Protecting the urban forest,

An email to Oak Bay’s arborist and the Mayor & Council, February 13, 2019:

I don’t know if the Planning Department has forwarded to you the Oak Bay United Church's Landscape and Arborist Report for comment yet, but having read it in detail, I have a few questions:

A copy of the report is attached.  This was downloaded from the OBUC web site and is the same as provided by the District of Oak Bay as part of a FOI request.

  1. Many of the Garry Oaks, and other notable trees, will have buildings erected on their PRZ (Protected Root Zone, called ‘root zone’ in the bylaws).
    For example see trees 972, 973 & 974 near Granite St drive entrance and 958 & 959 near Mitchell St townhouses (Page 3 – Arborist’s report)

Have OBUC applied for a permit under bylaw 4326 to damage the protected trees?

I note that the definition of “damage” includes the follow:

(a) cut or tear the roots of a tree growing inside the root zone;

(b) place fill or organic waste, building materials, asphalt or a building or structure upon land inside the root zone;

(f) remove soil from land inside the root zone;

(g) blast inside the root zone of a tree or outside the root zone so as to damage roots or disturb soil inside the root zone;

Trees 967 & 968 (amongst others) will have blasting in their root zones to make way for the underground car park

The OBUC are very proud to state in their Rezoning Application that “only two notable trees will be removed” but how many will be ‘damaged’ by this project?  Do you, as the District Arborist, expect all the remaining tress to survive the blasting and construction?

2. I note that the OBUC are planning on planting two new Garry Oaks, on Mitchell St, only 1.5 to 2.5 metres (5’ to 8’) from the west wall of the church (See planting description # 9. Page 2 of landscape report). Do you think that it is a good idea to plant Garry Oaks this close to a building?

Damaged trees end up as firewood - photo from Pexel

Damaged trees end up as firewood - photo from Pexel

A. Bolitho

Oak Bay

On February 14th, the arborist Chris Paul replies - the fastest answer any of us have ever received from anyone connect with this project! Thank you Chris Paul.

Hello Alan

Yes I have seen the report you have included with your email.

Question 1

No permit has been applied for under bylaw 4326 at this point. Once a building is approved we issue permits for tree removal and any work that is outlined in the arborist report. Tree and root zone protection outlined in the arborist report and any other requirements I may add will be made part of the permit conditions and are to be followed throughout demolition and construction. There are several Garry oaks that are close to the proposed building location as you have mentioned and there may be some impact on their root zones. Actual root zones will vary with soil conditions so impacts cannot be determined 100% prior to excavation. Garry oaks are reasonably tolerant of construction and if the remaining root zone is properly protected the trees should survive the construction. Arborist involvement at the time of excavation as outlined in the report will help minimize root damage and preserve the remaining root zones.

Question 2

Planting Garry oaks 2-3 meters from a building is acceptable if there are adequate soil volumes for the trees to grow in as there is there between the sidewalk and the church. The oaks are fairly slow growing and on the west side of the building it will be a long time before they get very large. Oaks will quite regularly grow out from under other oaks and grow in one direction to reach light. Garry oaks are not likely to cause damage to the foundation.

 I hope that answers your questions.

 Chris Paul

Questionable conclusions

February 12, 2019

To: Mayor and Council, Bruce Anderson, Director of Building and Planning—District of Oak Bay

I am very concerned about the conclusions of the Traffic Study and the Parking Study on the OBUC web site:

OBUC Parking Study: "Based on the analysis of each proposed land use, engineers recommend 112-115 parking stalls to accommodate residents (plus visitors), church and public use. OBUC designs include 115 stalls, meeting the upper range of the recommended number."

OBUC Traffic Study: "The study finds that the project area’s main traffic impacts are the result of vehicles bypassing Oak Bay Ave. The OBUC project is not expected to be a factor in adding traffic to the area due to low vehicle ratios for affordable housing, space for bicycles and proximity of public transportation."

How can a development of 96 units, with I'm guessing at least 150 people, likely more, have no impact on local traffic? The Traffic Study by Watt Consulting Group (May 2018) makes the assumption that "Trip generation rates for affordable housing are generally lower than market rental. Studies have demonstrated that vehicle trips per household increase as income increases."

As it is uncertain how many individuals are being considered low income and how many of higher income, concluding how many trips may be generated is sheer speculation. I live on Mitchell Street and my daily observations since the recent parking restriction on Granite Street are that there has been a noticeable impact on traffic. So, combine this with the potential added traffic from the residents in the proposed development, there will be considerable impact on the use of surrounding roads as well as on street parking. The study's conclusion that there will be little impact on traffic is ludicrous.

Closer examination of The Parking Study by Watt Consulting Group submitted in May 2018, provides details of this proposal. It is based on providing 47 parking stalls for 96 units; 10 stalls for Visitor parking, as well as 15 stalls for Church programming, and 35 stalls to be leased for Municipal use.

However, Oak Bay By-Law 3540 determines the minimum parking supply for Multi-family developments @1.5 per unit. Following that, for 96 units the current requirement would be for 154 parking stalls. The Church parking lot currently has 53 spaces, while Church programming use within P-2 Zone requires 117 parking spaces. Allowing the Church to continue to have only 53 spaces as currently provided in their parking lot, the total number would be 217 parking stalls.  Even requiring only 1 parking stall per unit, the total required would be 159!

The proposed 115 parking stalls allows only 47 stalls for 96 units. This recommendation is based on observations by the consultants at other 'representative Multifamily sites with countable/visible parking spaces', ie buildings with only surface parking. These observations were made on two night time occasions in February 2018 (p9), presumably when all the residents were at home. This is an extremely limited strategy to measure the parking needs of potential residents in the proposed OBUC development.

It concludes that "should there be 'overspill' it could be accommodated on Mitchell St and Brighton St which have no parking restrictions". At a minimum there would be an overspill of 44 cars!  Both streets are now contending with the increased volume of traffic and parking due to the recent 2Hr 9-5 Restriction on Granite Street between Foul Bay Road and Mitchell Street. This is certainly not acceptable as a solution to the under provision of parking for this development.

Providing more parking in the proposed two level underground parking area would require deeper blasting. The Geotechnical Report provided by Ryzuk Geotechnical states that "drilling and blasting will require underpinning and/or shoring" of the Church and adjacent structures for the 7 metre maximum. The Report is based on two levels and a new Report would have to be done for going deeper. This report also indicates that vibrations could cause damage to homes close by.

Add to this the Thrift Shop hours on Friday and Saturday to both parking and traffic. I note that the Traffic Study states that the Thrift Shop will continue to operate at the proposed site, while the near residents were told that it would move off site!

My daily observation and experience seem to me to be more real and valid than the methods used by the consultants. The consultants' conclusions are certainly questionable and I hope Mayor, Councillors and staff will take a close of these studies.

The future of Oak Bay’s now quiet streets?

The future of Oak Bay’s now quiet streets?

Janet Poth
Oak Bay

When is a loan Not a Loan?

This following letter was emailed to Malcolm McNaughton, Director of Regional Development, Vancouver Island on October 21, 2018.
If you’d like to contact Mr. McNaughton, his email address is: mmcnaughton@bchousing.org

Dear Sir,
Re: Oak Bay United Church,

First, congratulations on your receipt of a 2018 Care Award for creating Excellence in Housing Affordability.

And, secondly, I and many Oak Bay residents recognize the need for affordable housing.

However, B. C. Housing GAVE AWAY $500,000 of taxpayer monies to Oak Bay United church to develop a 6 story 269 unit housing proposal on church property and some of the units would be affordable.  Under the church's contract with B. C. Housing these taxpayer monies do not have to be returned if the project doesn't proceed (presumably the 269 unit project).  As you probably know, the proposal presented to B. C. Housing was not presented to the District of Oak Bay but instead a proposal was presented to build 96 units of housing as follows:

4  market priced 100 year leasehold town houses
35 market affordable units
57 affordable units

and all of this development, with unit size not meeting zoning requirements, would be on approximately 47,000 sq. ft. of land amid a block of single family homes.

Current zoning requires 90+ parking stalls for church use, 196 parking stalls for the units and 23+ parking stalls for guests.  Using the current surface parking lot for development would mean blasting down through granite rock for parking.  The proposed development would face Granite Street which is a transition street and bears most of the truck traffic servicing the Oak Bay village which includes a Fairways grocery store.  There is very little street parking on Granite Street so it would be reasonable to assume that vehicles would park on Victoria Avenue, thereby reducing the street to single lane traffic.  And as traffic increases it can be difficult to make a turn from Granite onto Foul Bay Road.

In addition to the traffic and parking situations, the size of the proposed development doesn't meet current zoning requirements and would occupy 23% more land that currently allowed.
Considering all of the above, how could you give away so much taxpayer money, with no strings attached, for an even larger development?  Why didn't somebody from B. C. Housing look at the proposed site and the current zoning requirements and question the application before being so generous?  After all, it is not the responsibility of taxpayers to fund any business, including a religious organization.

It is all so disappointing as B. C. Housing has funded some great developments but it appears that not much care was given to the proposal presented by Oak Bay United church.

B Sirinic
Oak Bay

cc Hard copy delivered to District of Oak Bay mayor and counselors

Within hours Mr. McNaughton replied:  

We did not give away any money. The money that BCH has loaned Oak Bay United Church is secured by a mortgage on the property. It is common for initial design concepts to evolve through the development process.

Malcolm McNaughton
Director Regional Development – Vancouver Island

It seems Mr. McNaughton deflected the question of whether or not the money was given or advanced via a forgivable loan. Yes the loan must be repaid if the project goes forward but if it doesn’t, there is no obligation to repay it.

Later that evening clarification was requested:

To: Malcolm McNaughton
Subject: Re: DISTRICT OF OAK BAY

Thank you for your information. An internal B. C. Housing Executive Committee document stated "The requested $503,392 including GST will be given out as an interest free loan and will be evidenced through a Promissory note.  If the project proceeds the loan will be repaid through the anticipated interim construction financing to be provided at Final Project Approval.  Should the project never proceed the PDF loan will be forgiven."

I further understand that, at a later date, there was an additional loan of $300,000 that was secured by a mortgage against the church but I don't know the terms of this financial arrangement.

B Sirinic

Note: The additional loan of $300,00 may not have been advanced yet.
In the same afternoon that Mr. McNaughton was replying to the above letter, he answered another inquiry about the additional $300,000 this way:

We have not completed the processing of the request for additional funds.  If the request is approved it would generally be on the same terms as the original request although there are instances when additional terms may attached to an approval. 

Malcolm McNaughton
Director Regional Development – Vancouver Island

 

How design images conceal the truth - TC Oct 10, 2016

One aspect of any design application is the artist’s rendering. These are the soothing images that persuade an unsuspecting public that proposed projects will slide into the landscape with barely a ripple. They ignore shadow patterns, traffic snarls, and strain on infrastructure.
As of today’s date, the Oak Bay United Church has not shared the Shadow Study in respect to its proposed development. The District of Oak Bay still refuses to allow public access to the application file.

The OBUC drawings are done from the perspective of someone standing 20' to 30' above the ground (6 m to 9 m above the ground).   See this page

The OBUC drawings are done from the perspective of someone standing 20' to 30' above the ground (6 m to 9 m above the ground). See this page

Invitation to dialogue - OBN August 7, 2018

As a reasonably active member of Oak Bay United Church, I am always interested in a constructive conversation with my neighbours. Ordinarily, such a conversation would have three key elements: the assumption of good faith on the part of others involved in the conversation (even where there is disagreement about priorities, projects, or processes); avoiding emotionally charged language; and sharing facts and avoiding misinformation.
I am disappointed that Mr. Tod (SIC) uses language such as “specious” and “dubious tactics”. I am disappointed that he has concluded that the congregation acted in bad faith, asserting that “meaningful dialogue was not wanted”.
Mr. Tod shares, as fact, that the original proposal was for 269 housing units on one acre. I invite Mr. Tod to provide the primary source on which this statement is based. As far as I know, the original proposal was for almost half that number. If I am correct, the current proposal represents a reduction in the scope of the proposal of about 1/3. If correct, the current proposal represents a reduction in the scope of the proposal of about 2/3. In either case, it appears that the congregation has addressed “the critical issue of size and density” – perhaps not to Mr. Tod’s satisfaction, but substantially nevertheless. If we use Mr. Tod’s own, as yet unsubstantiated number, Oak Bay will have 175 fewer below market housing units than it would have. Mr. Tod and his neighbours have apparently been successful. And they are under no obligation to offer other suggestions about how to deal with the low cost housing crisis.
In any case, I look forward to Mr. Tod confirming the original proposal was for 269 units. I also invite him to have coffee with me one day, so that we can carry on the conversation.
David King
Read the online version of this letter here.

Opposition not diminished - TC August 8, 2018

When Cheryl Thomas told a Times Colonist reporter that opposition to to the Oak Bay United Church’s proposal had diminished, the church’s neighbours were confounded. How had she formed this opinion? Did she arrive at it because she doesn’t live near the church and failed to see all the protest?
Maybe, like a lot of politicians these days, she thought if she said it often enough, it might come true?

Size, density, parking traffic concerns remain for OBUC proposal

Oak Bay News, May 7 2018

As a near neighbour, I attended the OBUC open house last weekend with great interest. Having participated in earlier meetings regarding the development proposal for the church property, I was curious to see the actual final plan.
My concerns regarding size, density, parking and traffic issues this project will bring to my neighbourhood have been confirmed.
The development looks massive, standing 51 feet, which is taller than the roofline of the church. Ninety-eight units are planned on 4 floors, half under the “affordable housing” criteria and the rest not. Most of the suites are under 460 sq ft in size (1 bdrm).
In comparison, Granite House across the street is also a four-storey building with a floor area that is 3,000 sq ft larger than the proposed building and with just 60 units.
One level of underground parking was originally proposed, but the current plan calls for 113 parking spaces on 2 underground levels. That will require a great deal of drilling and blasting and I fear will still be inadequate, given the fact that it must serve the church congregation of roughly 200 people and the building tenants (maybe 120?). Where is everyone visiting going to park? Where are all the day users of the current church parking lot going to park? Where are all the workers coming to the building site for many, many months going to park?
My dream would be to see perhaps 20 or 30 affordable, 2 bdrm units built on the church land with adequate parking for congregation and tenants. I know that would not meet their “bottom line”, but their plan does not meet mine.

Monica Fiederer
Oak Bay

Read the online version here.