21 January 2019
To Mayor and Council,
Remember the Survey ? Housing Strategy update.
When the Oak Bay-wide survey was taken in advance of preparing the Community Plan, a lot of good information was gathered. When the topic of housing was surveyed, the following list of housing options were considered by the public to be the least acceptable in any development:
building height increases
inclusion of triplexes and fourplexes in existing single-family residential areas
allowing very small units (such as 300 square feet) to allow for more units in a building
developers encroaching on single family zones
The survey also reported that residents did not trust the motivations of developers to propose or carry out what is best for a neighbourhood and nearby residents. A common opinion was that they are motivated solely by money. Developers not following through on promises of community amenities and approvals of variance applications allowing developers to realize higher profits can cause problems for neighbourhoods. Developers are the only ones who win “while the neighbourhood pays the price.”
Unfortunately many developers seem to treat the ‘public input’ suggestion on the Zoning Amendment process information sheet with contempt. The suggestion that “Applicant encouraged to undertake neighbourhood consultation to obtain public input” is just a suggestion and is not required or mandatory.
Citizens often face an unfair process when developers decide to get public input:
questionnaires ask leading (or misleading) questions,
meetings are planned for deliberately inconvenient times (the period just before Christmas for example),
input from participants from outside the affected area is solicited, manipulation and misinterpretation of data collected –
and much much more.
Some developers seem merely to go through the motions with no intention of listening or implementing any neighbourhood input.
The requirement of a prescriptive and standardized Neighbourhood Consultation Process for all developers would add an element of fairness for all involved. The use of the IAP2 Participation Spectrum defining the public’s role in any public participation process might be a good starting point.
DO IT RIGHT was the message from the Survey. Go slow with change, make changes that are well thought through, well researched in other communities and are intentional and according to a plan, not ad hoc. Please, mayor and council, remember what citizens said in the survey.
It is good news that mayor and council will begin work on Strategic Goals, including a housing strategy, thank you for this.