The eagerness to cut down an iconic Oak Bay oak tree and to label vocal neighbourhood opponents as “Nimbys,” or the “white haired elite” is scary.
Is this a new political tendency? Has democracy been replaced by silencing people’s voices and bowdlerizing established neighbourhoods by cutting down healthy, mature trees? This sacrifice for the vague promise of future housing availability? Those who had to run away from political regimes founded on the promise of a better future for the ongoing sacrifice of today know the danger of this tendency.
Most Victorians suffering from the housing shortage will not be able to afford an expensive condo in Oak Bay or Rockland. Building upscale condos to resolve the acute housing problem is a discredited economic idea of wealth trickling down. Destroying mature green spaces and historic character for the sake of wealthy downsizers is “voodoo economics,” putting it mildly.
A good example is the proposal for the 1201 Fort St. property. The voices of the community and city council’s instructions to moderate the height, massing, setbacks and scale of the proposal are drowned out by the mantra of “the bigger, the denser, the better for the future.” Mature trees are cut down to build upscale condos.The height of buildings goes up in tandem with the prices. Who is profiting from this? We have to build affordable housing now, rental or not, where it is possible and needed.
Let’s learn history’s lessons: find a way to build our future without destroying the past and sacrificing the present. People with a vested financial interest in real estate must not be the leaders in planning our future. Noisy citizens are important for meaningful change.