create as long as somebody comes up with the money. Not a sane strategy. Seattle and Toronto discovered this and adjusted accordingly. Is Vancouver that backwards that its City planners can’t come up with an actual plan?

    The things you want to see, Mr. Lyons, are the same things that we want to see. We agree, you and we. The difference is that we see the actual results of the City’s lack of reasonable planning. There are more cars in our neighbourhoods. More people are commuting out of our area. Laneway dwellers can’t afford their rents by staying around here. More people cause greater wear and drain of our resources, reducing the quality of living. This may not be true in every neighbourhood, which is why we are calling for responsible City planning instead of this all-out assault on all neighbourhoods as if we all had exactly the same potential and resources.

    Other cities worked this out long ago. Why didn’t Vancouver’s City planners use this valuable information when they put together their plan? What’s wrong with measured steps toward change? Why do you and a handful of others want drastic, chaotic change that has proven a mistake when tried elsewhere?

    In the light of day, Mr. Lyons, what’s on your agenda that blinds you from the positive benefits of reasonable and natural growth?

  3. Michael Lyons says:

    I would write more as I am passionate about the issue. There’s no point, however, as I notice that viewer comments are relegated to the back room. No one will ever see them. Hey, it’s your blog; do as you like.

    I did notice, because I looked for them, that there are no comments supporting your position. The very very few people that comment at all are all pro-laneway housing. Except for a guy named Lenny who thinks City Hall is so corrupt as to lie about permit issuances. As if they care enough about any program to bother. I’ve also been trying to find anyone else who is complaining about the laneway house program… and can’t. You guys are alone, or so it seems anyway.

    Anyway, I took a walk down your lane (I’m a Kits resident) and it doesn’t look so bad. Looks quite nice, I think. But it must have looked horrible a few months ago and all through the construction phase. 5 going up at once! Ouch!

    You say ‘not moneyed’ but your houses are worth a couple million, and since you bought them at 20-30 years ago prices you have way more money than the very very vast majority of us. Moneyed, in my mind, is owning a house in Point Grey outright. It means you can buy a different house anywhere you like with cash to spare. The rest of us can’t, so we want liberal laneway housing.

    $250K is a $1150 p/mo additional mortgage (5 year 3.65%). Rental income would be about $1800 or more. That’s a mortgage helper!

    And even high-priced rental units lower overall rental rates around the city. The more rental units there are, the more choice renters have; the more choice renters have; the lower rental rates go. Increased supply lowers prices across the board.

    You say parking is increased on your block? No one even lives in the houses yet! If you have more cars there, it’s not due to the laneway houses.

    You say that your life savings were grabbed away from you? Please! Your property values doubled in the past few years (what an unexpected wind fall) and your property is worth even more because any buyer can now put another revenue earner at the back. Makes your market of buyers larger and therefore increases demand.

    “The City led us to believe that our quiet, beautiful neighbourhood would be preserved by our taxes, not destroyed.” Did you think that that was what your taxes were for? Did you get a letter to that effect? Destroyed? Come on. You should hear yourself.

    You say there was no neighbourhood input? What do you think that meeting in October was for? Supporters of laneway housing are concerned that your very few vocal opponents will prevent us from building the laneway homes we actually want.

    The two people I know personally who have built a laneway house, did it for their grown children to live in because they can’t afford to buy a house alone. They are not speculators or developers. The ones build by developers maximize the living space allowable and revenue attainable on a lot. So they should. Otherwise even fewer people than ever before could afford to live in your neighbourhood.

    I hate tearing down perfectly good old houses to put up new ones. The stats that came out at that October meeting were that no additional houses were being demolished than before. I was so happy to hear that, and it tears a deep hole in your argument.

    On a 33′ lot, new houses have just 500′ more living space than the house it replaced. That’s not so much when we’re pushing for more eco-density. That is very hard to consider ‘overcrowding’.

    So, your block is done (ruined, by your definitions) and everyone else is in support to varying degrees. Why not move on to where you can live the way you planned to? There are plenty of places where infill housing is not yet allowed, and not likely to be because the pressure for more housing isn’t prevalent. Because now all you’re doing is raining on everyone else’s parade. Apart from some people on your block and a few people who protest everything, everyone likes this program.

    I can’t believe I wrote so much. Not enough people read your blog for me to invest myself like this again.

  4. Vancouver Homeowner says:

    Wow – I’m impressed by your passion, truly. Even though it has blinded you to several facts, but thank you for your continued interest. A few points of clarification…

    How are viewer comments “relegated to the back room,” as you say? Anybody can leave a comment at the end of a post. This is how it’s done.

    This site can’t control who leaves comments, so if people who agree with our position don’t care to write some thing like “I agree” or “Here here!” – what’s the problem?
    If “we” are “alone” (how can a collective be alone?), I guess you aren’t counting the hundreds of Vancouverites who have expressed interest in our little movement. If that’s the case, why do you care?

    The 5-laneway house lane is a wreck because of all the construction. Try driving it instead of walking it – the potholes will kill you! And no, we will not allow paving if we continue to have any say over it. Paving costs us money and turns our lane into a road that will invite speeders and accidents.

    Please pay attention to the simple economics of this: If I paid $300,000 for my house 25 years ago and just now paid off the mortgage as I enter my retirement years, where is all my money? Answer: in my house. Not in my bank. I have no money. Because of inflated property costs, I now have to work in my retirement years in order to pay the higher taxes. I want to live in the house I’ve lived in for 25 years, not cash it in and live somewhere else. You obviously have no appreciation for the sense of HOME. I am not moneyed. You actually sound a bit jealous that some people actually managed to build some equity. You obviously don’t understand the personal price of equity.

    The jury’s still out on what people will pay to rent the average laneway house, and what the occupancy rate will be. They could be a mortgage helper – but one has to go into great debt in order to get this “help.” Isn’t that what caused the massive collapse in America’s home ownership?

    Supply and demand have not lowered rental rates in Vancouver, according to several real estate agents I’ve spoken to. They brag that prices are up everywhere. Sales pitch, or grim reality?

    Our block has been hit by a parking double-whammy even before people occupy the 5 laneway houses and additional 2 dual-occupancy homes being built. UBC’s new bus pass policy has turned our neighbourhood into a student parking lot at the gates of UBC. Whammy 2: the City lined 10th Avenue with parking meters, chasing shoppers and employees into our neighbourhood for free parking. The City, by the way, does not enforce the existing by-law of ticketing/towing cars that don’t belong here.

    Your second point about being moneyed is equally ludicrous. You think that a bird in the bush is worth two in the hand. We don’t live in market potential, Mr. Lyons. We live in our homes. You obviously have your head stuck deeply up your wallet.
    You should hear yourself, Mr. Lyons. Why are you so angry that homeowners are trying to protect the only thing they have after a lifetime of hard work?

    We are not against laneway houses, as you keep seeming to indicate. Go ahead and build your laneway house. Build it in my backyard, for all I care. Just don’t block out the sun or put a livingroom window right across from my bedroom window. Just don’t park in my parking space or increase my taxes by paving and lighting my lane. Just don’t cut down all the trees in the neighbourhood. Just build something aesthetic that won’t be regarded as an eyesore. Just don’t add 20% more people and cars to my block and call it anything but overcrowding.

    You ask “Why not move on to where you can live the way you planned to?” Because, Mr. Lyons, I planned to live here the rest of my life. Who are you to tell me otherwise?

  5. Webmaster says:

    One more point of clarification for our readers: Michael Lyons, the writer of the passionate attacks on our opinions, shares the same name as Michael Lyons, VP Marketing & Sales for Smallworks – a company that manufactures laneway houses in Vancouver. If they are the same person, it certainly explains why he is so passionate.

    It also raises the question why Mr. Lyons would not want to silence the “opposition” – as he must see us – by joining with us to bring about a sensible laneway housing policy in Vancouver. We have stated many times that we are not against laneway houses, just in the way that City Hall has mismanaged the concept. We have even linked this site to Mr. Lyons’ Smallworks site – a decision that is currently under review.

    Why don’t you work with us, Mike? We share a common goal. More or less.

  6. Michael Lyons says:

    To try to silence you would be to ‘not post’ on your site. Traffic and posting is the only way anyone will see your blog, so I post. I want people to know who you are and why you want what you want and why it is not in the best interest of the vast majority of Vancouverites. I want you to be heard, despite the fact that it’s like giving equal media attention to the last guy who thinks the world is flat. We need people like you to speak out to ensure that when actual bad programs are proposed, they gets quashed. This program as it stands is already more conservative than most would ask of it, so I don’t expect that your ideas will gather much support in this city that is looking for creative housing opportunities and eco-density. But keep speaking out and so shall I.

  7. nan says:

    So show us the stats that ‘the vast majority of Vancouverites’ are for laneway housing’? Not even City Council has those numbers because they never bothered to find out – they probably wouldn’t have liked the answer. But glad to see you’ve personally got the best interest of this city and the vast majority of its citizens at heart. And don’t be fooled, just because people aren’t blogging on this site, doesn’t mean it’s not being read.

  8. Michael Lyons says:

    Well, since you say my points are being read, I’ll send one last response.

    I didn’t speak of stats directly relating to laneway houses. You’d need to be blind or elsewhere not to know that the vast majority of Vancouverites want more affordable housing options (more rental accommodation, more mortgage helpers and more living space for families on one property). The vast majority of Vancouverites want more environmentally sustainable development (less urban sprawl, more density in existing neighbourhoods, less driving distance and traffic to work, school, life). That’s why laneway housing and other measures were introduced into this market and for no other reason, despite conspiracy theories.

    There’s no ‘cash grab’ opportunity here. The City made no more revenue from those new houses on your block than if they didn’t have laneway houses. And the property tax implications are mimimal.

    You, understandably, have a very natural aversion to them because they cause change… and not the change ‘you’ like. However, you certainly wouldn’t have rallied against the relatively recent market change that made houses in your neighbourhood out of the financial reach of all but the privileged few, including those of us who grew up there. And I’m sure that you wouldn’t picket against any change allowing a downtown tower to go up right in front of my downtown tower, stealing my view and adjusting property values. We all take the good with the bad.

    The following link is to the City’s 1995 outline to deal with the wishes of Vancouverites. You can certainly find fault, but so could someone leaning to the other direction. They consult and listen but it’s hard to please absolutely everyone. I’d say that they are following through on a broad, challenging and long-considered plan:
    http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/cityplan/dfvs.htm

  9. nan says:

    Michael, let’s just put some facts straight since you’ve got them so muddled:

    1. May I remind you that this website is about laneway housing so if you’re going to make a reference to what ‘the vast majority of Vancouverites’ want on this site, then you’re making it in reference to laneway housing. And you’re quoting a link to a study done in 1995 about what Vancouverites want? Don’t you think a more recent study is warranted since we are in 2011 after all and maybe, just maybe, the vast majority of Vancouverites might have a different opinion after 16 years? And please don’t tell me you have a crystal ball and have the answer to that question.

    2. We’re NOT against laneway housing. We also believe in affordable rental housing, mortgage helpers, granny suites, in-law suites. If you as a homeowner want to embark on any of those options, then build out your basement and/or a ONE story laneway home. The city of Vancouver’s Eco-Density charter, Commitment #3, states that laneway housing will be hidden – there’s nothing hidden about 1.5 story (20 foot) buildings pearing down on neighbours properties. Until a thorough impact assessment is done on the development of 1.5 story laneway homes, we are going to do what it takes to get our message out there.

    3. How smug of you to say we have an aversion to change – because we are collectively against ONE type of change that we feel is not in the best interest of this city, you make a blanket statement like that? This change was forced upon us with no proper consultation. Even a large and developed city like Toronto was able to see the negatives (privacy, operational costs to the city, residential parking issues etc) that would come from laneway housing. Again, we’re not asking City Council to kill laneway housing, we’re just asking that they follow through on the Eco-Density charter commitment #3 and maintain that laneway houses be hidden, therefore be no higher than 1 story.

  10. Michael Lyons says:

    In response to Nan’s specific points:

    1) Cities require very long-term thinking. You would be critical if it were otherwise. If you think those two issues I mentioned and the ones in the report aren’t at the top of the list today you are out of touch. Do you think that after 16 years affordable housing and sustainable development are less valid today and the plan should change to be ‘less’ committed to those things? This city has recently made a commitment to be the Greenest City In The World by 2020 and up-to-date plans exist, including the Eco Density Charter of 2008. That plan and those commitments require at least some viable increased density in existing neighbourhoods as well as downtown.

    2) Perhaps you are not intentionally against laneway housing, but doing it your way eliminates the viability of this much needed program. In the tight footprint available, 1.5 level laneway houses are much more livable than one-level units. Smaller suites cost almost as much to build as larger suites (same basic infrastructure required for both: foundation, kitchen, bathroom, mechanical, water supply, drainage, etc.) so people build up to the allowable size to make the cost/ft reasonable and the space livable. Without those, no one builds and we get the status quo. Add requirements for neighbour consultation/approval and a limit per block and guess what happens: you effectively kill something this city needs on unbalanced and under-demanded requirements.

    3) Literally ‘hidden’ wasn’t the promise, but a term used to describe where they exist, who sees them and how they are accessed in relation to full homes. What was meant is that they would not permit something like an apartment tower to replace an existing home. Perhaps they should not have used that word ‘hidden’, for no other reason than to prevent ambiguity resulting in people taking it out of context. A single level isn’t technically ‘hidden’ either, but you write as though that is the definition of the word.

    Consultation occurred early and it continues today. That review/meeting at city hall in October will likely bring about some augmentations that are a direct result of that consultation. Each and every one of your small group got up to speak and you were certainly heard. Because the council doesn’t fold to your demands doesn’t mean they weren’t considered seriously. But that’s the easy and usual accusation when things don’t go the way we want.

  11. nan says:

    @Michael Lyons
    I knew you would be back – so much for your claim from Feb. 24 “Well, since you say my points are being read, I’ll send one last response.”

    So here goes my comments back:

    1. Of course cities require to do long term planning and yes, I know that many of the issues remain the same. My point was inferring that surely the city must be using a more recent study than the one you quote (if you notice at the end of the webpage, it hasn’t been updated since 2003) as some issues may no longer be top priority and new ones would have come light . And do you think that those Vancouverites who participated in the study, would have imagined that today’s City Council was going to force 1.5 story laneway homes onto them, build highrises in Chinatown, re-zone Norquay…

    2. As it has been mentioned before by another blogger, your name is the same as the Michael Lyons, VP Marketing and Sales for Smallworks Studio/Laneway Homes Inc. so if in fact you are the same person, of course your response defends the 1.5 story laneway homes to no end. You’ve got a vested interest in building these McMansions and that is the basis for your argument.

    3. Go to page 10 of the EcoDensity Charter and there you’ll see the exact wording that was sold to Vancouverites – you’re now back peddling what City Council wanted us to believe. We were totally misled. Again, I ask “What is hidden about a 20 foot structure whether it be seen from a lane, a neighbour’s backyard or from the road?” because I and many other sure see them. A one story laneway house which has a similar look andn size as a garage certainly falls into the ‘hidden’ category.

    Where’s the pilot project report that includes neighbour/neighbourhood input from those impacted by laneway homes? Anyone knows that this is an integral component of proper planning.

    So if you think this issue is only for the West side, it’s just as much for the East side.
    Here’s a brilliant letter written by Ned Jacobs, urbanist and spokesperson for Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, as he not only confirms many of our concerns but has quite a few more:

    https://lanewayhousing.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/ned-jacobs-letter-to-mayor-councillors/

  12. Michael Lyons says:

    I did write that I would write only one more time. But then your comment urged my response and asked for my continued contribution here, so now you’re implying dishonesty when I did so. Is that how you play around here? And it certainly wasn’t a ‘claim’, as you put it. You sure can twist a word when it suits.

    I was always hoping to spark some dialogue and see who had something relevant or meaningful to contribute. But it seems as though a handful of people with self-serving interests and the rhetoric to match. Nobody is ‘forcing’ 1.5 level laneway houses on Vancouverites (what’s the motivation??) and it’s pretty hard to call 500 sq/ft of living space ‘McMansions’ (what does that even mean??).

    I’ve never hidden MY name ‘Nan’. I was a vocal laneway housing advocate long before I entered the industry 6 months ago. That’s why I chose my job and why I write here, not the other way around. I don’t think that the company I work for would necessarily approve of what and how I write here or consider it productive – this is just me talking.

    For further clarity, I’ve been a Director of the BC Environment Industry Association since 2006, Kitsilano resident and Mt Pleasant homeowner, urban agriculture proponent, transit proponent and rider, supporter of the David Suzuki Foundation and other like-minded and balanced groups, 20-year vegetarian (my most radical life choice), and am a filmmaker when I can find the time. If you can spare 4 minutes, here’s a link to a short eco-film film I made last spring: Lighter On the Planet

    Now I shall write no more…unless encouraged.

  13. nan says:

    Michael – all I did was remind you of what you wrote and nowhere in my response did I urge you to respond to my rhetorical questions in #1 as that study is clearly very outdated. I’m not playing any games or calling you names. This is a very serious issue at hand and it is impacting many people negatively – more than you will ever know. Please re-read your responses throughout this post and take a moment to reflect how you have treated us with your words (and just to be clear, I’m not urging a response from you).

    http://www.francesbula.com/uncategorized/laneway-homes-turning-into-laneway-mini-mcmansions-for-some/

    I do appreciate you letting everyone know of your extensive background and interests which does speak highly of who you are as a person, however we are on opposing sides of this matter and it is your tact and approach in our discussions that I would say needs some fine tuning.

  14. I can understand the concerns of Vancouver homeowners who feel that 1-1/2 storey laneway houses are an invasion of privacy.

    At the same time, there are a lot of things that come from laneway housing that serve the greater good, in particular adding density to the least-dense parts of the city.

    Vancouver is growing rapidly and people have to live somewhere. There must be a compromise that works for everyone involved.

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