Letter: One needs to consider existing homes in Richmond

Dear Editor,

Re: “Are we stuck with our lot?,” Richmond News, Letters, March 17.

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Mr Currie: You are indeed stuck with your lot, but not because your property has lost its land-use (LUC) zoning status. 

You are stuck with your lot because the city has, so far, failed to address the two most critical negative impacts of single-family house construction in Richmond and how this affects all existing neighbouring homes: Loss of sunlight and privacy.

This issue may seem to affect older homes much more right now, but as more single-family lots get built into mega homes (even within the existing bylaw), light and privacy in these big homes is going to be significantly affected as well. 

This issue may be far more pronounced for homes that surround LUC properties, but it is very much present for existing homes next to mega builds that are within the city’s building bylaw (8500) as well. 

If new single-family homes continue to be built at this scale (with 12 and 16 foot ceilings), with only eight feet of separation between them, they will continue to cast long shadows and will continue to affect livability in surrounding homes.

Unless the city re-examines how ceiling heights contribute to the floor area ratio of new homes, all other fixes combined will still not produce a new home that can effectively put the genie of the mega home back into the bottle.

If constraints to ceiling height become part of the new bylaw, what may seem like unnecessary constraints right now to builders and seekers of mega homes, will work to protect their sunlight and privacy as well. 

I am baffled with the inaccuracies in the argument that retaining LUC status for eight more years (until 2024) could be a viable solution for homeowners in existing homes. LUC lots are scattered all over neighbourhoods. 

If all of them are allowed to build outside the bylaw, they would affect many more homes. What would be a fix for these homeowners who need to abide by the existing bylaw? 

Also, many families (like mine) do not have the need, desire or capital to sell their home and re-locate, or to demolish it and build a much bigger home.

Furthermore, the city needs to make sure that those LUC property owners who have been given the variance to retain their LUC status, will only be allowed to build keeping in mind the principle of containing damage to neighbouring homes and not spreading it like a contagion from lot to lot. 

To council: As you deliberate on changes to the bylaw related to building single-family homes in the city, please set a new precedent that allows for shared and equitable access to sunlight and reasonable expectation of privacy on either side of the fence.

The current building norms in the city do not account for losses to existing homes or losses to community and the environment.

Niti Sharma

Richmond

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