Intensification not without its drawbacks

On Pamilla Street an infill developer severed the side yard of a small single — the blue one to the right in the pic — and greatly intensified the site. The neighbours objected, took it to the OMB, lost, and the building went ahead.

Why was it controversial? Well, the usual developer sins. They took the front and back yard set back minimums as the permissible maximum building size. So the infill house is huge — so huge, it is in fact 3 houses on one 23′ lot with shared driveway. The neighbours objected to the height, the car traffic, and especially the depth of the house, which extends behind the existing alignment of houses thus blocking off the open sense in the backyards (and the afternoon sun).

The Committee of Adjustment turned it down partially based on the unique open stairwell proposed for the project.

Like other infills for this developer (these include the Elm Street ones that face my backyard, and won a design award last year, and that I like, and which have been subject of numerous posts here) he pushes the envelope. Hard. Here’s the Pamilla infill, now completed, as seen from the street:

From this angle, it is not apparent that the roof has a low slope. How are there three houses here? Well, the first house faces the street, it is two floors high, and has a front door off the nod-to-the-traditional porch. It has three bedrooms, and a finished basement with a rec room, bathroom, kitchenette, and separate entrance, ie a suite.

Then there is a very similar house facing the back of the lot (unit 2, plus its suite). And then there is a third floor, which is one apartment straddling the two lower townhouses. And to get to the top apartment (and the basement suites) there is an exterior flight of stairs that pushes the two ground level townhouses apart. Here’s the view down the driveway:

and here are the stairs, which are open to the next door’s back yard, which was one of the objections to the stairs, due to their impact on the privacy of the adjacent rear patio and gardens:

and here is a view looking way-way-up, Jerome, to the entrance to the third floor apartment, which has about 1100 sq ft:

The house looks fine from the front. Indeed, it is now, along with the renovated single just beyond it that originally had this side yard, perhaps the most attractive property on the street.

And yet. Qualms remain. From a plans-on-paper perspective, the house is similar to the one I like in my backyard. Except those ones (on Elm) have landscaped backyards to my backyard; Pamilla has two parking spaces for a backyard, and the adjacent single has the third space. All paved. No room for plants or big trees. And potential source of noise (car stereos are so convenient for washing the car, or sitting out back with a beer, or entertaining friends — and all the neighbours).

The mass of the house IS huge; it extends well back into the lot. While they let in enough light for grass and plants to grow, I notice my chinese neighbours gave up back yard gardening when the large corrugated tin walls rise up 33′ on the lot line, blocking afternoon sun.

Infill is not painless. Intensification is not painless. The Pamilla project turned out well enough, but is dense. On the other hand, wood frame construction is cheaper to build, which makes the units more profitable to rent, which encourages landlords to provide more affordable units. The renters are getting more house for their dollar than they would in a high rise condo. The neighbours got a good looking house from the street, and an irritant in the back.

Of course, the alternative is the land assembly going on in the next block (Norman St) where Urban Capital is active. I somehow suspect they are not going to propose a stacked townhouse or two.

3 thoughts on “Intensification not without its drawbacks

    1. the lada car place, the house to the east ( I think) and all the ones to the west right to the otrain corridor; i hear that having been turned down on an apt building they are now trying to assemble some lots on the street behind (Beech?) which would really open the space for some significant low rise structure, ie if they cant go up they can get economies of scale by going sideways.

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