RT-3 and the SRA
In 1992, following three years of community consultation, the Strathcona Community Plan was approved by the residents in a neighbourhood referendum. The required legislation was then passed by City Council, and the SRA was established with a mandate to support the community plan and monitor its implementation. The core of the plan was the creation of a new zoning district for the neighbourhood, known as RT-3. The RT-3 by-law was specifically designed to preserve the original houses and streetscapes of Strathcona, Vancouver’s first neighbourhood. It was framed so as to promote restoration and discourage demolition of heritage buildings. Heritage in the Strathcona context was defined by the significant period of early construction in the neighbourhood, dating from 1886 to 1920. Those who wish to explore the zoning in detail can use the link below to access the RT-3 by-law on the City of Vancouver’s website, as well as the accompanying design guidelines.
The Zoning Committee: A Neighbourhood Advisory Group
The SRA Zoning Committee is one of many neighbourhood advisory groups that participate in the planning process established by the City of Vancouver (CoV). The committee was formed to monitor and support the CoV’s ‘on-the-ground’ implementation of the RT-3 regulations and guidelines. When RT-3 was created, many planners had had little experience with implementing design guidelines or with the special characteristics of Strathcona’s old buildings, peculiar sites, and unique streetscapes. The zoning committee was able to provide planners with feedback on how well their implementation was matching the by-law’s intention to retain and restore Strathcona’s architectural heritage. Over the years planning staff have acquired greater experience with RT-3 and an appreciation of the neighbourhood and its quirks. At the same time, they have many demands to reconcile when they process any application, including building codes, fire codes, parking regulations, and changing ideas about density and livability. Heritage restoration is not an exact science. Strathcona’s buildings differ in multiple details and have often been altered over time. Each heritage building presents unique problems that require site-specific solutions. The CoV’s application process incorporates advice from the zoning committee based on local familiarity with architectural details and historical information that the Planning Department may not otherwise have the opportunity to collect. The city takes the committee’s opinions into account, but the power of decision ultimately rests with the Planning Department.
The Zoning Committee and CoV Process
The Zoning Committee (ZC) meets on short notice in response to notification letters it receives from the City of Vancouver (CoV). The City’s process is to issue letters notifying nearby residents and the ZC that plans for a particular development application are available to be viewed. The ZC views the plans, comes to a position on the proposal, and sends a letter to the development planner assigned to the project. The letter may be a statement of support, or give reasons why the ZC does not support the proposal. The letter is made available for reading at the following SRA meeting. If requested in writing, the ZC Chair will email a copy of the final letter to the applicant or his agent. From time-to-time the ZC receives special requests for meetings. We regret that it is not the role of the ZC to meet with property owners or their agents before, during, or after their negotiations with the CoV Development Services. The ZC will not hear or mediate disputes between owners, their agents, authorities, neighbours, special interest groups, or others. The role of the Zoning Committee is to review development applications for compliance with the RT-3 Zoning District Schedule, CoV Policies, and Design Guidelines; to consider the intentions of these documents as well as the history and context of the Strathcona / Kiwassa neighbourhoods; to report its findings to CoV Development Services and to the Strathcona Residents Association membership.