A Community Website for
Vancouver's First Neighbourhood
photo credit

Zoning Committee

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 typically meets on short notice in response to notification letters it receives from the city, or at the request of owners or architects. On occasion, the Planning Department advises applicants to talk to the zoning committee before they draw up detailed plans, particularly when something atypical or especially complex is being proposed. The city’s process is to issue letters notifying nearby residents and the zoning committee that plans for a particular development application are available to be viewed. The committee then views the plans and sends a letter to the planner attached to the project. A copy is also sent to the property owner and/or the design team working on the project. The letter may contain comments on project details and a statement of support, or reasons may be given why the committee does not support the proposal or particular aspects of the proposal. The zoning committee’s letters are made available for reading at the following monthly SRA meeting.