Letter: City of Richmond is abandoning the public's concerns

Dear Editor,

Why is the city so uncaring about our concerns?

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The city organized two public meetings on July 8 and 9 and asked residents and developers to provide input on the issue of massive homes being built in the city. Many residents gave input about how these massive homes, which are often built within two to four feet of the property line, block the sun from a neighboring property, and tower above the neighbour’s backyard.

After consultation with the public, the city’s planning staff suggested one important way to reduce and scale down the size of massive homes was to reduce the double height calculation for a single storey from 16.4 feet to12.1 feet. What this meant was you could still build high, but after 12.1 feet you would have to double count the built area. This reduced dimension would offer relief from massing and is line with the direction that neighboring cities (Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby) have adopted.

Contrary to input from Richmond residents and advice from city’s own planning and design staff, all councillors other than Carol Day and Harold Steves voted to pass the bylaw amendment that retains the 16.4 feet height before double counting floor area.

I want to ask the council what has changed after this four to six-month period of consultation with the public and with the city’s planning staff? What have you done to offer relief from massive homes?

The only thing that stands out in the bylaw amendment is that the overall height of the two-storey structure has been returned to 29.5 feet. However, most massive homes are not two-storeys high. They are at-least 2.5 storeys tall and how will the height of this structure be tamed by the new amendment?

These massive homes pay much more attention to fitting a three-car garage on the lot than having a garden or trees. In the recent transit vote about 70 per cent of Richmond voted no. There may have been multiple reasons for not supporting the transit vote, but I am sure that having three or four cars per household would definitely pre-empt the need/desire for transit.

These mega homes may be “dream homes” for the builders/developers because they yield high turnover profits, but the developer only has a short-term connection with this structure. They buy the lot, demolish the old house and build a new one that is sold for much more money. The builders work hard during this process, but they seem uncaring about how this new structure impacts the neighbours. That is because it’s not the builder/developer that lives around this new house but residents whose properties are adjacent to the new structure. They are the ones to suffer the consequences of unthinking plans that allow massive homes that are both too tall, too wide and seem to be bursting out of their lot to impose on the neighbors. These mega homes may be fine when offset by surrounding acreage, but they are a nightmare especially for small to medium residential lots.

It is the city that needs to lay down guidelines and bylaws that uphold the property rights of existing and new residents equally. It is the city that seems to have turned its back on the demands of the residents who suffer from being walled in by the massive new homes around them. I understand that some of us enjoy tall ceilings and big homes, but these should be built on large lots that allow surrounding neighbors room to breathe.

In the public meetings the developers tried to say that opposition to these mega homes comes from those who are not immigrant friendly and do not like the changing demographics of the city. I disagree with this comment. I think the massification of single family homes is significantly responsible for creating and exacerbating tensions between existing and new residents, regardless of their ethnicity.

The city should be building bridges between neighbors, not tall, unbreachable walls.

Unless the city takes the role of a good steward and invests more political will in listening to all its people, we are in danger of losing that essential ingredient of a robust community: Goodwill and care for each other.

Please come to the city hall public hearing (Sept. 8) on the massing and height bylaw to let your voice be heard.

Niti Sharma

Richmond

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