The facts behind the slogan and what you can do about it—as a June 9 council meeting looms.
THE CITY OF VICTORIA’S Missing Middle Initiative (MMI) would add density to existing neighbourhoods and that can be a good thing. New residents add vibrancy, city services can be delivered more efficiently, schools can stay full, smaller families can be accommodated and transit services become more viable.
Victoria City planners say that MMI could be, “duplexes, three plexes, four plexes, etc.” But, the proposal before council is more far-reaching, it would re-zone all single family and duplex zoning across the city to six-plexes and to twelve-unit townhouse projects. As a new zone, individual MMI projects would not allow comment by neighbours nor oversight by city council.
Building size would increase by about 75 percent. Right now zoning on a typical lot allows up to about 3200 square feet of house, including a secondary suite or a garden suite and a height limit of 25 feet. MMI would allow about 5600 square feet of house, with six units and a height limit of about 35 feet. (As a point of reference, BC Hydro poles measure about 33 feet.) Parking requirements would be two on site spaces for the six-plexes and a similarly modest number for the townhouses. Any other vehicles would need to seek street parking.
Many streets offer properties that could be candidates for MMI. I have counted 10 properties on two blocks of Howe Street that could become six-plexes, or even 12 unit townhouses in the near future, based on their age, condition, and small size. This is not “gentle densification.”
There is little public awareness of these details. The 2000-page staff report is unreadable. Yet the MMI proposal can be highly disruptive of existing neighbourhoods. And it is not structured to return any significant community benefits such as affordability or renter protection.
In sum, the city is handing over the residential areas of the city to market forces constrained only by planning staff. This is not a legacy that I would want to leave to my family, nor to my neighbours.
Recently, Council instructed staff to take the MMI proposal out for more public consultation, to be followed by a public hearing in July. This was supported by Geoff Young, Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Ben Isitt, Sharmarke Dubow, and Stephen Andrew, who is running for Mayor. But this may change soon.
Councillor Stephen Andrew is now asking that this plan for further engagement with the public be reconsidered at the Thursday, June 9th council meeting. If adopted, this would cancel the agreed upon public consultation process.
In my view, before a hearing is held on this city-wide rezoning, every household deserves to receive a full description of the details of MMI and a chance to ask questions and comment.
If you are concerned, please write to Stephen.Andrew@victoria.ca by Wednesday June 8 urging him to stand his ground and send MMI back to city staff to prepare a coherent summary for distribution to all residents of Victoria’s 12 neighbourhoods.
Ken Roueche is a retired public servant, former economics consultant, author of three self published books, including A Fairfield History, a best seller in the ‘hood.