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.

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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

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.

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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

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?

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.

Oak Bay housing project fails to gain neighbourhood support

I found this letter to the Times-Colonist while searching for other online versions of correspondence. With all this very vocal opposition, it is astonishing to think that the District of Oak Bay has accepted the application when the OBUC has failed to secure more public support. In the January 2018 meeting of the Committee of the Whole, Mayor Jensen suggested they should not return with an application without strong support.

Read on:

To complain about anything when we live here in paradise appears to be churlish.
Nevertheless, when taxpayers have subsidized, year after year, tax-free church lands, and now the church wants to “develop” its land, overriding the recommendations of those same residents who have subsidized them for decades, surely the taxpaying residents have a right to be heard.
Apparently, Oak Bay United Church’s “best compromise” is to reduce its original proposal of 160 units on a 1.3-acre lot to a mere 98. I guess it’s a well-worn strategy to start huge and wear people down with subsequent minor “reductions.”
What is it about this church that refuses to listen to the local residents who have subsidized them from the year dot? Residents have stated in spades that they are not opposed to change; they support affordable rental housing that fits with the neighbourhood (in which they pay exorbitant taxes); they support a development of between 25 and 40 units; and they’ve made several sound recommendations around this proposed development.
The church states that its rents would start at less than $1,000 permonth, be self-sustaining and bring in money to operate the church. Does this really mean that a brand-new rental suite in Oak Bay would be less than $1,000 amonth? For whom? Can the Oak Bay police handle a potential increase in neighbourhood crime associated with below-market rent?
The church says its congregation is increasing — are these rental suites already allotted to churchgoers? What if it’s not a “self-sustaining” project? Does the church then decide to sell off these units at market price? (Just look at the condo/real-estate pre-buying boondoggle going on in Vancouver.)
There are already unconfirmed reports of a group of Vancouver Realtors being seen on the church property. The church has been less than forthcoming in the past, so what can we expect in the future?
The church is on record calling local residents “mean-spirited” for merely trying to maintain the ambience of their cherished neighbourhood, which they’ve worked and cared for for decades. God help the local taxpaying residents once the trees come down, the multi-storeys go up, the views are diminished, the birdlife is gone, and 120 more cars are coming and going all day and all night long. Thanks for that, United Church.
And by the way, if the congregation is truly increasing, where are they all going to park? Maybe the church should rethink that parking lot.

E.J. Williams
Times Colonist May 13, 2018

Read the online version here.

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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.

Tools needed to integrate the past with the future

Here's some clear thinking on what is needed. (Oak Bay News May 7, 2018)

To read an online version of this article, click on the image.

Does anyone else see the irony in these two signs being side by side? They epitomize the dilemma created by the lack of a housing strategy in Oak Bay.

Does anyone else see the irony in these two signs being side by side? They epitomize the dilemma created by the lack of a housing strategy in Oak Bay.