Oak Bay Vanishes was established in 2015 in response to the increasing number of demolitions of older character homes across our community. The Facebook page includes photos of disappearing homes as well as articles on policy initiatives being undertaken by municipal governments in cities facing similar challenges to Oak Bay.
Oak Bay Vanishes is interested in your views on the potential priorities for the next council with respect to housing in Oak Bay.
The Official Community Plan, adopted in 2013, contemplated an increase in the mix of accessible and affordable housing over a period of ten to twenty years. Specifically, respondents to a community-wide questionnaire and various community consultations said they favored more multi-family housing and various types of infill housing.
Please check which forms of infill and multi-family housing you will support if elected and explain why, if you feel the need.
1. Regulation of secondary suites in existing private homes (approximately 800 suites)
Yes __________ No________
This question is wrong and was debunked via detailed data from BC Assessments. There are only 474 housing units in Oak Bay that contain a second kitchen that can be considered a Secondary Suite. These units are Grandfathered as Legal Non-conforming and will continue (as long as the house exists). Please stop disseminating inaccurate information.
If there are houses with major recent additions done without a building permit, these must be rectified. That’s the law. It’s to protect health and safety for all of us.
Please see the experience of City of Delta, BC, with their attempts to fairly setup Regulation of Secondary Suites - http://bit.ly/deltasuites
Unfortunately, many illegal, unsafe suites had to be shut down in Delta; and the fees never paid for the program - general taxes did. Essentially, building a new house with a Secondary Suite is much less expensive/more efficient long term.
2. Regulation and inclusion of secondary suites in newly built single-family houses
Yes ____ ✔______ No________
3. Legalization of non-conforming duplexes (approximately 70 units) so that the existing and future duplexes permit separate ownership for each unit
Yes _____ ✔_____ No_________
I would prefer to do this along with “Increased use of large heritage homes as multi-family dwellings” (before Secondary Suites), but Council did not support my suggestion.
4. Zoning changes to allow more duplexes, triplexes, and townhouses to be built in all areas of Oak Bay
Yes ____________ No ____ ✔_____
I have a problem with “all” as I wish to include a public engagement process with each affected neighbourhood.
5. Zoning changes to allow condominium and rental apartments to be built along major roads and bus routes in our villages (e.g. Oak Bay Village and Estevan) and corner commercial areas (e.g. Central and St. Patrick)
Yes ____ ✔______ No __________
This is a natural evolution of our District as it grows.
6. Inclusion of requirements that developers must classify at least 10 percent of units for less than market pricing or market rental rates to help address affordability and accessibility for low and moderate income families
Yes ____ ✔______ No __________
7. Inclusion of requirements that developers include community amenities in any new building or conversion of older large homes, with more than four units
Yes ____ ✔______ No __________
8. Zoning changes to allow laneway homes to be built where back lanes exist and the minimum lot size is defined
Yes ____________ No ____✔_____
Maybe. First, I wish to include a public engagement process with each affected neighbourhood.
9. Increased use of large heritage homes as multi-family dwellings through an application of Heritage Revitalization Agreements
Yes _____✔______ No ___________
This can both help to add in needed housing AND help to provide a cost effective way to maintain our heritage homes and streetscapes.
10. Institute an OAK BAY Homes Trust on municipal land or land covenanted to the municipality by private or institutional donors in order to improve housing stock for low and moderate income individuals and families
Yes _____✔______ No ___________
As long as it was operated by CRD Housing (or some other existing non-profit agency).
11. To protect our existing tree canopy, require all new developments to REPLACE every tree removed with new trees, including on private property not just municipal land
Yes _____✔______ No ____________
Due to the aberration of both “Vacant houses as Investments” & “AirBnB/Short-Term Rentals” distorting the affordability of homes for all, I don't see any other pragmatic way to deal with this than the comprehensive & systematic way that the province has suggested in their 30 Point plan for Housing Affordability: http://bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2018/homesbc/2018_Homes_For_BC.pdf
Please note- I was the only Oak Bay councillor to vote in full support of the Vacancy Tax - as 5% of Oak Bay houses sit empty, as investments (7% in City of Victoria). As pointed out in our OCP, this problem is growing & must be addressed. The least expensive and most effective approach is at the provincial level.
FYI, here is some research on a Vacancy Tax effect on # of Vacant Housing Units from Vancouver’s experience:
Also, over the last 4 years, the # of AirBnB/Short-Term Rentals have increased exponentially, removing these units from long term rental. Other BC cities and towns have shown that strong regulations/strong enforcement is essential to maintain affordable rental options for long term residents. Here is my research to date on regulation of AirBnB/Short-Term Rentals:
Comments, suggestions always welcome, and thank you for doing this survey!
Please return your completed questionnaire by Thursday, October 11th, 2018
Candidate name: Eric Wood Zhelka
Municipality: Oak Bay
Candidate for: Councillor
1. What is your previous experience with the Arts?:
For an engineer, I have rather extensive experience in the arts!!
I have been a member of several choirs over the years, most recently with the Spirit Rising Community Choir. (I'm a tenor) I play the drum... music is a big part of our family life.
I have performed in plays with VideoCaberet and street performance/parades with Shadowland Theatre. I took part in a multi-year Island to Island Arts Exchange with Peter Minshall in Trinidad where I learned the intricate art of stilt dancing - a skill I taught children and brought to the streets during Carnival and Caribana. I am a founding director of the Swizzlestick Theatre company.
I am an amateur ballroom dancer and have occasionally performed. Most recently, I am expressing myself physically through the defensive martial art of Aikido. I am an assistant with the children's program at Victoria Aikikai.
When I travel, I make time to visit local galleries and museums. (And I love to brag about POV, the conservatory, and the RBCM when I'm in other places.)
2. Will you support increased investment in the Arts? And if so, how?:
Arts and culture, in my opinion, is part of what holds our society together, whether through creative protest or joyful celebration. I will look for ways to support the Arts here as I have elsewhere.
3. What does your campaign propose for the future of the Arts in the CRD?:
The CRD is responsible for implementing the established funding model for the Arts in the region; I'm certainly interested in promoting our support as a participating municipality. The Arts don't thrive and grow without appropriate funding.. especially funding that supports long-term planning.
I will continue to support OakBay’s Arts Laureate position created last year. I'm sensitive to those who may not find arts and culture quite their cup of tea; reasonable time restrictions on sound and light are always needed.
Eric performing in the Victoria Day parade, 2012
Responses from all Oak Bay Candidates can be found here.
The North Henderson Residents Association (NHRA) asked candidates their views on the OCP Housing types suitable for North Henderson and how they would engage the community in implementation of the necessary bylaws. I have included my responses below.
Which of the below housing types do you think would be suitable for the North Henderson area and why?
a) Infill development - by placing additional housing units (garden suites, laneway suites etc.) on residential lots,
(b) legalized basement suites,
(c) duplexes and triplexes,
(d) Subdivision of lots.
Answer: Oak Bay is the best place to live in greater Victoria. People want to live here because our single family dwelling neighbourhoods are safe, quiet and lightly populated. Our roads are not overly congested with traffic and parked cars. Our neighbourhoods must be preserved and protected. The changes about which you speak would cause harm to neighbourhoods. The changes would mean more people, more traffic and parking congestion on our streets, less road safety, less yard space, less community cohesiveness, possibly more crime, and more. Those notoriously harmful effects have already occurred in other urban jurisdictions.
The first broad objective of the OCP was to “Consider increases in density while respecting the values that make Oak Bay an attractive and environmentally rich community” . The second broad policy of the OCP was to “Consider infill development as a tool for allowing more density to fit within neighbourhoods while respecting and conserving neighbourhood character. Infill development was defined in the plan as development that is constructed in an already developed area. It can come in different forms, scale and character. It includes secondary suites, additional housing units on a residential lot, and dividing detached homes into multiple units. I have underlined the word ‘Consider” as it is used in the plan for emphasis
Policies and Plans do not govern Council’s future actions, they simply guide them. In addition because the OCP specifically used the word “consider” it is clear that the plan did not intend to mandate increases in density nor infill development in our neighbourhoods. They are simply strategies that council may consider when doing land use planning
I am worried the visionaries who crafted the new OCP policies will not have the capabilities to carefully craft it into appropriate by-laws. If elected I will work hard to prevent the legalization of secondary suites, garden suites and laneway houses in our single family dwelling neighbourhoods, and any facilitation of the unplanned subdivision of lots. As time passes, change is inevitable; but notoriously bad changes must be prevented. Any change should be focused where population increases are the most appropriate. Strong regulations and enforcement will be necessary to minimize impacts for all stakeholders.
If sound evidence demonstrates a pressing need for change, then I will work hard to ensure that the rights of existing residents are fully protected and that any land use changes do not harm the fundamental nature and quality of our neighbourhoods.
The Official Community Plan Community Survey asked for opinions about housing types for Oak Bay "assuming key issues such as tree protection, parking, traffic, noise and neighbourhood character will be addressed.”
What method or methods of community engagement would you support to determine if these key issues (as quoted above)can be successfully addressed for the North Henderson area?
In your reply we are most interested in the concrete actions, venues and terms of reference that you would support and not support to ensure meaningful involvement of the community in Council’s decision making process.
Answer: There were two fundamental flaws with the Community Plan Survey
Firstly, the survey was sent by the Mayor to all households in the District. Those households included not only single family residences, but also rentals and residences in multifamily dwellings. Consequently the survey measured what all residents of Oak Bay thought as a single group, regardless of the kind of residence that was occupied.
The residents that would be most affected by major land use changes in single family dwelling neighbourhoods are the owners of those dwellings. In order to determine what owners of homes in single family dwelling neighbourhoods thought about possible infilling their neighbourhoods, the survey should have measured what the owners of those dwellings thought as a separate group. Unfortunately it did not.
Secondly, the survey asked respondents to make the assumption to which you referred. In my view the assumption that Council requested respondents to make with respect to some of the problems that are caused by infilling were, in fact, promises that those problems would be prevented.
In reality those assumptions will be difficult to prevent, if not incapable of being prevented at all. It would have been more appropriate for the survey to have requested opinions without requesting them to be subject to an assumption that may be incapable of being met. In that way, we would have had a clear understanding of what respondents really thought in context of Oak Bay as we know it today. Unfortunately it did not.
If community engagement is used to determine whether those problems can be prevented, meaningful and in-depth consultation with home owners in each single family dwelling neighbourhood area under consideration must be carried out. As an invited member of the recent Floor Area Ratio review committee, chaired by Kevin Murdoch, I was very pleased to see the outreach to all stakeholders to ensure all points of view were included near the beginning of the process and then considered. The multiple public consultation sessions, offered at differing times to ensure all could attend and provide early input on some early drafts helped greatly to get a sense of the direction the homeowners and others in Oak Bay wanted the committee to go. An excellent process I’d like to see emulated. For larger projects, I have participated in design charrettes, something like a focus group, which have assist planning for special cases and ensure stakeholder participation. I’d like to see these used here more extensively.
Responses from all of the candidates are available here.
The University of Victoria Students Society asked candidates a variety of questions around the needs of students and how the municipality can support them. I have included my responses below.
RUNNING FOR: Councillor, District of Oak Bay
If elected, how do you plan to support students?:
Oak Bay is fortunate to have a world-class university on its doorstep. Students attending UVic need an environment that supports their dedication and growth.
I believe that we support students by making them feel welcome and getting them the services they need. If we have done our job by providing a safe, peaceful, and welcoming environment, those students who are visiting us for the first time will want to stay here for good.
After the high cost of tuition fees, the cost of housing is the biggest burden to students and a barrier for some students to be able to access post-secondary education. If elected, what will you do to ease this burden?:
With half of UVic in Oak Bay, young adults who have grown up here have the option to live at home while attending university. Those who are visiting the region have several options including room and board arrangements or the rental of an unregulated secondary suite. With a new Official Community Plan bylaw in place, there will be a move to legalize and regulate secondary suites. As a member of Oak Bay Council, I will work to ensure that careful regulation creates an acceptance of suites in the areas where there is demand, and I will ensure that regulated suites are safe and comfortable homes away from home.
Taking in boarders is an option that has been very successful for visiting international students. Many Oak Bay families, mine included, take University and other home-stay students into their homes thereby proving a cost-effective alternative to apartment or suites. As a member of Oak Bay Council I would advocate that the municipality works with UVic to explore and expand this under-utilized housing option, possibly through an Oak Bay Housing Registry.
Students rely on public transportation to get us to where we live, work, and study. However, full busses as well as night routes that don’t go late enough make our primary mode of transportation unreliable. If elected, what would you do to address these issues?:
Students who choose to make our community their own can realistically bike, walk, and take public transit. These options will help students who might otherwise pay a multitude of expenses related to car ownership. While physical activities like biking or walking can help manage the stresses of student life, public transportation will always be critical.
As a member of Oak Bay Council I will be an advocate for improved bicycling routes throughout the municipality and to UVic. I will also ensure that the community is well served by a variety of public transit routes so that students can thrive without cars. For those who need cars, I will continue to be a supporter of the Victoria Car Share/Modo co-op.
Most students have to work while studying to help pay for our education, yet options for jobs are extremely limited. Also, students leave our programs saddled with debt and find a bleak job market. If elected, what would you do to bolster student/recent graduate jobs in our municipalities?:
I will work with UVic Career Services to help identify co-op job placement and work experience opportunities in Oak Bay for students.
Unfortunately, with the upcoming closure of the Oak Bay Lodge facility, Oak Bay is losing its second largest employer making it an even more challenging work environment.
I will work to support not only business and institutions who wish to respectfully locate in Oak Bay, but also, I will be an advocate for Open Data initiatives at the municipality providing raw data that might prove valuable to the entrepreneur and small business startups.
Where can students get more information on your platform?:
For more information about me and my vision for Oak Bay, please visit my website at www.ericzhelka.ca
Responses from other candidates are available here.
For those of you who did not see the Councillor Candidates Q&A in the Nov 5th Oak Bay News I have included my responses below.
I believe that my responses should give a sense of my thinking around these issues.
Responses from all of the candidates are available here.
Do you live in Oak Bay?
Yes, I have lived here with my wife and young family for 10 years. I work for the BC Gov. My background can be found at http://www.ericzhelka.ca/about
Are you in favour of some form of amalgamation in the Capital Region?
No. Why would Oak Bay give up our beloved Dump and the excellent service levels we have? These will be the first to go.
However, the CRD already is the shared services/amalgamation placeholder. I am in favour of slowly and orderly moving services to the regional level as the demand and evidence shows it will be cost effective.
What is your vision for sewage treatment in Oak Bay?
I prefer a smaller distributed system and I acknowledge that science supports our current system.
Do you think speed limits should be lowered in high crash areas?
Yes, and then a proper root cause analysis should be undertaken to resolve the issue.
Should mobility scooters be regulated?
Only if they start to exceed unsafe speeds, as determined by the experts.
Is a deer cull necessary?
I am not happy that the current council left it this long and did not apply non-lethal, population reducing methods such as the SpayVac contraceptive used successfully at CFB Esquimalt.
Only if public safety is a concern would I support a cull – with nothing left to waste.
Should secondary suites be legalized?
I’d prefer not. The census and the CRD say Oak Bay’s population is growing at 0.3% net per year (50 people). The OCP says it is 0.5%. I am in favour of accommodating new residents in the areas of higher demand and I like the idea of an Oak Bay Housing Registry that could, additionally, help seniors age in-place.
Does Oak Bay need stronger noise bylaws?
I believe we are fairly good in that area – compared to most places around the world I have visited. Our challenge is cost effective enforcement.
Should Oak Bay allow more freedom for dogs?
Even though I’m a dog person, in general, no. With my little kid in tow, I am happy to see the dogs on leash and the controlled times when they are allowed off.
Do you agree with the basic principles in the new OCP?
As a vision document, in general, yes. However, I find it a very poor document to help guide any planning for the orderly development of Oak Bay. The OCP survey questions "assum(e) key issues such as tree protection, parking, traffic, and noise and neighbourhood character will be addressed.” These are promises, not assumptions.
Should council encourage more filming opportunities in Oak Bay?
It depends. What are the community amenities that have been negotiated for Oak Bay? While there were some inconveniences, I appreciated the opportunities for employment that came here, especially for our youth.
At heart, because I care about Oak Bay - I love living here and raising my family here. I prefer a slow and steady approach to change.
(Short on time - Get my Brochure with a summary of my Platform)
Oak Bay still has a lot of big ticket items coming due: bylaws and policies have not yet been aligned with the OCP, sewage and water allocations, Uplands sewer and storm water separation project, roads that need attention. I believe Oak Bay needs to stick to the basics and the reality of what a small municipality can and cannot do.
Until we put our municipal house in order, there should be no new programs that add to our tax load in the near future, unless funding can be found elsewhere.
Natural environment stewardship
A sound urban forest strategy implementation will slow down the rate at which we are losing our urban forest.
Oak Bay needs a tree protection bylaw that actually protects trees from new construction. The current bylaw is a classic unintended incentive for a developer to demolish instead of renovate.
We need to increase & widen our support and collaboration with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society’s non-lethal and humane program to effectively & efficiently reduce the number of BC’s deer in Oak Bay.
Shoreline protection: the Official Community Plan (OCP) bylaw has made a good start. This should be improved by reducing Council's ability to vary the rules.
Land use stewardship
Oak Bay’s neighbourhoods must be preserved and protected as best as we can.
In recent years, changes to Oak Bay’s building bylaws have permitted over-sized reconstructions to dramatically interfere with neighbouring homes. Council acknowledges there have been a number of "unintended consequences". A 92% approval rate of any zoning variance requested reflects a zoning bylaw in dire need of updating.
The new OCP says we have to plan for an expected population increase of 0.5% net per year (90 people). However, the consistent historical rate of population increase in Oak Bay is 0.3% net per year (50 people) as per Census and the Capital Regional District. It is hard to plan if we cannot trust our numbers.
It is important for us to accommodate an expected (small) population increase within Oak Bay, while at the same time recognizing we are fully built-out.
The new OCP provides little guidance on the broad policy of "develop diverse and inclusive housing options". Instead of applying this to the entire municipality, this should be focused where population increases are the most appropriate. Strong regulations and enforcement will be necessary to minimize the impact on all stakeholders and the environment.
- New policies must be crafted to deal with Short Term Rentals. Tofino and Richmond have good templates for us to consider. You can see my research here and here.
- As per our OCP, Vacant Houses are becoming more of a problem - as Oak Bay was not designed to be a place to park investments and not live in the community. I fully support the Province's comprehensive & systematic attempt to address this problem and related issues in their 30 Point Plan for Housing Affordability.
Because of the new OCP, ALL of our bylaws & policies must be rewritten. I will bring my expertise and professional experience to bear and work hard to craft those bylaws & policies to reflect a balanced, intelligent, cautious approach to changes, always in consultation with Oak Bay residents. I'd much prefer to see Oak Bay not make the same mistakes as other towns and cities (no doubt with the best of intentions).
What are your views on how we can better enhance and protect Oak Bay?
Eric Wood Zhelka, MMSc, P.Eng, CPHIMS-CA, PMP