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Letters Jan. 17: Reaction to 'missing middle' anger; how about a salt-water pool?

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VICTORIA, B.C.: November, 27, 2018 - Aerial stock photo of houses in Victoria. VICTORIA, B.C. November 27, 2018. (ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST). For City story by Stand Alone. *** Local Caption *** A residential neighbourhood in Victoria.

Leaders listen and are transparent

Re: “Why does ‘missing middle’ make people so angry,” Jan. 15.

This was a very thoughtful article. I appreciated the former mayor’s comments about how people equate change with loss, not always the same thing, and that change will not happen overnight.

I’d suggest that part of the anger around this initiative is that it was supported by her and her council.

For many people, other initiatives they took did bring loss and happened overnight and even with stealth, for instance bicycle lanes and statue removal. In these cases, they involved loss of traffic flow and even cultural credibility to many, many people who felt that change (and loss) were foisted on them without their consent.

Now, as then, more transparency, communication and, especially, listening skills are needed in civic leadership.

Geoff Robards

Oak Bay

‘Missing middle’ parking is a concern

Re: “Why does ‘missing middle’ make people so angry,” Jan. 15.

One issue the story did not address is on-street parking. This is a hot-button issue in newer neighbourhoods without back alleys and rear garages. Many homes on the Island do not have basements, so a lot of homeowners use their garages for storage and park one or more vehicles in the driveway. That means visitors or guests often have to park in the street.

We’ve seen what happens when single-family homes get converted to two suites. The number of vehicles parked outside increases from one or two to three or even five. Now adjacent homeowners find there is one of the “lodgers” permanently parked in front of their homes.

This inconvenience creates ­friction and raises concerns about further ­densification.

Richard Goatcher

Nanaimo

Missing middle is called compromise

Re: “Why does ‘missing middle’ make people so angry,” Jan. 15.

I think it’s obvious why the missing middle housing initiative makes people so angry. It’s not about avoiding change, or disagreeing that we need to increase housing choices in our city — it’s simply about control. No one likes to feel that they don’t have at least a modicum of control over choices being made that will affect their lives.

The families who live in these neighbourhoods have made huge sacrifices to do so. They have worked hard, taken on huge amounts of debt/stress, and basically invested their entire lives in their community.

They are financially invested, they work and volunteer in the neighbourhood, use the school system, etc.

Why would they be OK with unilateral decisions being made about their neighbourhood by a city planner who has no vested interest in what that neighbourhood looks or feels like to live in?

I have a new definition of the “missing middle.” I think it is the missing middle ground called compromise.

Surely we can improve our housing situation without completely taking control from the residents and continuing to allow them at least some say in how their neighbourhood looks in 20 years?

Jennifer Kolot

Victoria

Victoria’s housing is about a price point

Re: “Why does ‘missing middle’ make people so angry,” Jan. 15.

In his interview with the Times Colonist, developer Luke Mari seems to be promoting missing middle housing (another term for densification) as the solution to Victoria’s housing woes.

He correctly points out that the rubric refers to forms of housing (“It’s never been about a price point”) and wonders why it generates such antipathy.

People get upset with the term because they view it as a smokescreen for building more of the types of accommodation Victoria doesn’t need (costly condos) and less of the kind it actually does need (public housing, low-cost rental suites).

They dislike it because it betrays the kind of fuzzy thinking indulged in by those who refuse to admit that what Victoria faces is not a housing availability crisis, but a housing affordability crisis.

I propose that city council ban the use of the term “missing middle housing” forthwith and adopt a new mantra and focus for its energies: Affordable Housing.

Former councils have already made a good start by loosening restrictions on secondary rental and garden suites. Far from making it easier for developers to get a spade in the ground, the city and its planners should be casting a critical eye on every proposal that seeks to increase Victoria’s stock of high-cost housing, or remove tree canopy, or both.

Please, let’s have more interviews with people about their real-life experiences of being renovicted or trying to find housing after the landlord decides to sell their home, instead of puff pieces about developers, politicians and failed administrators.

Barbara Abercrombie

Victoria

To make progress, start with honesty

Re: “Why does ‘missing middle’ make people so angry,” Jan. 15.

Missing middle will add density to my street and to my neighbourhood. The new neighbours will add vibrancy and diversity, city services can be delivered more efficiently, schools can stay full and smaller families can be accommodated. So, why all the anger?

First, it is unclear what the city means by missing middle. Initially planners said duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes might be built and the city’s flyer, distributed to all households, included graphics displaying a houseplex about three feet higher than the neighbouring bungalows.

Then, months later, we had a very definitive switch. The Missing Middle presented to council last July called for a density increase of 75 per cent, and six-plexes and 12-plexes — a three-storey houseplex would in fact be 20 feet taller than a one-storey bungalow. That makes me angry.

When city staff were asked to change the misleading graphic, they replied: “It is part of the project branding and is not intended to be a technical drawing.” That makes me angry.

When listening to presenters at the public hearings, many were convinced that the proposal called for just fourplexes and some seemed to have little understanding of the magnitude of the changes being proposed.

Dozens of changes to the city’s Neighbourhood Plans and the Official Community Plan were also included in the documents and never examined in the hearings.

Even some on council seemed confused. Geoff Young said: “Only developers and architects truly understand the implications of this proposal.”

Lisa Helps said not to worry: “The owners of single-family homes will not be affected — design guidelines will ensure that the new buildings fit.”

The sheer bulk of these buildings and an allowable height of 35 feet would make them very unfit for many streets. Helps also said that single-family-home zoning is steeped in racism and must be stamped out. As a member of a multiracial family, that makes me angry.

Only when we have a coherent and honest description of the missing middle from city hall and its implications for everyone — homeowners, renters, developers and those wanting affordable housing — can we dispel the anger. And only then can we get on with increasing the much-needed density in all our neighbourhoods.

Ken Roueche

Victoria

Remember, council, what your job entails

Re: “Why does ‘missing middle’ make people so angry,” Jan. 15.

Well, the short answer is: “It doesn’t.”

What does attract the ire of the populace is the heavy-handed, forced rezoning that Victoria council sees as necessary to increase the middle density housing stock of the city.

Can the city deny that blanket rezoning is contemplated that will turn lots previously zoned for single-family dwellings into multi-family dwelling zones (duplexes, fourplexes or small apartment buildings)?

Can they deny that such up-zoning will alter the make-up of the neighbourhoods in which it is done? Can the city deny that the will of the people who live in these areas is being ignored or disregarded? No. They cannot.

What, pray tell, is wrong with the current zoning model of putting up a public notice in front of a property being considered for zoning change, and asking permission from the residents surrounding the property? Is council afraid that those people, who have a vested interest in maintaining the decorum of the neighbourhood, will veto the change? If so, what gives council the right to bulldoze their way over the expressed wishes of the people who live there?

City councillors and planners need to either remember the principle of “highest and best use,” or stay out of the ­conversation. Council and staff must remember that they are not social ­engineers.

They were hired to fill the potholes, repair the drains and water supplies, and hang flower baskets.

The last council forgot that, too, and they have been replaced.

M.D. Hansen

Victoria

Next, give us a salt-water pool

Re: “Councillors approve floating sauna at Ship Point, see it as draw for harbour,” Jan. 14.

If Victoria is approving this to add more “life” around the Inner Harbour, perhaps they would consider a public salt-water pool in the same area.

In this time of increasing summer temperatures I think it would well utilized and appreciated by all.

Lynne Rogers

Victoria

Eby should call an election soon

Re: “Ambitious program of change for Eby,” editorial, Jan. 13.

You say Eby might have been more prudent to have called a spring election, would such a move not have been “at odds with the B.C. Constitution Act.”

Well, guess what: that act was not inscribed on Sinai. It can be changed. Amendments can be made, and in this case, where the office of premier can be held not through public vote but entitlement, there’s no time to waste.

Brian Nimeroski

Sooke

We need the full story of our history

Re: “Museum’s third floor largely intact a year after closing, two major exhibits in works,” Jan. 14.

It is with interest we read that, despite information to the contrary, a great deal of the third floor exhibits at the Royal B.C. Museum still exist and may soon, with some modifications, be again open to the public.

This is a far better plan than that which had been previously expressed entailing a 10-year shutdown for the facility.

We also note that RBCM CEO Alicia Dubois mentions a Royal Navy vessel, HMS Destruction, “travelled the B.C. coast bombing communities in order to gain First Nations compliance.” From the Royal Navy listings we find no record of this vessel in British Columbia waters.

While historical records reveal that, indeed, the Royal Navy did, upon occasion, fire upon Indigenous communities, it was not a random, frivolous act and there was always a back story.

It is incumbent upon Dubois and the RBCM to ensure that the full story is told, both in the media and at the museum.

Ken Johnson

Victoria

Minister Dix had better things to do

I’m incredulous. Health Minister Adrian Dix took time to plan and push Bill 36 through during a pandemic, when one in five British Columbians has no doctor, and gaping holes are appearing throughout our medical system.

How was this a priority? No large group demanded this control of health professionals.

At 66, with a disabling chronic illness, I no longer have a doctor. Now, unfortunately, Bill 36 is causing my naturopath to retire early.

For years she was able to reduce or eliminate many of my troublesome symptoms, when doctors could not. But she no longer trusts that her professional board can support her to do the work she was trained to do.

Lumping different health professions together, and appointing non-expert boards to oversee them is not respectful of those professions, nor their patients.

My naturopath will not be alone in departing.

Bill 36 will be a disincentive for young people to enter health professions. It gives government power to put them out of work — even to lock them out of their own offices if, for instance, they choose not to be vaccinated.

What a misuse of precious, skilled human resources. We are hearing more about the many claims for vaccine injuries.

Clearly, people should have a choice whether or not to have shots. Other solutions could be found to allow them to safely work.

I don’t feel supported. How must the health professionals feel, who risked their lives for our wellbeing through the pandemic?

Sarah Wyatt

Duncan

Many thanks to an amazing bus driver

I recently took the Wilson bus from downtown Vancouver to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal for a 5 p.m. sailing.

The unbelievably exceptional driver navigated rush-hour traffic travelling past the non-stop construction of condos, which is taking sometimes not just one lane of traffic, but two lanes on Cambie, causing all southbound to merge into one lane.

He got us to the ferry in the nick of time and then had to squeeze down the inside lane to the area where he boards the ferry with barely an inch on either side. Parked semi trucks were encroaching into his lane the entire way.

I could not believe the crazy stress this amazing driver must have felt as we were literally inching our way down that lane.

I usually give the driver a tip, but on this occasion I was so impressed that it was a well-deserved huge tip.

Thank you for your incredible safe and stress-free ride for me. I appreciate the Wilson bus group very much.

Dorothy Pearson

Saanich

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• Email letters to: letters@timescolonist.com

• Mail: Letters to the editor, Times Colonist, 201-655 Tyee Rd., Victoria, B.C. V9A 6X5

• Submissions should be no more than 250 words; subject to editing for length and clarity. Provide your contact information; it will not be published. Avoid sending your letter as an email attachment.

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