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Letters March 8: Learn from Palm Springs; build on Government House land; we need train service

Government House in Victoria. A letter-writer notes that it's surrounded by plenty of land and housing could be built on it. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria could learn from Palm Springs

Having just spent a month in Palm Springs I have a whole new understanding of what a “vibrant” tourist-oriented downtown looks like — and it’s nothing like Victoria.

Victoria is like an aging diva, still drawing crowds based on past hits, but every year plastering on more and more makeup while struggling to reach the high notes.

Palm Springs, on the other hand, seems young and alive. Businesses have bought into the retro-cool vibe of the 1960s and the downtown bustles with foot-traffic Victoria merchants would kill for.

Some notable differences:

• In Palm Springs parking is free, both on the street and in the parkades. The only parking restrictions I saw were 20-minute zones which allow motorists to run into a store or restaurant for a quick pickup. Parking availability did not seem to be a major problem. (Bike lanes are painted on the roadways.)

• The downtown was extremely clean with public area sidewalks and squares apparently power washed every night.

• There were no panhandlers. While there were homeless in the downtown no-one was parked on the sidewalk begging.

• There was virtually no open drug use. (However I did on one occasion witness a couple of young people sharing a joint.)

• Free entertainment was plentiful. For example, the museum opened its doors for a free night once a week. The main drag was shut down once a week for a blocks-long open market with vendors, entertainers and food trucks.

• Restaurant patios also were plentiful.

All in all, it was a downtown that left you wanting more rather than desperately searching for a way out.

Bill Cleverley

North Cowichan

A perfect win-win for elected officials

It would be a win-win for our new premier to put our money where his mouth is.

The 35-acre parcel on which ­Government House is located is surely by far the largest piece of undeveloped provincially-owned land in Victoria.

The southeast corner of it could easily accommodate hundreds of units of subsidized housing, with no land acquisition cost, and further this premier’s preference to not “ghettoize” the less financially fortunate.

They would have a toney Rockland address with priceless views of the sea and the Olympic Mountains to share with Her Ladyship. That would also quiet, temporarily at a minimum, the “affordable housing” NIMBIES in other neighbourhoods of this city.

And a win-win for Victoria’s new mayor, to at least notionally make less ridiculous the decision of she and her colleagues in the last council to turn Richardson Street below Government House effectively into a bike lane.

The city could loan each of the foregoing new residents a bike and ensure that this development has direct bike lane access to Richardson Street.

That could double or triple the present number of daily bike trips on that route. And, vastly reduced bylaw stipulated automobile parking could then, for once, be sensibly approved, since few of the occupants would reasonably be expected to own automobiles presumably.

A win-win, at least for those two and the roughly 28 per cent and 21 per cent, respectively, of eligible voters who elected them.

Stephen Hayward

James Bay

Should we lose all story of ‘post contact’?

I’m not sure exactly why recreating a street from a bygone era in B.C.’s history is so offensive.

Virtually anything that is “post contact” could be considered offensive by one person or group so shall we eradicate everything that tells the story of post contact?

Shall we avoid the controversy by shuttering the Royal B.C. Museum, give back or away the millions in artifacts and sell the land for another condo development?

Mark Oliver


Island rail service a great tourism draw

It is with great sadness and frustration I write this, as the possibility of losing the E&N railway line forever is drawing closer.

The fact that freight by rail would remove up to 25,000 truck trips annually and eliminate up to 3,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases makes the decision to retain the Island rail a “no brainer.”

There is an amazing opportunity to promote our tourism sector by offering rail trips up and down the Island. Mayors are in strong support and recognize a new and invigorated rail line marketing their individual communities would bring a real boost to their town’s livelihoods.

The cruise ships could offer trips by rail with stops connecting to points of interest all along the 289-kilometre route.

Many who choose not to drive over the Malahat do not connect as they would like to, to family and friends. Rail would give them the freedom to visit more often.

This is the biggest decision the federal government has made concerning Vancouver Island in decades.

Imagine a rail line connecting all communities! With proper scheduling one could visit farmers’ markets, Cowichan Valley wine tasting, the Duncan Museum, take in forest walks … the possibilities are endless!

We have a real treasure here, one that our children and grandchildren could be benefiting from. The possibility of electric rail and Island transit will never happen if the corridor is destroyed.

We must insist that our MPs and MLAs realize, like the rest of the world has, that having a properly funded, properly marketed tourism draw like a coastal rainforest train, is an opportunity that only comes along once in a lifetime.

Rachel McDonnell


Think of the long term when thinking of rail

One of the unfortunate aspects of the discussion about the future of the Island Rail Corridor is that people are thinking of the train service as it was, not as it could, and should, be.

The future is not about heavy locomotives with carriages and freight. The future must be about “light” or “very light” rail, primarily oriented to passenger travel.

These passengers could be Victoria and Nanaimo commuters, inter-city and inter-community travel (such as travel to hospital or shopping), or tourists enjoying the fabulous views and visiting the murals of Chemainus or the beaches of Parksville.

The train units must be modern in look and method of propulsion, with the latter being battery electric or hydrogen powered. Hydrogen powered trains are now trialing in Quebec and battery electric trains are operating in many places around the world.

Both these technologies would require minimal upgrading of the current rail line as they are both very light, are zero-emission, and do not require overhead electric wiring.

The Island Rail Corridor offers an opportunity for us to think long-term, to reinvent the geography, and to enhance the quality of life of everyone who is currently forced to use the Island Highway for commuting, business or pleasure.

Bob Yates


Horse saved lives by refusing to cross

Just a footnote to the story of the worst street car disaster in North America, where on May 26, 1896, an overloaded street car crashed through the Point Ellice bridge, killing 55 people on their way to Victoria Day celebrations in Esquimalt.

My great-great-grandfather was among those with a horse and buggy wanting to cross the bridge at the same time. He didn’t get across because the horse refused to go on the bridge that day.

My great-great-grandfather tried everything but the horse would not budge. It knew something was wrong. The bridge collapsed before their eyes.

Of the 88 survivors many were taken to the lawns of what is now Point Ellice museum.

Interesting to owe ones existence to a horse.

Heather Graham


Tree canopy matters — and we are losing it

I was heartened to read that Victoria council has committed to review, renew and update its policies in regard to climate change. It was disturbing, though, to read that the council recognized it had already fallen behind targets since the original climate leadership plan was adopted, only five years ago.

For all our sakes, climate change, and appropriate action, need to be front and centre of every decision made by council, and that by allowing the level of densification we see in the downtown core essentially is doing exactly the opposite.

This level of densification requires building codes that are far more stringent in order to minimize impact on the carbon footprint.

And while encouraging less traffic on our roads is important, so is something as simple as maintaining the tree canopy. We have now lost so much of the tree canopy and green space in the downtown core, and along with it the concurrent cooling effect and carbon absorption.

The science is out there.

Joanne Wiggins


A book offers advice to doctor yourself

Re: “Self-care must be a strategic ­priority for the health system,” commentary, March 5.

This commentary and many other recent letters to the editor on the same topic remind me of the book, Doctor Yourself: Natural Healing That Works, by Andrew Saul, published in 2003.

I highly recommend this book, and if you are not able to get a copy, you can visit his website at where you can have enough good information to get you started.

Fayu Zhang



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