June 11 PLUC Summary & Observations

The meeting was so short (20 minutes) this morning it almost wasn’t worth the bother of waking up early and bussing downtown. I say “almost” because I got in some good chatting afterwards and also got 2 cookies for the price of 1 at Green Cuisine. So what happened?

There were a lot of staff and Directors at the meeting this morning even though they did not speak and there would have been no reason for them to speak. There was also a mom & dad with a cute little kid sitting in the audience who left as soon as their item got passed on the Consent Agenda (which consisted of the Grant Street and Michigan street items). Only other thing to note about this part of the meeting was that Councillor Madoff seemed to be the lone voice of dissent against having a Consent agenda today since the agenda itself was so short.

Accelerated Approach to Local Area Planning

A senior Community Development City Planner and a Citizen Engagement manager were at the PLUC table for this item. The Planner did all the talking this morning and her presentation on this new proposed accelerated approach to local area planning was super brief. She said the purpose of these meetings (one with each of the neighbourhood association) was for the City to gather information on:

  1. What do neighbourhoods want in their local area plans and
  2. What do neighbourhoods want from the City’s new Neighbourhoods team?

Councillor Madoff actually asked a good question of staff when she sought clarity on expected completion timelines for the Burnside Gorge Douglas Area Local Area Plan. She was told that staff expect to bring a draft of this plan to Council in March of 2016 and a final plan in August 2016. And in response to this, Councillor Madoff pointed out that the 2015 Action listed under Objective # 3 in their new Strategic Plan of Commence three new urban village centre plans upon completion of BurnsideGorge/Douglas Street Corridor Plan should actually be considered a 2016 Action.

Why do I mention this? I do it to continue to emphasize the silliness of the Council 2015-18 Strategic Plan. Where the Burnside Gorge Project charter includes a timeline indicating a completion date of August 2016  (see page 7) was approved at the January 29 2015 PLUC meeting (see agenda) I just want to emphasize how the reality of this was not even acknowledged by Council 1 week later when they commenced their strategic planning sessions and first decided to focus on Local Area plans.

Information management at City of Victoria is poorly done.

Back to what happened this morning.

After Councillor Madoff proceeded to complain about how she hates being “in limbo” when making land use decisions because of how far out of the date the local area plans are with the OCP (BTW I hate it when Madoff just complains without turing it into action) the City Manager spoke up to remind everyone that this new “accelerated approach” will bring about local area planning faster than the timeline and terms of reference originally approved back in June 2014.

The Acting Planning Director then spoke up to remind Council that they had approved additional monies during the Budget process. So I checked the Local Area Planning Budget Adjustments and actually realized myself, that yes, yes indeed the City has theoretically planned to complete Large Urban Village and transportation corridor plans (not local area plans) for all 8 remaining Large Urban Villages between 2015-2018.

For reference, these include:

  • Cook Street Village
  • James Bay Village
  • Jubilee Village
  • North Park Village
  • Quadra Village
  • Ross Bay Village
  • Stadacona Village
  • Victoria West Village

Councillor Thornton-Joe then asked a practical question about whether neighbourhood associations will be provided with some guidance materials prior to these first meetings occurring with the neighbourhood associations – the idea being that one meeting is not a lot of time to get everything “accomplished” that the City says they want to accomplish. Of note is that the Citizen Engagement lady responded to emphasize that these meetings with neighbourhood associations are “real initial” meetings and that more meetings will have to occur to continue the conversation.

Which was confusing based on what the Planner said when she indicated that the purpose of these one off meetings is to determine what neighbourhood associations require in both local area planning and what their require from the Neighbourhoods team. But then again I gather this will all be part of the detailed plan (as noted in the report today) which will be coming back to PLUC in October.

Which is also confusing based on previous mention being made of how this new Neighbourhoods Team already has a 100-day plan. How can you have a 100-day plan when you haven’t even spoken with your neighbourhoods yet? I’m going to ask at Council tonight if and when the mandate for this new Neighbourhoods team can be shared.

Both Councillor’s Isitt and Alto then made useless political comments about how great this new approach to local area planning is. Mayor Helps then spoke of how she sees this new approach to local area planning as “paradigm shifting because it will allow for local area planning to occur through a hybrid of City-led, Citizen-led, and co-developed processes. She summarized her excitement by saying that this new process will allow neighbourhoods to take the lead in planning for their neighbourhoods and telling the city what support they need in planning for their neighbourhoods.

To which I say I don’t share her excitement. I don’t share her excitement because to lead and coordinate local neighbourhood planning and to run local placemaking activities is a lot of work, especially for volunteers (e..g, the people who run neighbourhood associations). So I will conclude by asking, why, if we as neighbourhood volunteers are supposed to plan our own neighbourhoods does the City need so many planning and citizen engagement staff?

1713 Gov Street – Heritage Designation Application

Councillor Thornton-Joe briefly motivated this item to praise the applicant who was sitting in the audience and to also inform Council that she’s been approached by other building owners in Chinatown who are also looking for heritage designation of their buildings.

I wonder if this was one of the groups she was approached by?

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