Kelowna citizens and community organizations can use the OCP to see how and where the city will grow and change, ensuring they stay both informed and involved in decision making.
The OCP is said to reflect Kelowna’s people driven growth and works from and encourages diverse public participation. “The Official Community plan require us to work together as a community to build our future city and require organizations, institutions, businesses, agencies and other levels of government to change the way we work together, how we make decisions, and how we engage with Kelowna residents.”
KLONA is fully supportive of the need for stronger community involvement, doing things differently and for Kelowna’s external organizations to align with Kelowna’s vision. Those that support Kelowna’s vision need to have a strong voice. Our experience is that individual voices have little influence in decision making and the voices of neighbourhood associations are routinely dismissed and delegitimized – even those that are behind Kelowna’s vision. Business associations on the other hand, have often opposed actions the support Kelowna’s vision (without questions of the legitimacy of their positions on behalf of their members) and are given a greater opportunity to provide input into policy.
Whose voice matters, and how diverse public participation and collaboration will be encouraged and supported needs to be defined. Decisions and policy need to be consistent with Kelowna’s vision and input. Kelowna lacks the input of advisory committees as many cities have which balances the actions of city governments and developers. Advisory committees would reduce the huge volume of reading and work expected from our part-time city councilors.
The land use maps in the OCP don’t give a clear picture to Kelowna citizens of how and where the city will grow. As an example, Downtown Building Heights Map 4.1 has large areas where there is no height limit! The tallest building segment is 13 stories or higher with the caveat that “the legend indicates maximum permissible height” and that “the height will not always be achievable.” Already during the OCP review period a development with towers ranging 24 – 42 stories in height was approved by council and a 46-storey tower is proposed! It’s clear the scale presented to residents in the OCP is not reflective of what developers, staff and council have in mind. This is also critical as the infrastructure and transit service is not planned to support such a scale (the OCP does not indicate any Skytrain stations.)
Why building height matters in the first place and views that are iconic to Kelowna to preserve is also not defined anywhere in the OCP. In many cities including Vancouver and Ottawa preserving views, skyline, managing density, and sunlight are primary objectives. Kelowna’s lake and mountain views, not walls of concrete are what draw people to our city. It is concerning that the as we look to grow higher the 2040 OCP leaves it open ended.
Planning for 50,000 people by 2040 resulting in a transformation from a small town which requires more complex choices. To flourish in the future, we need to be agile and unafraid to do things differently.
The OCP assumes a trend of declining household size from current 2.0 persons per household to 1.68 by 2040. This assumption further assumes that primary household types by 2040 will be single occupants or couples without children requiring smaller housing units, allowing 1 bedroom or 2 bedrooms to fulfill their housing needs.
To understand where we are going it is important to understand where we are and who are we building for? What are their housing needs? People driven growth should mean building for those who want to live here with appropriate unit types. There is a trend of many new developments marketing to investors. In Toronto for example, this has resulted in disproportional development of small units in tall condo towers and a lack of missing middle family housing. A similar trend is happening in Kelowna.
We have not seen a document estimating how many developable units were possible under the 2030 OCP to determine how many more and what type of units would be required for 2040. Discussion with long range planners has led to confusion how large the area is that the numbers pertain to. KLONA’s analysis has found for example in the Pandosy - Lakeshore potential development that is 6 times the planned number of units for the area. Some have been approved for over a decade and not been constructed yet. While it’s impossible to ensure proposed and built form are the same given changing market conditions and developer circumstances, being off by a factor of 6 has negative impacts of rapidly increasing land values, fueling speculation, and doesn’t help create units in other areas that the city would like to see a concentration (and is planning infrastructure and transportation) for significant redevelopment such as Capri-Landmark and Downtown.
The Draft 2040 OCP includes numerous statements identify challenges Kelowna will need to overcome such as: increased traffic, home price escalation, gentrification, income inequality, affordability, climate change, environmental protection and restoration, community safety, ensuring Kelowna remains an attractive destination, and inclusivity. “Land use decisions, capital investments and community partnerships” are identified as important to achieving Kelowna’s Community Vision.
The challenges identified are consistent with what KLONA heard from engaging with our members by email, our AGM, coffee chats and the Imagine Pandosy survey. These are all things that KLONA advocates for. Despite their mention in the OCP, it is not clear how the OCP addresses many of these challenges. We’d like to see the statements be substantiated and for it to be demonstrated how the land use plans and other coordinated city plans such as the TMP, Infrastructure, and Capital Plans address these issues.
Density for example is being added, yet sufficient and specific levels of transit service and other measures to offset traffic congestion has not been defined. The approval of 40+ stories towers in the downtown is completely out of scale with 13+ stories in the Downtown land use map – Where is the page about the Skytrain going in?
We are particularly concerned about the loss of affordable housing for the development of high-end housing in the Pandosy neighbourhood resulting in gentrification. A unit gained from a high end one-bedroom unit for example is not the same as a unit of affordable family housing lost. Further, with developers driven to maximize profit, it is unclear how middle-income housing will be developed.
Development is developer driven with high rise developments being pushed into South Pandosy that doesn’t align with the neighbourhood vision. Residents can’t rely on the OCP and it’s unreasonable to expect them to keep up with the rapid pace of variances and have a full understanding of the impacts to their community. High-rises versus low-midrise for example, have varying impacts on the urban fabric. 4 – 6 stories buildings are the most affordable to build while having the lowest embodied carbon due to wood construction, they do not require large parking podiums, allow for more walk-up units that are more suitable for families, provide less strain on infrastructure and congestion, are more human scale and provide greater architectural variety along the streetscape enhancing the character of the urban fabric.
Recently Kelowna identified that it is in dire need to spur the development of affordable rental housing . Both the Willow Park Campground and Central Mobile Home park provide recent opportunities to meaningfully create developments that address the challenge of creating more affordable and attainable housing (Willow Park being a development that was not yet up-zoned and purchased decades before steep land price escalation in South Pandosy and Central Mobile Home Park that could have been redeveloped with a non-profit to provide significant affordable housing for the people living in the 133 units and perhaps five times more .) Incorporating residential units on top of low-rise commercial units is another way to create affordable housing, revitalize strip malls and add density.
New growth in the OCP is allocated: 48% within five Urban Centre’s, 25% within the Core Area and 23% in Suburban neighborhoods.
Core area neighborhoods support attached at detached building up to 3 stories (FAR 1.0) and multi-dwelling buildings up to approximately 6 stories (FAR 1.8) along transit supportive corridors.
The locations of Urban Centre’s and development areas are identified in Map 2.2: Anticipated Residential Unit Distribution. Future units are allocated as follows:
Growth Node New Units 2040 % of Total
Black Mtn 450 2%
Capri Landmark UC 3650 15%
Downtown UC 4500 18%
Core Central 3800 15%
Core Glenmore 1630 6%
Core Rutland 1000 4%
Kettle Valley South 250 1%
Kirschner Mtn 350 1%
McKinley Beach 375 1%
Midtown UC 1075 4%
Mount Baldy 375 1%
North Clifton 150 1%
Remainder of City 1500 6%
Rutland UC 1850 7%
Pandosy UC 1025 4%
The Ponds 875 3%
Tower Ranch 425 1%
University South 1050 4%
Wilden 1000 4%
Urban Centre densities target 150 – 250 combined residents and jobs per hectare, with a composition of 2:1 resident to jobs (policy 4.1.1). Densities and heights are to vary according to the following hierarchy (policy 4.1.2):
Urban Centre Downtown Capri/Landmark Midtown Pandosy Rutland
% Growth Allocation 18 15 4 4 7
Approx. Future Units 4500 3650 1075 1025 1850
Max Height Stories 3–13+ 3–26 6–16 3-14 4-12
KLONA is supportive of most aspects of the OCP and agrees with the growth allocation and hierarchy proposed. The densities of 150 – 250 persons & jobs per ha are achievable in many ways and do not necessarily require high rise buildings. This level of density should be able to support high levels of transit service, less than 10-minute frequencies that could attract riders without automobile access. Absence of a clear service target and a clear plan to get there (as well as having a way for development to pay) is critical to realize the benefits and avoid congestion.
Lacking is how the city will achieve the growth allocation, density targets and deliver the housing types required. Given the continuous development proposals and variances being sought in South Pandosy it’s hard to see how growth in Pandosy will be only 4% while growth in Capri Landmark will be scaled up to 15%.
A significant disconnect appears with public input from Imagine Kelowna relating to built form and growth allocations translated in the land use maps. Beyond the unit count what is missing is a break-down of who are we building for, both by housing type and income. A Sotheby’s survey in 2018 found that only 7% of Vancouver residents would prefer living in a high-rise condo. This is inconsistent with the OCP pillar for future housing in Urban Centre’s to be in high rise apartments. Further, the focus on high rise apartments is inconsistent with what 6000 residents said in the OCP engagement.
The “Pick Your Path” process asked Kelowna residents:
“Would you prefer more tall building in targeted urban areas or more low-rise buildings across central neighbourhoods?”
Growth Scenario 4 was the path for those who selected tall, Scenario 3 was selected for those who selected low-rise.
Scenario 3 was most popular and overwhelming majority of residents selected Scenario 3 or lower. Further, public comments identified “concerns about impacts of growth and focusing too much growth on tall buildings, and a desire for a greater mix of hosing choice & lower buildings.”
Council’s selection of Scenario 2.5 leans further toward lower building heights. However, contrary to public input and Scenario 2.5, OCP 2040 allocates high-rise buildings in all Urban Centre’s despite that it’s possible to achieve the density targets with low to mid-rise buildings .
The OCP does not define many qualitative aspects of low-rise, mid-rise and high-rise buildings to support where and for whom these building should be built and their impacts on the urban fabric and OCP goals. View corridors which are important considerations in most cities are not defined and the impact of above ground parking and implications on building form and height are also not considered as limitations.
KLONA has already determined that development will already exceed the growth allocation for South Pandosy by several orders of magnitude and is unclear how the 14-story height was determined. The Imagine Pandosy survey confirms the public is concerned about development in South Pandosy and favours low to mid-rise development.
The density hierarchy (policy 4.1.2) as it relates to South Pandosy confirms a vision of lower building heights but is meaningless when the outcome is high-rise built forms (the nuance between 12, 14 and 16 stories is meaningless when the form is a tower atop a podium.)
As a result, KLONA is not supportive of the proposed land use maps (particularly building heights) for the South Pandosy area as they are inconsistent with public input, the OCP vision and other policy directions. KLONA requests that the City of Kelowna accelerate the development of a Lakeshore / Pandosy Area Plan prior to committing to significant land use changes in the OCP and significant height variances that would undermine such a process. We admire the consideration and participatory process recently undertaken in Kamloops in developing their North Shore Reimagined Plan.