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

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

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

Playing with numbers - to OBN Sept 10, 2018

As of today’s date (September 20, 2018) the Oak Bay News hasn’t published this letter. Its author sent it to us to publish on our website:

September 10, 2018

Letters to the editor, Oak Bay News

United Church Overdevelopment Project

When I was taking Statistics many years ago, we used a textbook called “How to lie with Statistics”.
The article “Oak Bay United Church (OBUC) submits rezoning application” (OBN, Sept. 5th), shows some of these underhanded tactics in practice. The article reports the findings of a survey carried out by the OBUC. The number of people polled, by phone and at a single Open House was not disclosed. The report fails to disclose the wording of the questions asked or the domicile of the recipients polled, casting doubts on the integrity of the data.

The results were filed into three groups, Agree, Disagree and Neutral.

Question 1: Did the project fit into the Granite Street neighbourhood?
Answer:
Agree and Neutral (added together) 44%
Disagree 66%

Question 2: Did the project fit into the rest of Oak Bay?
Answer:
Agree and Neutral (added together) 69%
Disagree 31%

Question 3: Parking and Congestion Issues in Granite Street.
Answer:
Agree and Neutral (added together) 50%
Disagree 50%

Question 4: Parking and Congestion issues in the rest of Oak Bay.
Answer:
Agree and Neutral (added together) 31%
Disagree 69%

I would like to see a meaningful analysis of this survey. The response “Neutral” means that the person being interviewed does not know about the project or doesn’t feel strongly one way or another.
It does not mean they agree. Their responses could just as validly be grouped with the Disagree responses. What would the results tell us then?

S. Doughty

Oak Bay

pexels-photo-186461.jpeg

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.