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Letters June 20: Elizabeth May does the reading; we need more family-sized units; cycle paths are for those who pedal

Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and co-leader of the federal Green Party. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Elizabeth May gives us vital information

Re: “Thanks, Elizabeth, for spilling the beans,” letter, June 18.

I’m not surprised that Elizabeth May read the unredacted version of the paper on foreign interference. She seems to be the only MP who reads all the papers.

Perhaps she chose to share this information at a press conference because the public is interested and no one else was coming forward, although it’s a matter of national security.

Sandra Phillips

North Saanich

More family-sized units are needed in Victoria

Re: “New policy could see more family units in larger Victoria complexes,” June 15.

In arguing for more family-size units in buildings of more than four storeys, Victoria Coun. Stephen Hammond is right on track.

He expressed his disappointment that non-profit developers will be exempt from council’s proposed multi-family project requirements: “I just don’t see the private sector giving what I would consider decent-sized two- and three-bedroom accommodations.”

But building higher than four storeys in residential neighbourhoods is not the only path forward. The city can also promote family housing in the form of small-scale multi-unit housing.

Victoria is meeting and exceeding provincial building targets in terms of new units, but failing with regard to family-sized and affordable units. Council should ask the province to reward their efforts with help to build non-market housing for families.

Mayor Marianne Alto appears be looking to make Victoria a builder’s paradise: “If we truly are wanting to build more housing and make it as easy as possible, we need to make this the simplest place to do that.”

Why must Victoria be the least regulated place, simpler to build in than neighbouring municipalities? It’s true that some regulations need amending — for example, small developers face many unnecessary challenges with heritage conversions. But be careful not to strip away too many regulations.

We look to council to protect quality of design and construction, green spaces, setbacks and access to sunlight. Deregulation often leads to shoddy and inappropriate construction.

Soressa Gardner


In Europe, cycle paths are reserved for cyclists

Re: “Friendly Victoria? Not for people riding bicycles,” commentary, June 18.

It is noteworthy that it is someone from outside our city who has exposed the reality of cycling here in Victoria.

As someone who regularly cycles our various cycling infrastructures, this contributor has hit the proverbial nail on the head.

In short, if you don’t pedal it, keep it off the cycle paths, trails, and city cycleways. It is seldom that I have ever seen a rider of a throttled bike pedal as they speed by at excessive rates.

They are motorcycles that pretend to be bicycles, their owners thinking they are cyclists. They are not.

In several European countries, cycle paths are, for the most part, dedicated to cyclists only; walkers, dogs on retractable leashes, joggers, e-scooters, throttled bikes, etc. are seldom encountered.

The reality is that it would be challenging to regulate cycling access or behaviour on our various cycling trails or paths outside of the city.

As this contributor says, it is not easy to identify throttled bikes from those with only pedal e-assist.

John Stevenson


Victoria getting tough on those who break the law

Re: “VicPD sued after e-biker who ran red light is hit,” June 18.

For a city that has infinite capacity to accommodate the needs of bike riding to make it safer, I applaud the VicPD for defending their right, and presumably all car drivers, to run bikes off the road.

Finally, some payback for those car drivers angry with the special treatment of bikers in Victoria. I knew that the city would eventually strike a balance, I just didn’t predict it would include defending an officer who made the decision to intentionally ram a biker who ran a red light.

What’s next, shooting jaywalkers? Tasering litterers? It is great to see the city finally getting tough on crime.

I also think that the tens of thousands of dollars the city will spend on defending its “knock-em-off” policy in court is money well spent, especially given all the other demands on taxpayer dollars.

Let’s put this story out there: the days of lawlessness are over in Victoria!

Howard Brunt

North Saanich

Accept responsibility for your actions

Re: “VicPD sued after e-biker who ran red light is hit,” June 18.

Stories from Greater Victoria never cease to amaze. A cyclist on an e-bike breaks the law by failing to stop at a red light, and then refuses to pull over when signalled to do so by Victoria PD officers.

They are suing the police for damages because the patrol vehicle touched the rear of her bike and she fell over. Not a great outcome, admittedly, but she was continuing to break the law.

Why will people not accept responsibility for their actions, especially when they are in the wrong? If an officer of the law seeks to question a citizen over whatever, does it not make sense to comply?

If not, events can escalate, as they did in this case. The lawsuit should be dismissed. And were they ticketed for running the red light?

David Collins


Public/private thinking for pool replacement

The City of Victoria wants to replace the Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre at a cost of $200-million-plus to taxpayers.

Another option could achieve this objective without cost to taxpayers and provide tax revenue to the city.

It requires creative thinking, which perhaps is a challenge for this council.

The city could enter into a public/private agreement with a reputable well-financed developer or consortium with these broad terms:

• The city provides sufficient land at the present location at no cost to the developer, perhaps on a 99-year lease.

• The developer builds at their cost the replacement pool and fitness centre to city specifications.

• The developer builds/integrates sufficient housing units on site to recover their costs and make a profit.

• The city operates the pool and fitness centre.

• The owners of housing units pay property taxes to the city.

While simple in principle, specialized expertise is required to design and negotiate these terms. There will be an up-front cost to hire this expertise, but it will be far less than $200 million, which like all public projects will balloon to much more. With this much at stake surely other options are worth consideration.

N.G. Giuliany


Looking for cyclists to explain their thinking

We routinely see a lot of criticism of bicycle riders and their various bad habits such as ignoring stop signs, red lights, school buses with red lights activated and crosswalks.

I would like to see letters from the cycling community that defend the riding habits so many complain about. I get very frustrated by cyclists blatantly ignoring stop signs. Recently at a four-way stop, while on my motorcycle, I came to a full stop , and started a right-hand turn.

A cyclist coming up on my right side nearly plowed into me and reacted as though I was in the wrong. I am certain that this person must have had some form of justification to ignore a stop sign and nearly ride into me as I turned right.

I would love to know what it is. Or I would love to hear from cyclists who defend riding through stop signs or red lights, or not stopping for pedestrians on crosswalks. What say you?

Greg Neufeldt


Saanich’s water table is not a housing problem

Re: “Saanich’s rural areas report water shortages,” letter, June 18.

In rural Saanich, about 1,600 out of 2,600 parcels are connected to municipal water, according to the planning staff at Saanich. This is 62.5%, not 30% as the letter said. The letter-writer and Coun. Judy Brownoff (in her June 11 letter) seem to think that all rural Saanich is a bucolic farming community. This is false.

There are only 415 parcels out of about 2,600 (16%) that have official farm status. Of those I would suggest most are hobby farms taking advantage of the tax savings, not full working farms.

There is no issue with the water table and suites. Brownoff suggests that the temporary farm worker policy addresses the need for housing on farms, but what about the other 84% of parcels that are not farms? Surely the rules should be the same for everyone.

She also suggests that fire protection would be an issue. I have been a Saanich firefighter for 22 years. The majority of rural Saanich is protected by hydrants and the municipal water system.

Which brings us back to the fact that these detached suites are already there. I have been in them myself.

The premier was correct to reject the request to exclude the rural area of Saanich from the housing mandate. The choice to have a secondary or garden suite would be “gentle density” and there is no difference in the water usage if the suite is in the basement or above the garage.

Everyone concerned with this issue should come to the June 24 council meeting to lend their support to Coun. Karen Harper’s amendment to allow owners the choice of which type of suite fits their property. We need more housing.

Kevin Mickelson

Prospect Lake


Secondary suites needed in Saanich’s rural areas

Rest assured the position of Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff and other councillors restricting secondary suites outside the urban containment boundary does not reflect the views of many of Saanich residents.

If she or city council have concerns about specific areas outside the urban containment boundary, then address them with specific restrictions on application to build, but do not apply a blanket policy that harms construction of additional housing. Lost in this regressive effort are the plight of those who, after a lifetime of hard work, see costs, including municipal taxes, spiralling out of control and threatening to displace them during retirement.

Lost too are opportunities for young families to afford mortgages by leveraging a secondary suite.

We can’t all afford to be the “wealthy gentry” that occupy grand rural estates — some of us live in the real world. The province should reject Saanich council’s application for exemption from secondary suite zoning.

Henri Rogers



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