Revitalization

Parking Requirements Ground Another Ambitious Development

By Jason Leach
Published November 23, 2011

Back in April, I expressed my frustration with the City over their parking requirements putting the brakes on a great proposed development at 922 Main Street East that would have incorporated an existing building into high quality intensification on a major street in a ward that needs investment.

I just got a notice in the mail for a public meeting about the "revised" plans for that site. Thanks to City Hall, the building has been reduced from eight storeys with 56 units and then seven storeys with 48 units down to just five storeys and 37 units.

Yes, this is on Main Street. For comparison, the same architect just designed a five-storey building - the Hellenic Community Seniors' Residence, which also incorporates an old building - on Strathcona Avenue North, a small, residential street next to Victoria Park.

Surely Main Street should be where we want buildings eight storeys and higher.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 11:43:51

This is just plain crazy. If the developer feels that few parking spaces are needed for a development to work the why must the city step in? The developer is the one taking the financial risk here, not the city.

Maybe the city thinks that people who need parking will park on nearby side streets? But if that were the case people who require more parking would likely chose to live in a different building.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 16:01:12 in reply to Comment 71553

Agreed. The city should not be dictating parking requirements, and people who really want parking will just go to another building that has 1 parking space per person.

If you're on main street I can think of plenty of places you could go conveniently by public transit, and for those times you need a car, well, that's what our local car share programs are for (or rental cars).

Besides, people parking on the side streets illegally is a major source of revenue for the city (well, it should be considering how frequently some of my friends have been ticketed) so I don't see why they would have an issue with more people parking on-street.

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 13:24:15 in reply to Comment 71553

While I understand the frustration - where would the parking go? I sure don't want more surface parking, but I also don't want every side street jammed with cars. IIRC, the Dundurn/Aberdeen location solved this with parking in the buidling (not sure if it's topside or underground). Ideally people would choose transit and require fewer cars/spaces, but practically it stresses the whole neighbourhood and complicates services like snow removal.

I do see your point though that if people need the parking that they should choose another building, I just don't think people can make that decision as easily as it sounds.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 14:34:57 in reply to Comment 71560

the original blog entry referenced above gives info on the parking numbers and public feedback. The city requires 1.2 spaces per person and this proposal allows for .70 (or thereabouts). Also, over 350 letters were sent out to neighbours asking for their feedback. Only 3 responded. 2 objecting and 1 supporting. In other words, it isn't public feedback that is harming this project. It's directly from city hall. Traffic and parking have run this city for years and appear to still hold control.

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 15:57:49 in reply to Comment 71561

I didn't read the numbers and assumed it meant no parking in the building. Based on the numbers, for every four units, the city wants ~5 parking spots and the developer wants ~3 spots... Jason is right - this seems to be a pretty minor issue that certainly should be able to be negotiated. Why not meet in the middle with one spot per unit? People who don't need their spot can "give them back" for the ~equivalent of a bus pass, while those that need more can enter a lottery and pay the cost of a bus pass...

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By Buildthecity (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 11:52:06

The city just doesn't ant to enhance transit and bike lanes to support high density development not based on motor vehicles. Vote them all out once and for all. They are stuck in the past. Hamilton is so dis functional.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2011 at 12:55:37

I wonder what the response would be if a bunch of angry cyclists refused to let any business or development open without providing "enough" bike racks...

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 14:55:25

It does seem that there could be a solution to this, but it requires creative thinking and flexibility. Councillor McHattie mentioned some previous ideas (some successful, but I don't have the details). There was one plan to include transit passes with condos, but opposition (I don't know from whom - as I said, I'm lacking details) based on likelihood for future funding of the passes. One project proposed bike lockers, which honestly seems like a great idea to me given my experience with a bike in a building.

Perhaps a combined carrot/stick approach of charging extra for parking spaces to subsidize transit passes and also eliminating new buildings which receive parking exemptions from entitlement to on-street parking permits? I agree that it doesn't seem fair to stress neighbourhoods with parking requirements it isn't able to accommodate, but if we want to start seeing some of the desired intensification, there has to be a way to facilitate the infill. (edit for typo)

Comment edited by d.knox on 2011-11-23 14:56:30

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2011 at 16:04:37 in reply to Comment 71562

The only solution that matters to the City is what fits into the by-law. If the by-law requires X parking spaces, then you need X parking spaces.

There is no creative thinking or flexibility - or common sense.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 15:51:00

You know, if only 3 people out of 350 who were asked what they think even responded I don't think we can put all the blame on the city. I think the blame should be placed squarely upon the residents of the area who cared not to even respond about it. A progressive city starts with the people.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 17:34:10 in reply to Comment 71563

I disagree. Silence tells me that neighbours aren't concerned with the project. If they were, you know they'd come out of the wood-work to oppose it. The city could have easily said 'the public has no problems with this, we're willing to compromise'. Instead we cut density in almost half in the name of intensification.

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2011 at 15:58:54

I just ran into a small scale example of exactly the same problem - did you know that all single family homes must have a minimum of two 9 ft x 19.5 ft parking spaces for up to 8 habitable rooms - plus another 0.5 parking spaces per each additional habitable room!

So a small 1200 sq ft, old house on an urban lot that has a lot of individual small rooms can need to have 3 (or more) parking spaces - while a huge 4000 sq ft "open concept" house with the same number of habitable rooms needs the same number. Oh - and only one parking space can be obstructed by another - so if the City says you need 3 parking spots - not only do you need to provide 9 ft x 3 x 19.5 ft of parking area - you also need unobstructed access to two of them!

So if you want to add an addition to an old house on an urban lot - forget about it - your lot is not physically big enough to be a parking lot - who knew?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2011 at 16:16:43 in reply to Comment 71565

Absolutely freaking ridiculous!

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 17:34:34 in reply to Comment 71565

and they wonder why people skip the permit process.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 17:41:32

Do our politicians/bureaucrats live in the same city I do?

This is not the time to be putting absurd restrictions on development this is the time to be making development easier. Not enough parking? Come on.

We need to become a more flexible city for redevelopment. All these empty commercial spaces in this city are never going to be filled. There are simply too many. They were zoned and built in a different time that is gone. A time when people walked city blocks to visit the butcher, the cheese shop, the haberdasher, the independent pharmacist and a plethora of other the ma and pa shops that lined the commercial avenues. Those days are not likely to return... not to the extent we need anyway. So what do we do with these spaces?

If we don't actively encourage unique uses, repurposing and creative redevelopment of these buildings/properties we will struggle to achieve the potential this city has. This city needs to start thinking much more creatively and frankly just get out of its own damn way.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 18:15:08

This irritates me, granted a properly done 5 story is nothing to sneeze at (see Filmwork Lofts), this city needs to start thinking bigger is better and be damned with parking, let the developer and the private sector sort out parking needs.

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By Groan (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2011 at 22:44:17

Along with the new fees being proposed for City commentary on liquor license permits (just mentioned in the Spec), here's another example of Hamilton being "open" to business. Heaven help us all.

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By Red Herring (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2011 at 20:05:24

The building was reduced in size because it is not compatible with the surrounding 2-4 storey structures around it. Hamilton's OP encourages higher intensification on arterial roads, however the new development must be compatible with everything around it. The new OP states:

3.3.1.8 Promote intensification that makes appropriate and innovative use of buildings
and sites and is compatible in form and function to the character of existing
communities and neighbourhoods.

Based on the above wording it's clear that an 8 storey building surrounded by 2-4 storey structures is not compatible as it relates to form.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 24, 2011 at 21:49:26 in reply to Comment 71600

actually, half a block away there is a 6 storey apartment building at Prospect and Main. A couple blocks east on Gage South there are a bunch of buildings in the 5-7 storey range, and 3 blocks south of this site at Cumberland and Balsaam is a 9 storey apartment building. This very much fits in with the surroundings, which also includes 3-4 storey brownstones, triplexes, duplexes and single family homes.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted December 03, 2011 at 14:52:59

Surely this is a perversion form based codes.

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By Rolly (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2011 at 15:33:01

No one has brought up the wonderful tool the city uses called "Payment in Lieu of Parking" This is where the city makes you pay a ridiculous amount of money if you don't have enough parking for a development. I had the pleasure of a certain west end city councilor tossing this gem at me when trying to open my business. The really neat part of that experience was when I asked him for specifics with regard to the fee I would have to pay. 1) what is the formula to come up with a dollar amount...didn't know. 2) does the money paid go into a specific fund to create parking spaces...didn't know. 3) if there is a fund how much money is in it...didn't know. 4) how many parking spaces have been created by this fund...didn't know. What are the plans to create more parking spaces with the money collected...didn't know. you get the theme here.

Or here is a good one "Payment in lieu of Park Space" the building my business is in, is at the corner of King & Locke and plans for apartments above have been submitted but the city wants aproximately $40,000.00 because the property does not have the required amount of greenspace for the proposed # of units(which was reduced by the city from its original proposal) Are you ready here comes the AWESOMENESS that is The City Of Hamilton.....the building is across the street from VICTORIA PARK!!!!!! Maybe a 10+- acre park might be taken into consideration...I love this city!!!

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 07, 2011 at 09:19:05 in reply to Comment 71937

I live two blocks from your establishment and we are all grateful that you've opened here. As the comment below says, city hall seems to prefer boarded up, abandoned upper floors. If Victoria Park doesn't supply enough greenspace I guess I can abandon my dreams of lofts and condos ever being built into the upper floors of the buildings facing Gore Park. Just brutal.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2011 at 17:43:30 in reply to Comment 71937

Apparently the correct thing to do with the units above your restaurant is to break the windows, board them up, and cover them in graffiti. Evidence suggests the city prefers that approach.

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