Historian John Atkin appreciates an inspired mix of old and new.
The buttercup yellow townhouses at the corner of Keefer and Hawks in Strathcona provide an example of "mature zoning," he says, because they fit the heritage garage they front.
"Somebody could have come in, taken the [zoning] regulations and built a whole series of faux little Victorians, but that doesn't do the neighbourhood any good," Atkin said.
"Sometimes you get this roadblock of 'These regulations are hampering my creativity.' And that actually is a direct quote from an architect who I won't name, to Bruce Haden, who developed the ones at Hawks and Keefer."
According to Atkin, Haden came up with a highly creative response to the zoning.
Examining zoning and the evolution of its interpretation will be among the themes of Atkin's tour, Saturday, Sept. 15, called Neighbourhood Zoning: How Did That Happen? The tour is part of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation's Old School Courses.
While rules and regulations may not sound like scintillating tour fare, Atkin notes zoning largely dictates the way the city looks. "Pretty much the built form of the city, it all comes down to zoning," he said.
He also believes learning about zoning can make everyday Vancouverites better educated about development in their city.
"If they're learning things, they go out and talk to friends and there's this general awareness," he said. "It's a little harder for folks to blow smoke and say oh well we have to do this. Now you have people saying, wait a sec."
Atkin will outline the intent of various zoning designations, point out initial pitfalls and how responses to regulations evolved over time.
He will guide tour-goers through Mount Pleasant and Strathcona, two of the first zoning districts in the city where what existed was carefully considered in drafting new policies.
Atkin says the city created zoning to provide incentives to retain Mount Pleasant houses in the late 1980s. "Most of the houses, if they were small enough, they were bulldozer bait," he said. "With this zoning in Mount Pleasant, it was really the first time they looked at the idea of infill housing along with some additional density on the property."
He'll lead the tour along 11th Avenue, between Ontario and Columbia streets. "It's a laboratory of how the zoning evolved and how people got familiar with it," he said.
"When you put something new in, there's always this learning period, so you can walk down the street and go, ew, that's not very good, but it was like the first project that was done under that zoning."
He'll point out how planners and members of the community refined some of the zoning in Mount Pleasant for Strathcona after three years of local planning in 1993, and include the yellow Koo's Corner townhouses and successful modern additions on heritage structures on his route.
The neighbourhood zoning walk runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, see vancouverheritagefoundation.org.
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