Garden City Politics - Victoria, BC

Discussion of Municipal Politics for Victoria, British Columbia and metropoltian area, covering civic policy, bylaw issues, policing, and of course, gossip.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Council minutes for June 23rd.

Can be found at the usual spot. Discuss at leisure.

Agendas for July 7th meetings

Here's the agenda for City Council and the Committee of the Whole.

Mostly rezoning stuff, but I might have to go down and ask council to put a leash on Mr. Battershill.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Time to start this up again.

Yeah, it's been a while. Later today I'll post an analysis of the last committee of the whole meeting. In the meantime, have a look at the first annual report from the DV2020 group. I've got to get around to reading it myself.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

December 16th Council meeting

Better late than never. I'm so bitter about this one, that it is best that I not comment.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Docklands feedback

I know this is a little late, but the city is asking for feedback on two proposals for development of the docklands. The feedback form is on the website, and so are the two proposals.

The first is from Windmill Development, the other from Westbank Projects.

I encourage you to have a look at these proposals and let the city know what you think of them. I'll review them this evening and post my thoughts then.

Typical that on November 25th they narrow things down, then give the public until December 10th to give feedback. Wow, two whole weeks during the Christmas crunch for retailers.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Commitee of the whole agenda

This agenda includes the final reccomendations from staff on Dogs in Parks. I will be keeping an eye on that item, and will report back. They are also going to talk about giving the lower causeway of the inner harbour an heritage designation. Other than that, it's the usual heritage designations and zoning changes that is the usual work of city council. There are some legal issues that will be talked about during the closed session at the end of the meeting.

I'm learning that a lot of stuff goes on as well in items with innocuous names like dispostion of communications. Keeping up with council is a bit of a learning curve, and if anyone cares to help out here, I'll be glad for the help. I'm sure there are people who know more about what to watch for than I do, and I am also sure that there are people who can feed me juicy rumours. I am all ears... :)

Agenda for Thursday Dec 2nd

He he... looks like there are a few people who would like to correct City Council's behaviour. There are already four people set to speak on the issue, and I never send in my fax until the day before... Tee hee. Should be a fun Council meeting.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Doggone it! You have to watch this council like hawks

The minutes for November 18th's city council have this little gem buried in there:

Banning of Pit Bulls in British ColumbiaIt was moved by Councillor Fleming, seconded by Councillor Fortin, that a letter be sent to the President of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities requesting that the Solicitor General consider legislation, similar to Ontario's recent legislation, banning put bulls in British Columbia.

It was moved by Councillor Fleming, seconded by Councillor Fortin, that the motion be amended to read as follows:
That a letter be sent to the President of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities requesting that the Solicitor General of the Province of British Columbia monitor the implementation and report to the UBCM on the effectiveness of the legislation. - Carried

On the Main Motion - Carried
I am getting sick of this crap. How often do I have to go to City Council's chambers just to stop them from screwing with me and my family? It's getting tedious!

OK, so once I calmed down from that, there's this little tidbit:
Business License Bylaw Amendments for Liquor-Licensed Businesses
It was moved by Councillor Savoie, seconded by Councillor Thornton-Joe, that Council:
1) Endorse the proposed business license monitoring and enforcement program outlined in the Corporate Administrator's report dated November 12, 2004, subject to the provision of funding in the 2005 budget.
2) Instructs the City Solicitor to amend the Business License Bylaw to add provisions that:
(a) Establish a $3.00 per serving minimum retail drink price for food-primmary and liquor-primary business licensed by the City of Victoria; and,
(b) Increase the business license fee for food-primmary and liquor-primary business licensed by the City of Victoria in accordance with the fee schedule set out in Schedules A and B of the Corporate Administrator's report dated Novemner 12, 2004.

3. Gives notice to businesses affected by the proposed bylaw amendments and invites their input at a public hearing to be held November 30, 2004, at 2:30p.m., prior to council's final consideration of the bylaw amendments. - Carried

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Tomorrows city Council agenda is up

The agenda has been posted for tomorrow's council meeting. Nothing overly interesting. Rezoning some stuff, heritage designations, third reading of the water works bylaw amendments. The usual.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Committee of the whole agenda Nov. 18

It's up. Lots of stuff in this one, mostly rezoning, with a lot of stuff closed as well, mostly to do with land acquisition....

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

November 4 city council minutes

This meeting was a good one. First up was a hearing for a rezoning allowing a liquor store around the corner from me. I spoke in favour after hearing from those persons who were planning on opening it. They are planning a boutique type liquor store, to complement The Market, Zambri's, somewhere to get a nice bottle of wine or spirits to go with the food purchased nearby. To me it was a no-brainer as it will add more life to a section of street that is basically a dead zone. Definitely a good thing.

Next up was a development variance to put up a big honking video sign outside the Memorial Arena (It will be a cold day in hell before I refer to it as the 'Save-On Foods Arena). They allowed it, but did lower the height from the 35'6" asked for to 28'.

Did I mention that they proclaimed November 15th as Medical Marijuana Day?

Another big move was a carry over form the Oct. 28th Commitee of the Whole meeting, and they have now instructed the city solicitor to prepare and amendment to the Parks Regulation Bylaw to restrict Pioneer Square to one hour before dawn until one hour after dusk. This is the old cemetery/park that has become a favoured spot to do drugs, and it has become kind of scary to walk through. Seeing as how the street kids are allowed to sleep at the church next door, I don't see this as an attack on the poor, but a kind of defence against criminals. It's a good thing in my books.

At the end they snuck in fee hikes for Rec Fees and Plumbing Fees.... I don't think anyone expects them to lead off with fee hikes.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

311 service for Victoria?

I haven't heard any noise about it yet, so let me be the first to say, "Let's get this going". 311 service seems to be a very smart thing for municipal governments, if it is anything like the service that NY has, at least as far as I have read.

From the CRTC decision authorizing this service for Calgary, Gatineau, Montréal, Halifax, and the Region of Halton, The Municipalities provided examples of the various functions of the proposed 311 service. Citizens could dial 311 to report dangerous road conditions (i.e. potholes, missing manhole covers), traffic light / street light outages, water main breaks, blocked / broken sewer mains, stray animals, abandoned vehicles, and noise complaints. Further, citizens could make inquiries regarding garbage / recycling, water quality / safety, public transit schedules, development and building permits, property tax bills, parking tickets, and recreation facility schedules. The proposed 311 service could also provide referrals to the mayor's / aldermen's offices, handle general service complaints and compliments, and provide access to all police / fire non-emergency services.

The beauty of this service is that it can spotlight trends in complaints, helping the city understand not just what needs to be done, but what the citizens want the city to do. The example that put me onside with this idea was that NYC during the blackout last summer realized that diabetics were extremely concerned about their insulin supply going bad due to lack of refrigeration, and called the city to figure out a solution. This wasn't on anybodies radar until they got a lot of concerned phone calls. In a lot of ways, this can allow the citizenry to be a bit more empowered, so long as the City pays attention to what the citizens are worried about.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

City of Victoria - Committee of the Whole Meeting Minutes

City of Victoria - Committee of the Whole Meeting Minutesfor November 1st.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Tonights Council Agenda

adg041104_cnc.pdf>Woops, I missed it earlier. I was distracted by our southern neighbours little election. Sorry. Won't happen again.

Here's what happened this morning, which I also missed.

Monday, November 01, 2004

New Chamber of Commerce Board.

Here's the new board. Congrats to the winners!

Friday, October 29, 2004

Special Committe of the Whole Meeting

November 1 is an odd time to have a meeting for the COTW, but here's the agenda anyways. The only item is City of Victoria Departmental Strategic Plan Response 2004 with subtopics of 'Completed Prjects as of October 2004, and In Process and Upcoming Projects.

Anybody know what this one is about?

Downtown Victoria 2020: Improving Downtown Transportation

Downtown Victoria 2020: Improving Downtown Transportation, the new 2020 report is now up on their site. It'll take me some time to digest this. My commentary on this one will be up shortly.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

City of Victoria - Agendas for October 28

Agendas for the morning meeting of the Committee of the Whole, and for Council are up.

As usual, the real work is being done in the CotW, with the Council approving the stuff that's already been worked out, except of course for those controversial zoning changes, such as the one for 138 Michigan Street. The silly people made a house into a duplex and forgot the parking. To make it legal they need to get approval for a parking spot in the front.

Council will also approve a fair number of new designations of property as heritage. The plumbing law discussed at a recent CotW will also head into third reading.

I am somewhat interested in what they plan on doing to the Upper Cook Street Are. They plan on encouraging a more street-friendly form of mixed commerical-residential development. Partially because I'd like to know what they mean by the Upper Cook Street Area, and partially because I'm curious as to what they mean by that phrase.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

October 21 Committee of the Whole agenda

It's up, the weeks agenda. As usual the interesting bits are in the closed session, with an Arena Update, and also something about buying 182A Wharf St.

The public session will include some signage variances, a plumbing bylaw, some bylaw variations for implementation of the Harbour Plan, 2001, along with some other proclamation type things.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Business Improvement Association Documents

Here's a bit more information on the proposed BIA that is being proposed. I notice that the budget seems to be growing already....

BIA First set of documents
Public Meeting Info
This was the information that was stapled to the walls at the public meeting just prior to the presentation to the Commitee of the Whole meeting
Original Budget
This was actually the second budget, as the first time it was brought up it was only going to be about $350,000

BIA Second set of documents
Letter To Council
The cover letter for the presentation to the Commitee of the Whole
Final Draft of Constitution
The proposed constitution for the new BIA
The proposed boundaries for the new BIA
Presentation to Council
Includes the latest proposed budget

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Downtown Victoria 2020: Downtown as a Place of Learning

Downtown Victoria 2020: Downtown as a Place of Learning is the newest report from the 2020 group. I'm beginning to see why the people involved are pushing this. It's just a glimpse at this point, but here's a couple of quotes that point the way:

A variety of non-profit and market housing, new purpose-built and in converted heritage buildings, including live/work to accommodate artists, teachers and students.

A civic based program of creative bylaw and zoning instruments, land assembly, facility creation and improvements, direct grant and other aids to support and sustain the formal and non-formal learning sector base for a learning city.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Oct 14th City Hall Agendas

The agenda for the Thursday evening city council meeting has been posted. Routine zoning adjustments for the most part;

Committee of the Whole agenda has also been posted. This has slightly more interesting stuff. There is going to be some information in camera about the arena. There is also a report from the 2020 committee, and another session about the proposed renewal of the BIA. Hmmmm. Might have to go.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

October 7th Commitee of the Whole Agenda

The Agenda for the October 7th Commitee of the Whole is up now.

A few closed bits, a few proclamations, some small zoning changes, and a session on the harbour. Nothing overly interesting to my eye, but you never know...

Monday, October 04, 2004

A neat urban design blogs

City Comforts Blog is a very nice blog on urban design. I like the slight libertarian cant to it. I've also bookmarked another site with a bunch of blogs to go through....

Council Minutes for Sept 30th

The Minutes for the September 30th city council meeting have been posted. Nothing earth shattering, just the usual small bylaw changes, a proclamation for International Eradicate Poverty Week. There seems to be some more noise about the inner harbour (pun intended).

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Downtown Victoria 2020: From Public Space to Public Place

Downtown Victoria 2020: From Public Space to Public Place was just released this morning.

I'm impressed for the most part, but as usual I'm skeptical. The section on the Blue Bridge area is a bit optimistic about who would end up using those benches. Without a lot more pedestrian traffic going through that area, it will turn into a favoured area for the less savoury segment of society.

I also question who's going to pay for all these wonderful ideas. Buying the right of ways and easements to create the network of paths from the inner to upper harbours is going to cost a fair whack, and the City is already feeling budget pressure.

A Critique of the BIA Proposal

Five years ago the Business Improvement Association of downtown Victoria was disbanded. This was by a vote of 2/3 of the property owners who also had to represent 2/3 of the total value of property downtown. Now we have a group of people who want to bring it back.

What were the problems with the old BIA, and what makes people think this one will be any different? The old one did not represent property or business owners, it's administration costs were over a third of the total budget, and each time it came up for renewal, it expanded the area being covered, and also raised it's levy. The final time they tried to include the hotels, and raise the rates significantly. It basically caused the people paying the bills to say enough.

With this bad taste in our mouths, I look on the new BIA proposal very sceptically. I would most definitely support a voluntary organization like the Chamber of Commerce that was focussed strictly on marketing downtown. By giving us the choice it would be forced to provide value for our dollars. An organization that is funded through taxation, but not directly responsible to voters is not going to be as responsive. That is fact.

As I look through the proposal, the first thing I note is that hotels will be levied at half the rate of retailers, office tenants and all other businesses. This is justified by saying that the room tax is given to Tourism Victoria, so they are already contributing. I look at that and say, no, that's good business. Hotels pay that because their market is not local, and they need to bring people in. What it looks like to me is that the hotels have the political muscle to say no, and they are being brought in early, with a sweetheart deal so they don't become the backbone of a movement to dump the BIA again. Their inclusion last time is what started the movement to dissolve the last BIA.

The proposed levy is .80¢ per 1000$ of assessed value, and .40¢ per 1000$ of assessed value for hotels. That adds up to a 2005 budget of 784,827$. Damn close to the figure that got them dropped the first time. They have boosted the levy by half again, which combined with the increases in assessed values in the last five years almost doubles the budget. What I find particularly interesting is that the budget on August 20th was 350,000, the budget on September 8-10th was 465,126 for the 'core area', and the budget by September 30th was over three quarters of a million dollars. At that rate it should be about three million by the end of the year...

Looking through both the information from the Open House of September 8-10th, and the information presented to council, I see a lot of activities outside the core competency of a BIA, which is marketing. As a point of fact it looks like it is basically a way of getting the 2020 vision some government funding.

What it makes me wonder is who benefits? Anytime I see a group of businessmen asking government to get involved in something, I think two things; first is "Are they insane? Governments never help business!", and the second is "What are they getting out of this?" Anybody who has a good theory, please let me know in the comments section below. Cheers!

Community Charter

As my next post will be about the BIA's presentation to the Commitee of the Whole, I think it would be instructive to know exactly what a Business Improvement Association is, and what it's legal underpinnings are. I believe in going to the source. From the Community Charter for BC, here is what a BIA is:

Business improvement areas

(1) In this section:

"business improvement area" means the local service area for a service under this section;
"business improvement area service" means the provision of grants under subsection (2);
"business promotion scheme" means
(a) carrying out studies or making reports respecting one or more areas in the municipality where business or commerce is carried on,
(b) improving, beautifying or maintaining streets, sidewalks or municipally owned land, buildings or other structures in one or more business improvement areas,
(c) the removal of graffiti from buildings and other structures in one or more business improvement areas,
(d) conserving heritage property in one or more business improvement areas, and
(e) encouraging business in one or more business improvement areas.

(2) A council may grant money to a corporation or other organization that has, as one of its aims, functions or purposes, the planning and implementation of a business promotion scheme.

(3) All or part of a grant paid under subsection (2) must be recovered by means of a local service tax.

(4) The authority under subsection (2) is an exception to section 25 (1) [prohibition against assistance to business].

(5) In addition to the requirements under section 211 (2) [requirements for establishing a local area service], the bylaw establishing a business improvement area service
(a) must identify the business promotion scheme for which and the organization to which the money will be granted under subsection (2),
(b) must establish the maximum amount of money to be granted and the maximum term over which it may be granted, and
(c) may set conditions and limitations on the receipt and expenditure of the money.

(6) Money granted under this section must be expended only
(a) by the organization to which it is granted,
(b) in accordance with the conditions and limitations set out in the bylaw, and
(c) for the business promotion scheme described in the bylaw.

Local service taxes

(1) In all cases, all or part of the costs of a local area service may be recovered, in accordance with the establishing bylaw for the service, by means of either or both of
(a) a property value tax under Division 3 of this Part, which may be imposed on land, on improvements, or on both, and
(b) a parcel tax under Division 4 of this Part,
that are imposed only within the local service area.

(2) In the case of a business improvement area service, in addition to the taxes referred to in subsection (1), all or part of the costs of the service may be recovered by means of a tax, based on any factor set out in the establishing bylaw, that is imposed only within the business improvement area.

(3) A local service tax under subsection (1) or (2) in relation to a business improvement area
(a) may only be imposed on land or improvements, or both, that are
(i) used during the year to operate a business of a class specified in the bylaw, or
(ii) classified as Class 5 [light industry] or 6 [business and other] property class, and
(b) may have different rates for different classes of business, as those classes are established by the bylaw.

(4) Subject to this section, the other provisions of this Part apply in respect of a local service tax.

(5) Revenue from a local service tax may only be expended for the local area service in relation to which it is imposed.

Borrowing in relation to a local area service

(1) If all of the costs of borrowing for the purposes of a local area service are to be recovered by a local service tax, the loan authorization bylaw does not require the approval of the electors under section 180 [elector approval required for some loan authorization bylaws], but it may only be adopted if
(a) the borrowing has been proposed by petition in accordance with section 212 [petition for local area service],
(b) the borrowing has been proposed by council initiative in accordance with section 213 [local area service on council initiative — subject to petition against], or
(c) the bylaw has received assent of the electors in accordance with section 214 [local area service on council initiative — subject to elector assent].

(2) If part of the costs of borrowing for the purposes of a local area service are to be recovered by a local service tax,
(a) a separate loan authorization bylaw is required for the borrowing in relation to which costs are to be recovered by the local service tax, with the bylaw adopted in accordance with subsection (1), and
(b) a separate loan authorization bylaw is required for the borrowing in relation to which costs are to be recovered by any other means, with the bylaw adopted in accordance with Part 6 [Financial Management].

Enlargement or reduction of local service area

(1) This section applies to the amendment of the bylaw establishing a local area service that has the effect of enlarging or reducing the size of the local service area.

(2) The requirements under section 211 (1) [requirements for establishing a local area service] apply only in relation to the area to be included or excluded from the local service area and not to the rest of the local service area.

(3) If a local service area has been enlarged or reduced under this section, the liabilities incurred on behalf of the area as it was before enlargement or reduction must be borne by all the owners of parcels of land in the area as enlarged or reduced.

Merging of local service areas

(1) A council may, by bylaw, merge 2 or more local service areas into one local service area.

(2) A bylaw under subsection (1) may provide that repayment of any debt of one or more of the merged local service areas that is outstanding at the time of merger is to continue to be borne by the applicable former local service area as if that area continued to exist.

(3) Section 211 (1) [requirements for establishing a local area service] does not apply to the bylaw under subsection (1) of this section if
(a) there is no outstanding debt of any of the local service areas being merged,
(b) the outstanding debt of each of those local service areas is kept separate under subsection (2), or
(c) the bylaw establishing the service currently includes a provision for merger with one or more other local service areas and the merger is in accordance with the provision.

(4) If section 211 (1) applies to a bylaw under this section, the approval of the electors must be obtained separately for each local service area being merged.

Chamber of Commerce Elections

The Victoria Chamber of Commerce is holding it's annual elections. The Nominees are:

Dave Monahan - Dolphin Properties, President
Irene Hamburg - New Ports Travel, Owner
David J. Marshall - BC Ferries, VP
John Juricic - Etraffic Solutions, Partner
Norma McRae - The 500 Staffing Services Inc., Branch Manager
Val Nickerson - Royal Bank, Business Centre Manager
Hilary Samson - ABE Books, Product Manager
G.J. Droszio - Canada Instant Print, CEO
Rick Wiertz - Compusmart, Vice President
Robin Adair - Adair Communications Group, President
John Morris - Clarica Financial Services, Sales Manager
Denyce Burrows - Old Fashioned Flowers and Gifts - Owner

If you are a Chamber member, make sure you get your ballots in.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Council Agenda is now up

Here's the City Council agenda for Sept 30th.

Bits of note:
Public hearings on An air and noise quality initiative for Victoria Harbour, as well as a rezoning application for 225 Menzies to allow a building to be 6 instead of 5 stories and reduce the rear setback along with some minor details. Also development variance permit hearings for
-2565 Wesley Place - for the addition of a garage
-229 Montreal Stret - for an infill development

City Hall Report - Taking Stock of Victoria

Taking Stock of Victoria is a report by Coriolis Consulting Corp. into the current state of Victoria. It's well worth reading. I'm about a third of the way through it, and it seems to be very well researched.

This table summarizes fairly well a good set of objectives.
Table 1:
Elements in a Comprehensive Strategy for Downtown Revitalizations

Element Description
1. Strengthen downtown
as the main retail and
service centre in the

Downtowns in general have been losing ground to suburban commercial
centres in large part because most regional population growth has been in
the suburbs and retailers have located in these growing local trade areas.
As a result, downtowns import less total retail trade and have had to
become more specialized. In addition, changes in the structure of retailing
(more big box stores, fewer major department store chains) have favoured
low density, automobile-oriented retailing in suburban locations. This
pattern is common in metropolitan regions and most cities have little power
to stop it, given that suburban commercial development is often under the
control of other municipalities and that it is difficult to force people
to shop
in ways they do not prefer. Downtowns need to find an appropriate niche
in the regional commercial landscape and work aggressively to maintain
and increase their market share. Ways to enhance downtownÕs retail
prospects include:

  • ensure that downtown provides a unique, high quality shopping

  • experience.

  • manage the retail mix to provide a quality retail inventory, without
    skewing too much in favour of tourist-oriented retail (especially lowquality,
    generic products).

  • recruit new tenants to fill vacant space.

  • encourage investment in new/refurbished retail buildings.

  • conduct ongoing effective marketing aimed at residents of the region,including
    advertising and special events.

2. Ensure that downtown
is accessible to residents
of the whole region and
ensure that parking is
adequate, convenient,
and reasonably priced.
A strong roster of retailers will only be successful if shoppers can
travel to,
and within, downtown quickly and comfortably. Good transit is essential,
especially as the region grows and traffic increases. However, in medium-
sized communities with dispersed development patterns, road access and
parking are essential to retail success.
3. Strengthen downtown
as a visitor destination.
Some downtowns are fortunate to be significant tourist destinations,
providing a second major second source of retail sales in addition to
regional residents. For downtowns in this category, an important major
component of downtownÕs strategy must be working to enhance this
market. Broadly speaking, actions should include:

  • marketing to attract visitors.

  • ensuring high quality, reliable, reasonably priced access for visitors.

  • ongoing refurbishment and additions to key attractions.

  • ongoing improvements to the inventory of accommodation.

  • providing attractive meeting, trade show ,and conference facilities.

  • maintaining tourism infrastructure (tourist information, reservation

  • systems, signage).

  • maintaining the basic quality and integrity of downtown as a place
    with a distinct, attractive image or brand.

4. Strengthen downtown
as the regional focus
of government and
office space.
Downtown is oftenthe government and business centre of the region.
However, some downtowns have been treading water in this regard while
suburban business park locations are increasing in prominence. Daytime
office employees are a major source of retail/service spending and should
be retained whenever possible. Reinforcing downtownÕs prominence

  • commitments from senior governments to maintain their presence in downtown, rather than choosing suburban locations. While there is a need for government to find ways to economize on space and a need to ensure that agencies are accommodated in functional space, there is also a need to consider the overall economic impact of government office location decisions. Economic spin-off tends to be maximized in a high density commercial core, such as downtown.

  • planning policy that discourages the creation of major high density office nodes that are too directly competitive with downtown. While it is sound regional planning policy to encourage the creation of suburban employment concentrations that minimize regional transportation demand, these centres should not rival downtown by encouraging and facilitating investment in new/refurbished office space.

  • ensuring adequate off-street parking to meet the needs of office users, especially in historic areas where buildings do not contain off-street parking.

5. Strengthen downtown
as a cultural,
educational, and
entertainment centre.
Downtown is oftenthe government and business centre of the region.
However, some downtowns have been treading water in this regard while
suburban business park locations are increasing in prominence. Daytime
office employees are a major source of retail/service spending and should
be retained whenever possible. Reinforcing downtownÕs prominence

  • commitments from senior governments to maintain their presence indowntown,
    rather than choosing suburban locations. While there is aneed for government
    to find ways to economize on space and a need toensure that agencies are accommodated
    in functional space, there is also a need to consider the overall economic
    impact of government officelocation decisions. Economic spin-off tends to be
    maximized in a highdensity commercial core, such as downtown.

  • planning policy that discourages the creation of major high densityoffice
    nodes that are too directly competitive with downtown. While itis sound regional
    planning policy to encourage the creation of suburbanemployment concentrations
    that minimize regional transportationdemand, these centres should not rival
    downtown by encouraging andfacilitating investment in new/refurbished office

  • ensuring adequate off-street parking to meet the needs of office users,especially
    in historic areas where buildings do not contain off-street parking.

6. Maintain the high
quality of the physical
Downtown can only achieve economic improvement if it is physically
attractive to visitors, regional residents, and people who live and work in
the core. There are many inter-related aspects to the physical environment,
involving public agencies and private property owners, including:

  • maintain good quality and attractive streetscapes including sidewalks, lighting, landscaping, street furniture, and signage.

  • keep sidewalks clean (free of dirt, litter, snow).

  • maintain basic civic infrastructure (water, sewer, drainage, roads, utilities).

  • maintain high quality public spaces.

  • maintain the stock of historic buildings.

  • ensure that new development is sited and designed to contribute to the image and character of downtown.

  • maintain/improve the quality of the waterfront, including access, views, activities.

  • maintain an overall sense of authenticity and quality.

7. Keep streets and
sidewalks safe,
comfortable, and
This element involves the challenging interface between downtown
revitalization and broader social/economic issues such as homelessness,
addiction, crime, health, and unemployment. In this arena, there is ample
room for philosophical and political arguments about who has what rights
to be on the streets, whether panhandling is a nuisance that should be
subject to regulation or a basic right, classism, and social engineering.
There is even room for debate about how much ÒgritÓ is just enough
downtown, in that a too-sanitized environment makes a downtown seem
unauthentic or boring while too much forced interaction with non-
mainstream people makes ordinary shoppers and visitors uncomfortable.
Our approach to this, in the context of a downtown strategy, is pragmatic.
Downtown needs:

  • streets that are clean.

  • streets that are safe (and feel safe) at all hours.

  • a minimum of uncivil or illegal behaviour (such as aggressive or intimidating
    behaviour, urinating in doorways, property crime, graffiti in inappropriate
    locations, or blatant drug dealing). These short-term objectives require some
    immediate actions that some people will regard as avoiding the underlying problems,
    but this is not an either/or proposition. Of course the community needs long
    term, lasting solutions to basic social problems, but in the meantime, downtown
    needs to be a safe and comfortable place to work, live, shop, and visit.

8. Increase the number of
people living downtown.
People living downtown add retail spending and increase the level of
street activity, which helps to dilute or displace undesirable street
behaviour. These key ingredients are necessary to fuel a downtown
residential market:

  • attractive development sites must be available at acceptable cost.

  • developers must believe there is a target market that wants true downtown living, not only on a few high amenity sites such as waterfront.

  • purchasers must believe that downtown is a safe place to live.

  • City regulatory processes must be supportive of downtown residential development.

9. Guide land use and development at the regional, city, and local
. Land use and development in downtown must be guided by an overall
plan and regulatory framework that provides:

  • clear guidance for preferred locations for concentrations of retail, office,
    and residential development within the region and within the City.

  • sufficient infrastructure to accommodate office and residential
    growth in downtown.

  • development parameters (e.g. height, density) and design guidelines
    for downtownthat achieve a high quality of development and are consistent with
    market and financial feasibility.

  • vision for the future use and enhancement of public lands in downtown.

  • a reasonable and efficient system for processing applications for new development.

10. Provide vision and coordinate the efforts of many stakeholders. The many stakeholders interested in the future of downtown must to
some extent share a common view of the future of downtown and find ways
to make sure that they work together. The lack of a coordinated effort
results in gaps, overlaps, wasted effort, and in extreme cases, conflict.
Coordination cannot be forced upon agencies with wide ranging interests
and resources. Coordination results from a willingness to share ideas,
take suggestions, accept input, and work for the greater good of all
downtown stakeholders. Written strategies, organizational charts, and
adopted plans can appeal for a coordinated approach, but cannot cause
it. The checklist above gives us a method of comparing what ought to
be done with what is actually occurring in downtown Victoria, in order
to identify any critical gaps or overlaps.

September 30th Commitee of the Whole Agenda is up

the September 30thCommittee of the whole agenda is online now. The interesting bits are the presentations by the Victoria 2020 Work group on Public Spaces and Connections, and the one by the group that is trying to revice the Business Improvement Area. Didn't we just kill it?

Let me make my feelings clear on the BIA. If I wanted my business to be marketed by somebody else, I would have moved into a mall. Don't try and make my neighbourhood into a mall. No BIA! Clear enough?

For those interested, the meeting starts at 9:00am in Commitee Room #1 in City Hall.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Downtown 2020 residential housing report

The Downtown Victoria 2020 goup has released a report on their vision of living in Downtown. Took me long enough to realize it. The 2020 group seems to have some heavy hitters supporting it, so it will be a force in creating a vision for Victoria's future. My first concern on reading it was the listing of the participants:

  • Mark Hornell (Chair) CRD Regional Planning Services

  • Bill Taylor YM/YWCA of Greater Victoria

  • Deborah Curran West Coast Environmental Law Association

  • Gregory Damant D’Ambrosio Architecture and Urbanism

  • Rob Hunter Devon Properties Ltd.

  • Lee King Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

  • Tom Moore Victoria Cool Aid Society

  • Pamela Madoff City of Victoria

  • Max Tomaszewski Amadon Group

  • Tony James Warner James Architects

  • Henry Kamphof Capital Region Housing Corporation

Not one single small business owner. That concerns me. My second concern followed shortly after that when I read the objectives:

  1. A downtown area resident population of 30,000

  2. Enough families to support community facilities

  3. A population profile that reflects the region

  4. Residential and mixed use conversion of vacant space in heritage buildings

  5. Affordable housing for people living on low incomes and the homeless

Looking at that I realize the second thing that bothers me. Quite obviously there aren't any people that live downtown. News flash. Families don't live downtown. Singles and young couples live downtown, but very few families. We aren't going to get a population that reflects the region. No more would I live in the suburbs will suburbanites live downtown. We have different priorities. What we need to do is create a more vibrant downtown, not make the downtown into the suburbs.

The third thing that is bothering me about this report is how much they've expanded the definition of the downtown core. Knowing that there is a movement to recreate the BIA that we killed not too long ago. Have a look see:

The whole document disappointed me. All they are doing is setting very laudable goals, without coming up with anything truly relevant to downtown store owners or residents.

Victoria Municipal Politics

Welcome to my new space for commentary on Victoria Politics. It's in a testing stage right now, but it should get some real content soon.