We were surprised to read the call of Oak Bay municipality to participate in the Residential Infill Strategy identified by a new Official Community Plan scheduled for Sept. 10.
The newly employed planner of Oak Bay, Deborah Jensen, states that: “It’s a good way for us to start having a conversation with the community.”
Isn’t it a bit too late?
A new Official Community Plan has been established and decided on by three councillors and six residents (some of whom are non-residents).
During that process many councillors voiced concerns and expressed their desire for public input in the form of open houses. They were concerned that a new Official Community Plan was “too developer friendly.”
Now we, the residents, are expected to “help” the process of densification of our corner of the “City of Gardens” of which Oak Bay is the best example.
Oak Bay already has third place in the list of highest population densities in Greater Victoria:
City of Victoria – 4,109 people per square km
Esquimalt – 2,290 people per square km
Oak Bay – 1,710 people per square km
The Official Community Plan states that Oak Bay natural areas are in its parks which constitute 3.7 per cent of its area and the majority of our parks do not have trees. This percentage as park area compares to:
Vancouver – 11 per cent
Toronto – 12.7 per cent
New York – 19.7 per cent
London U.K – 38.4 per cent
Singapore – 47 per cent
Vienna – 51 per cent
Our treasure, which we so cherish, therefore lies not in a few parks but in the trees and vegetation of our gardens.
The infill and densification proposes that we lose this (our main) treasure.
Habitat Acquisition Trust warns us that our city is losing trees at an alarming rate and over six years (2005-2011) the Greater City of Victoria lost 900 hectares (equivalent to 12 Beacon Hill parks) of which Saanich lost 378 hectares, Langford lost 118 hectares, the City of Victoria lost 42 hectares.
The new Official Community Plan states that the plan “is based on the community values, concerns and wishes.”
How does the proposed densification take into account the concerns repeatedly raised by Oak Bay residents: Oak Bay character, traffic, parking, loss of trees and landscaping, air pollution, and flood water?
In conclusion: what can Oak Bay residents do in this situation?
1. Let a developer-friendly new Official Community Plan ravage Oak Bay.
2. Propose a vote of non-confidence, elect a new council and create a better Official Community Plan, a plan that is designed by and for its residents.
In our democratic country, perhaps we should be able to make this decision.
Alan J. Lupin, FRCS(C), FACS,