Mapping a city’s future: Victoria develops its updated community plan

If you think the Official Community Plan is a high-level planning document, you’re right – but suppress that urge to yawn. An estimated 20,000 people moving to Victoria. Where they’ll settle and whether their condos will block your sun are laid out in the draft document. Speak now or hold your peace.

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It’s the year 2041. Victoria’s population sits at 103,000, of which 90 per cent can walk to a village centre for their daily needs.

About 10,000 of those newcomers will move to the downtown (picture 90 Juliet-sized condos to accommodate them). An equal number of jobs will open up, many in Rock Bay.

Another 8,000 people will move to high-density blocks clustered around existing “urban villages.”

This is the future, as predicted and planned for in the city’s newest incarnation of its draft Official Community Plan.

After a year of research and stakeholder consultation, the city unveiled the document last week, leaving one month for community feedback.

“Wherever you see a town centre, or a large urban village, anticipate some change,” said Mark Hornell, Victoria’s assistant director of community planning.

“If you look at Mayfair Mall, for example, the notion of those areas becoming the nucleus of fairly major redevelopment schemes on the site over the next 30 years – where the parking lots would be restructured with buildings on those sites – is part of what this plan anticipates.”

Expect small commercial hubs to be beefed up to include a range of services. Apartment districts will rise in height, from four to six stories. Also expect new parks to spring up in areas predicted to be deficient, based on growth projections.

It’s been 16 years since the city crafted its OCP, a document largely responsible for how neighbourhoods have densified and transportation networks adapted since then.

The new plan goes beyond previous versions by including earthquake preparedness, food production and climate-change mitigation strategies. Instead of just determining how land is used, and how densely, the document guides how streetscapes look and serve pedestrians.

“One of the key issues we heard from the community is affordable housing, so really what this plan looks to do is increase the number of housing options (in all neighborhoods),” said senior planner, Cameron Scott, naming duplexes, three-storey apartments and row houses as examples.

“(That means) looking at what types of housing might be appropriate for a neighbourhood … particularly with respect to allowing people to live throughout their life cycle in a neighbourhood (and) making sure there’s housing for young families, seniors, working people.”

While Scott qualified it’s not a one-size-fits-all policy, Coun. Geoff Young argued some housing strategies should be neighbourhood specific.

“It does make sense for us to look at the large issues on a city-wide basis … but is it necessarily the case that every single neighbourhood will have all forms of housing?” asked Young, the council liaison for Rockland, home to Victoria’s highest residential property values.

It’s the type of social-policy challenge the city faces, said Mayor Dean Fortin.

The choice, he said, is between keeping low-cost housing away or allowing it in neighbourhoods where it may not be welcome.

“As a society, do we care?” challenged Fortin, who left a career supporting low-income residents in the Burnside Gorge community to take the job as mayor.

“Is the neighbourhood the same place if we don’t have children laughing in the streets?”

rholmen@vicnews.com

Get involved

The city is sending out the draft OCP for mass public feedback until June 10. There are lots of ways to participate. Visit the website (www.shapeyourfuture.ca), attend one of several coffee talks, complete a survey,  make a written submission (ocp@victoria.ca) or attend one of four open houses:

• April 28: Atrium, 800 Yates St.

• May 2: Vic West Community Centre, 521 Craigflower Rd.

• May 14: Fairfield Community Centre, 1330 Fairfield Rd.

•May 31: Oaklands Community Centre, 2827 Belmont Ave.

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