JBNA Avoids Serious Discussion of James Bay Housing Issue

Background

The Constitution of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association states its purposes; among others are:

  • “To enable the community to be actively involved in the preservation, rehabilitation and planned development of James Bay so as to preserve and enhance the quality of the environment and life therein.”

  • “To actively represent James Bay at all levels of government with respect to issues affecting James Bay. …to be sensitive to community concerns; …to facilitate community input to the continuous review and upgrading of the James Bay Plan; to provide an open forum for discussion with a view to promoting input into the decision-making processes that concern James Bay.”

Despite their lengthy record of insuring that all development proposals reflect the James Bay Community Plan and accurately reflect the values, issues, and concerns of James Bay residents, why is it community concerns are given cursory reference only during time permitting at meetings, after the Executive’s issues are discussed?

Often, requests by residents and JBNA members to place items on the agenda for discussion are met with resistance. A recent request was declined to establish an ad-hoc rental housing advisory committee regarding the City’s changing public policy matters such as:

Inclusionary housing and density-bonusing/community amenity contributions, pre-zoned rental only areas – the City’s new standards of maintenance bylaw for rental properties, and the tenant assistance policy. The executive indicated as follows:

  • That tenant matters are the purview of the province via the Rental Tenancy Act,

  • That discussion of the matters is best accomplished via lobbying efforts outside JBNA,

  • That raising rental housing matters within the organization was divisive, and incompatible with the aims and values of the organization.

The mandate of the JBNA: to serve all members of the community!
The JBNA is a non-profit community organization funded almost entirely by taxpayer dollars.

Yet, eligibility for JBNA membership is the most stringent of any neighbourhood association in this city. Voting membership is restricted to James Bay residents only (no businesses or non-profit organizations that provide goods and services are eligible) and, a resident must attend, and be registered for three out of five consecutive meetings. While the organization does not provide a profile of its existing membership, the leadership of the organization consistently represents residential property owners. No consideration is given ensuring a demographic representation of our neighbourhood, whether on the executive, or the most prominent and influential Development Review Committee, and Community Association Land Use Committee.

Taxpayers fund this organization. The executive makes decisions on behalf of all James Bay residents. The same executive has the power to decide what’s placed on the agenda. Or whether a committee of the board can be established. The executive makes all appointments to committees. What’s surprising is why an unelected, unaccountable organization receives funding from taxpayers; this, when there’s no obligation to seek representation from all taxpayer household groups – property-owners and tenants.

This matter is extremely important. The City of Victoria will update the 1993 James Bay Neighbourhood Plan in 2019 or early 2020. How can JBNA speak for stakeholders in James Bay if their principal decision-making function, regarding land-use issues, is guided by a narrow interest group? A group that doesn’t include representation from tenants, sports and cultural groups, non-profit service groups or members of the business community?

JBNA receives public funding to review land use and planning matters; it also performs a lobbying, if not advocacy, role to represent James Bay at all levels of government with respect to issues affecting James Bay. Why the, do taxpayers (tenants and other organizations) have no place in this community-based decision-making body? Or a right to place matters on the agenda, and serve as engaged citizens in their committees?

V. Adams
19-year James Bay resident/tenant, current JBNA member

Poem: KOI – BUT NEVER SHY

JBNA Responds