November 2014 DRA Newsletter

November 2014 Newsletter

In this issue:
Contact us at

Nicholas Harrington, Editor, November 2014
The Monthly Mystery Photo
Please click here, and tell us the full and proper name of this unique Victoria tower. The first correct entry wins a $10 gift certificate to the one-and-only Interactivity Board Game Cafe at 723 Yates Street. Good luck, and don't forget to answer right away!
Please send us your photos of unusual things in 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.

October's Mystery Revealed

Photo by ScottN49 
Four readers correctly identified that the elegant building pictured above is commonly known as The Customs House. One reader actually added that it is also known as the Old Victoria Customs House and the Malahat Building.

Completed in 1874 and added to the Canadian Register of Historic Places in 1975, this Second Empire Style brick and stone building was "...the first federal building constructed in Victoria after British Columbia entered into Confederation; it is the original embodiment of the federal government's presence in the city."
The Customs House is also "...significant as one of few remaining works constructed under the tenure of T.S. Scott, Canada's first Chief Architect of Public Works." [Source: Canada's Historic Places]

Congratulations to Hugh K., who won a $10 gift certificate to Yates Street Taphouse Bar & Grill for being the quickest to reply with the correct name.
An Evening at Varsha:
Roving Refinery Review

Our October Roving Refinery took place on October 20, 2014 from 6 - 8 pm at Varsha Sips + Nosh House, one of Downtown's newest restaurants. Situated on the corner of Government Street and Pandora Avenue, in the space formerly occupied by Nando's, Varsha opened for business this past summer.
The staff of Varsha  
Family run and owned by the local Dodd family, the restaurant is named for the matriarch of the family, Varsha, and managed by her son Arun Dodd. The menu is part traditional east indian cuisine and part modern fare with an indian treatment—all quite delicious.

All of the attendees had a great time, and most of us ordered some of Varsha's main dishes after the complimentary appetizers had been gobbled up. Nicholas H. and Kelly C. each won a $25 gift certificate to use on a future visit to Varsha.
The happy gathering  
We expect that our next Roving Refinery will be at The Drake Eatery, but details are still being arranged as of this writing. Look for your personal invitation to arrive via email in the next few weeks, and as always, please keep an eye on our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed for further details.

The Roving Refinery is a DRA social event where members get a chance to meet with fellow Downtown & Harris Green residents while getting to know merchants who operate locally owned businesses. Roving Refinery events are free for DRA members, and for non-members who register for DRA membership at the event.

October Board Meeting Highlights
[Thanks to Cathy Brankston for this content - Editor]

Business Arising From Last Meeting
We have a new interim location for our monthly board meetings – 1501 Douglas Street. Nick Blasko and the team at Atomique Productions have offered us the free use of this meeting space until such time as the building closes for the planned future development. Thank you to Ken Kelly and the DVBA for the use of their meeting room last month.

Councillor's Report: Lisa Helps
Lisa was unable to attend our meeting this month due to the demands of her Mayoral campaign. On behalf of the Downtown Residents' Association, we would like to thank Lisa for her support over the last three years as our Council Liaison, and best of luck with your Mayoral Campaign.

Healthy Living Committee: Eric Ney

Proposed Van Taxi Fleet
A local business venture was referred to the DRA by Councillor Thornton-Joe regarding their proposal to create and operate a fleet of van taxis in the Capital Regional District (CRD). Accordingly, the chair of the DRA's Healthy Living Committee, Eric Ney, met with two members of the proposed business to learn about their business plan.

The intention of the business is to offer a van taxi service capable of shuttling larger numbers of passengers in a single vehicle, such as families, groups, and students with a common destination such as UVIC. Some of the benefits cited for Downtown residents are:
  • Reduced wait time for groups that require a 5–7 passenger cab.
  • Reduced cost by eliminating the need for two individual cabs.
  • Increased service to downtown residents traveling in large groups, with their families, or just travelling with large amounts of luggage.
  • Help to clear the downtown core faster after bar rush by taking groups who require a van taxi out of the downtown core.
  • Help hotels, restaurants, and tourism attractions shuttle tourists groups around effectively.
  • Increased wheelchair taxi service in the downtown core.
  • All hybrid fleet (Toyota Highlander Hybrids) except for two wheelchair van taxis (currently wheelchair van taxis are not available in hybrid format).
  • Entire fleet will be capable of carrying (at all times) a minimum of 5 passengers and up to a maximum 7 passengers. Wheelchair van taxis will also be equipped with flip seats to accommodate additional passengers.
The DRA Board has approved a letter to be sent to the Passenger Transportation Board in support of the venture as it promises to, "significantly contribute to our goals of moving large groups of people from the downtown core at the time of bar, nightclub and pub closings, while providing a safe mode of transportation and avoiding the risk of impaired driving."
Land Use Committee: Ian Sutherland
The Sawyer Building - 840 Fort Street - Three Point Properties
The DRA Land Use Committee (LUC) sent a letter to the City outlining its concerns about livability in this development and the planned use of inferior construction materials. In response, Three Point Properties requested an informal meeting with the DRA LUC which was to take place on October 30th.

595 Pandora Avenue - Cielo Properties
The four storey office building, formerly home to Service Canada, is to be converted into residential suites with ground floor commercial space. No CALUC meeting is necessary, as the zoning won't change. Ian has received the proposed specifications and plans to request an informal meeting with Cielo Properties.

New Business:

DRA Promotional Posters
To increase awareness of the DRA, and increase our membership, it was proposed that we design and print 'DRA' posters with the intention of getting them posted on bulletin boards at strata and rental apartment buildings all throughout our neighbourhood.

Victoria Community Association Network (VCAN)
The latest VCAN meeting was held on Tuesday November 4, 2014, and the DRA sent three Board members to the meeting. The meeting was valuable as it provides an opportunity to discuss common concerns, and learn about the campaigns and practices of the other neighbourhood associations. Anyone who is interested in learning more about VCAN can contact us here.

Upcoming DRA Meetings

DRA Annual General Meeting 2015
Our AGM has been scheduled for Thursday, January 8, 2015 – please save this date and plan on attending! The AGM is open to all DRA members and prospective members, and is your opportunity to help shape the DRA’s agenda for the coming year. Our guest speaker has not been decided, but we're hoping to get the Mayor (whoever that may be at that time) to address our membership.

DRA Board Meeting
Our next board meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 5:30 pm, at 1501 Douglas Street (at Pandora Avenue). DRA Board meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of every month, and are open to all DRA members.
Note: The DRA will not hold a board meeting in the month of December 2014.

Communications Committee Meeting
Our next Communications Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, January 22, 2015, 5:30 pm, at the Veneto Tapa Lounge, 1450 Douglas Street. Any change to that date will be posted here in December or January, and on our social medial streams. If you are a DRA member who is interested in helping us expand our reach, please join us.

Healthy Living Committee Meeting
Our next Healthy Living Committee Committee will take place on November 19, 2014, 5:30 pm, at the Veneto Tapa Lounge, 1450 Douglas Street. If you are a DRA member who is interested in working on solutions to issues of livability in Downtown or Harris Green, please join us.

Community Development Committee Meeting
Our next Community Development Committee Meeting will take place Thursday, November 13, 2014, at 6:00 pm at The Guild, 1250 Wharf Street. If you are a DRA member who is interested in helping to plan our social and community development events, please join us.

Land Use Committee Meeting
Land Use Committee (LUC) meetings are held on an ad hoc basis. The LUC participates in the City's Public Consultation Process on new projects and developments in the Downtown and Harris Green neighbourhoods.The LUC acts as a liaison between multiple stakeholders, by engaging in meaningful, productive dialogue with residents, developers, architects, City planners and Councillors. If you are a DRA member who is interested in city planning and land use issues, please contact us and you will be advised of the next meeting.

We're going to be on CFAX this Monday!

This coming Monday, November 10, from 12:30–1:00 pm, DRA Chair Wendy Bowkett will be the featured guest on the "What are you talking about?" segment of CFAX's Café Victoria with Bruce Williams.

Don't forget to tune in and listen—1070 AM this Monday at 12:30 pm!—Why not set yourself a reminder on your smartphone right now!

Victoria Election 2014:
Downtown Mayoral Debate Overview

Our Community Development Committee, in co-sponsorship with the Downtown Victoria Business Association and the Greater Victoria Public Library, hosted the Downtown Mayoral Debate on Wednesday, October 29, 2014. Four of the eight mayoral candidates, namely Mayor Dean Fortin, Councillor Lisa Helps, local journalist Stephen Andrew, and former Liberal MLA Ida Chong, were invited to participate.

A concise synopsis of the event, complete with a list of the questions posed to the candidates, has been posted to our website, and can be viewed by clicking here.
2014 Municipal Election

Saturday, November 15, 2014, is election day for the offices of Mayor and Councillor in the City of Victoria, and School Trustee for School District 61. Advance voting is available on November 10 at City Hall, and on November 12 at Our Place Society

All you've ever wanted to know about the 2014 Victoria elections can be found here on the City's website. Please take the opportunity to cast your ballot!

Can't Decide Whom To Vote For?

Are you having trouble deciding which candidate for City Council and Mayor should get your vote? Here is something that may be of some help.

The Open Victoria Initiative Society, a local "community organization that advocates for enhanced transparency, openness and accountability on decision making by elected CRD Board and City of Victoria officials" has spent considerable time and effort combing through Council records to compile a voting record of what the Society feels are the 14 most important votes that have been taken by our current City Council, 2011–2014.

Click here to read their very well substantiated research document.

The City Talks
The City Talks, is a lecture series sponsored by the University of Victoria’s Committee for Urban Studies. Billed as "A Public Dialogue about the Prospects and Challenges of Cities", the series features "distinguished urbanists drawn from our own university as well as from outside Victoria". Each presentation begins at 7:30pm at the Legacy Art Gallery (630 Yates Street). Admission is free of charge and open to the public.

The next lecture will take place on Thursday, November 20, 2014. Associate Professor and Director of American Studies (University of California, Davis), Dr. Julie Sze will explore, "Fantasy Islands: Environmental Justice in China and Beyond". A full description can be found here.

Musing on the Mayoral Election 2014

Local Citizen Opinion by Robert Florida:

I am a very committed downtown resident and have been an active member of the DRA since its early days. As such, and as a keen follower of City and Provincial politics, I have been thinking about the current mayoral campaign, wondering which candidate to vote for. Usually, it is easy for me to make up my mind, but this time not. The four that I have been considering are the current mayor, Dean Fortin, Councillor Lisa Helps, former Liberal provincial cabinet minister, Ida Chong, and local journalist Stephen Andrew. Click on their names for their official web sites.

In some ways, the Mayor of Victoria has an impossible job, with very limited powers to implement his or her program. The Mayor has only one vote on a nine member City Council (eight counsellors and the Mayor), all of whom are independent with no municipal party affiliation and no party discipline. To get something done, the Mayor relies on the power of persuasion, the power of chairing the Council, and the traditional prestige of office. Only the Mayor is addressed as his or her “Worship.”

Victoria, as everyone knows, has the burden (and honour) of being the centre for the entire Capital Regional District, with some thirteen separate municipalities. This means that most of the serious large scale issues, such as sewage treatment and regional policing, are eternal sore points rather than problems that the Mayor and Council can readily resolve. Unfortunately, the Provincial Government refuses to take the lead and act in these matters. Amalgamation would be one good way to break the structural log jam, but none of the four major candidates seem to have a clear position for or against amalgamation.

When I learned that Ida Chong in fact lives in Saanich and has no intention to move to Victoria, my immediate reaction was to ask, “Why should I vote for someone for Mayor of Victoria who chooses not to live here?” After all, you can’t vote in the election unless you have lived in Victoria for at least thirty days. It just seems reasonable to me that the Mayor should show commitment to the city by living in it and paying city taxes. Actually, in a way, Ms. Chong’s running for Mayor of Victoria, while she is a citizen of Saanich, shows the foolishness of the balkanization of the Capital Regional District, and provides a tacit argument for amalgamation.

As to downtown issues, Ms. Chong’s comments on her web site tend to reflect suburban concerns, but she is after all, just that—suburban. I personally find some of them and are frankly rather negative and somewhat condescending to me as a senior citizen downtowner—for example, “…too many Victorians, especially seniors and families don’t feel safe and comfortable in our downtown core.” Her solutions—more cops and blame the incumbent mayor. Actually, from my experience, Mayor Fortin has sincerely tried with some success to alleviate problems downtown. Both Lisa Helps and Stephan Andrew have sensible things to say on downtown issues, and Lisa has worked well with the DRA as our City Council Liaison for the past two years.

Ms. Chong’s strongest point is the cost overruns and administrative drift in the Johnson Street Bridge project under Mayor Fortin’s stewardship, although she does tend to make it a one-note symphony. The project seems nearly to be sliding out of control, and Mayor Fortin’s continual reassurance that it is a fixed price contract—end of discussion—doesn’t ring true. However, if Ms. Chong is right, and we will find ourselves with many millions of cost overruns to pay for, her firm promise not to raise taxes hardly seems reasonable. How does she propose paying the bridge bill, not to mention the cost of extra policing downtown and the immediate replacement of the Crystal Pool, which she promises to do? Cut everything else? Lisa Helps’ position on the Bridge project management and costs is probably the most balanced and practicable of the four candidates, which reflects her experience on Council.

So my dilemma is still not resolved. Who will I vote for in two weeks’ time? Lisa Helps has very detailed plans for tackling what she sees as the major issues, and she has Council experience; but her plans are so ambitious and complex that they will surely bog down. Remember that City Council spent hours on debating whether or not to order in sandwiches. Stephan Andrew has asked many of the hard questions and has some good ideas, but does he have the political connections, experience, and savvy to bring them to fruition? Ida Chong might do a good job on managing the Bridge project, if she gets the cooperation of Council, but why should a citizen of Saanich be the mayor of Victoria? Finally, Mayor Fortin has done excellent work in trying to alleviate homelessness, and has generally been a decent mayor. However, there is the Bridge overrun which happened on his watch. This election I might make up my mind in the polling station. Changes the Clown?

[Note: Opinions expressed in the "Local Citizen Opinion" column are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of the DRA or its members - Editor]

Calling All Contributors...

One 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 150 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!

Follow on Twitter    Friend on Facebook    Forward to Friend 
Copyright © 2014 Victoria Downtown Residents Association, All rights reserved.
unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 
Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp