The parking space for Royal Athletic Park at 940 Caledonia St. (outlined in red) is being considered for a shared underground parking lot between the park and the new Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre, which could accommodate over 200 spots. Google Maps

Affordable housing idea dead for Central Park, idea shifts to Royal Athletic Park lot

Underground parking with housing units above to be considered for existing lot

Proposals for affordable housing and an underground parkade in Central Park, near the proposed Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre, are being dropped and potentially moved to a parking lot that serves Royal Athletic Park (RAP).

Last month Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps instructed City staff to investigate the idea of installing an underground parking facility for use by recreation centre patrons, and whether an affordable housing project could be built on top of it.

A response from assistant City solicitor, Carrie Moffat, found the process for adding affordable housing would contradict a bylaw put in place over 100 years ago.

“In 1906, Council adopted a bylaw dedicating Central Park for park purposes and enjoyment of the public,” Moffat stated in a report to be presented at council’s committee of the whole on Thursday (July 19). “Affordable housing units are a residential use that falls outside of the meaning of ‘park,’ … A park dedication removal bylaw would be required to remove that portion of Central Park to accommodate this use.”

RELATED: Plans rejigged for new Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre

This kind of bylaw would require approval, either through an assent vote (formerly known as a referendum) or an alternate approval process (AAP), formerly known as a counter-petition.

Mayor Lisa Helps said that council will not be pursuing either of these options and will instead look at the surrounding area to meet the rec centre’s parking needs and to preserve as much green space as possible.

Helps and Coun. Geoff Young have forwarded a motion to consider creating an underground parking area on the RAP lot at Caledonia Avenue and Vancouver Street to be shared by both facilities, and with affordable housing units on top.

The parking space for Royal Athletic Park at 940 Caledonia (outlined in red) is being considered for a shared underground parking lot between the park and the new Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre, which could accommodate over 200 spots. Google Maps

“The original proposal for parking spots [at Central Park] was around 100 spaces, but at Royal Athletic Park, which the City owns, there are over 200 spaces,” Helps said. “That would be at least 200 spaces for public use, as well as some for residents of the affordable housing.”

Helps said the biggest question to ask was how far people would be willing to walk if they’re using the pool, as the RAP lot is about 200 metres away from the proposed entrance.

RELATED: Affordable housing opportunity connected to new Crystal Pool project

The backgrounder for the motion states that, through “guesstimation” with Google Maps, typical walking distances between “bad” parking spots and entrances at Mayfair Mall or the Hillside Shopping Centre are also close to 200 metres.

Young suggested that the new pool’s entryway could be rotated 180 degrees, placing it in the southeast corner and making it as close as possible to the RAP lot, but Helps is not convinced that would work.

“The building itself was situated to preserve a maximum number of trees, so we would need more information for that,” she said.

Young and Helps’ report also noted that 25 to 30 spots would still need to be placed in front of the centre for handicapped parking, child pick up and low-use hours.

The motion will also be presented at committee of the whole, and if passed, City staff will be instructed to look into parking alternatives for pool users, to consider both parks’ peak times, and investigate other potential sites and costs for parking options.

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