A modest request

This letter simply asks that the OBUC-Development Team be required to comply with the requests made by the District of Oak Bay in January 2018:

March 2019 letter to Oak Bay_Page_1.jpeg

Just the facts please

Tonight’s email to BC Housing and the District of Oak Bay:

Recently the CCN received documents from BC Housing as the result of an FOI request. These included Oak Bay United Church – Development Team’s recent submission to Housing BC: Community Housing Fund requesting grant funds (RFP 1070-1819/016 Submission), and other correspondence.

These documents stated unequivocally that the OBUC project have support from a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

From FOI 30-11318:

The project is […] supported by our MLA, (page 11)

MLA Andrew Weaver has indicated support (page 25)

MLA Andrew Weaver supports the proposal (page 89)

When a member of the CCN asked Dr. Weaver about these assertions, he responded:

I am surprised that documentation would be submitted saying I was for any specific project in my riding. I am supportive of the general notion of building more affordable housing. It is inappropriate for me to single out a particular project to support or not support”

The need for affordable housing is not in question. The CCN is challenging the height, size and density of this design in our single-family neighbourhood. The lack of adequate parking and significantly increased traffic would have a major negative impact on our narrow neighbourhood streets.

Did the OBUC-DT hope to distract from these issues by falsely claiming an endorsement from a higher power? 

When significant misrepresentations have been made in parts of submissions, doesn’t it cast doubt over the integrity of the rest of the OBUC-DT’s statements?

M. Bolitho
Oak Bay

Book cover from www.writersresist.com - click on the image for more details about this book.

Book cover from www.writersresist.com - click on the image for more details about this book.

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

The way it should be done T-C February 13, 2019

This letter raises an interesting question – what if polls revealed the underlying bias with which they were conducted? - From the Times Colonist.

You can read the original letter here and the editorial column it responds to here (the original column is mostly about political polling):

A little harmony, please

CATHERINE GRIFFITHS,
GAREN KASSABIAN & PHILIP KASSABIAN

December 9, 2018

Mayor Kevin Murdoch

Oak Bay Municipal Hall
2167 Oak Bay Avenue
Victoria BC, V8R 1G2

Dear Mayor Murdoch,

RE: Oak Bay United Church Rezoning Application - ZON00034

Our family has moved to Oak Bay from Toronto.  We arrived here in August 2017, for the commencement of the construction of our new home and learned that the OBUC was planning a re-development of their property.  We imagined that this re-development would consist of an enclave of homes, in harmony with the character of the neighbourhood, much along the lines of the Rowan Oaks project.  We were truly shocked to learn of the anticipated size and density of the actual project OBUC is contemplating.

We are adamantly opposed to the OBUC application that is now before you.  The proposed height and density are unacceptable, the traffic implications nightmarish, and the precedent the project would set would be devastating to the character of Oak Bay.

When building our home, we were mindful of this beautiful community and its traditions.  We respected all building and zoning regulations and made certain that the design of the home was in keeping with Oak Bay’s special character.  We are proud to say that the home we built complements this heritage community.

While we respect that development and growth are required and welcome, this project represents a massive overstep.  Affordable housing is highly desirable, but it must be done right and this is not the case with the OBUC proposal.

Oak Bay is a community of which every citizen here is understandably proud.  It is a true gem and all of us have a responsibility to make thoughtful and well considered decisions concerning its future development.  Oak Bay has been over a century in the making; let’s not seriously damage it with a rash move that has been motivated by a rush to fulfill an agenda

All we are asking for is respect for the neighbourhood. Is a project that harmonizes with its surroundings so very much to ask for?

All we are asking for is respect for the neighbourhood. Is a project that harmonizes with its surroundings so very much to ask for?

Yours very truly,

Catherine Griffiths,
Garen Kassabian
Philip Kassabian

Questioning BC Housing's responses to FOI requests

On Tuesday, January 8, 2019 this letter was emailed to:

Malcolm McNaughton, BC Housing
with cc’s to Hon. Selina Robinson, BC Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing
Hon. Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizens’ Services (FOI legislation)

 Dear Mr McNaughton,

Re: BC Housing Ref #9444 Project Ref #7958 - Oak Bay United Church (OBUC)
Our group, the Concerned Citizens’ Network of Oak Bay, has recently received information about the above project, subsequent to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request (#30-8718).
It was noted that Michael Flanagan has reported to you on the neighbourhood’s position regarding this overdevelopment project of the OBUC site. Mr Flanagan has forwarded copies of emails from the Concerned Citizens’ Network to you. These clearly outline neighbours’ concerns.
To monitor the growing opposition, we invite you to visit our website www.ccn-oakbay.com and sign up for our newsletter.
The information received under the FOI indicates that BC Housing (Kirsten Baillie and you) reached out to the former mayor and at least two councillors in May 2018 (p 167 of the FOI response #30-8718) It is our understanding that the local representatives who attended these meetings were told to keep what was discussed in the strictest confidence. That secrecy is cause for grave concern. Good news is rarely kept private.
Perhaps you might explain why BC Housing resorted to closed door meetings, excluding the community from any understanding as to why BCH supports such a massive development project for an established single-family neighbourhood? More importantly why do these meetings exclude the people whose lives will be most affected by any decision reached?
BC Housing, as a crown corporation, holds over a billion dollars in taxpayer assets (2017-18 Annual Service Report). This position of trust demands a high standard of transparency, which is not evident in the way this OBUC project is being handled.
In the May 1, 2018 Confidential Advice to Minister, it was stated (FOI30-8718 p 134):
“Residents in Oak Bay have expressed concerns about the suitability of a proposed affordable rental housing project in their neighbourhood (originally proposed for six storeys). In response to neighbourhood concerns, the development has been reduced in height to 3 and 4 storeys.”

This is a false and highly misleading statement.

FACT: the OBUC development team submitted a proposal for a six-storey building to BC Housing in order to secure funding. (April 6, 2017 per FOI 30-0518).

FACT: NONE of the neighbours had a true idea of the size of the project as originally proposed by the OBUC. Rumours did circulate that it would be big. Only after the personal expense of time and money, were we able to ascertain that the OBUC’s original submission had been for a six-storey tower. (FOI request 30-0518, part 1, starting page 24.)

FACT: the FIRST official indication of size provided to the community was in the scaled-down plans presented in December 2017. Neighbours weren’t told these were revised plans. Contrary to the Confidential Advice to Minister, the developers did not reduce the size in response to neighbourhood concerns about the six-storey tower. The conclusion is that the minimal community engagement made before this date had indicated such an ambitious proposal would not be supported.

Further, it is also important to note that those December neighbourhood meetings, where drawings were finally tabled, were called by the developers at very short notice. Letters hand-delivered from the OBUC dated December 6 invited neighbours to meetings on December 13th and 14th, at the busiest time of year for most people. Was the short notice intended to engage as little participation as possible? Regardless, 4+ storey models that were presented to the public in those meetings were met with immediate and widespread opposition.

FACT: Representatives from the OBUC and the development team remained evasive about size and plans until the December meetings. At no time did anyone from either source mention the proposed six-storey tower as submitted to BCH in March 2017.

While the community has repeatedly attempted to engage the OBUC developers in discussion about this project, our efforts have been stonewalled. Worse still, they have been exacerbated by funding provided by BC Housing, as well as being denied access to critical documents.

The developers of this project are clever: they knew enough to establish a third-party representative to avoid disclosure and scrutiny of their plans. See the email from Chris Corps to Malcolm McNaughton, November 23 2017. (FOI request #30-0518, part 2 page 300).

As citizens and taxpayers, we ask that BCH resist this manipulation of the system by developers who seek to compromise and undermine the intent of the Freedom of Information Act. BCH should insist that principals in any projects, who hold out their hands for public money, be prepared to fully disclose their intentions to the public who fund their ambitions.
May we ask at this time, before advancing any further funding for this project, BCH require an independent mediator be appointed to find a suitable compromise. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been handed to a group who thus far have refused to deal with the community in good faith.

BCH now has the opportunity to insist the developers work with the community to reach a reasonable resolution, something the residents have been asking for since the ambitions of this group were first made public.

BC Housing has failed the community in the past. Now is the time for leadership.


Below are the names of some of the neighbours who have helped write and / or asked to have their names attached to this letter. This list is an indication of some of the local support, but it is in no way exhaustive.

Wayne Todd
Wayne Randall
Alan Bolitho
Maggie Bolitho
Barbara Judson
Scott Judson
Jake Richardson
Curtis Hobson
Garen Kassabian
Catherine Griffiths
Pat Hindmarch-Watson
Peter Hindmarch-Watson
Matt Stooke
George Dufour
Ron Matthews
Patricia Matthews
Diana Butler
Barb Lamb
S. MacRae

When people turn nasty

The following letter, sent today to the Oak Bay News, addresses an escalating trend in our once lawful neighbourhood. It raises a number of disturbing questions:

Who is behind the theft and vandalism?
Are the instigators even Oak Bay residents?
How many people are behind these actions?
Are special interest groups here taking lessons from our neighbours to the south? Are they trying to silence the rights of others by acts of overt bullying?
Are these illegal actions going to get worse?

If you see anyone destroying community property, please contact the Oak Bay Police: 250.592.2424.

ghoststext.jpg

To the Oak Bay News:

Over the past few days there has been a disturbing number of thefts and vandalism of neighbourhood protest signs from our properties.  One can only assume that this is the latest tactic of supporters of the United Church mega development project, yet another dirty trick to add to the planting of offensive lawn signs and vile anonymous emails to our website.  These supporters are doing their best to intimidate any opposition to the proposed oversized development.
As neighbours don’t have the same access to taxpayer funds that the church has, we rely on volunteers and cost-effective methods to democratically show our widespread opposition to this mega project. The church’s campaign to isolate and bulldoze neighbours’ concerns has resulted in a toxic atmosphere between the church and its neighbours and the latest tactic certainly bears this out.  Supporters of this oversized development project should engage in rational debate in appropriate forums and in a respectful manner.   The church should be aware that just because some protest signs are stolen or vandalized, widespread opposition to its redevelopment project remains.   The work done by the community volunteers can be viewed at the website www.ccn-oakbay.com
Far from being just a few ‘vocal’ neighbours, or as the church calls us “an organized opposition group”, the neighbourhood challenge to this project is gaining momentum as people become aware of the negative impact it will have on the neighbourhood, the village, traffic and parking and infrastructure overload that this 96-unit apartment block will have if approved.
Wayne Todd
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

 

Investigation needed - Times Colonist October 12, 2018

Some history to the letter that follows:
Many of us have asked, on numerous occasions, for the names of the people who comprise the Development Team driving the OBUC’s proposed project.

secret pexels-photo-315918.png


To date, we have asked the OBUC directly, in emails, letters, and, on October 1, on Facebook on the Oak Bay Municipal Election Discussion page. Here is a screenshot of that conversation:

When that didn’t work, we wrote to the Executive Committee of the BC Conference, United Church of Canada (October 6, 2018) about this and a few other matters.
To date, the senior branch of the church has not provided the names of the Development Team, nor do they seem to have encouraged the OBUC to share this information in the spirit of transparency.

Curiosity.jpeg

Then, on October 9th, the Times-Colonist published an article titled Oak Bay mayoral candidates at odds on housing. This piece, written by Richard Watts, repeated many of the OBUC’s favourite refrains.
Following is one response to the inaccuracies in that report. Also in this letter the question is asked again: Who is the Development Team?
The longer that this vital information is withheld, the greater our curiosity - and the more this important question will continue to be asked.

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

What about today's neighbours? to OBN Sept 14, 2018

In the Oak Bay United Church’s letter attached to their Rezoning Application dated 13 August 2018,  the developer writes : “We hope to build a solution for the pressures faced by today's community and create a legacy for the generations to come.”
Has the church forgotten that they also need to consider the pressures faced by their present neighbours and wider Oak Bay community before building this massive project which will change their neighbourhood and the face of Oak Bay forever?  Have they given thought to the stress and fear their present neighbours, many of whom have lived here for decades and are in their very late years, are experiencing?
On September 11th the church posted some technical studies on their website. The arborists report writes of the trees that will be removed.

a streetscape.jpg

The mechanical engineers description of how venting fumes and odours from the underground garage, garbage rooms, gas boilers and 96 units will be installed on the building’s roof (to drift over the neighbourhood). The geologists report that describes rock blasting and possible damage to adjacent structures during excavation and construction and the underpinning and shoring of the church and a neighbouring property that will be needed. Another warning is about seepage (already a common problem in older period homes next to the church). The report warns that noise and ground vibrations will be experienced by neighbouring residents and complaints from neighbours should be anticipated.  The church and heritage homes surrounding it were built at a time when rebar was not put into concrete foundations, putting these properties at serious risk.
If Oak Bay is serious about the welfare of  its citizens and protecting its heritage it must not accept the risk that this massive project represents.
B. G. Judson

A personal point of view - shared by many

A letter to the Mayor and Councillors of the Municipality of Oak Bay September 24, 2018:

Within the past month the Oak Bay United Church has presented an application for development of their property. Our neighbourhood is very concerned and I, as an immediate neighbour, would be severely impacted by this proposed development. I write with deep concern about their proposal.
I have lived on Granite Street for 41 years now. In 1977, when we moved into Granite Street, there were two Arts and Crafts bungalows (belonging to the United Church) to the west of our house, there were no sidewalks, it was a much more pastoral ambience. Granite Street is a local street (neither arterial nor collector) and I was reassured that the OCP kept the south side of Granite zoned as single family housing. This reassurance has been shaken by the possibility of such an enormous development on the property right next to mine.
The size, scale, and density proposed would be disastrous to my property and to our neighbourhood.
Placing nearly 100 more households on this one street would create extreme street and parking congestion and would make significant demands on all existing infrastructures.
The Geotechnical report states that extensive blasting would be necessary to create two stories of parking underground. The same report tells me my 105 year-old house could suffer damage and that underpinning may be required. Construction crews would need to encroach on my property to dig the SEVEN meter deep hole.
Light, both loss of natural light and light pollution is a major concern.
The west side of my house would be in the shadow of a 48 foot, four-storey building. My kitchen window would face the new construction and the entrance to the parkade. Noise, light, and air pollution would be significant (to put it mildly).
I ask you to consider this. If you were asked to have an entrance to a parking garage opposite your kitchen window with: 

·         cars entering and exiting all day and well into the evening,

·         the door opening and closing each time,

·         exterior lighting shining on your house 24/7,

·         headlights of cars shining into your kitchen,

·         exhaust from those vehicles in your airspace,

·         exhaust from the parking garage being pumped out into your airspace.

Would this be acceptable to you? And all this after enduring a couple of years of intense blasting and excavation that might threaten the structure of your home. It is not acceptable to me, indeed I feel it would make my gracious old home unlivable.
I ask you to reject this development proposal while suggesting to the developer that they come back with a much more modest plan that can build community, provide light, air and green space for everyone.
S. MacRae
Oak Bay

Months of drilling and blasting will put many period homes at risk.

Months of drilling and blasting will put many period homes at risk.

FOI raises fears - OBN July 27, 2018

Click on the article to read an online version of this letter:

Not about the money - Oak Bay News May 28, 2018

Recent letters castigate the Oak Bay United Church as simply seeking financial return. That is not entrely true. Name another non government development that would create 51 per cent affordable housing units. That’s 50 suites for our Oak Bay youth or elderly to continue to live in Oak Bay.
I spoke against the Clive apartments development as I thought it too large and it did not supply any underground parking. But it has fit into the fabric of our community very well. There were no affordable units.
Churches do a lot of good in Oak Bay and in Victoria in general. Granite Street has always been a transitional street in a real estate sense. Nearby neighbours can rest assured that the quality of their lives will not be negatively impacted and the value of their homes will remain unequalled when compared to almost all other greater Victoria neighbourhoods.
Patrick Skillings
Oak Bay

Click on the image to read the online version of this letter.

Click on the image to read the online version of this letter.

Here’s a letter from another FIYBY - fine in your backyard.
Mr. Skillings lives a fair distance from the OBUC site so he can be generous with his comments.
He reassures those of us within meters of the site that our lives will not be negatively affected. How silly of us not to see that. Rubbing shoulders with 200 or more near neighbours? We’ll barely notice it. A hundred more cars squeezing down our narrow sidestreet? Won’t even register. More trees taken down, more pressure on the infrastructure. No worries.
The point is: no one questions the need for affordable housing. All we ask (have asked, are asking, will ask) is for a reduction in scale.