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Opinion: ‘Behemoth’ Victoria-area condos fought for blocking sunsets, adding shade

Is a five-storey building producing shadows enough of a reason to oppose it

A group of Victoria-area residents are throwing shade at a planned five-storey condo building - literally over the issue of shade.

It’s an argument that I’ve seen used more and more - that any development that is more than one storey means it will add shade onto their own houses during certain times of the day.

But is that a reasonable complaint? Or is it a laughable way to oppose badly needed housing?

Your answer likely depends on if you are a homeowner or if you are struggling to find affordable housing.

A Victoria-area resident named I. Brett contacted the newspaper about 40-plus unit development that will be five-storeys high - a development she called a “behemoth.”

“The Esquimalt and Vic West communities on Selkirk, Arm, Northcott, Burleith, Dingley Dell have been defeated by the split vote passed by half the municipal council,” wrote Brett, “to be built in the middle of the 40-plus established family homes whose expectations I’m sure was to stay and raise their families. The neighbourhood is full of families going to local schools. Most of these families spoke against this overwhelming building which will tower three storeys above many backyards, blocking the sun early and sunsets for east neighbours with their heritage homes. These homes have been lovingly restored and match the era.”

Now there is a lot to take in with these comments - Brett wasn’t the only one to contact the newspaper, but she was the only one to put her name on them so I give her credit for that.

It’s a fair argument to make about a neighbourhood that is filled with restored old homes that will suddenly include a modern condo building. Some of these homes are 100 years old and might look weird next to a modern building. Does that make it not worth building? I’m not so sure, but it’s an interesting point.

Then there’s the claim that a five-storey building with 40 units can be called “behemoth.” I just moved here from Metro Vancouver and that claim would definitely get laughed at, but this is all relative. To folks in Greater Victoria, five storeys is a really dense building because it’s an area dominated by single-family houses.

But the biggest point I take issue with is the shade argument. Are people owed sunshine at their homes in perpetuity? Is a little bit of shade at certain times of the day really such a hardship that cities can’t ever built anything more than one or two storeys? Because the shade argument - if accepted - would kill many new developments because they would all technically produce shade and shadows.

I don’t want to dismiss the impact of having a new building built in your neighbourhood. But it’s hard to balance the crying need for housing with people upset by some shadows.

I admit that I am new here so I welcome some feedback on this point.

Chris Campbell is an editor with Black Press Media. You can follow him on Twitter @shinebox44.

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Chris Campbell

About the Author: Chris Campbell

I joined the Victoria News hub as an editor in 2023, bringing with me over 30 years of experience from community newspapers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley
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