City of Vancouver interim measure restricts size of new homes in Shaughnessy

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      Shaughnessy homeowners are facing another battle against the City of Vancouver.

      They previously fought city hall over bylaws preventing property owners from tearing down homes built before 1940 in First Shaughnessy, a city-designated “heritage conservation area”.

      First Shaughnessy is defined by the city as “the area between West 16th and King Edward and Arbutus and Oak streets where many pre-1940 character homes are located”.

      A new dispute is simmering over the proposed extension of a temporary rule limiting the size of new homes in Second and Third Shaughnessy, which are south of King Edward Avenue.

      Mik Ball, a director at the Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners’ Association, said that guideline is an arbitrary measure that doesn’t respect the rights of homeowners. “They would be building primarily bungalows,” Ball said by phone.

      In addition, a temporary procedure was also adopted for other areas in the city. These include Second and Third Shaughnessy.

      The interim measure provides that owners who demolish pre-1940 homes cannot build more than what is allowed in the zoning.

      In 2015, council designated First Shaughnessy as the first heritage conservation area in Vancouver. A number of homeowners filed a petition for a judicial review, which was dismissed in 2016 by the B.C. Supreme Court.

      Meanwhile, city staff went on to conduct a zoning review in response to concerns over the loss of “character homes” in single-family-dwelling districts. (Character homes are dwellings built before 1940 that have retained a number of distinctive features. They are also listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register.)

      Following the zoning review, staff prepared a report included on the July 25 city-council agenda, recommending incentives for property owners wanting to retain their character homes. Subject to approval by council after a future public hearing, these incentives include the ability to add new dwelling units, to convert homes into multiple dwellings, and to increase the floor area of a character home.

      The report includes a recommendation to extend for another year the interim measure put in place in 2014 in certain areas of the city, which include Second and Third Shaughnessy. Other areas covered by the provisional guideline are in the Arbutus, Dunbar, and Kerrisdale neighbourhoods.

      According to the report—written by Anita Molaro, assistant director of urban design—about 5,300 of the estimated 15,000 pre-1940 homes in single-family districts across the city are located in areas covered by the interim procedure.

      “While the interim procedure does not prevent demolition, it limits the above-grade floor area allowed when a character home is demolished,” Molaro wrote in her report.

      In an interview, Molaro said that the city, by offering incentives to encourage property owners to keep character homes, hopes to conserve properties with heritage value and create more homes.

      As for those areas covered by the provisional guideline, Molaro said: “We’re keeping the interim procedure…for the time being, and it’s something that we’re going to be reviewing over the next year.”

      The Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners’ Association has written several letters to city hall regarding its concerns. A June 20, 2017, letter addressed to the planning department talked about “downzoning” resulting from the interim measure.

      Association president Nicole Clement illustrated in the letter what happens if an owner decides to demolish a character home on a 9,500-square-foot lot. According to her, the owner will be allowed to build a new home of only 2,920 square feet plus a basement. Without the interim measure, the same homeowner can develop a new home of 3,680 square feet plus basement.

      Association director Ball lives in Second Shaughnessy; according to him, the city is also giving out incorrect information about what is entailed in preserving a pre-1940 home.

      “They’re telling people that the cost of renovating an older character home…is more cost-efficient than building a new one,” he said. “I’ve rebuilt three older homes myself, and I can tell you for a fact that that is not true at all. It is equally as expensive and can be more so if you run into some of the environmental issues that are associated with pre-1940s homes.”