I am a professional engineer who has lived in south Oak Bay with my wife and two small children for the past ten years.
I grew up on Toronto Island, in a community constantly under threat of redevelopment. I learned valuable lessons about heritage protection in those years and worked on the front lines to protect my community. Jack Layton was our city councillor. I worked on many of his campaigns. I am proud to have called him a friend.
I earned an engineering degree from University of Toronto and a Masters in Management Sciences from the University of Waterloo. I worked with a number of companies including: Nortel, Bell Canada, Telus, British Telecom, Royal Bank, and various federal and provincial departments and ministries as a professional engineer and management consultant.
Ten years ago, my wife and I purchased our home in south Oak Bay while expecting our first child. Later, while at home with our second child, I was able to complete two major renovations that included digging down the basement. It was then I recall my renovators complaining about the building rules in Oak Bay being too strict, but I didn’t mind. I saw these rules as necessary protections for the sake of the community.
Around 2008, my architect told me that if I had held off on my renovation a bit longer, I could have added another floor to my house and put in a double car “man cave” in the backyard. That was my first inkling that something had changed in Oak Bay…
In April of 2012, I was walking with my daughter up Monterey near Windsor. She looked at a building under construction and asked, “Why are they building a hospital?” The building did looked commercial and out of place. To my eye, it might have been a service building of some sort. The next day, I got a knock on the door and a flyer from some concerned residents inviting me to the next Oak Bay council meeting. The residents wanted to know why such a large building was being built in the neighborhood. That council meeting became the first of many I attended to express my concerns.
To organize a valid, constructive response to address the many new “large houses on small lots”, I co-founded a new community association, Oak Bay Watch. This resulted in an invitation to assist with the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) committee revising the Zoning bylaw. The wide consultation approach for the FAR report, now at the Committee of the Whole stage, removes the unintended incentives to demolish over preserve. While not perfect, I support the FAR committee’s report.
This journey has led me to your vote. For a balanced, intelligent approach to cautious development, please vote Eric Wood Zhelka on November 15th for Oak Bay Council.