July-August 2015 DRA Newsletter

Summer 2015 Newsletter

In this issue:
Contact us at info@victoriadra.ca

Nicholas Harrington, Editor, July & August 2015

The Summer Mystery Photo

Please click here, and tell us the official title of the bronze sculpture by Victoria native Nathan Scott, pictured below, located along Wharf Street near Ship Point. The first correct entry wins a $10 gift certificate to The Reef Caribbean Restaurant, 533 Yates Street.
Please send us your unique photos of Downtown or Harris Green to be considered for publication in our monthly Mystery Photo Contest. Please send your submissions to editor@victoriadra.ca, as a JPEG attachment, with the location specified.

June's Mystery Photo Revealed

Congratulations to Wayne C., who correctly identified the historic Art Deco style office building pictured below as the BC Power Commission Building, and in doing so won a $10 gift certificate to Perro Negro (536 Yates Street). 

The BC Power Commission Building was "...completed in 1940 for use as a hospital, its first function was as the headquarters of the BC Power Commission, which was created by the provincial government in 1945. Although it is a fairly late expression of the Art Deco Style, its fine architectural composition is integral to its heritage role within the urban core of Victoria's downtown. Its geometric form and ornamentation provide a significant counterpoint to the typically Victorian nineteenth century architecture of nearby landmarks such as St. Ann's Academy, and communicate a sense of modernity well suited to its original function as the control centre for the electrification of the province in the mid-twentieth century." [Source: Canada's Historic Places]
Photo by Berdine J. Jonker       

The Reef:
A Roving Refinery Review

by Doug Boyd

A group of nine intrepid foodies gathered for a Roving Refinery at The Reef on Wednesday, June 24. DRA members were joined by two guests from Walk On Victoria. The Reef is a Caribbean restaurant, with food, drinks, and decor that perfectly matched the theme. There are three Reef locations, the location we visited on lower Yates, and two in Vancouver, all owned by Liz, who now lives in Victoria, and is still is one of the chefs and creator of many of their dishes. 

Adrienne, the floor manager, welcomed us and provided a very informative information about the restaurant, as well as some very excellent service.

We sampled some very tasty appetizers, jerk chicken, plantain chips, Jamaican patties and chana (chick pea salad). The Reef also has a full variety of Caribbean items on the menu, including rotis, curries, Crab cakes, and ackee and saltfish.  You can dine inside or enjoy their very inviting patio, street-side on Yates.

What would a Caribbean restaurant be without rum? Well, The Reef is a rum-lovers delight, with 49 rums on the menu. I couldn't resist trying the rum flight, a sampling of three rums. I enjoyed them all, and will be back to sample more. Following the rum flight, my eyes were drawn to the Jamaican Dragon Stout on the beer menu and my tastebuds were not disappointed. In keeping with our Roving Refinery tradition, we drew names for gift certificates and the lucky winners were Erin and Doug.
June-July Board Meetings Digest

[Thank you to Doug Boyd and Cathy Brankston for the following content - Editor]

Councillor's Report: Charlayne Thornton-Joe
  • Councillor Thornton-Joe attended the monthly Pandora Community meeting held at Our Place. Local residents, Our Place staff, Police and other interested parties meet to discuss issue and events in the Harris Green neighbourhood.
  • The City is still looking for a site for the proposed 'Storage Facility' modelled after the one at First United Church on Hastings Street in Vancouver.
  • A "LoveGov" pedestrian mall pilot project is being proposed as single day events in October, November, January, and February. The merchants of Government Street are generally accepting of the proposal, so long as the events aren't scheduled at a time of year that would interfere with their sales. The DRA has sent a letter of support to the City for this pilot project.
  • The rainbow crosswalk at City Hall on Pandora Ave has had mostly positive support.
  • A 100 year anniversary event is planned for Chinatown on Saturday August 8, 2015. A statue honouring Dr. Sun Yat-Sen will be unveiled.
  • Design of the approaches to the new Johnson Street Bridge is still on the City’s agenda, but is not currently a high priority. The DRA and the Vic West Community Association will definitely be included in the discussions when the time comes to consider the design. The DRA's Land Use Committee (LUC) has been pursuing this issue for over a year now.
  • A two-way cycling lane on sections of Pandora Avenue has been approved by the City, and has received positive feedback from cyclists. The bi-directional lane will be implemented on the North side of Pandora Avenue, and will eventually connect with the cycling lanes on the new Johnson Street Bridge.
  • Councillor Thornton-Joe will follow-up with Cool Aid Society regarding their working with the DRA to get downtown residents' input on programming for the Downtown Community Activity Centre (755 Pandora Avenue).

Community Development Committee (CDC) - Kaela Schramm & Don Elliott
  • Kaela gave an overview of the CDC's plans for the DRA's participation in Victoria's first ever Car Free Day 2015.
  • Don presented an Endorsement Application Form to the DRA Board for use with the recently adopted DRA Endorsement Policy. The Endorsement Application was approved pending one minor modification.

Urban Livability Committee (ULC) - Eric Ney & Nicholas Harrington
  • The ULC met June 10 with 5 attending. The focus of discussion was "community gardening" with DRA member Janet Strauss briefing the committee on community gardening initiatives in Victoria and other cities. Janet has now joined the ULC and will represent the DRA's interests at the Urban Food Table, and at meetings of the City of Victoria’s Growing in the City initiative. Janet has travelled to Seattle and Vancouver to study the community gardens there, and will work with the DRA to ensure that community gardens become a reality in downtown Victoria.
  • The ULC presented a draft letter to be sent to Mayor and Council in support of their efforts to promote urban gardening, and asking them not to forget the downtown neighbourhood in their plans.
  • The launch of the Dog Watch program was considered a success, and there has been interest expressed by other Neighbourhood Associations.
  • 'Pipe Down' initiative – Eric had further discussions with Vancouver-West End MLA, Spencer Chandra Herbert. Eric learned that BC Transportation Minister Todd Stone hopes to begin looking into the issue this fall. For further details, see this article in Metro News. [It looks like we may finally be getting somewhere — Editor]
  • ULC co-chair Ruth announced her plans to step down from the co-chair position due to other commitments. Nicholas has agreed to co-chair the ULC with Eric until a replacement is found.
  • Eric advised the Board of a new pyramid container approach to urban or patio gardening. The inventor, Allan Murr, would be happy to talk to us. More info can be found at www.pyramidgarden.com.
  • Questions and complaints have arisen regarding the construction work taking place at The Hudson (Hudson Walk). The City engineering department granted a noise by-law exemption to the developer (Townline) on July 3rd, 2015. The exemption allows Townline to extend their workday hours on Tuesdays and Fridays by 2 hours (until 9:00 pm), and start work early on Saturdays by 2 hours (at 8:00 am). The exemption is valid until the end of December, 2015. According to Sheldon McCurdy, Building Manager at The Hudson, "The granting of this exemption flies in the face of the recent events that have occurred these last few months, where City Bylaw and the Victoria Police Department have been required to take action on numerous complaints from local residents, to address and even mediate with Townline regarding their continual by-law infractions".

Land Use Committee (LUC) - Ian Sutherland
  • 595 Pandora Avenue – Cielo Properties: A Development Permit has been issued.
  • 819 Yates – Chard Development Ltd: The proposal will now go to a public hearing.
  • 755 Caledonia – Hudson Walk: Revised plans require a variance to allow residential use on the first storey. The LUC feedback is due by 18 June.
  • 951 Johnson Street – 989 Johnson Properties Ltd: Development permit application with variances: building height, number of storeys and front yard setback. LUC feedback is due by 18 June.
  • Government Street Charette: The three groups of facilitators have submitted their reports to the City and the DVBA summarizing the input provided during the Charette. Ian and Nicholas attended on behalf of the DRA. The City and the DVBA will collaborate to create a draft copy of the Government Street Action Plan complete with timelines by the end of July. The DVBA is arranging a no-host bar at the Bard & Banker, September 16, 2015, to present the plan.
  • Engaging Neighbourhoods in New Ways: The City's office of Citizen Engagement and Strategic Planning has contacted the DRA and asked for a short meeting with both the DRA Board, and the DRA LUC,"to better understand how the City can best support your needs in the future". Ian will coordinate with the City to find a date to meet.

Downtown Service Providers Meeting - Don Elliott
  • Update on Storage Facility for the Homeless: The site opposite Our Place on Pandora, initially considered the most appropriate location, is no longer an option due to objections raised by neighbourhood businesses. A new site has not yet been identified. Specific requirements are a central location, on-site management, and funding in place (annual cost of operating is estimated at $120,000). A trial location could be an option.
  • Micro-Housing: Exploration is taking place on how best to proceed. It was determined that is not appropriator the City to lead the initiative, but it will act as a support. The City is looking for a non-profit organization to lead the way, and find a suitable site. Don noted that the Coalition to End Homelessness does not support micro-housing as a solution as it would divert resources from other long-term permanent solutions (Housing First).
    There is a limited number of suitable sites in Victoria, and therefore other communities have to be considered. People still perceive homelessness as a City of Victoria issue and not a regional one.

Victoria Community Association Network (VCAN) - Doug Boyd

The Victoria Community Association Network (VCAN) last met on June 23, 2015 and the following is a brief synopsis:
  • Engaging Neighbourhoods in New Ways: Katie Hamilton, Director of Strategic Planning & Citizen Engagement, City of Victoria, discussed the need to support neighbourhoods and Neighbourhood Associations in a better way. The plan is to talk with each Neighbourhood Association about how to support them, foster relationships, and engage the community. A request was sent to each Neighbourhood Association Board and Land Use Committee requesting a meeting.
  • Placemaking Presentation and Roundtable Discussion: Lorne Daniel gave a presentation on Placemaking. The goal of Placemaking is to creating great public spaces and streets through engagement and collaboration. Placemaking is a process that fosters community and stimulates interaction. It is all about people taking ownership. Victoria Placemaking organizes events and experiences to get people engaged. Examples are pilots and pop-ups. They are planning fall and winter events related to bike plans and active streets. Quadra Village, and the parklet on Fort Street were cited as  examples of Placemaking.

Upcoming DRA Meetings

August Board Meeting:
Our August Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 5:30 pm. The meeting will be held at the Central Branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library, 735 Broughton Street, in the meeting room adjacent to the Inter-Library Loans Office, on the main floor. DRA Board meetings are held on the 3rd Tuesday of every month, and are open to all DRA members. 

Community Development Committee (CDC):
The next CDC meeting will take place later this month or in early September. CDC meetings are typically held on the first Tuesday of the month, at Lido Waterfront Bistro, 1234 S. Wharf Street . Please check the home page of our website for updates. The CDC continues to perform the role of the Association's Social Events Committee. 

Urban Livability Committee (ULC):
The next ULC meeting is scheduled to be held on Wednesday, September 9, 2015. ULC meetings are held on the second Wednesday of the month, 5:30 pm, at Veneto Tapa Lounge, 1450 Douglas Street. Please check the home page of our website for updates.

Housing and Homelessness in Victoria

At our July Board Meeting, the DRA welcomed presentations from three speakers on the issue of Housing and Homelessness in our City. [Thank you to Cathy Brankston for this content - Editor]

Mike Woestenburg:
Mike is a member of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness' Speaker’s Bureau. The Speaker’s Bureau is a group of individuals who have experienced homelessness and want to share their story. Speakers address a variety of issues from mental illness, drug addiction, domestic violence, disability issues, and unemployment, discuss the solutions and their personal successes. 

Mike shared his personal history, explaining his disability, which has affected his ability to work. He spoke of his housing experience in Surrey, BC, and his relocation to Victoria to be nearer to family. He went from staying with relatives, to a place at Rock Bay Shelter, and is now living in a small unsubsidized apartment. He spoke about the difficulty of living on a disability income. Mike feels he was fortunate to have been able to participate in a transition and employment program. Having his own place has allowed him to pursue options to continue making items such as dream catchers and eventually hopes to mentor others using his skills as a graphic artist. Mike then addressed relevant questions from board members.

Don Elliott:
Don Elliott, DRA board member and housing development co-ordinator for the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness (GVCEH), presented an overview of GVCEH's Creating Homes, Enhancing Communities (CHEC) plan. The GVCEH is a partnership of all levels of government, service providers, businesses, community members, and others, and coordinates efforts and drives commitment to end homelessness throughout the region.

The CHEC is a four year plan (2015-2019) focused on providing safe, affordable, appropriate, and secure housing with support, on an individualized basis, for those experiencing chronic homelessness in Greater Victoria. Using analysis of patterns of emergency shelter use, GVCEH estimates that there are approximately 367 chronic emergency shelter users in the region who require support services in order to remain housed.

CHEC is a two-pronged approach focusing on housing and support. Support would consist of assisting individuals in housing selection, independent living skills, financial literacy, and maintaining treatment participation for health or substance abuse issues. The housing prong calls for the creation of 185 units of purpose built housing over the next four years, plus the securing of an additional 182 units of existing rental stock. Two potential models for funding the housing side of the equation are detailed and costed-out in the report. Don finished by answering questions. A one page overview of the plan can be viewed here, and the complete report can be read here.

Rob Woodland:
Rob Woodland, Director of Legislative and Regulatory Services for the City of Victoria, presented the City of Victoria Action Plan for Housing Supports and City Services for Sheltering in Parks (Action Plan), the City’s plan to address immediate homelessness issues. Rob noted that the GVCEH's CHEC plan (see above) is a specific, long-term housing initiative, and is fully supported by the City and the Capital Regional District (CRD), and by contrast, the Action Plan is much more a crisis plan for the immediate need.

Micro-housing, overnight camping in a designated park, and more focus on obtaining rent supplements from the Provincial Government are its priorities. A local group, going by the name Micro Housing Victoria, has been established to work with the City on a micro-housing project. A half-acre site, preferably paved, and with a 2-3 year lease, would be sufficient to house approximately 35 people, with the City providing services (water, electricity, sewer). 

Allowing overnight camping for homeless is being considered, and the City is looking at potential sites. Such sites would need to be close to services and transit, have washrooms facilities, a full-time site manager, and support from police and social services. Any camping location would be on a temporary term of 1 year or less, and could potentially house 35-50 people. The City is developing a budget and site plan, with a target implementation of September or October for approval. If overnight camping for homeless in the parks plan is approved, then the City will alter the current camping in parks by-law, with a more specific enforcement policy.

DRA Featured on CFAX's Café Victoria

If you didn't get a chance to listen to DRA Co-Chair Kaela Schramm when she was the featured guest on the "What are you talking about?" segment of CFAX's Café Victoria with Bruce Williams on July 20th, you can listen to the podcast here. Kaela's interview begins at 16 minutes into the 1 hour show.

Car Free Day 2015

From anyone's perspective, Victoria's first ever Car Free Day event was a smashing success, and of course the DRA was there. We welcomed hundreds of happy pedestrians to our tent and table, which was situated right in front of City Hall.

Visitors to our kiosk enjoyed our Victoria based trivia, and those who answered correctly were entered into one of six draws for gift cards to local restaurants. We had two whiteboards on hand—one for downtown residents which read, "I Love Living Downtown Because...", and the other for those from the surrounding neighbourhoods which read, "I Love Coming Downtown Because...". As you can see in the photo collage below, Victorians have many positive reasons to love our Downtown. Our sign-up sheet was popular as well, with 30 signing up for this Newsletter, 13 interested in joining the DRA, and others interested in our Community Gardening and Downtown Dog Watch initiatives.

Please enjoy our Car Free Day 2015 photo collage–we hope it brings back fond memories of Victoria's first ever Car Free Day. Note: Each photo is linked to its original social media post.

Johnson Street Bridge Project Update
On July 30, the DRA received an update on the Johnson Street Bridge Replacement Project in the form of an email from the City's department of Citizen Engagement and Strategic Planning. [It is quite detailed, and well worth a read for those interested in the progress of this Victoria "megaproject", so I've decided to reprint it here in its entirety - Editor]
"Progress in 2015 has seen the majority of the road work on the west side of the bridge completed and significant progress for the construction of the foundation for the new bridge completed in the harbour.

Recently, the project schedule has been revised to reflect delays in the fabrication and delivery of steel for the movable section of the new bridge. As a result of delays, the bridge is now expected to open to traffic in the spring of 2017, with final project completion including the decommissioning of the existing bridge expected in the fall of 2017.

The budget for the project has also been revised to $96.8 million, including a recently approved additional $2.554 million for necessary professional consulting services, habitat compensation, and legal costs. The City will seek to recover many of the costs resulting from steel fabrication and construction delays through the mediation process currently underway between the City, PCL, and MMM Group.

Work currently underway onsite on the west side of the bridge includes new multi-use trail connections, the construction of a large retaining wall beside the future multi-use trail, and the foundation work for the new pedestrian overpass. This work is expected to be ongoing from now until early 2016.

On the east side of the bridge, crews are currently completing utility and drainage work in the areas near the road approaches to the bridge. This work is expected to continue in the area until early 2016. Improvements to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles throughout these busy construction areas continue to be made.

In the harbour, PCL has made significant progress in the construction of the bridge foundation. Crews are currently focusing efforts on preparing the new bridge piers for the placement of large support beams that will form the new bridge deck road approaches.
In mid-September, large sections of the new bridge’s structure will be installed with support from the same large barge and crane that was used during the removal of the rail bridge in 2012. The current bridge is expected to remain open to pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles throughout most of the work, however the marine channel will be closed to marine traffic for five days as crews complete the work. Correspondence with upper harbour stakeholders is currently underway to plan around the closure and minimize impacts to their day-to-day operations.

Improvements to overall aesthetics to the area include reinstalling irrigation, repairing landscaping, and minimizing construction signage and clutter in the area as much as possible.

With recent changes to the project timeline and budget, options are currently being reviewed to bring forward to Council for how to complete landscaping and future public spaces to be created on the both sides of the bridge. Considerations currently being reviewed include a timeline for when spaces can be completed, updated estimates for the budget needed based on designs shared with Council and the community in 2012, and consideration for interfaces with neighbouring properties and future developments.

A report will be presented to the Governance and Priorities Committee Meeting on August 20 outlining options for Council to consider. Once Council has provided direction for how they wish to proceed, an update will be provided to both the Downtown Residents Association and the Victoria West Community Association outlining a timeline and next steps for completing the public space areas to ensure that both associations are remain updated as work progresses and are involved in any public input opportunities.

In an effort to keep stakeholders informed on the project, the City will be reinstating the monthly electronic newsletter (eNews) and work towards making more frequent updates to JohnsonStreetBridge.com and through the City’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to better keep the public informed about the project. We will also provide you with a monthly update on the project moving forward.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at johnsonstreetbridge@victoria.ca. We welcome the opportunity to discuss any further questions or concerns about the project either by phone or in person."

Social Media Redux

One very dedicated member of our team Posts on our Facebook page, and Tweets to our followers daily—without fail. The aim of this section is to give one of our best efforts a second chance at the recognition it deserves. Click on any of the headlines below to review what we've been sharing with the world.

June 4, 2015 Victoria DRA retweeted
Demand for meals skyrockets at Victoria's Our Place
June 13, 2015 via Twitter
Local strata installs solar panels on their condo building. A first for Victoria?
June 14, 2015 via Twitter
Devastating loss to the #yyjmusic scene and #yyj’s downtown core.
June 15, 2015 via Twitter
Feeling the squeeze? TC reports that CRD's vacancy rate is 1.2%, down from 2.7% last year. $1,105 average rent.
June 16, 2015 via Facebook
Downtown ‪#‎yyj‬ Bank of Montreal robbed yesterday, police looking for suspect
June 17, 2015 via Twitter
Excavation begins on 1515Douglas office/commercial dev across fr @CityofVictoria CityHall
June 20, 2015 via Twitter
Have you experienced Fabulous Fort's fabulous new parklet?
June 21, 2015 via Twitter
DRA booth at #CarFreeDayYYJ drop by and say hi!
June 21, 2015 via Twitter
“I love coming downtown because it’s super fun and safe”
June 21, 2015 via Facebook
A big thank you to everyone who dropped by our booth and told us why they love Downtown Victoria!
June 28, 2015 Victoria DRA retweeted
By growing food year-round, we can significantly increase our food resiliency
July 15, 2015 via Twitter
Despite post-fire complaints, no View Towers investigation
July 17, 2015 via Facebook
Kudos to HIldreth & @FortProp for supporting: community-based food production. Do you garden downtown 
July 24, 2015 via Twitter
Lower causeway to get a facelift.
July 29, 2015 via Twitter
Check out the full slideshow for the presentation from last night's CALUC meeting for Johnson Street Gateway
July 29, 2015 via Facebook
@vicpdcanada are looking for witnesses to a late-night stabbing that occurred last weekend on Wharf St.

We want to hear from you...

A very important purpose of this monthly newsletter is to inform our readership about life in the Downtown and Harris Green neighbourhoods, and we would very much appreciate your support in doing that. We need you, our members and readers, to contribute content to our newsletter so that the information presented here is not only informative, but also interesting, timely, pertinent, and diverse.

Consider this your forum. Have you written for a newspaper, an association newsletter, or written your own blog? Have you always wanted to? Here is your call to write about your neighbourhood and share it with our more than 200 subscribers. 

For inspiration, feel free to look over past editions of our Newsletter here, and then send your submissions to editor@victoriadra.ca!

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