May 2015 DRA Newsletter

May 2015 Newsletter

In this issue:
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Nicholas Harrington, Editor, May 2015

The Monthly Mystery Photo

Please click here, and tell us the official name of this historic Art Deco style office building, pictured below, located at the intersection of Blanchard Street and Fairfield Road. The first correct entry wins a $10 gift certificate to Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar, 619 Courtney Street.
Photo by Berdine J. Jonker       
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, as a JPEG attachment, with the location specified.

April's Mystery Revealed
Photo courtesy of Erika. L 
We had quite a few responses to the Mystery Photo Contest last month. Congratulations to Alain Vandendorpe, winner of a $10 gift certificate to Cenote Restaurant & Lounge, 768 Yates Street, for being the first respondent to correctly identify that the mid-block passthrough that this fountain graces is officially named Millie's Lane. Formerly, this lane was known only informally as Maynard Court or Odeon Alley, but was named after the late Millie Hawkes in 2007, who along with her husband Bernie, worked in the alley for 30+ years at Manton Shoe Repair [Source].

Next Roving Refinery at Perro Negro
Our next Roving Refinery will be held at Perro Negro, on Thursday, May 28, 2015, 6 - 8 pm.

If your Spanish is a little rusty, 'perro negro' translates to 'black dog' (which you likely guessed that based on their logo!). Their webpage describes this newest of four successful downtown eateries as " extension of the popular Ferris upstairs oyster bar. Born of a love for Spanish food and culture, we feature an extensive list of tapas, sherry & wine from Spain, BC and beyond, served in an atmosphere that is lively, casual and fun."

Check your email inbox for your personal invitation, or register to attend here. We hope to see you there!

April Board Meeting Digest

[Thank you to Wendy Bowkett and Doug Boyd for this content - Editor]

Councillor's Report: Charlayne Thornton-Joe
  • The City’s Budget and Strategic Plans are complete. There was a good turnout and input from the community. Top issues identified include cycling infrastructure, safe consumption sites and food security. VCAN funding was approved.
  • In response to an increase in tourism and events downtown, staff will be increased to step up garbage collection in downtown this summer.
  • Cool Aid's Downtown Community Centre was granted $50,000 of annual funding to provide low cost services to residents of downtown. Council is looking for the Downtown Community Centre to develop better synergy and coordination with the DRA. Councillor Thornton-Joe will facilitate a meeting between the groups. This could entail providing the DRA with space for meetings, events or activities.
  • $45,000 of funding will be provided to the Downtown Service Providers to cover capital costs in creating a 'Storage Facility' for the homeless, modelled after the one at First United Church on Hastings Street in Vancouver (see video here). Non-profits will chip in for operating expenses. Details to be finalized soon. 
  • The redevelopment proposal for 595 Pandora Avenue was approved by Council.
  • The Dominion Hotel conversion project will go to a Public Hearing. While there are concerns regarding the planned design of this project, Council only has the authority to weigh in on the requested variance of increased bike storage in lieu of parking.
  • Camping and overnighting in parks has been a topic of much discussion lately. On April 1 each year, 'winter funding' ceases for shelter beds in the City, which increases the number of people living out on the streets, and overnighting in parks. Staff is reviewing the issues and will report back to Council.
  • The Fort Street 'Kindness Meters' were unveiled on April 15, and have raised about $500 so far. The goal is to raise $7,500 per meter by November.
  • There is to be an evening presentation at City hall on May 11, followed by a workshop the following day, on "Micro-Housing Community Development", showcasing "tiny house" community developments which have been successful in Oregon, as one possible answer to the problem of chronic homelessness in Greater Victoria. Further information can be found on this page of the City's website.
  • Enforcement of skateboarding will not take place downtown before a new bylaw is enacted. There will be communication from the City regarding what will be permitted. [Several DRA board members noted an increase in the number of skateboarders downtown, and that too many are riding on the sidewalks, at high speeds, with little consideration of pedestrians. We hope that better communication will see skateboarders ride on the streets, following the rules of the road - Editor]
  • City Staff are working on a report, based on public input, on the future of the Victoria Fire Department Headquarters (Fire Hall #1), located at 1234 Yates Street. The building is scheduled to be replaced as it does not meet seismic standards.
  • Councillor Thornton-Joe was asked if it was possible to review the boundaries of Downtown, particularly in regard to including the stretch of Fort Street between Blanshard and Quadra, which is currently part of the Fairfield neighbourhood. Councillor Thornton-Joe is to check with staff, and let us know.
Community Development Committee (CDC) - Kaela Schramm & Don Elliott
  • The next Victoria Matters event, planned for this fall, will explore 'The Economics of Downtown'. The CDC team is looking into potential speakers, and proposes a 'TEDx' style forum. The Board was asked to forward all suggestions for speakers to Kaela.
  • A draft of the DRA Endorsement Policy has been created, but needs to be fleshed out. Don is to circulate the draft for Board consideration.
  • Through the CDC, the DRA was asked to write to Mayor and Council in  support of a citizen led initiative to relocate the Cruise Ship Shuttle Bus drop-off / pick-up point from its current location on Government Street, to Fort Street between Government and Wharf. Members of the Board asked such questions as, "Has a traffic study been completed?", and "Have other logistics been considered for the proposed change?". In the end, the Board felt that it didn't have sufficient information to support the initiative at this time. Board members did agree to informally 'observe and report' over this summer, on a second issue raised by the same citizen led initiative, namely the loading, unloading and idling of large tour buses at the North end of Government Street.
Urban Livability Committee (ULC) - Eric Ney
  • The DRA Board approved officially changing the committee's name from "Healthy Living Committee" to "Urban Livability Committee".
  • The ULC's "Pipe Down" campaign brochure has been drafted and circulated to the Board. Consensus is that the draft brochure is a little wordy, and should be pared down. Eric is to follow up with the VicPD regarding the campaign.
  • A date has been set for the Dog Watch Program Orientation Session. Hosted at Bosley's on Yates, and presented by the VicPD, the orientation session is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, May 27, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. See the article "Dog Watch Program Orientation" below for additional details.
Land Use Committee (LUC) - Ian Sutherland
  • 951 Johnson – CEI Architecture: A CALUC meeting was held on March 18, 2015. There were 29 attendees (including 3 board members); Lots of questions regarding the project but generally attendees were supportive; Some back and forth amongst attendees regarding parking and setbacks. 
  • 816 Government – Cielo Properties: Rezoning, Development & Heritage Alteration Permits required. The LUC has sent a letter to the City with comments. 
  • 840 Fort Street – Sawyer Residences: A development permit was granted to Three Point Properties Ltd. on March 12, 2015, with certain variances and a Housing Agreement with the City.
  • 595 Pandora Avenue – Cielo Properties: The LUC sent a letter of support to the City, there was a public hearing on April 16, 2015, and the development permit was approved.
  • 960-962 Yates Street – Alpha Project Developments: Rezoning and Development Permit applied for. Minor revision to plans, which did not required a new letter from the LUC. 
  • 845 Yates – The Wave: Regarding a Development Permit for the tile mosaic, Council will allow the strata corporation of the Wave one year to resubmit a Development Permit similar to the original. City Staff are preparing a report regarding the original application, to assess the emphasis and importance of the mosaic.
  • 612 Fisgard – Shon Yee Benevolent Association: The City has granted Heritage Designation to the building.
  • 838 Fort Street: Minor changes to the building required a Development Permit with Variances, and was granted by City.
VCAN Update - Doug Boyd

The latest meeting of the Victoria Community Association Network (VCAN) took place on May 12, 2015. The focus of the meeting was a discussion with Mayor Lisa Helps and Assistant Director of Community Planning, Andrea Hudson. Following brief opening remarks by both, each association had the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. Here are the salient points:
  • The City is currently working on the Burnside-Gorge Community Plan. There are no specific plans for when other community plans will be done. The City is looking at how these can be expedited given resources and budget.
  • Priority is how to make village centres, important places in neighbourhoods, "come to life" over the next 4 years.
  • Objective 2 of Strategic Plan "empower and engage community" will be vital to all planning processes. City's new neighbourhood division is looking at best ways of doing that.
  • Comments form associations that there should be 'general planning principles that are universally applied', and that 'can form the basis for all neighbourhood plans', received general support.
  • Concern expressed about how the various plans tie together - neighbourhood plans, corridor plans, park plans, Placemaking, etc.
  • Andrea Hudson advised there was another development summit planned for June, CALUCs will be invited.
  • Concern expressed about the Highways Access Act and the restrictions it imposes on planning.
  • Concern expressed about density along corridors as per the OCP, also results in noise issues.
  • Mayor Helps stated budget increase of $200K for local plans and $300K for implementing Strategic Plan. She also stated that Placemaking will be part of the ongoing planning process, and that we should move away from planning in the traditional sense.
  • Andrea Hudson stated that council has given more resources for urban villages and corridors, that a plan for these will be developed in 2 months.
Various other items of specific interest to neighbourhoods were also discussed.

Upcoming DRA Meetings

May Board Meeting:
Our May Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 19, 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):
CDC meetings are currently being held on the first Tuesday of the month, and typically take place 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, June 10, 2015. HLC 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.

VicPD's Strategic Plan

by Doug Boyd
I attended the VicPD Strategic Plan Engagement Session on April 7 at the council chambers. Joining me were fellow DRA Board member Karen Gallagher and past DRA Chair Wendy Bowkett. The session was well attended by invited representatives from various community organizations and some individuals who had completed the surveys.

The first stage of the Strategic plan process was the distribution of surveys to residents and businesses in Victoria and Esquimalt in 2014. You can review the survey results here. I would encourage everyone to review the documentation, as there are some very interesting and some very surprising results.

Police Chief Frank Elsner started the meeting by presenting the key tenets of the strategic plan, the goals of which are:
  1. Crime and disorder being prevented, reduced, and effectively investigated.
  2. The public values, trusts, and understands our role in healthy communities.
  3. Strategic leaders in developing shared strategies for community safety.
  4. Use resources efficiently to support service excellence.
  5. Committed to making the organization its best.
Following this presentation, one of these goals was assigned to each of the tables (where 6-8 people were sitting), and the group was tasked with determining how success of achieving the goal would be measured over a period of 5 years, keeping in mind that any recommendations must be measureable, achievable and meaningful. Each table was asked to come up with at least three recommendations, within a 30-minute time period. The notes from these groups were transcribed on flip charts for all to review during the break. Following the break, a spokesperson for each group presented the results of their deliberations.

The ideas presented and discussions are far too detailed to capture in the context of this article. Hopefully, there will be full documentation on the VicPD website at some point. There were a number of common themes from the various recommendations and subsequent discussion:
  • Need for greater community interaction between VicPD and community organizations.
  • Need for greater transparency in service delivery.
  • Reduction in social work (including addiction and mental health issues) currently being done by police - would greatly free up police resources. Chief Elsner reported that of 60,000 service calls last year, only 5% resulted in criminal code charges.
  • Greater community visibility of police - more police on bikes and walking.
  • More focus on repeat offenders and high risk individuals - intelligence led policing approach.
  • Public education on the roles and responsibilities of police.
  • Expand and continue surveys
In summary, there was a lot of very substantive and varied input that should be given serious consideration by VicPD in finalizing their Strategic Plan. While I thought the meeting was a success, there were some limitations due to the format. Due to the process whereby each table was assigned one of the goals, there was limited opportunity for someone who wanted to provide input for another of the goals to do so. Also, there was not the opportunity for a Q&A session, which in my view would have added value.

Dog Watch Program Orientation

The DRA's Urban Livability Committee (ULC) is pleased to invite downtown dog owners to an orientation session for the Downtown Victoria Dog Watch Program. Join your fellow dog owners on Wednesday May 27, 2015 from 6:30 - 8:00 pm at Bosley's on Yates, 911 Yates Street, and learn from the VicPD how you can help to improve safety in our community!

Whether you live downtown or bring your dog to work in the area, you likely find yourself out and about with your four legged friend at all hours of the day or night. As you go about your normal dog walking activities, you can help by noting and reporting suspicious activity to VICPD. Find out what suspicious activity might look like, when and how to contact VICPD, and what information will best inform their officers. But let the trained professionals take it from there.

The ULC wishes to thank our very own Ellen Henry for all the hard work she has done developing this project, Ryan Wilson and Jordan Roberts of Bosley's on Yates for graciously offering to host the event, and Kimberly Kelley and Dan O'Connor of VicPD for conducting the session.

For more information, or to RSVP, please see our Facebook event page, or email us by clicking here

Car Free Day 2015

Victoria will host its first annual Car Free Day, on Sunday, June 21, 2015 (Father's Day). Developed and organized by the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA), six blocks of Douglas Street will be closed to automobile traffic from 12 noon - 6 pm on that day to allow local residents, visitors, and more than 200 vendors and exhibitors to take part in this exciting block party.

The Car Free Day community festival will take place on Douglas Street, between Herald Street and Fort Street, and will feature three stages of music and entertainment, a farmers' market, a craft beer garden, and tours of downtown Victoria.

And of course the DRA will be there, promoting our association, our city, and our downtown! Look for more details about this event in next month's edition of this newsletter, and on our website closer to the event date.

New Noise Reduction Strategy

On May 13, 2015, members of the DRA's Urban Livability Committee (ULC) met with the City's Downtown Programs Liaison to hear about a new noise reduction strategy the City is proposing. The strategy aims to address concerns from residents of The Falls condominium, and the adjacent neighbourhood, about noise from the street late at night. Also present at the meeting were the City's Community Development Coordinator, a representative from VicPD, and two representatives from the Strathcona Hotel.

In next month's issue of this newsletter, we will lay out the City's plan in detail.

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.

April 3, 2015 via Twitter
Anyone else sad to see the sequoias go? #yyj Trees fall as Victoria’s Empress Hotel spruces up
April 3, 2015 via Facebook
Victoria city councillors debate solutions to homeless campers issue
April 4, 2015 via Twitter
What does your downtown urbanite postal code say about you? #yyj
April 10, 2015 via Twitter
Hopefully this investment will make a difference. Times Colonist: Victoria council sets aside $1 million for homeless
April 11, 2015 via Facebook
It's going to be a busy summer downtown! Times Colonist: More cruise ships to stay longer, boosting Victoria economy
April 14, 2015 via Facebook
Goodbye Harry and Henrietta, will miss seeing the happy yellow buses around town
April 15, 2015 via Facebook
Have you experienced a close call on the Goose? ‪#‎yyj‬ Times Colonist: Bike-vehicle crashes on Galloping Goose prompt study
April 21, 2015 via Twitter
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority inks 2 yr deal for cruise ship shuttle service - will lease BC transit buses
April 23, 2015 via Facebook (from the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority)
See what's below the surface of our harbour. In addition to sea life there is, sadly, lots of garbage.
April 25, 2015 via Twitter
RT Victoria ‘kindness meter’ encourages donating for the homeless. @kyliestanton reports
April 26, 2015 via Facebook
TGI Food Truck Friday returns to Centennial Square this week! No need to make your own lunch
April 27, 2015 via Twitter
UVic study demonstrates the power of social norms and peer pressure in shifting travel habits
April 27, 2015 via Facebook
Nothing beats a good cup of coffee, especially when the beans are roasted right here in Victoria!
April 27, 2015 Victoria DRA retweeted
$80-100 million for Greater Victoria overpass. Why not transit, bike infrastructure that actually reduces congestion?
April 30, 2015 via Twitter
Living wage report: Victoria couples with kids must make $20.05 per hour each to get by
May 3, 2015 via Facebook

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 160 subscribers who all call Downtown Victoria home. 

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

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