JBNA: Housing & Traffic

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Submitted by the James Bay Neighbourhood Association

James Bay residents were invited to comment on a proposed high density low-cost housing project in the neighbourhood at the November 2018 monthly meeting of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA). They also heard VicPD and City of Victoria presentations regarding traffic speed, safety and perceptions of traffic volume.

CALUC: CRD Housing

The Capital Region Housing Corporation (CRHC) is a non-profit corporation owned by the Capital Regional District (CRD). The CRHC provides affordable, inclusive housing for nearly 3000 tenants (low and moderate income families, seniors and people living with disability). The majority of the 1286 units (45 complexes across 7 municipalities) are in Victoria and Saanich. CRHC, in reviewing current housing stock, have recognized an unrealized potential of Michigan Square, 330-336 Michigan Street. The current building has an inefficient site layout, underutilized community spaces, and several unusable zones on the site due to failing construction. Currently Michigan Square consists of 62 units - two 22 unit apartment buildings above a parking garage, nine units of townhouses, and the original heritage home with nine units. The estimated cost of $8-12million for remediation of existing buildings is not practical. Existing trees will be preserved if possible; trees requiring removal will be replaced.

CRHC presented their plan to replace the 62 housing units with 107 units, almost doubling the capacity on the 1.25 acre site. 53 units will be demolished while the units in the heritage house (334 Michigan) will be retained. The proposed structure fits within existing urban residential zoning in the Official Community Plan, with 69 parking stalls (three more than required by Schedule C) and 133 bike stalls.

The new building will have eight accessible units with 32 one bedroom, 58 two bedroom, 13 three bedroom and four studio units for a total of 107 units. CRHC will work with the existing tenants to find placement before construction; these tenants will have first right of refusal on the new units. Rents are set according to funding and tenants’ incomes. 70% of the units are based on income with tenants paying no more than 30% of their income. The remaining 30% of units are deemed affordable. This scale will apply to existing tenants who return to the new development. CRHC are prioritizing families with this development and anticipate additional children to take advantage of the location between two nearby schools. Current tenants will be given priority in CRHC vacancies. CRHC has a turnover of approximately 125 vacancies per year from 1286 units but are also building additional units.

Following is a proposed time line for the project: January 2019 - Development Permit application, March 2019 - commence relocation of existing tenants, October 2019 - tendering and construction contract, - May 2020 - construction start, April 2022 – completion and occupation. The existing parkade will be used for construction parking by workers.

JBNA members recognize the need for low income housing in the community and expressed strong support for the project. Members asked about the inclusion of solar panels (infrastructure will be in place to enable the possibility of solar panels), suggested low lighting and sidewalk cut outs for mobility devices, retain strong relationship of housing with the street, and creation of inside spaces and garden space so tenants have opportunities to interact.

VicPD Speed Watch

Speed Watch Programs are about community engagement, rather than enforcement. A volunteer speed watch team assists VicPD with speeding reductions through community engagement such as digital speed boards, foot patrols, and traffic monitoring at high crash intersections. Concerns about speeding, distracted driving, break-ins, etc. should be addressed by filling out the on-line complaint form on the VicPD website. These complaints will be followed up and investigated.

Speeders are not sent warning letters as is done with the Lock Out Auto Crime program as volunteers have neither authority nor access to license number registration. Specific information is passed on to the Traffic Department for follow up. Residents can assist by reporting speeders and/or careless drivers.

Speed Watch Volunteers go to areas where complaints are received and set up digital speed boards to monitor speeding. Visibility is important. Good community engagement opportunities develop when pedestrians stop to ask questions. Volunteers do foot patrol looking for expired insurance, checking parked vehicles to insure valuables are out of sight and that vehicles are locked. Volunteer patrols occur six days/week from 9:00am to 9:00pm (not including Sunday). Volunteers also interact with the community by handing out high visibility personal reflectors for pedestrian safety. VicPD Volunteer Coordinator Tara Gilroy-Scott invited residents to actively address traffic issues in the community by completing a volunteer application form at VicPD headquarters and to be a part of the Speed Watch Program.

Traffic Analysis

Nick Armstrong City of Victoria Traffic Analyst: Traffic of 100 vehicles/day on James Bay streets is pretty steady and standard. People’s perception is that traffic has increased but data actually demonstrates traffic volume is lower in 2018 than in previous years. There are 10 counting machines in Victoria, with two staff who collect data, so historical comparisons are possible. When there are complaints about speeding on Superior or Oswego, counters can evaluate (24 hour account) volume of speeds. Even though there are complaints, 85% of traffic tends to travel at the posted speed limit or at a lower speed.

Traffic calming efforts in the neighbourhood include the centre road signs. The ones placed on Montreal and on Oswego Streets are looking pretty rough right now, but they reduce speeds.

Collision data is reported on two levels. VicPD collision reports are compiled and the City receives claims data from ICBC. The City is always one year behind. This year there is a decrease from 463 to 377 reported collisions. There is also a downward trend in pedestrian and bicycle collisions. The highest collision times are Saturday and Sunday; the highest collision months are December and February.

In James Bay, collisions at non-signalled intersections (Government & Simcoe) came 10 out of 40 in the city, reporting only one collision. The intersection at Superior and Menzies will be rebuilt in the coming year. Although there are concerns about speeding, there are many stop signs in James Bay which slow drivers. VicPD does not attend all traffic accidents/collisions because there are not enough resources.

There is currently no speed limit for scooters or mobility devices on sidewalks, but the City of Victoria has written to the province to encourage imposition of a speed limit. A cyclist pointed out that there are many cyclists who pose a threat to pedestrians. Cyclists who disregard rules of the road should be ticketed for improper behaviour.

Concerns were expressed about specific street and intersections: Menzies from Niagara one way south to Dallas is a speedway, the direct route on Toronto Street into James Bay centre is a speedway, the intersection of Niagara at Oswego is dangerous as children are there all year round and traffic doesn’t slow down.

A report on the inconsistent speed limits for vehicular traffic on Douglas, Pandora, and Cook Streets is currently being developed by Armstrong's department. Timers controlling traffic lights at intersections are consistently being altered (only by seconds) because of vibrations from traffic over bumps and other road problems. VicMap has information about traffic patterns, and movement (available online on City’s website).

Under Community Voices a resident expressed concern about single lane traffic and delay on Dallas Road and was directed to the Capital Regional District.

Letters to the Editor

MLA Report: Considering this past year