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Letters Aug. 4: We need better architecture; drought threatens newly planted trees; reducing risk on trails

Artist’s rendering of a proposed development at 205 Quebec St., 507 Montreal St. and 210 to 224 Kingston St. in Victoria. Victoria councillors withheld approval. D’AMBROSIO ARCHITECTURE AND URBANISM, VIA CITY OF VICTORIA

A call for quality in architecture

A James Bay multi-storey apartment plan was rejected because it conflicted with the character of the neighbourhood.

Grounds for celebration? Yes. But this is a rare exception to standards widely practiced by our municipalities which allow ugly buildings to proliferate.

Langford boasts record urban expansion. But it is filled with architectural catastrophes. The view from the highway reveal townhouses and apartment buildings that are astoundingly ugly.

An architectural student who produced such designs would be advised to pick another career. Cardinal rules of architecture include balanced proportions, avoidance of disjointed structures and the buildings should blend into surrounding natural scenery.

Unfortunately many of these Langford structures break all these rules. They display a bizarre myriad of textures and patterns with collections of chaotic roofs. The overall appearance is of a five-year-old’s colouring book.

Some forms of modern art are indecipherable but we don’t have to look at them. But urban planning forces us to look at this visual pollution.

With the pressing need for housing, developers and architects just want to make money. Council approval bodies do not have ugliness as a criterion for planning rejection.

Unfortunately, when people are regularly exposed to bad architecture ugliness becomes normalized. Look no further than the side of our own legislature. The magnificent 19th century building is polluted by a yellow cabin on its grounds. It is an embarrassment.

I suggest three possible solutions.

All city/town councilors should be forced to attend a short course on architectural aesthetics. Install a permanent display in front of new structures that identifies the responsible architect. Finally, one of our colleges would have ample material to offer a course in their architecture program entitled “gross mistakes in urban planning.”

Adrian Fine


A call for slower speeds on regional trails

A warm welcome to the wild west of­ ­etiquette on the regional trails. My e-bike has been my primary transportation for the past three years.

I have a few observations from my 7,968-kilometre ride on Greater Victoria’s roads and trails.

I will start with a quote of every car driver: “I didn’t even see the bike.” That said, everyone please dress in bright yellow or orange instead of all black.

How about some lights? They are cheap and can save your life.

A ball cap is not actually a helmet and I really don’t want to see another brain injury victim on the street.

Unaware of who is behind you? Perhaps a side mirror will help immensely.

I think it is a rider’s responsibility to reduce risk, but some people require rules so here are some of mine beyond the equipment list.

The provincial speed limit is 32 km/h for e-motor assistance. I have witnessed 70 km/h riders on the trail.

Ride on the right hand side of the bike lane so that others can pass easily.

Don’t run red lights as it give other riders like me a bad name. Use hand signals when turning.

Lastly if you are going to clear your nose on the trail – check you mirror as I am probably riding behind you.

Happy cycling,

David Cook


GVHA should reduce its reliance on cruise ships

We should not be overly concerned about the effect on Victoria’s economy of shorter and later cruise ship stops.

A 2022 economic study by an independent American research group and based on 2019 data (the latest then available), showed that the economic benefit of cruise ship business to Victoria’s economy is very small.

Analysis showed that non-cruise ship tourism was worth more than 20 times more than tourism from cruise ships, and that, while cruise ship passengers numbered almost 12 per cent of visitors in 2019, they were responsible for less than two per cent of tourism ­spending.

Unlike non-cruise ship tourists, cruise ship passengers do not stay in hotels, rent cars or spend more than a few hours. For the most part, they eat, drink and buy souvenirs on the ships themselves. Cruise ships do, however, benefit the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA), a provincial, non-profit society, which was created to look after Victoria and Esquimalt Harbours and certain adjacent lands (including the Ogden Point Breakwater, the Inner Harbour lower causeway and Fisherman’s Wharf).

The GVHA’s reports show that 70 per cent of its operating costs come from cruise ship “visitation.”

While having minimal economic benefit cruise ships bring significant environmental and other problems.

In addition to the adverse effects of engine noise on marine life, additional effects include the dumping of toxic washwater around our shores, traffic congestion and noise in James Bay, and garbage left in this city from departing cruise ships.

Given these considerations, the GVHA, working for the good of the greater community, might be well advised to rethink its approach to financing its operations and look for more citizen-friendly ways to use the Ogden Point area.

Here’s an idea: remake the environmentally-unfriendly concrete cruise ship terminal into a grassed and treed park for the enjoyment of citizens and non-cruise ship tourists.

This model could include such mixed commercial, residential and tourist activities as a permanent market, a reinvigorated Maritime Museum, an outdoor pool, a small hotel, local boating opportunities and possibly some small cruise ships.

It will take courage and creativity for the GVHA board to move to a more environmentally- and people-friendly economic model for our harbour. But the board has a responsibility to the citizens of Victoria to take on this challenge.

Jennifer Button


Canada needs to match Britain’s health system

Very few weeks go by without someone writing to the Times Colonist complaining about some aspect of health care. Last week there were letters blaming the federal government, the provincial government and a lack of health care professionals.

I am a retired physician and feel that health care is rather like a rudderless ship without a captain but with lots of lieutenants.

In 1942 in Britain William Beveridge, an economist, produced a report which was a post war plan for social welfare. As a result in 1946 the National Health Act was introduced.

It guaranteed free comprehensive medical care for everyone including free dental care and drugs.

It was hugely popular and regarded by many as the single most enlightened piece of British legislation of the 20th century.

Canadian health care has some similarities but here we are 70 years later with very limited free dental care and pharmacare.

It seems a pity that the federal government can’t arrange for a group of experts to pinpoint the problems of Canadian health care and like Beveridge come up with a plan, long term where necessary, to rectify them.

I think it is important to note that in 1946 Britain had been at war with Germany for six years and the economy was in poor shape but still went ahead and introduced the National Health Service.

Now there is another letter from an experienced family physician asking “Where are the leaders to improve our health care?” Yes, where are they?

Clive Bruton

North Saanich

When tree-planting is wiped out by drought

All the attention that is being paid to firefighting, and drought is great in the short-term. But it makes me wonder about the future of forests in British Columbia.

Each year thousands of tree-planters fan out across the province with the intention of restoring cut and burned over forests. However I suspect that a large number of those trees do not survive the first or second year they are in the ground. Not only that, I wonder how much forest fires are interfering with the reforestation effort.

My own experience with planting trees on a Ducks Unlimited property in Port Alberni in the past two years has been disastrous. As a former silviculture forester, I ensured we did everything right when we planted.

We planted in the fall just when the fall rains arrived so that they could extend their roots deeper into the soil over the winter. We put browse protection on them too.

They flushed out this spring and they all looked healthy. But as the drought progressed the leaves turned red and the plants died.

We could not find a way to get water on them. The same situation may be occurring across the province. I think large parts of the province will turn to grasslands.

What is the province doing? Are they monitoring the survival of the recent plantations? Are there statistics?

Sandy McRuer

Port Alberni

CAO’s removal is just part of the problem

Re: “Care needed when council remove top servants,” editorial, July 28.

In North Saanich it remains unclear how the actions of the mayor and possibly some members of council led to chief administrative officer Tim Tanton’s ­“resignation.” The editorial nicely captured part of the central issue: that elected officials do not always know/understand (or want to know/understand) the division between their responsibilities and those of municipal employees.

A toxic workplace has apparently emerged in North Saanich. At least six people (three from the planning ­department who were involved in the prior Official Community Plan process) and one councillor have left since some members of this council were elected.

One former employee told me they feared for their safety. Reluctant to complain, staff are simply leaving for other employment or are taking early retirement. There’s a bigger problem here than the removal of the chief administrative officer.

Paula Young

North Saanich

That 26 minutes should not make a difference

Re: “Cruise-ship slowdowns good for environment, but not great for Victoria businesses,” July 28.

According to a recent article, cruise ship slow downs over the Swiftsure bank are adversely affecting Victoria businesses.

According to this article, the slow-down area is about 23 nautical miles long and cruise ships are required to reduce speed from about 20 knots to 14.5 knots.

This will delay the cruise ships arrival by about 26 minutes.

It hardly seems like a major factor.

Martin Hill



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