City sets new deadlines for homelessness, commuter train

Not many councils can say they’ve gone through what they have and haven’t achieved halfway through their time in elected office.

Not many councils can say they’ve gone through what they have and haven’t achieved halfway through their time in elected office.

But that’s what Victoria city council did last week as it updated its four-year strategic plan, setting new deadlines for a number of initiatives, including ending homelessness in the region, establishing a commuter rail service between the West Shore and Victoria, and implementing regulations for short-term vacation rentals for their remaining two years on council.

“We make ourselves very vulnerable by publically going through with a red pen what we did and didn’t do. We make ourselves vulnerable, so that takes courage,” said Mayor Lisa Helps during a meeting Thursday.

“What we need to do is hold steady and not get distracted, and stay focused on what we say we need to do.”

The strategic plan, which was originally drafted in 2015, provides council and staff with strategic focus and outlines actions to be taken in the city.

Council has pushed its timeline for eradicating homelessness in Greater Victoria from 2018, to match the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness’ 2021 goal.

Another issue was establishing a commuter rail service between Langford and Victoria, which council hopes to work with other municipalities on this year.

The city also hopes to take aim at short-term vacation rentals such as Airbnbs, and develop and implement policies to regulate the industry this year.

The city set a revised 2018 deadline to decide what to do with the aging Crystal Pool facility, which was previous set for 2017.

Most councillors were in favour of the proposed changes to the plan. Coun. Ben Isitt said it’s a positive step, but expressed disappointment being unable to move forward more quickly with plans to create a comprehensive cycling network within the city by 2018.

Coun. Jeremy Loveday said the next few years will be the city’s opportunity to execute the plans laid out in the document.

“I hope this document is more achievable than aspirational. I think as we’re looking at the execution of this and moving towards achieving these items, there are things that will actually get done by 2018 and won’t get bumped,” he said.

The city plans also on working with the Capital Regional District to increase the number of funding partners for the McPherson Theatre. Currently, Victoria, Oak Bay and Saanich contribute to the operation of the Royal Theatre. Victoria is the only municipality that funds the McPherson.

Revised deadlines were also set to complete the Fairfield Gonzales and Vic West neighbourhood plans this year and complete the Fernwood, North and South Jubilee, North Park and Rockland neighbourhood plans in 2018.

This year’s goal is also to implement recommendations from the Mayor’s Task Force on Social Enterprise and Social Procurement, increase street vending opportunities for both new entrepreneurs and storefront businesses.

But not all councillors agreed with the proposed updates.

Coun. Geoff Young said there were a “sufficient” number of actions and policies within the plan that he wasn’t able to support, noting there needs to be more discussion around single-use plastic bags and supervised injection sites.