Statement on R4 Zoning Review

Councillor Rawlson King provided comments and direction concerning the R4 review process at the September 23, 2020 City Council meeting.

I’d like to take the opportunity to commend staff for the work that they have undertaken during this comprehensive review of R4 zoning, which tremendously impacts Ottawa's inner urban wards.

In particular, I would like to thank Mr. Moerman who has been patient and communicative with my office and Ward 13 residents.

The review has been thorough and comprehensive and the report before us on Phase 2 is the culmination of more than four years of work by staff to address the critical need to establish standards for low-rise residential buildings.

Critically, this review is designed to ensure that new R4 zoned buildings are constructed to complement established communities and fit within their urban context.

Of great concern too many residents in Ward 13 is the consolidation of lots to build large buildings which are inappropriate to the character of the street. This is of particular concern in Overbrook, where the lot widths and depths are more generous than in other places throughout the urban core.

To be clear, I do not object to intensification. I welcome it, and understand how integral it is for the health and vibrancy of our City. I’m gratified that some of the design changes within the report will help mitigate the issues of buildings that are blocked off from the street by increasing fenestration, upholding the rhythm of doors and mandating greenery that enhance and contribute to the look and feel of our neighbourhoods

However, there’s intensification that contributes, and there’s intensification that detracts. And there is a continuing worry that where there is the potential to build a larger building and cram more units in, that this will occur, regardless of the impact it has on neighbourhoods.

Another concern I've heard from the community is ensuring that there is a wide variety of unit types available to renters. This serves a dual purpose. Firstly, the social mix of a neighbourhood is enhanced when there are different units available for rent that caters to both individuals and families. Currently, most units that are constructed only cater to singles, thereby leaving little choice for families who would rather opt to rent apartments in urban core. If we want to be serious about "15 minute neighbourhoods" in our new Official Plan, we will need to ensure young families have rental options. Additionally, as home ownership becomes less accessible due to escalating cost, there will be a need for apartments within our urban core for people who cannot afford to buy but do not want to live further away.

I also continue to remain concerned about the lack of infrastructure to support increasing R4 development. While we want to foster "15 minute neighbourhoods" it will be important to site apartments on streets with proper amenities to support active transportation. Some inner core neighbourhoods are experiencing R4 densification on streets without sidewalks that can facilitate the walk to and from transit infrastructure. Streets that are not pedestrian and bicycle friendly are not helping us attain the 15 minute neighbourhood.

Thus while I believe the zoning review moves in the right direction concerning building apartments that complement the character of communities, and attempt to encourage the increase of rental supply to increase affordability, my Direction to staff today will ask that they review and report back on these key critical community concerns which focus on the number of units on a consolidated lot, about the amount of family units, and about the necessary infrastructure required to support intensification.

Reporting back will provide my community with the data it needs in advance of the anticipated changes to the R4 zone that will come about as a result of the new Official Plan to assess whether stronger safeguards are required. If the changes proposed within this report work as intended, we should have more gentle intensification that contributes to the walkability of our neighbourhoods and enhances the streetscape.

My Direction to staff is that the General Manager of Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development report back to Council 18 months after the amendments to the R4 zones come into force as to:

1. The number applications on consolidated lots within the study areas defined in the R4 Zoning Review.

2. The number of units to be built on these consolidated lots.

3. The number of applications on these lots that required a variance seeking relief from setbacks in order to accommodate more units.

4. The number of units throughout the study area to be proposed that are greater than 2 bedrooms in both actual number and percentage of all units being built.

Further, I ask that staff incorporate into the work being done around the Official Plan a clear analysis of the projected intensification pressures to occur within the original study area and that when examining the transition of existing communities to a walkable neighbourhood a inventory of required hard and soft infrastructure to support this intensification is completed.

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