Recap: Downtown Victoria Livability Solutions Town Hall Meeting

The CRD projects that the residential community in the Downtown Core Area will grow by approximately 10,000 people in the next 30 years.

On Wednesday October 1, 2014, the Victoria DRA hosted a discussion forum to come up with solutions for present and future livability issues facing residents of Downtown and Harris Green neighbourhoods. Attendees had the opportunity to liaise with fellow community members to identify and deliberate items of specific concern to the residential community of downtown.

Key Topic Area: Public Realm, Public Order, Urban Transportation, and Other Concerns.

Discussion Summary:

Public Realm

1. Not Enough Greenspace.

Thirteen requests were for more greenspace / dog parks.

Suggested solutions were to liaise with property owners with an option to convert unused space into a temporary green area. Urban gardens could be developed in empty lots. City parkades could add trees to rooftops. More rooftop gardens are needed. Urban forests must happen first; for example Inner Harbour now has a large parking space that can be used for events. This usage should be reversed. Work with developers to promote pocket parks. Use of parks should be for everyone. Work with the municipal authorities to ensure existing greenspace is safe and welcoming for all. Ensure downtown is seen as a community, not just a place for commuters and tourists.

The top suggestion was to liaise with property owners to make use of any available space. – Proposed by Ken Kelly who suggested the DVBA could play a role in making this happen.

2. Emergency Systems required.

Concerns were organizing citizens in the core. What tools would be needed for an environmental disaster or an earthquake. Downtown residents face different issues than suburban dwellers that have a backyard and central gathering place. Wendy mentioned that Rob Johns, City Emergency Co-ordinator, had given a presentation tailored to downtown dwellers at DRA’s AGM.

The top solution was to collaborate with other neighborhoods through VCAN (Victoria Community Association Network).

Public Order:

(Due to time constraints, only one issue was discussed.)

Three topics were chosen with the overall theme being Noise.

1. After hours bar noise:

Suggestions were for improved training for service staff regarding over serving patrons. The Serve It Right program needs to be implemented in all facilities. Perhaps a re-certification program could help with this issue. A shorter-term solution could be to provide Liquor Branch with concerns with specific establishments as complaints about specific operators will result in their being under greater scrutiny. The high amount of bars and restaurants in the core makes it difficult for inspectors to check every place on a regular basis. Concerns are public safety and public interest. Only a few party-goers cause the problems. Directing a program to partygoers via media such as twitter. “Don’t be that guy or girl.” “Be respectful, remember this is our neighbourhood.” Staggered closing hours. When a large event is happening; i.e. Canada Day; have no close time. When patrons can then exit at any time through the night, the police and streets are not overloaded. Late Night/Great Night has 4 officers dedicated to the core area. Their policy is to disperse people as quickly as possible. Thereby helping to eliminate fights and loud arguments. Lollipops have been handed out to exiting patrons, which has proved to be a good solution to the loud voices. Coffee and treats were another suggestion. More temporary food stands. Area residents should speak directly with owners of establishments. Don’t add any more liquor primary locations in the core. Many patrons are from outside our area. Concerns also were taxis not using designated stands. Suggestion was to hand out tickets to noisy people. The Police Chief explained that being drunk is not against the law.

Solutions to follow up;

  1. Social Media Campaign
  2. Advise Liquor Branch on problem areas.
  3. Inform Bylaw Officer of taxi stand issues.

Urban Transportation:

1. Lack of cycling and patchwork lanes:

Wider lanes. Temporary bike corrals for larger events. More lock-ups need to be provided.

2. Pedestrian friendly streets:

Shut down Government Street for public access. Make sidewalks wider. Government Street is most successful retail, should work to make other streets to have a similar vibe. Douglas Street was grand at one time; it has the size and scale to be vastly improved. Trees overshadow buildings, especially along Government St. Shutting down streets to allow for pedestrian use only does not necessarily attract more pedestrians. Challenge is no ready access for employees or residents to use. Diminishes sales for retail: pubs, restaurants do ok. Need a flow from Humboldt St through to Chinatown.

Other Concerns:

1. Noise from commercial vehicles 2 hours before city ordinance (6:30 am). Loud beeping noise from garbage and delivery trucks. Emergency vehicle sirens too loud.

Suggestions:

  1. Enforce bylaw for early morning issues.
  2. Investigate low frequency beeping mechanism for backing up vehicles.
  3. Phone company/head office.
  4. Tone down siren noise in the early am.

2. Noise and nuisance from the gulls is a problem.

Years ago the gulls were not a problem, however we are now a people space in the downtown core. Major costs are incurred by property owners. The city also has increased clean-up costs due to the mess. Falcons and raptors were suggested.

Suggestions:

  1. DVBA has a good program in place.
  2. City apply to Ministry of Environment for permit to allow property owners to destroy nests.

The discussion session ended at 7:35 pm.

All comments and suggestions from the event can be read in this spreadsheet.

Thank you to everyone who came out – your ideas will help shape future DRA activities.

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