Despite public concerns over the perceived absence of parking and amenities, council unanimously approved plans for a rental unit development at the periphery of Uptown near Douglas Avenue.
“The neighbourhood has been undergoing a revival and it needs to continue to occur,” said Mayor Richard Atwell in lending his support to the proposed mixed-use development from Abstract Ventures located at the corner of Boleskine Road and Whittier Avenue.
Plans calls for a five-storey building, consisting of commercial space and seven residential apartments on the ground level and 88 residential apartments above.
All units would be available for rental rather than sold as condominiums as previously planned and are aimed primarily at workers in the service industry and students attending the University of Victoria.
Studio units would rent for under $800 per month, so below the $850 affordability limit for the Victoria Census Metropolitan Area identified by B.C. Housing, council heard.
“While not strictly an affordable housing development, the project would contain a large number of affordably priced units that would be attainable for low to moderate income earners,” wrote Sharon Hvozdanski, director of planning, in a report to council.
The development would also be close to transit lines using the Douglas Street corridor and the Galloping Goose cycling trail.
Council, however, also heard from representatives of Abstract Ventures that the economics of the development forced them to make several changes to their proposal.
They included, among others, lowering the energy and environmental standards and reducing the number of required parking spaces to 73, a shortfall of 96 spaces.
Several speakers, including Mount View Colquitz Community Association president Carol Hamill, highlighted this aspect in opposing the project. The development would worsen the parking situation throughout the neighbourhood, she said.
Conscious of this critique, Abstract Ventures agreed to supply a minimum total of 156 secure bicycle parking spots, with 150 reserved for residents.
Abstract Ventures also devised a parking management strategy that promises to make maximum use of the available parking spots.
The use of flexible stalls that switch use based on different peak parking demands would ensure that no less than five stalls would be unused.
Several councillors acknowledged the parking issues cited by speakers, but added that the development fits the area.
“Obviously, the community is concerned about parking,” said Coun. Susan Brice. However, if Saanich wants to be true to its stated goals of higher density, more affordable housing and increasing use of alternative forms of transport, it must be prepared to accept developments like this, she added.
Coun. Dean Murdock agreed. While he regretted “some of the tradeoffs” in the development, he predicted that the development would be a good fit for the area. “I’m certainly pleased to see rental [housing] in this area,” he said.
Coun. Judy Brownoff said she hoped this development would hopefully be a “kick start” for the neighbourhood, which Coun. Vickie Sanders said needed revival.
“It’s a tired neighbourhood, it’s a tired location…and something needs to happen there,” said Sanders.
Conscious of the parking issues identified, council also agreed to ask the district’s planning, transportation and economic development advisory committee to consider parking issues in the area.
“I look at the area and there is a parking problem,” said Coun. Leif Wergeland.