Coquitlam reviews retaining wall requirements
By Colten Kamlade, Staff Reporter
The City of Coquitlam is looking to change policies and guidelines related to steep slope development and retaining walls.
Houses built on slopes generally require the use of retaining walls to maintain the land. Unfortunately, these walls can become unsightly if they are built too large. According to the City of Coquitlam website, the height of these walls has recently increased in Coquitlam. In some areas of the Burke Mountain region, retaining walls have reach 10 metres high, and this is due to several factors. Neighbourhoods are being developed on a portion of Burke Mountain that has steeper slopes then areas previously developed; increasing housing costs has made smaller lots more desirable and when developed on steeper site, which can lead to more and higher retaining walls; market demand for traditional housing designs is very strong despite the fact these designs are generally better suited to flat sites; and developer design has not responded to hillside development on increasingly-steep slopes.
Higher walls pose concerns over liveability and aesthetics. This has led the City to address the height of retaining walls in Coquitlam.
In an email interview with the Other Press, George Fujii, development services director for the City, said the City has proposed new requirements for retaining walls, but nothing is set in stone as of yet.
“The City is proposing new rules for maximum wall heights. The maximum height, where only one retaining wall exists between two homes, will be 2.4 metres. The maximum height of two retaining walls built on the slope between two ‘back to back’ houses would be a combined maximum of 4.8 metres where no single wall could exceed a 3.6 metre maximum height for any individual wall (of the two),” Fujii said.
The details of such changes are still being worked out, but Fujii emphasized that safety was of the utmost concern.
“The City is now proposing a variety of solutions to allow for the development of new communities while at the same time safely reducing the reliance on high retaining walls. All walls over 1.2 metres in height will continue to be certified by a professional engineer when they were built, and the City will still review these walls for safety and construction standards prior to issuing an occupancy permit,” Fujii said.
The City of Coquitlam website states that a “multi-disciplinary” team has reviewed current practices and has worked with developers to examine ways to improve the aesthetics and livability of new communities.