Below is the letter prepared by OSCA’s Planning Committee and sent on behalf of OSCA to the City of Ottawa regarding a proposed amendment to the R4 zoning bylaw.
April 28, 2020
Ottawa City Hall, mail code 01-15 110 Laurier Avenue West, 4th floor Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1J1
Re: Residential Fourth Density (R4) Zoning Amendment Proposal
Dear Mr. Moerman:
Thank you for meeting with our OSCA Planning and Zoning Committee chairs and Miles Krauter from our Councillor’s office on April 8, 2020 to discuss the proposed R4 Zoning Amendments.
I am following up with written comments on behalf of the Old Ottawa South Community Association.
Old Ottawa South supports changes to the Official Plan and zoning that increase intensification and the sustainability of Ottawa as a whole, but not the current approach to achieve these ends.
The proposed amendment will double densities throughout large areas of established communities by permitting 8-unit and 12-unit apartments on small lots. Most will be one- bedroom or bachelor units, which as newer units, will be priced for the rental market at rates higher than the older housing stock they are replacing.
The City cites the benefits of increased, newly built housing stock but does not recognize or address the potentially considerable impacts of the change on individual communities.
Further, the proposed amendment implements an intensification strategy expected in the new Official Plan on a piecemeal basis and perhaps radically alters the role of the inner area before Council and the public discuss how this change affects the whole of the city and its future.
As an example of how a piecemeal approach may negatively impact the wider process, we suggest that the doubling of densities as proposed in the R4 Zoning Amendment proposal should not be considered without first addressing the issue of the increased public greenspace and other facilities such a population would require. Strategies for more greenspace, cycling and pedestrian facilities, and health, recreation and other human services must be developed and delivered alongside intensification of inner urban communities.
We offer the following comments on the proposed amendment.
Unit size: The requirement to build 25% of units as two-or-more bedroom units in buildings of 12 units or more should also apply to buildings of 8 units or more. This will allow greater choice in the rental housing market and provide needed housing for families in the “missing middle”.
Rooftop terraces: All amenity areas as defined in the zoning bylaw should be prohibited from rooftops, not only terraces and patios.
Spot rezoning: Considerable pressure will arise to extend areas of R4 zoning, to rezone lots across the street or around the corner or down the block from an R4 lot. We have no idea how spot rezonings can be opposed or even managed, given success rates to date.
Compatibility: Measures such as increased rear yards and step-backs should be required on lots proposed for R4 zoning where the permitted height is 14.5 m and a storey or more greater than the height permitted on adjacent lots. Similar measures are needed where a greater height is proposed for only one side of a street and faces an opposite side where a lower height is allowed.
Maximum lot widths: Setting a maximum lot frontage is a step in the right direction but may not go far enough to curb “block busting” where a low-rise apartment is built mid-block and dominates the streetscape. A requirement that redevelopment sites with a frontage of more than 100 feet be permitted only as corner locations could curb this type of development.
Permitted projections: “Switchback” exit stairs allowed to project 2.2 m into rear yards reduce landscaped areas and permeability on site as well as privacy and sunlight in adjacent yards. They often also contribute to an increase in noise pollution. Given how difficult it is to fit 8 or more units on a 300 m2 lot, builders will likely favour designs that put the required circulation outside the building envelope as a permitted projection rather than in the interior of the building. This projection should not be allowed.
Bay windows: Similar to the projection for stairs in the rear yard, the permitted projection for bay windows extending to grade in the front yard reduce the landscaped area and permeability on site. At a minimum, these projections should be limited to floor level on the first floor to reduce the building footprint and allow for soft landscaping.
Garbage: The zoning bylaw must state that a secure, enclosed, walk-in shed be provided for outdoor garbage storage and that a paved pathway be proved between the shed and the front sidewalk. If the property owner fails to properly manage garbage on-site, at least the facilities will be in place on-site to do so—and to respond to any future complaints.
The proposed amendment references several elements of the changes to the R4 zoning that are to be carried out through the Infill Refresh. As far as we can discern, these elements are minimum required area of front-yard soft landscaping, rear-yard setbacks, and permitted projections.
It has been difficult to put the two streams together—the R4 zoning amendment and the Infill Refresh—to see what occurs on the site when the two are combined. We appreciate that the R4 zoning amendment now requires a specified area of the rear yard to be softly landscaped and would like to see what actual area of soft landscaping remains once the proposed permitted rear stair projection is taken into account.
It is also unclear how much landscaping would occur on large lots where parking is permitted. Could you please provide us with that information for the various lot widths based on the modelling that was done?
Thank you again for your work on the R4 review and for considering our community comments.
President, Old Ottawa South Community Association