Monday, 14 July 2014

North Saanich Unbalanced?

A Balanced Community - Whose Scale?

          Recently, the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce has expressed support for the North Saanich RCS/OCP Amendments about to undergo a Public Hearing and debate by Council. Some of the Chamber's arguments are both perplexing and concerning.

          Actually, their first point is generally not contentious - that those who work in a community should have the opportunity to live in that community. Of course, this is quite reasonable. However, others have gone a step further, insisting that workers have the right to live in the communities. I can only agree with the first statement.

          It is the Chamber's second reason that causes me concern. They state that "… The ongoing health of our community requires a "Balanced Community" where all age groups are adequately represented." This implies that there is some standard by which to assess the age group balance within the community and, further, there is some "adequate representation" of a certain age classes.

          So, who is to determine what is the proper "balance"? Would Sidney, with its preponderance of older people, be considered out of balance? How about Langford? It is highly represented by younger people. That doesn't sound balanced. The demographic profile of North Saanich falls somewhere between that of Sidney and Langford. Perhaps it is actually in balance?

          So, how does the Chamber of Commerce get to decide which communities are in or out of balance? I think that they would be among the least qualified, and least objective of all agencies, to comment upon "demographic correctness" and how some ideal standard of that should be achieved. How does this differ from examples of ageism in other sectors of society? It doesn't.

          What a remarkable coincidence that North Saanich is suddenly proclaimed to be "demographically unbalanced" with respect to younger people just as land speculators are seeking approval for higher density, but not necessarily cheaper, housing.

          I heartily resent being told that my community, because it is apparently burdened with a surplus of older citizens, is somehow deficient and needs "an injection of life" to be considered up to some external and mysterious standard. This philosophy has more than a tinge of Social Engineering which all of us should find abhorrent and reject wholeheartedly.

          No doubt there are more than a few members of our communities that have seen "demographic restructuring" first-hand but in a much less benign setting.

          I am quite disappointed that the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce would select such odious reasoning to prop up their faltering case for institutionalized spot rezoning in North Saanich.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Affordable or Just Cheaper or not even that?

Does higher density development produce affordable housing?

The rationale for approving Canora Mews and the other higher density projects that will flow from the RCS/OCP Amendments, is that they would provide "affordable housing".  However, they are market priced, which only means that they may be "cheaper", but not necessarily affordable to the local workforce.  In fact, they may not even be cheaper, read on . . .

9390 East Saanich Road
 This property, directly across the road from Canora Mews, is assessed at $424,000 and is situated on 1173 sq m (.3 ac).  Neighbouring properties are assessed at $341,100 to $458,200.

9395 East Saanich Road - Canora Mews
 This is the view from the front yard of 9390 East Saanich Road, Canora Mews.  Canora Mews is 40 small lot properties averaging 348 sq m. priced from $400,000 to $544,900.

Of the 40 Canora Mews properties, 34 of them are more expensive than the house across the road at 9390 East Saanich Road.  Is this the way to achieve workforce affordability?

It is likely that developments yet to be build will be even less affordable - pricing will again be at market with no details given.

Do we really want to see such major changes to our community for housing which barely addresses the problem for which it was proposed?

Friday, 11 July 2014

Higher Density Housing Example - aerial view

Forty homes are nearing completion at Canora Mews, shown below near the start of construction -

This density is much greater than previously seen in North Saanich.  Similar densities are anticipated in the planned RCS/OCP Amendment being discussed and voted on on 14 July 2014.  That change will apply over about 180 acres, Canora Mews occupies about 4 acres.

Canora Mews land was formerly in the ALR and supported a greenhouse industry.

Public Sentiment - 97% against the RCS/OCP changes

A tally of submissions to two recent CRD meetings on this issue showed 9 submissions in support and 263 against!  Is anyone listening!

These opinions not favouring the RCS/OCP changes are not form letter responses, but all original letters listing many different difficulties with the proposal.

Speakers at the CRD meetings showed a similar high preponderance not in favour as well.

Notable among the few supporters of these changes, were several people with commercial ties to some of the projects - not impartial voices.

As of July7, there were 77 submissions to Council on this topic.  Of those, 77 were against this RCS/OCP Amendment.

It is difficult to see how how Council could not place significant weight on this public input.  On another recent rezoning application, the Council majority were adamant that public sentiment in that case be accorded major importance.  Hopefully, they will remain consistent.

Housing Consultations History - the Real Story

Housing Consultations History

While higher-density development proponents claim that the community has been consulted many times in the past 10 or so years, and that the community has supported the proposed densities, it is worthwhile to look at the facts about those consultations to get the full picture.

The Facts:

August, 2003: North Saanich adopts the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS):

Including, (from page 31):

    • Agreement to retain rural character and safeguard environmental quality. 
    • External demands for housing growth are not accommodated.  
    • NS chooses to be a Rural/Residential community with development to stay within designated capacity limits at this date.
    • Reinforces the RGS goal of keeping urban settlement compact and protecting Rural Resource lands.

2003:  Questionnaire is circulated to North Saanich Households from Official Community Plan (OCP) Review Committee.

December 2003 – Review Committee reports to Council
390 responses received
  1. regarding long term development – 71% of responses supported retaining rural quality
  2. regarding housing:
·       5% (20 responses) supported higher density
·       9% (36 responses) supported addressing seniors’ needs (not necessarily higher density)
·       8% (33 responses) multi-family
It should be noted that current high-density proponents have characterized the above as “strong support for increased densities”.
In addition, 3% (12 responses) wanted lower density – that is, no more increases.

2004 – Community Advisory Committee established to consider vision statement and make recommendations to Council; conducted several community meetings and meetings to consider and assess results, reporting to Council in November, 2004.  Approximately 15 committee members facilitated by Cornerstone developed the visions.  Council adopted recommended visions in current OCP.

 Note especially:

    1. Main/cornerstone vision: that North Saanich retain the present rural, agricultural and marine character.  Removed reference to development so as not to weaken statements of North Saanich’s fundamental character.
    2. Vision 6 – That the District of North Saanich ensure that the long-term residential development of the community will retain the current neighborhoods while responding to the need for seniors and affordable family housing.

2004 – 2006 – ongoing consideration of OCP changes.  Extensive community consultation, drafts of OCP considered.  Change of Council December 2005 extended process.

June 13, 2006 – Council meeting to consider draft OCP at that date which included “village centres”; these would allow high density at whim of Council.  More than 850 people attended, 58 spoke.  Residents overwhelmingly opposed to increased densities and village centres.  These provisions were removed and the present OCP unanimously adopted in May 2007 with the current Regional Context Statement.
September 2007 – Council conducted an Ipsos Reid Survey of residents. 
    • Most important concern expressed by residents: unplanned growth.
    •  Second most important concern:  inadequate communication by municipality with residents.

December 2007Council commissioned a Housing Needs Assessment, done by City Spaces, following OCP provisions to consider policies for Seniors, Affordable, Special Needs housing. 
Addressed Vision Statements 6 and 8 of OCP. 
No community consultation. 
Identified affordability criteria and parameters in NS as well as the need for policies. 
Did not consider RGS nor Regional Affordable Housing Strategy. 
Sole basis for suggesting that NS had insufficient housing choices was that it had fewer than many communities of similar size. 
No consideration of symbiotic planning with Sidney.

June 2008 – Council hired City Spaces to conduct consultation on a housing strategy, resulting in ten recommendations including secondary suites, and cottage/caretaker houses. 
    1. Recommendations 5, 6 and 7 were refused by Council of the day (this was at the end of Daly’s mayoralty).
    2. Recommendation no. 5 – smaller lots recommended on assumption that higher density would lower prices.  Subsequent development didn’t support this assumption.  (See Mills and West Saanich Road development, Cresswell development, condo at corner of McTavish and Lochside – all higher density without increased affordability.)
    3. Recommendation 6 and 7 were based on conditions that these higher densities be accepted only if consistent with RGS and further suggested policies for below-market component, rental component and workforce component.  (It should be noted that although the consultant for CTQ Consultants, Mr. Grifone, was instructed in his 2012/2013 consultation to consider Recommendations 5,6 and 7 in his consultation, none of these conditions were addressed by Grifone.)

Council of late 2008 refused these recommendations because of the inconsistency with the new OCP and the RGS.  The following Council (2008-2011) did not revive them for similar reasons and because there was no community pressure to do so.  The majority of that Council ran on the basis of support for the OCP and RGS as well as planned development within those contexts. 

Mayor Finall’s concern with increasing densities was part of her campaign in 2008 and she defeated incumbent-mayor Daly on this basis by a margin of 430 votes, receiving the highest number of votes a mayor has received in this municipality.

The present Council majority revived these three recommendations out of the blue, with no advance warning in campaigns.

2012 – 2013:  Grifone (CTQ) consultation – Consultant was instructed to do a review of where higher density might be considered if residents supported this. The deficiencies of this consultation have been reviewed, but it does refer often and consistently to the need for affordable housing.  This consultation did not address the NS role in RGS.  In August, 2013, pro-development Council majority walked out of meeting where the consultant was available to answer questions about his recommendations, denying quorum and ending the only opportunity for Council and residents to ask him for details and rationale for his recommendations.  Though he has been asked, he has not:
             Furnished any raw data or lists of who was consulted;
             Made himself available to answer any questions that Council or residents may have.

There has been no community consultation about the recommendations.  Council adopts report and begins to implement recommendations.

North Saanich Residents Association (NSRA) Survey (2013) -- available to all community members to complete, continues to show majority support for present OCP and levels of density.


Councils have listened to residents through the years and responded with the current OCP.  As the above information shows, the suggestion that there have been many consultations demanding higher densities which have been ignored is simply a fiction.

As to the current pressure for increasing residential densities, and the two areas where urbanization is planned, residents have not been consulted at all on these specifics and efforts to have that consultation have been refused.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Canora Mews - Then and Now

From an ad for Canora Mews at 9395 East Saanich Road, now being built . . .

Ironically, inhabitants of the house in the middle picture will no longer see images like the other two in their neighbourhood.  The outer pictures represent earlier times before urbanization, centre.

That area was once in the ALR and supported greenhouses.  Urbanization can reduce food security and increase taxes.  Urban dwellers require more tax payer funded services than rural dwellers.