Re-purposing Harbour Towers

As a founding member of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA) and member of their Board for many years, I am dismayed to see that you've published two lengthy opinion pieces by Ms. V. Adams, which are questioning the integrity of the organization. 

The purpose of the JBNA, as stated on their website, is to provide a forum for residents to plan and comment on land use issues, including re-zoning proposals, traffic, parks, and green space. In the early days the members worked with the city Planning Department to develop the first James Bay neighbourhood land use plan, which was adopted by the city and forms the basis for land use decisions, signaling to residents and potential developers what our preferences are with respect to density, height, and building types (residential, industrial, commercial etc.).

The JBNA worked with other neighbourhood associations to develop a consultation process that all developers must use whenever they want to initiate a re-zoning. The JBNA is aware that these proposals can be contentious and that there may not always be consensus in the neighbourhood, so it does not take positions on any proposal. Rather, it provides a forum for residents to hear from and provide feedback to the developer. Our City Council liaison member often attends these meetings. The comments are recorded and forwarded to City Council so that they have a sense of the kind of concerns and how many people may be for or against the proposal. 

I attended last month's meeting, at which the Harbour Towers proposal was presented. The architect clearly stated that the owner was trying to decide whether to keep it as a hotel, turn it into apartments, or possibly convert it to condominiums. The purpose of the meeting was to find out if we had any preference and what we thought of the apartment plan they had developed. I was aware from her questions that Ms Adams was very suspicious of the proposal, but I could not understand why. She seemed to think that there was an underlying purpose and that the owner’s true intent was to rent them as short term rentals. Given that it is currently a hotel, and that one of the options could be to keep it as a hotel, that might well happen, but the current proposal would be to rezone it for multi-family residential use. That kind of zoning does not allow for hotel use.

I was one of the residents who spoke in favour of the plan, because like many of your readers, I have friends and family members at all levels of the economic spectrum who are struggling to find rental accommodation. We need more rental accommodation and this plan would provide 219 brand new rental units. I think that would be a good thing and am interested in following the proposal as it makes its way through the re-zoning process. They will most likely be coming back to the JBNA, after they present it to the Planning Department, to discuss set-back variances, etc.

Pieta VanDyke

Re: Who speaks for those who live and work in James Bay?

I note that the latest issue of the Beacon failed to include the short factual letter that I sent to you almost a month ago on the subject of cruise ship economics, largely to correct the exaggerated nonsense that we continually hear from Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

On the other hand, the Beacon has published three lengthy pieces authored by V Adams. What kind of balance is this?

More particularly, one of the articles authored by V Adams is a scathing and destructive attack on the James Bay Neighbourhood Association, an insulting piece of drivel containing many erroneous assertions and factually incorrect comments. It is an article that should never have seen the light of day, and that the Beacon should never have published. Its opinions about the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA) amount to no more than an insulting diatribe.

Over the past several years, the JBNA has:

a)      Been centrally involved in the analysis and reduction of cruise ship SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions, which have had their most serious impacts on those suffering from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) and asthma (together totalling 12% of the James Bay population),

b)     Been centrally involved in attempts to induce GVHA to calm the traffic volumes and noise connected with cruise ship calls at Ogden Point by pressing for the modernization of the bus fleet composition and for the adjustment of the cruise ship schedule away from late evening departures,

c)      Been centrally  involved in holding open public meetings to discuss all land use developments and re-zoning proposed for James Bay, while reporting to the City of Victoria in as neutral a way as possible the matters that were raised about these developments at these meetings, including (by way of example) in recent years:

(i)                 The redevelopment of Fisherman’s Wharf Park for all to enjoy,

(ii)               The Duet complex on Michigan Street,

(iii)             The Capital Park development,

(iv)             The proposed Concert Properties seniors centre on Belleville Street, and

(v)               The proposed transition of the Harbour Towers Hotel into a rental accommodation residence

d)     It is now conducting a transportation survey of James Bay residents and those who come to James Bay to work, in tandem with a separate BC Transit survey. The JBNA survey focuses on all forms of mobility needs both within James Bay and for coming into and out of James Bay.

e)      JBNA is also carefully monitoring the development of GVHA’s Ogden Point Master Plan.

The JBNA board and committees consist entirely of volunteers. JBNA has a modest budget, half of which goes to rent space at New Horizons for its open monthly meetings. It has no office or small meeting space. It holds annual general meetings in April to discuss its financial report and budget, and to elect new board officers. It is a very open organization, with no membership fees.

Anybody who supposes that JBNA represents a “privileged few” land owners doesn’t understand the community-wide socio-environmental matters in which JBNA is constantly involved.

Would you also want to conclude that the latest transportation survey created by JBNA is an attempt to hear only the views of the “privileged few”? Have you attended any recent JBNA monthly meetings (all of which are open for anyone to attend) to listen to the variety of views and opinions that are expressed there on land use, environmental, and many other important issues facing James Bay (including the ongoing impact of cruise ship emissions and traffic volumes including late night volumes on our community)?

I strongly urge you to publish in your next issue a broad, highly visible, apology to the James Bay Neighbourhood Association, including the members of its entirely volunteer board and related committees, all of whom work very hard for the livability of the James Bay Community for ALL of its residents.

Brian L. Scarfe

JBNA Quality of Life Committee member

Fisherman’s Wharf residents not consulted regarding development at Heron Cove

My name is Daniel Girard and I have been a resident of Fisherman's Wharf for over six years.

I am writing in hopes that our community can count on support to stop the development at Heron Cove. We have not been properly consulted and feel that as ambassadors of Fisherman's Wharf and James Bay we are an integral piece of this community and great city, and our voices need not be ignored.

Heron Cove is one of the last remaining urban wildlife sanctuaries located in the city. We have many species of birds, (seagulls, geese, ducks, mergansers, kingfishers, herons and more) animals, (raccoons, mink, otter and more) sea life (seals, crabs, sea stars, many varieties of fish and more). This is a place where wildlife is thriving and is able to do so without human interaction.

The proposal puts all this at risk. Building a cement bridge with a centre support on the seabed will destroy the life in that area. The bridge will block out sunlight to aquatic species that thrive on it. The bridge also puts people directly above the wildlife causing unnecessary stress.

We as a community are already at high stress levels dealing with tourists out of our front doors and now they want to put them in our back yards too. I do feel at times that locals take a backseat when it comes to tourism. Tourism is great but there needs to be a balance.

Daniel Girard

Fisherman's Wharf resident

Thank you for including the JBNA survey

Thanks for the wonderful, very inclusive JBNA survey in October's JB Beacon, and for all the local businesses chipping in with the drop-off boxes. 

On another note, V Adams, "favour" is spelled as such (article on page 23). 


Flag mast – flawed design

There is no doubt that whoever designed the new flag mast for the Legislature grounds found a brilliant solution to avoid using guy wires to keep it up.

Tragically, though, the sole purpose for that mast was to allow our national flag to be flown correctly from the very top of the mast, as is done on the pole right across the street, and that is what is not possible given a flawed design.

So the flag is in a state of limbo, as it were, which reminds me of those of our citizens who wander around town with their pants neither all the way up nor all the way down, but with too much of their rear ends exposed.

So I am wondering how long it will take the bureaucrats to rectify this visual obscenity that dishonours our national flag.

Incorrect Correct

 Bill Ellis

Re: Heron Cove

Please build the pedestrian foot bridge. The traffic, both foot and vehicle, around the cove is already too congested in the parking lot area. Currently the David Foster pathway is not a very clear and obvious route, especially with hotels and other properties affecting where one can access the waterfront path. The foot bridge will be a beautiful continuation that will add to our downtown waterfront in an already urbanized area. I reside two blocks from fisherman's wharf and frequently walk in the area. I do not sense increased unsavory activities due to an increase in amenities.

Aiden McAfrey

Make Every Day Count

I was very sorry to hear that Frances Mary Jepson passed away at the James Bay Care Centre on October 1ST at the age of 89.

I knew Frances from the time I was seven years old as she was one

of our next-door neighbours on Michigan Street in the 1950s. I was always impressed by her kindness, generosity and enthusiasm.

All through the years, Frances was a wonderfully dedicated volunteer, assisting numerous causes and organizations, including the Thrift Shop at the James Bay United Church where she was one of the pillars of that operation for as long as I can remember.

The energy that Frances had was truly remarkable. Indeed, some of us referred to her lovingly as “The Energiser Bunny on a Bicycle”.

I’m sure Frances will be fondly remembered and greatly missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to be included in her wide circle of friends,

I think the best way to honour her memory is by trying to constantly keep in mind her favourite motto: “Make every day count”.

Gordon Pollard