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LETTER: Summary of Oak Bay’s secondary suite survey shows bias

With reference to the Aug. 5 Oak Bay News front-page article, the information provided just supports all of the criticism heaped on this secondary suite survey. The survey designers did not provide an option to allow residents to say that they did not favour changing the zoning to allow multi-tenant suites. The survey only asked “if” the zoning were changed to allow more suites in Oak Bay’s single-family neighbourhoods (the consultant estimates a 1,500 increase) what conditions would you favour?

The secondary suite survey summary, the consultant’s presentation on July 19 at a special council meeting and the Oak Bay News article did not just report what the survey asked, which was, “what regulatory conditions did residents prefer?” They also all reported that somehow this indicated “there is strong support for secondary suites.”

A comparable analogy: If a survey asked residents, “if high-rises were to be allowed in Oak Bay, how many storeys would you favour?” If the results showed the majority of residents supported 10 storeys, it would not be an acceptable survey standard-of-practice to conclude that residents were in favour of allowing high-rises in the district.

The director of building and planning has stated that the secondary suite housing option is only one of a number being “considered.”

The Official Community Plan’s housing objectives state, “Support a modest expansion of housing within Oak Bay while addressing concerns such as tree protection, parking, traffic, noise, effects on other properties and neighbourhood character.”

Changing the zoning to allow many more suites and infill units is not “a modest expansion of housing,” and many of the associated problems the OCP lists are not solvable. The district reports that on average, one complaint a month is received about Oak Bay’s estimated 750 suites. The fire department has not reported any safety problems. It seems council and staff are looking to solve a problem they do not have.

Anthony Mears

Oak Bay