Fort St. condo plan heads to public hearing despite concerns about loss of parking

A proposal to build a 13-storey, 62-unit residential building in the 900-block of Fort Street will go to a public hearing, despite some Victoria councillors’ concerns about limited parking.

Sakura Developments is proposing to build the mixed-use building — residential units over ground-floor commercial — on what is currently a parking lot at 930 Fort. The company is seeking a variance to reduce the required number of parking stalls in the new building to 27 from 62.

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Councillors agreed to forward the proposal to a public hearing, but some expressed concerns about both the loss of existing parking and the reduced requirement for the new building.

“I understand the rationale for where the location is to reduce parking, but I’m finding I’m getting more and more concerned about the parking variances,” said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe.

She said that in the past, Victoria council has reduced parking requirements in part to encourage more people to live downtown, confident that there were other parking opportunities such as on the street or by renting spaces in surface parking lots.

“But now we’re losing all that and I think, although we may say the residents might not have vehicles, I think it does impact on the rest of the neighbourhood as well. It affects the businesses in the downtown,” Thornton-Joe said.

“Parking is always a concern,” said Coun. Margaret Lucas.

“How do we balance that against the need for areas for people to live. We hear from our businesses all the time that parking is an issue, but we can’t find enough staff because they can’t find places to live. So we have to find that balance,” she said.

Coun. Chris Coleman said council needs to have a discussion about parking that is not tied to a specific application.

“We think that we have 41,000 housing units in the city of Victoria and our population is 85,000. The reality is that our population during the day in the winter is about 130,000 I think, because people come in using different forms of transportation, some of which are cars,” Coleman said.

The population number is even bigger in the summer because of tourism and that number changes at night with people ebbing in and out, he said.

“When we talk about parking and apply it to a specific building, it doesn’t actually help the discussion,” he said, adding that the city should be talking about parking precincts.

Council could, for example, ask that the developer drop a storey and add another level of parking, “But that would be incredibly expensive and have an impact on the rental rates or the purchase rates.”

The development proposal includes secure parking for 160 bicycles, the purchase of 62 car-share memberships and a $100 driving credit for each membership.

The developer has also agreed to a bonus density amenity payment of $270,675. Staff are recommending 75 0per cent of the contribution be paid to the Downtown Core Area Public Realm Improvement Fund and the remaining 25 per cent go to the Downtown Heritage Buildings Seismic Upgrade Fund.

Under the existing zoning, a commercial or commercial/residential building of up to four storeys could be built.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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